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“Disney Indians” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Embera Village Tours

Embera Village Tours
Panama City hotel pickup, Panama City, Panama
+507 6758-7600
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Ranked #7 of 106 Activities in Panama City
Attraction details
CALEXICO
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
4 attraction reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
28 helpful votes 28 helpful votes
“Disney Indians”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed May 2, 2014 via mobile

Everyone is friendly. All the women basically very young girls are fully covered. The village we went to exists soley for tourists to spend money there. I expected a lot more. Too much money. Didn't see any authentic cultural things other than a few dances.

Visited April 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
EmberaTour, Owner at Embera Village Tours, responded to this review, May 4, 2014
Thank you for posting a review on our page. It appears that you did not take your Embera Village tour with our company, Embera Village Tours owned and operated by myself, Anne Gordon de Barrigon and my Embera husband, Otniel Barrigon. There are many different tour companies that offer Embera tours and there are 6 different Embera villages to visit within an hour drive of Panama city.

It sounds like you went to one of the closer villages. None of these villages are set up "solely for tourists to spend money there". The Embera people truly live in these villages, although, I agree that the closer villages do seem more "touristy" and there is less interaction between the visitor and the Embera people. In the closer villages you may encounter 5 + other tour groups there at the same time.

In my husband's village, that of Embera Puru, it is the most remote village in the area and we are often the only group in the village and because they receive the least amount of tourists, they are not bored with tourism and are truly eager to meet, curious about the visitors and enjoy sharing their culture, history and lives with the visitors. True, tourism is their sole source of income, but it helps preserve their beautiful quality of life, puts a value on maintaining their culture and history as well as enabling them to continue living traditionally as they prefer to do.

In my husband's village, all of the women, of all ages are topless, other than nursing mothers or those cooking for protection. Some of the closer villages have had much more outside influence (missionaries and a few tour companies) to cover themselves, which is a sad thing, in my opinion.

I am very sorry to hear you were disappointed on your tour to visit the Embera people. I am sure that you did not go with our company and it is too bad you did not, as I am sure you would have had a much more positive experience.

Sincerely,
Anne Gordon de Barrigon
Co-owner Embera Village Tours
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102 reviews from our community

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English first
Toronto, Canada
Top Contributor
55 reviews 55 reviews
21 attraction reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
102 helpful votes 102 helpful votes
“Interesting Visit”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 18, 2014

One of our excursions included with our Caravan Tours to Panama was a visit to the Embera Indian Village. Our group of 41 was taken by boat for approx. 10 minutes along the Chagres River to the Embera Indian Village called Katuma. There we disembarked and walked up the steps that leads to their village on the hill . We were greeted by the children and adults and a small group of men playing musical instruments. They were all wearing their colorful traditional dress. We all gathered under a huge thatched hut and listened to the representative of the Embera tribe talk about his culture, showing their crafts, doing a dance, introducing the chief of the Embera Tribe and the Medicine Man. It was very interesting. We then were able to walk around and take a look at their huts from the outside, get a $2.00 tattoo or buy their very expensive crafts they make. Then we had a photo shoot. We took photos of them gathered together and then we all put our cameras down on a cloth for the Embera Indians to take photos of us gathered together.

Visited April 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Central Valley, CA
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“A wonderful day in the Panamanian jungle”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 5, 2014

The Embera Village tour was an incredible experience. Their genuine hospitality and eagerness to openly share their lives and customs was appreciated by the 18 members of our group.

The boat (I use that term very loosely) trip to the village was an experience in itself. Where you sat in the Evinrude outboard powered dug out canoe was directly proportional to how wet you got. If they don’t want to get wet, I would strongly urge future visitors to take a water-proof poncho, large piece of plastic, shower curtain, wet suit or Saran Wrap and duct tape. Needless to say, my rain-repellent windbreaker simply did not cut it.

Once ashore, we toured the village with our guide and learned about various plant uses, ate lunch of fish & plantations wrapped in a leaf bowl, then watched a ceremonial dance. One of their elders demonstrated how they make woven baskets and other crafts then gave us the opportunity to try it. They told us the beautiful goods are priced relative to the number of days it takes to make them. My wife bought several of them and we were careful to get them home unscathed.

I explored the area surrounding the village for nearly and hour and aside from a single solar panel providing electricity for a small refrigerator, found nothing even closely resembling
modern civilization. The village we visited has a small school overlooking the camp and I was astounded to learn that teachers make the journey to the little village on a regular basis. In fact, one of the teachers returned in our canoe when we left. Panama apparently provides teachers and education for the children no matter where they live.

As I was taking pictures of the Embera children, I found that if I offered them a dollar, I would get the the biggest smile ever. But then, I had a whole bunch of kids lined up with hands out and huge smiles. When I ran out of dollar bills, there was one little girl left – with huge brown eyes and a big smile. When I handed her a $5.00 bill, you would have thought she’d seen Elvis. During the dance, she was quick to choose me as her partner – another great experience. In the end, I spent far less on smiles than my wife spent on crafts and I feel I had made more of an impact.

I would recommend this trip to anyone with an open mind, love of people and a sense of adventure. With hindsight being 20/20, I would do it again in a second.

Mark J Colbert

Visited March 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
EmberaTour, Owner at Embera Village Tours, responded to this review, April 10, 2014
Thank you Mark for your kind and positive review of our Embera Village tours. We are thrilled you had such a good time with the beautiful Embera people. Despite not having brought your saran wrap and duct tape! :~) We always suggest people bring a light raincoat or poncho with them on this tour, but very few actually believe us. Maybe after reading your comments now they will.

I would like to comment on your gifts of money to the children of the village. While we do not normally encourage giving money to the children of the village, I completely understand that in this case, your heart was in the right place and you were simply wanting to give something back or in exchange for the beautiful smiles and connection you were feeling from the Embera children.

For future visitors, if you would like to bring something to the children in the village, we suggest bringing healthy snacks like raisins, fruit, even cookies or candy, or balloons, school supplies, etc.

Thank you again for your kind words. Sincerely, Anne Gordon de Barrigon
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Great Neck, New York
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Embera”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 31, 2014

There are few countries in Central America that still preserve a strong indigenous tradition. Luckily Panama is one of them with several tribes living in various natural parks or deep in the jungle. Embera is such a tribe that together with Wounaan share the valley of Chagres river and its tributaries. I settled to travel with Embera Village Tours (www.emberavillagetours.com), an agency specialized just for this type of tours only and the experience was astounding. Ann, the American agency founder is married to a member of the tribe, being herself part of the Embera Puru tribe. I would highly recommend their tour managed and conducted very professional that was guided by a very friendly guy David Black. It is an experience that you'll hardly forget.
For more information please follow the link to our blog posting: http://flyingmonk.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/embera/

Happy travels!

Visited March 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Old Lyme, Connecticut
Contributor
11 reviews 11 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
“Embera Drua village overnight”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 23, 2014

We contacted the Embera Tribe directly by telephone at (507) 6709-1233 and spoke with Ivan. You can find information about this village and overnight on their website http://trail2.com/embera/index.php (don't expect them to answer an email-you will need to call). If you contact them directly rather than through a tour agency the price is less-our overnight including the boat trip and all food was $70 per person. Ivan arranged for us to be picked up at the port of Corutu and leave our car there, although they can also arrange transportation from the city. We took the dug out canoe up the river, stopping at a waterfall and swimming. The boat trip was worth the cost alone as it was really amazing in a dug out canoe! We got to the village, had a good fish and plantain lunch, and watched some dancing. Then the 6 other tourists who were there left, and we were alone with the Emberas. Most changed into their more westernized clothes, but rather than feeling like they were not comfortable in their native dress, I felt that these were their "good" clothes and they removed them to keep them in shape for the next event. We went swimming in the river which was crystal clear and very refreshing. It was fun to watch the kids swimming and fishing. Then we went up the hill and looked at the handicrafts, did some weaving with Berta, and got vegetable dye tattoos which is their form of sunscreen. We watched them cook dinner over an open fire and prepare the food with their carved wooden platters and utensils. People drifted in and out to talk with us, and seemed to be very warm and happy people. My husband had a previous foot injury and was treated by the medicine man. He took us for a walk and showed us his medicinal garden and explained the benefits of each plant. He gave us a small piece of wood to chew which fizzed and tingled, and it is their anesthesia. Berta cooked a form of pasta for dinner which tasted great. We spent the night comfortably in tents inside the communal hut. There is a visitor bathroom which was fine (although we noticed someone was probably watching us and turning the water on and off as we went in). The next day we had fish and plantains for breakfast and then watched the tribe gear up for a large load of cruise ship people who were coming for lunch and a dance performance. It was fascinating to be behind the scenes. The tribe borrowed engines and boats from other villages. Everyone from smallest child to the elderly went in the river or their open air showers and got into their best clothes. The women were cooking masses of fish and sweeping the grounds. There is a covered platform at the top of the hill where people were posted to watch for the dug out canoes that bring the tourists. When the boats were spotted the musicians went to the platform and played music as the (in this case mostly older, overweight American) tourists made their way up the stairs. We sat on the platform just behind the musicians. Each tourist looked up, smiled and took a photo in the same place! It was really fun to watch. The tourists were guided into the shady pavillion where we had slept and were handed food and taken care of nicely by the villagers. Everyone pitched in according to their abilities.
This experience is only as good as you make it. If you are willing to take a risk and be outgoing and interested in their lifestyle, they are very willing to share it with you. The overnight is unstructured and you can do what you want and go where you want. Spending the night was an adventure and I think allowed us to see a lot more of what goes on, and really explore the village. After 2 days there, I did not feel like the few hour tourist experience most people have is phony, rather it is like a formal visit. To experience the informal lifestyle you need to spend the night, and swim, eat and hang out with the villagers. During our trip to Panama we went to San Blas, Anton valley, Gamboa, and Las Perlas, and this was probably the part of my trip that I will remember most.

Visited March 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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