Aamvecona, Changuinola: Address, Phone Number, Aamvecona Reviews: 4.5/5

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29 reviews
Very good

Bocas Town, Panama1 contribution
AMAZING Manatee, Leatherback, and Wetland Tour (For all ages)
Apr 2018 • Friends
I really don't know where to begin. AAMVECONA is an amazing organization that deserves all the help and support that can be offered.
Booking the tour was fairly easy as email responses occurred within 24 hours every time. Getting to their station is affordable as well. It's about $50 round trip from Almirante for a private taxi. Even if you know limited Spanish, the tour is worth it. Elizabeth was extremely kind, helpful, and patient with booking. We got there and immediately were offered tea and coffee. We watched some informational videos and were given a new fruit to try. She and her husband Alfredo were extremely patient and kind, especially with our limited Spanish speaking abilities. But even with a moderate understanding of the language they were able to get across all the information about their organization and the animals they protect.
The tour is split in 2 main parts, manatees then leatherbacks. The tour truly begins with a boat ride through the wetland to the manatee viewing station. The landscape is beautiful and the mangroves are the biggest I've ever seen. It was phenomenal. Once at the viewing platform, banana leaves were placed in the water to attract the manatees as it is a favorite snack of theirs. But before the manatees come, the boat with Alfredo leaves and you are left with another guide Pedro, who is equally amazing. The best part is that you must be very quiet and still up on the platform to allow the manatees to be comfortable while eating. It allows for a humane, natural environment.
Pedro then took us to meet up with Alfredo after the manatees had left, and we all went to the beach where the leatherback nursery is. There is a dorm for volunteers is, that Alfredo wants to update so more volunteers can come and help. The organization needs volunteers to walk the beaches at night to save nests and prevent poaching. He then showed us the hatchery where nests are kept until the baby turtles hatch. Everybody was so kind, dedicated, and knowledgeable. A nice perk was that we also saw sloths and beautiful birds. Alfredo and Pedro have an amazing eye for all the wildlife in San San Pond Sak. They are truly wonderful people who are so passionate and willing to share that passion for this wetland. They really are in need of help though. More volunteers, more government assistance, and more funding is all important for AAMVECONA to do their job properly. The bugs aren't that bad and spending a week or so on an empty beach with turtles and manatees would be worth the lack of Internet and other unnecessary comforts. Definitely take the time to do this tour and talk with the people who run it. They are wonderful and will inspire you. 100/10 for everything.
Written April 22, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Rens L
18 contributions
See Manatees (and possibly (Leatherback) See Turtles) and contribute to the cause
Jan 2018 • Couples
There are two things I liked a lot about our 1 day trip.

1. We saw lots of manaatee's from the viewing platform (about 6, together). WE watched them feefing for an hour or so. Cool wildlife watching experience. Some patience and silence required. There can be mosquitoes too. After, we visited the beach where they protect the nesting turtles, although it wasnt the reight season
2: I got the feeling that we were really contributing to AAMVECONA. Elizabeth and husband/chairman Alberto/Alfredo (?) seemed really genuine. The guide, Pedro, was great as well. I think they spend the money left after the costs of the trip ($50 pp +/- 2.5 hours) well: on the protection of the wetland.

Keep in mind that not very much English is spoken. Might be better to call than email if you come on short notice
Written February 16, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Sacramento, CA60 contributions
Amazing place!
Mar 2016 • Friends
This place is amazing! I had a group of 36 students to go here. It is extremely basic, like camping, with lots of bugs, but if you're prepared, it can be one of those amazing experiences you talk about for the rest of your life. All my communication before was with Elizabeth, and she was very kind and helpful. They provided breakfast, lunch, dinner, bunk beds with sheets and screens on the windows.

The highlight of the trip: We went on the night turtle walk, where they split our large group into 3 shifts. We saw several huge leatherback turtles on the beach, laying eggs. One boy from our group was able to help Elizabeth bag up the eggs and carry them back to the protected area, a truly once in a lifetime opportunity.

I didn't know as much about these turtles beforehand, but after looking up some information online, I really appreciated what they were trying to do there. They speak limited English, but my Spanish translations were able to explain to the group what was necessary. Highly recommended, contact them in advance and they will sort out all of the details.
Written April 20, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Mechelen, Belgium166 contributions
Nice tour, unfortunately no manatees for us, but real eco-tourism!
Feb 2016 • Couples
We didn't reserve in advance, which wasn't a good idea. We got off the bus from Almirante to the border at the san san bridge, But no-one was in the office. Luckily there was a phone number to call and we could arrange a tour soon. (Speak Spanish!)
They were at the beach for preparing everything for the turtle season starting next day. We got some fruits, and watched 2 video's about the place and manatees. Then we went on the boat to the viewing platform. On the way they stopped and returned to see sloths in the trees, which we got a real good view from. We also saw some birds and it is a beautiful river. We had a limited time (we still needed to go to Costa Rica the same day), so we stayed on the platform for one hour. Unfortunately it seems viewings are succesfull for 90% and we were unlucky not to see them. I would advice to wear long light trousers (there are tiny itchy biting flies). After one hour we were taken to the beach where we got a coconut to drink and could see the preparations for the turtles, before returning to the office.
Even though we didn't see the manatees, we were not sorry about the tour. We felt this came closest to eco-tourism during our travels to panama and costa rica. They charged 50$ each for the tour (2 persons) but asked us to be alllowed to take part of that money as a donation for the turtles. Apparantly they didn't get an important funding this year, so they really need the money to be able to continue their projects and to protect the turtles and manatees! It was clear that they are very dedicated and work from their heart and they definately deserve support!
Written April 8, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Prague, Czech Republic6 contributions
We arranged a tour and nobody showed up
Mar 2016 • Couples
We arranged a tour for a Saturday via email with a lady called Elizabeth. The tour was supposed to start at 9 am. We arrived a bit early and waited there till 10,30 am. Nobody showed up. Tried all the telephone numbers, nothing.
After that i wrote an email and received and answer that somebody got ambulance emergency and that they are sorry.
We travelled to Changuinola only to see manatees. Had to stay there overnight and travel back. 2 days of our holiday lost because of that.
Written March 29, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Thomas O
Perth19 contributions
Oct 2015 • Couples
Firstly, I want to warn you. Facilities here are incredibly basic.

If you stay overnight you just get a vety basic room and showering was with a bucket and scoop. As long as you go un expecting really back to basic facilities you'll be fine. Bear in mind it is a pretty remote place.

The manatee watching was really special. We saw 2 manatees munching away on bananas and banana leaves. Our only wish was that we had a bit longer to watch them.

Staff were all very friendly ( especially Jesus, Alfredo and Elizabeth) and tried their best to help. They don't really speak any English whatsoever so if you don't speak Spanish, be prepared for some miscommunications, but they really did their best (and in reality it's our fault for not speaking the language).

They cooked for us and the meals were very good.

To get true value for money you should go during leatherback turtle nesting season as the price would then also include seeing this at night and possibly also seeing baby turtles hatch. Outside nesting season you just see the manatees.

Only thing I think they could so is try and upgrade their facilities. I know they don't get a huge amount of visitors, but we paid $178 for 2 people overnight with food. Surely over a whole year they get enough to improve the facilities a bit?
Written October 4, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Alice S
Kingston-upon-Hull, UK5 contributions
Fantastic experience
Aug 2015 • Solo
Probably the highlight of my trip to panama, had the opportunity to see at least two manatees, release baby turtles, see many sloths and birds. However the highlight of the trip was meeting the many people absolutely dedicated to ensuring the future of these wetlands. They truly genuinely believe in what they do. It's an amazing place well worth a visit.
Written August 18, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

natasha b
Burgess Hill, UK92 contributions
Wildlife at it's best - Manatees and turtles!
May 2015 • Friends
If you like off the beaten track things, endangered wildlife at it's best in it's natural habitat and are prepared for more rustic conditions then you absolutely MUST do this trip!

We visited a few days ago and loved it. We had emailed Elizabeth a few days previously to get the costs (per person - $45 for manatee tour, $10 to stay, $5 for breakfast $12 for lunch and $12 for dinner - discounts on tour price for 4 or more people). From Changuinola, we got a bus heading to the border and got off at the San San bridge ($0.70) where we went into the AAMVECONA office, arriving late morning. We then got taken to the educational centre and shown some useful videos (in English or with subtitles) before boarding a boat for the 30 min pleasant trip to the accommodation (same place as the turtle hatchery, beach and dining hall) - we spotted a sloth moving about on the way! We were greeted by the vey charming president of the organisation who got us a coconut refreshment, freshly shaken from the tree. After a spot of lunch (we bought our own sandwiches along, our friend had ordered lunch and got yummy fresh fish) we got on the boat for the short trip over the river to the manatee watching platform (we got there about 2pm I think). We lay on our bellies in silence for 1.5 hours and for about 40 mins of that we had 2 manatees feeding from the bananas and leaves hung out to tempt them. Amazing!!!

We then went back over to the accommodation and were shown the turtle hatchery with an explanation. We had a free few hours before dinner at about 7 (chicken with lots of veg, squash style drink and coffee).

Our friend got sick suddenly whilst we were there (unrelated to being there). Elizabeth and the rest of the staff were amazing and immediately organised a high speed boat and personally escorted us to a clinic and safely to a hotel in Changuinola. They did all of this in the dark and within about 30 mins of leaving the accommodation, we were in a clinic - so don't worry about being somewhere too remote!

The more rustic features to be aware and prepared for are (but it's worth it!!!)...
-Bunkbeds with mozzie nets
-Mozzies and sandflies
-Shared bathrooms
-Sometimes no running water so bucket showers and manual flushing
-Sometimes no electricity (bring torches)
-No fans and hot conditions

Tip - to go on the turtle patol, it is useful to have a torch with red lights. We couldn't get one of these at Changuinola bus station so useful to pick this up in advance (we were assured it's not a problem if you don't have one).
Written May 8, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

7 contributions
national geographic documantary in real life
These guys are awesome! They work for the future, to give the next generations a chance to see nature as how it should be!
We arrived at the office from Aamvecona and Elizabeth welcomed us with a lot of information about the turtles and the manatees with a video and photo's.
We had a bit of email contact with Elizabeth before we arrived but we made the real plan when we arrived.
In the meanwhile went her husband Alfredo and her son Jesus to the market to buy the food whe needed for the tour.
We took a boat tour with Alfredo and Jesus to the 'basecamp' at a stunning location between the river and the caribean ocean! It's an amazing nature location. There is no electricity (only on a generator) so make sure your batteries and your flashlights are charged.
Jesus studied for chef, so he prepared delicious meals for us.
In the evening around 20:30 we started with the surveilance at the beach with Alfredo and a other volunteer. Every 2 hours during nightfall, 2 people walk on a stretch of 10 km on the beach to see if turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. A lot of these men are volunteers, they live in the area (which is only reachable by boat) and some of them walk 6 night shifts a week and have to work in the daytime to keep their own business going. Big respect for all the volunteers!
We were lucky enough to see 2 big leatherturtles ashore and we were even on time to see them laying there eggs. It was like we witness of an nature documentary of national geographic. It's was so special to see this upclose. Since they don't want to give the turtles stress, it's not possible to make pictures or to film, unless you have a infra red light. If you have a infra red light, bring it with you, because it can be quite dark during the walk on the beach.
We were back around 1:30 at the 'turtle nursery' where all the eggs get a new nest and they bury them very carefully again amd mark the nest with a tag and a lot of other information.

The next morning we went to the platform on the river so look
For the manatees. After 70 min of waiting, the first one came up to the surface to eat from the banana leaves they hung in the water. In total there where 3 manatees. Unfortunatly it rained really hard, so it was difficult to see the body shapes of the manatees in the water, but still, we saw them.
We paid around $90 for a this amazing trip what was totally worth it!
After arrived back at the aamvecona office around 12:00 Jesus and Alfredo where so kind to give us a ride to the bus station in Changuinola. It will be quite handy to speak some spanish, because they don't speak well english. We speak basic spanish and it was all good to have nice conversations with everybody. Thank you for an amazing tour guys and keep up doing the good work!
Remco y Jody - Holanda
Written April 17, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Montreal, Canada2 contributions
Worth the stop on the way to Bocas
Feb 2015 • Friends
I can think of no better organization to support in the area than aamvecona, whose staff and volunteers are dedicated to protecting the manatees and nesting turtles along the coast and down the beautiful river, which is actually a man-made canal once dug for the Chiquita banana company and now retaken by jungle.

The tour started with a long boat ride to a remote site on a thin strip of land between the ocean (amazing wide and endless beach) and the canal, an area teeming with sloths and monkeys. Once there, we were served an excellent supper and spent the night under well maintained mosquito nets. In the morning, we were served breakfast and taken by boat to a little treehouse where we relaxed for a few hours watching the manatees feed. We were then served another excellent meal before boating back to the aamvecona headquarters. In between each activity, we were given plenty of time to explore the area and relax in hammocks and by the beach.

For under a hundred dollars per person, this excursion was a great value, and certainly worth the stop, in our case on the way back from Bocas del Toro to Costa Rica. So kind and dedicated were the staff, and so beautiful was the location that this little detour has stayed in my mind as the highlight of my time in Panama. Highly recommended.
Written February 26, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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