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Embera Village Day Tour

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Ways to Experience Embera Tours Panama
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97 - 102 of 279 reviews
Reviewed December 13, 2013

Trip starts out with a 45 minute dugout canoe ride down a river and across Madden Lake and up some rapids to the Embera Village. It's a small village of about 125 people. The medicine Man took us for a walk outside the village and explained the use of plants in treatments of various ills.

We enjoyed a native lunch; talked with the chief about village operations. Bought some of their lovely crafts that were on display. Had a extensive time strolling through the village; talking with the village people and their children. Then enjoyed some dancing and swimming in the river. GREAT people!!

Date of experience: December 2013
Thank Terry98027
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Reviewed June 15, 2013

I don't have a lot of specifics to add to the earlier reviews, except to say how awesome it was to have a tour director (Garceth, the owner of the business) who is himself an Embera and grew up in a village much like the one that we visited (in Darien, not in the area that we visited on the tour) and thus knows the local language and culture as an insider, not a Western outsider. I was a bit concerned ahead of time that the visit might feel exploitative, but Garceth's presence ensured that it was nothing like that. Instead, we felt like we had stumbled into a National Geographic documentary. The people were warm and friendly and eager to have us learn about their culture, and they tried their best to communicate with us in Spanish. (Don't expect more than a few words of English.) Their handicrafts were truly amazing--I wished that I had brought more money with me so that I could take more objects home to display while also helping them financially. It was so cool to be able to buy a rosewood iguana that was hand-carved by their chief, who personally wrapped it up for me! All seven of us in our group of middle-aged Americans agreed that this was the best thing that we did during our nearly two weeks in Panama. And the price was good, too--notably cheaper than any of the other tour operators if you take a rental car and follow Garceth out to the boat launch site rather than having him transport you there. Don't miss this opportunity!!!

Date of experience: May 2013
5  Thank cljdstanley
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Reviewed April 28, 2013

We were on a private tour,just the two of us and a guide. The village we visited was very small in number, just one family. They wore native costumes and were very nice and informative, serving us a traditional meal. Unfortunately, they had no handmade goods to sell us. The attention we got was fabulous, our guide wonderful, however, at the end of the visit one must wonder how much of this is just another tourist ploy.

Date of experience: February 2013
4  Thank Peggy P
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Reviewed April 14, 2013

Taking a dugout canoe ride to the village made for a nice time--we saw a decent amount of wildlife and it was good to get out of Panama City for a while. It was educational to learn about Embera life and overall a very good way to spend the day. However, some posters give the impression that they are having unique interactions with a primitive, very friendly tribe out of National Geographic. Let's be honest: these villages receive tourists on a regular, almost daily basis and that's how they make money to exist. Some Embera were outgoing and friendly; others were more reserved, just like in real life. Some posed for photos, but many were indifferent. It felt a bit voyeuristic, but still a worthwhile tour.

Date of experience: March 2013
7  Thank Ro L
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Reviewed April 9, 2013

After reading the 5-star reviews from others who had done this excursion, we were eagerly anticipating this experience and booked through Holland America. The hour and 15-minute drive through the countryside was nice. When we arrived at the canoe launch site we were given life vests and proceeded down what is a relatively steep dirt path, especially for the elderly or impaired, and loaded into dugout canoes with outboard motors. We were informed that we had come at a time when the river was at an extremely low level (2-3 feet deep) and the canoes were only loaded at partial capacity for this reason. They normally hold around 20 people but had only 10-12 to decrease the weight. What would have been a 10-minute canoe trip during rainy season took about 20 minutes due to getting stuck multiple times. There was an Embera man on the front of each canoe who had the unenviable task of using a very large pole to get our canoes out of the mud. It was a balmy 90 degrees outside and we were in the full sun so we were quite hot and sweaty when we arrived at the village. Unfortunately we did not find the Embera to be friendly and welcoming as other reviewers had stated. While they were not unfriendly, they seemed to be uncomfortable with all of the visitors and unsure of just exactly what to do with us. They really did not interact with us at all except for the presentations about their history and present day way of life, and, of course, while we were browsing through their craft tables. Even then the interaction was limited to simple, one-word responses to inquiries about the cost of their goods, which, to their credit, were very nice and affordable. They had beautiful wood carvings and colorful baskets for which they charge $1 for each day that it took them to complete. Comparable items in the city were much more expensive. And, as stated by other reviewers, the dances were fun, especially when they chose visitors to join in with them. The highlight for me was watching several of the children dancing and playing. Our tour description stated "light lunch", which was an understatement. We got a deli ham and cheese sandwich and a beverage. The Embera did offer us tilapia and plantain chips served in banana leaves and fresh fruit, which was nice. Beware of the bones in the fish - it is full of them. Please be aware that this tour is listed as one of the more active tours for a reason. There were several people on our excursion who definitely should not have been. A couple of people got overheated/dehydrated and felt faint, and two people fell, one of them requiring a van to come transport her back to the ship. One elderly lady had an asthma attack and had to use her inhaler. Just climbing in and out of the canoes proved very difficult for some, much less the climbing up the steep hillside after returning from the village. We left this tour feeling somewhat disappointed, although this was by no means the fault of the Embera. They have been forced to rely on tourism because their land was turned into a national park by the government, and they are no longer able to hunt the protected animals there, so tourism is their only means of supporting their families. Please, please, please don't haggle with these people over the price of their crafts. Even though our guide made this crystal clear before we arrived, unfortunately some people did not listen, and seemed to offend the Embera by haggling with them. I realize that in many tourist areas the locals expect you to negotiate over the price, but this is not one of them so please respect that.

Date of experience: April 2013
14  Thank Lisa P
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
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