Camping at Emberá Majé Cordillera Community in Bayano

Emberá Majé Cordillera

Emberá Majé Cordillera Community is on the Majé River that flows into Lake Bayano.

It is a simple community with very friendly people, willing to teach us their customs and tell us their stories.

On Saturday, a group of adventurers met to start our trip, we made a stop in Chepo for breakfast and continued to Bayano, once we arrived, we got ready to start the boat trip on the Lake.

This time we went in 2 cars, there is nowhere to leave them, fortunately we just found space and we didn´t have difficulties.

Take the boat to get to Emberá Majé Cordillera
Take the boat to get to Maje Cordillera community.

I had already passed the lake before and the floating plants always attract my attention, some are just flowers, but others look like small islands.

After crossing the lake, we entered the Majé River, where a large number of birds abound, we saw toucans, eagles, herons, kingfishers, among many others.

The landscapes that can be appreciated are also beautiful, some of the walls of the mountains are totally vertical and appear to have been scratched.

People told us that they have always been like.

Majé river
Views on the Maje river.

Emberá Majé Cordillera Community

Once we arrived, the family welcomed us, along with some neighbors, we left our things and coordinated the activities to be carried out with Daniel, the son of the owner of the house.

Jagua body paint

One of them was painting with jagua, but it was not only painting ourselves, but understanding where they got the paint from and why they were painted.

Tilapia with patacones at Emberá Majé Cordillera
Tilapia with patacones.

First of all, we had tilapia with patacones (fried plantain) for lunch.

Harvesting the jagua
Harvesting the jagua.

The first thing, going to know the tree and harvest the fruits, there were approximately 25, although not all of them were used, because they must be green (hard), they cut them and touch the seed to know if it is hard (to touch it, still I have a black finger hahaha).

The selected ones are scratched (as if it were coconut), then they are placed on a cloth and the juice is squeezed out, it is left to rest for at least an hour.

Someone explained to us that they paint themselves for parties or special events, it is as if it were their jewelry, and more than anything they do it young to look handsome.

As the paint worked, it was time to go to the river.

jagua paintin at Emberá Majé Cordillera
Left photo: jagua fruit. Center: the jagua is scratched. Right: the striped fruit is squeezed

Knowing the river and the waterfall

Now our transport was a motorized piragua and several children from the Emberá Majé Cordillera community accompanied us.

We went upstream to see a small waterfall from another river that flows into the Majé River, almost everyone went up the waterfall, I couldn’t because I was slipping.

I don´t know how the others got up and even then, I didn’t know where to get off and a young man has slid down like a slide hahaha.

On the way to the river, well to a part where it is more practical to swim.
On the way to the river, well to a part where it is more practical to swim. Photo: Aaron

Some girls held my hand and guided me along the trails and while we were walking in the river, I was a little afraid, because I did not want to fall and take one of the girls with me.

waterfall at Emberá Majé Cordillera
Small waterfall in the community.

We walked to an area to swim in the river, some went directly to the water, but the little ones, including some of the adventurers hahaha and the little dog, decided to better play with the land on the shore, which is a bit sandy and practical to do sculptures.

The dog made a hole to sleep in and the others were supposedly making a bridge, but it looked more like hills, hahaha, then some buried their feet.

On the trail, on the way to swim.
On the trail, on the way to swim.
Happiness when playing with the earth at Emberá Majé Cordillera
Happiness when playing with the earth.

It was time to go back and although the normal thing is to go along the trail, the majority decided that the current of the water will take them.

I saw them pass from the trail it was actually quite funny, they left with a few scratches, except the children who already know where to pass.

Majé river
I walk to the piragua to return to the house.

They painted us with jagua

We returned to the house to dry ourselves to be painted, while some was being painted, the rest played with the children.

Playing with the children, they literally lined up to be turned around at Emberá Majé Cordillera
Playing with the children, they literally lined up to be turned around, I don’t know who had more fun if the young men or the kids, hahahaha.

Some of us only painted part of the arm, others from the waist up and even up to the face, the Emberá put powder on us to make it dry faster.

It is very important that in at least 3 hours, the painted part does not get wet, if it cannot be watered and it remains as a stain.

After that time has passed, it should be washed, the next day it becomes darker and can last about 8 days in the body.

Painting with Jagua. Photo: Josias
Painting with Jagua. Photo: Josias.

While we were being painted, one of the boys came back from fishing with Harpoon (pecachona and tilapia), it was one of the activities we wanted to do, but we didn’t have time.

Fish in an Harpoon at Emberá Majé Cordillera
Fish in an Harpoon.

In the next post, you can read about the night safari and the hike along a trail where the widest tree I have ever seen is.


  • Good repellent,
  • Bring water,
  • Sunscreen,
  • Quick-drying clothes, not jeans,
  • Swimsuit,
  • Sneakers and flip flops,
  • Something for the cold for the early morning,
  • Flashlight with extra batteries,
  • Ask, they are willing to tell you about their culture,
  • Bring identification, in Chepo policemen will ask for it.
Children playing with the piragua
Children playing with the piragua.


  • It start in $100.00 Embera Community, Caves and Canyon.

My guide

The guys of Travelling Souls Panama (507) 6153-8924 (WhatsApp),

Tour in Spanish and English.

How to get to Emberá Majé Cordillera?

You can only go if you have a booked tour and the meeting point will depend on the tour.

I leave the address in case it is in Bayano.

Leaving from Albrook head east, either by no-toll road, North Motorway or South Motorway, then take the Pan-American Highway.

Continue until you reach the Bridge over Bayano Lake, it is easy to distinguish since it is the only bridge over the water after both Motorway.

The trip from Albrook to the Bridge over Bayano Lake can take 1 hour 40 minutes (per Motorway).

I do not recommend going by bus because they do not have a schedule and it may take time to pass.

A previously organized tour is necessary to go to Emberá Majé Cordillera Community.

Updated: 2020.

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Sunset at Emberá Majé Cordillera
Sunset at Embera Maje Cordillera.

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