An Amazing Day at Emberá Druá Community

Emberá Druá Community
Photo: Travelling Souls Panama.

The Emberá Druá Community is one of the indigenous communities of Panama, where one can go and learn a lot about their culture, ancient customs and more.

This is the community where I have had the best experience at the moment and it is the one I recommend visiting the most. Besides that it is very beautiful, everyone, but everyone, are willing to share their culture with us and that each one has a pleasant experience.

First of all, I met the guides and from there, we left for Corotú Port, in our case it took a little longer to get there, because right at the entrance, there was a protest, something that can happen in Panama, but not always, it is the first time that happens to me on a tour.

Once you know what the entrance to La Cabina is, the rest is easy, because there is no way to get lost.

piragua
On the piragua.

Corotú Port

We arrived at the port, we got ready and got into the piragua (canoe), they were already waiting for us, if you don’t see it, I recommend you walk on the left side.

Booking.com

Actually, there is no dock, the piraguas get to the shore of Lake Alajuela and you can get on without getting your feet wet.

So, the piraguas are in the area, but not at a specific point, now, if you go with a guide, he knows where yours is.

¿What is a piragua?

It is an indigenous boat, which consists of a carved wooden trunk, shaped like a canoe.


Chagres river.
Chagres River. Photo: Travelling Souls Panama.

Sailing to the Waterfall

Once in the piragua, our 25-minute journey began, through Lake Alajuera and then the Chagres River, it is a beautiful trip, through calm waters, with a landscape from another world.

I already knew the Waterfall, however, on this occasion I found out that in addition to La Cascada, they also call it Cascada Quebrada Bonita (Beautiful Waterfall)and sometimes Cascada Quebrada Fea (Ugly Waterfall), hahaha.

This time, we had to walk from the entrance to the slope, which is a 30-minute, part by river and part by land.

In case, the water in the river has a low level and you cannot walk that section, you can talk to the guide not to go to the waterfall.

If the water level in the river is high, the piragua can carry you in and you will only walk a few meters without getting your feet wet, maybe 2 minutes.

The waterfall in Chagres river.
Arriving at the Waterfall.

The Waterfall

The Waterfall is not very big, but it is very beautiful, if you are a medium-sized adult, you can walk almost everywhere in the water, with your head out.

When we arrived there was no one, so we could enjoy the Quebrada Bonita Waterfall only ourselves. Take photos, swim.

It is not recommended to climb to the top of the waterfall, because the trail is slippery.

I hadn’t been to the river for a while, so, I had a lot of fun.

Then it was time to go back to the Emberá Druá Community. We return to the piragua and sail a few more minutes.

The waterfall in Chagres river.
The Waterfall.  Photo: Travelling Souls Panama.

Emberá Druá Community

Upon arrival, they waited for us with music and a big smile. I have loved this community a lot, the hospitality of its people is enormous.

After we were welcomed in the river (here you can swim before returning), we went up some stairs (made of cement) until we reached the town.

It is super nice, it is clean, it has a very pleasant climate.

Dress like Emberá

They immediately asked us if we wanted to dress like Emberá, so we went to the toilets, they themselves helped us to put on the clothes, jewelry and more.

If you want to know about the names of each outfit of the Embera you can see this post.

On this occasion, only the girls dressed, since the boys were in photographers mode, but if you are a man, you can ask to wear beaded skirt (recommended, go with black underwear).

Once they were ready, the leader of the Emberá Druá Community explained several things to us about their customs and I even learned about several things that I wanted to know for a long time.

Clothes before the Spanish came to America

Before the Spanish arrived, in America neither the current fabrics nor the beads existed.

So, before they dressed with a tree bark called Cucuá (or Ñumi, also used in the Cucuá dance in Coclé) and painted it with pigments taken from nature.

cucua bark
Explanation of the culture, what she has in her hand is the cucuá bark. Photo: Travelling Souls Panama.

Jewels before the Spanish came to America

As jewelry, they did not wear beads, but seeds and tusks of animals that they hunted (of the animals they ate).

Handicrafts

We also got to know different fibers that they take from plants, paint them (natural pigments) and make the fabrics for their crafts.

Materials

  • Chunga Palm Fiber (once ready it is white),
  • Cocobolo (from here they take the color chocolate and cream),
  • Teak (from here they take the color red).

They even taught us that they have a craft that is finer weave, from what I saw, it is made with a thin thread and of course that makes it take longer.

We also went to see the handicrafts, they have arts and necklaces, like the ones they use, there are also bracelets (you can have one made with your name, before making the visit).

Other things that can be seen are baskets, baskets, tagua carvings, masks, wood carvings and others. The costs are very cheap, taking into account the time it takes to make them, it can be months.

I also learned about the wood they use to carve, cobobolo, after carving, it is sanded with sandpaper like the ones we find in hardware stores and then a cloth is passed to it, and thus it acquires the shine, it seems varnished, but it is not.

They also carve tagua, which is an edible fruit, but after a while it becomes hard and can be carved and painted.

Emberá crafts
Left: cocobolo wood carving. Center: carved in tagua. Right crafts made with vegetable fiber.

Religion

Before and today, in many communities, the Emberá believe what they see in Mother Nature, as they explained it to us.

Also, today, there are Emberás who profess Christianity, in the 3 communities that I have visited there are Evangelical people.

And, this is the first one he visited, that there are also people who follow his old belief.

Lunch

Around 12:00 p.m. they give lunch. Which is Patacones (plantain, crushed and fried) with fried fish. It was super delicious and it was enough, well I was very hungry and I was full.

Patacones with fried fish is a common dish on the Panamanian coasts and the indigenous people offer it to tourists.

If you don’t eat any type of meat, you can talk to your guide about another option.

Dress like a Emberá. Emberá Druá Community
Dressed as Emberá enjoying a delicious lunch with our guide. Photo: Travelling Souls Panama.

Dance

After lunch they finished explaining things to us (short explanation, but full of information) and it was time for the dance.

The Emberá Druá Community delighted us with two of their dances, usually the men play the instruments and the women dance (also girls).

In addition, they explained their musical instruments to us, one of them, the one that most caught our attention, was a turtle shell.

Although, yes, they should not be hunted, indigenous communities have their own gastronomic customs, and what they eat is the turtle (before, in America there were no beef, no chicken, no pork). They ate other types of animals, and you are allowed to continue consuming them, but not exploiting them. I learned that on a visit to another indigenous community.

Because they are on a reservation, they cannot have farms or fields either.

Then, we had to dance, our step consisted of jumping forward and then to the side, all the women, one behind the other, forming a circle.

It was super fun and at the same time not so easy. Luckily, the Emberá dances don’t last long, maybe just a minute. In the end, I thought I was going to roll hahaha.

The last dance was in pairs, they are holding hands. Here they all danced.

Emberá Dance.
Emberá Dance.

Painting of jagua

One of the things that people like the most is painting their bodies with jagua. If you want to know how they make the painting, click here.

We all painted them, personally I made a small one. Then, you must wait at least 20 minutes before wetting.

I suggest waiting at least an hour and if possible, that they paint it as soon as they arrive or put on their Emberá clothes, in case you want to go to the river later, they have already dried.

This painting is used to avoid sunburn, avoid mosquitoes, and from what I noticed on this visit, the designs have some meaning of their ancient religion.

I only know, because one of the girls told me, what if a shaman sees me, he knows what my painting means.

The painting can last 10 days.

Painting with jagua.
Painting with jagua.

In the river

Once we did the whole tour, and before returning to our reality, hahaha, went to the river.

Me with the painted arm out of the water, hahaha, I wasn’t sure if it could get wet, some got wet and the paint was intact, but one not.

Back

We said goodbye to the Emberá Druá Community, we got on the piragua and made the journey to get to Corotú Port.

The journey along the river is very beautiful, the landscapes are so beautiful and natural that it does not seem that we are close to Panama City.

The travel is not short, it may take an hour, but it feels like it is only 5 minutes, really.

My impressions

After knowing everything and well, during the tour,  we took many photos and they were always friendly and very attentive to us.

I was very happy to have known the Emberá Druá Community, it was a unique and highly recommended experience.

It is the indigenous community of the Chagres River that is further away, but it is worth the travel time and the extra money to go to see it.

I assure you that if you go, you will want to come back and recommend it.

Note

  • There is no cell phone signal.
  • The Emberá do not charge for taking photos of them.
  • The place has a toilette like in the City, although the internal system is different.
Emberá Druá Community Children
Emberá Children.

Advices

  • Use suncream,
  • Sunglasses,
  • Shoes for walking in the water.
  • If you wear a cap, be careful that it falls off in the river although they do not go fast, if there may be a bit of a breeze,
  • For the boat, I recommend you go with long sleeves and long pants, personally I travel like this to protect my skin, not jeans, of course, in addition to using sunscreen,
  • Bring extra money in case you want to make a semi-permanent jagua tattoo, buy some handicrafts or dress like Emberá.
  • Have a hired tour, either with a tour operator or with the community, since otherwise there will be no one waiting for you to do the tour.
  • Book the tour in advance, at least 48 hours in advance, because there is no phone signal in the community and it will take time to make the reservation.
  • If you go by your own car to the port, it is best to arrive early, there is an area to park (but not parking), if a lot of people go, then it is difficult to find a place.
  • Bring complete change clothes (in case of rain),
  • Waterproof bag for your things (in case of rain),
  • Snacks (they never hurt), water, there is no drinking water there.
  • Do not leave garbage.

Hours

  • The tour hours may vary a bit, depending on the day and the number of people (the guide will specify it at the time of the quote). However, it is an all day tour, you may be leaving the city at 8:00 a.m. and return at 5:00 p.m.

Prices

  • From $120.00, tour from Panama City, includes, car and piragua transportation (round trip), lunch, guide, visit to the Quebrada Bonita Waterfall and the Emberá Druá Community.
  • From $5.00 get a semi-permanent jagua tattoo (jagua paint). There is no real price, they ask for what you want to give them, but it is suggested that it be at least $5.00.
  • $5.00 to dress like Emberá.

My guide

The guys of travelling Souls Panama (507) 6153-8924 (WhatsApp), info@travellingsoulpanama.com.

Tour in Spanish and English.

¿Where is Emberá Druá Community?

The Emberá Druá Community is on the banks of the Chagres River, in the Chagres National Reserve, within Panama Province.

Enter to Chagres National Park

At the moment they are not requesting a booking to enter the Chagres National Park, in any case, if they go on their own, they can write to make sure to pnchagres@miamiente.gob.pa

More information on hours, booking and more here.

Emberá Druá Community

How to get to Emberá Druá Community?

First of all, you have to get to Corotú Port, which is quite easy.

Take the Transístmica highway and enter through La Cabima, if you don´t know this street, it is better to use Google Maps.

Then continue along the entire road and you will arrive directly at Corotú Port.

There is a part that is confusing, where is Cemex, because it seems that you have to go straight, but it is the entrance of Cemex, if you make a mistake, you will immediately realize, because less than 100 m, you will not have where to continue.

Then you must have a hired tour, in order to get to Emberá Druá Community.

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