Volcan Baru/ Panamá
The Volcan Baru National Park, established in 1976 is located in the western province of Chiriqui near the Talamanca Mountains and is limited by La Amistad International Park and Palo Seco protective forest. It has a total surface of 14,325 hectares (35,000 acres) with an altitude range of 1800 to 3475 meters, which is the highest point of the country and corresponds to the Baru volcano.
The National Park features volcanic cliffs, rainforests, cloud forests, highland species and the remains of the last blast of the Baru Volcano.This National Park has a highly valuable geological and ecological system that protects an immense biodiversity. Baru Volcano National Park is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. Over 400 bird species have been identified, including the resplendent quetzal, commonly elusive but most often seen from January to May. The park is home to abundant wildlife, including the conejo pintado, a raccoon-like animal and other mammals like the endangered underwood water mouse, porcupines and a large number of bat species. All five of the species of cat that are native to Panama are found here, with the Puma being the most common. This park protects ten important rivers such as the Caldera, Chiriqui, David, Platanal, Pedra, Escarrea and Gariche Rivers.
The park can be accessed by car through the towns of Boquete (on the west) and Cerro Punta (on the east): from Boquete via a rocky road that leads right to the top and secondly from Cerro Punta, from the Respingo site where the National Authority of the Environment (ANAM) has a refuge and a visitor’s center. There are a wide variety of hotels both in Cerro Punta and in Boquete. Trails lead from both towns to the summit of the volcano. The park has an administrative office with an information center, a forest ranger, a natural trail and two ranger stations (Repingue and Alto Chiquero).
Worth mentioning about the Park’s flora are the endemic species that include the Volcano Junco and the Baru Burbit. Endemic oak trees (Quercus baruensis) are remnants of the more extensive forests in the geological past. Some of the trees in the forests are more than 600 years old.
Other bird species sought by birdwatchers include the spectacular black and white hawk eagle, the black-bellied hummingbird, black-cheeked warbler, different varieties of torcazas, and the Brown Violet-ear. The hairy woodpecker can be seen during the months of April and May. You will also find endemic species from the Cordillera de Talamanca, like the wrenthrus, the yellow-thighed finch and the black guan.
In the Volcan Baru National Park you will encounter 6 different climate zones: humid mountain forest, low humid mountain forest (only place in Panama where it is found), low humid mountain rainforest, mountain rain forest, very humid low mountain forest and pre-mountain rain forest. Average annual temperatures vary between 20º C at 1800 meters, to under 10º C on the top of the volcano. The rainfall is less heavy on the lower slopes with an annual average of around 4,000 mm and in the highest points over 6,000 mm.
The five cat species that live in Panama are also present here, with the puma or leon venado, one of the most numerous. Other endangered mammals include the mouse (Rheomys underwood), the porcupine, and a large number of bat species including Artibeus aztecus and Lisiurus borealis.
On a clear sunny day both oceans and a good portion of eastern Panama can be seen from the peak of the Baru Volcano.Besides shielding the area’s biodiversity, the Volcan Baru National Park also has economical importance because it protects the headwaters that provide irrigation to Panama’s most productive agricultural region, concentrated in the fertile areas of the Volcano’s skirt. These rivers also attract travelers from all over the world, who come to experience Class III to Class IV rapids in World Class rafting and kayaking trips, providing a significant source of income for hotels, transportation, restaurants and other businesses related to tourism.