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“Anne Gordon is the Best”

Embera Village Tours & More
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Private Emberá Village Day Tour
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Embera Village Day Tour
Ranked #12 of 163 Tours in Panama City
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: We invite you to step back in time with us on a tour to visit the Embera tribe who still live in traditional villages deep in the rainforest of Panama. The Embera people are proud to share their culture and traditions with visitors. Spending time on a day or overnight tour with the friendly Embera people will touch your heart and is an experience you will never forget. Our founder, Anne Gordon de Barrigon, is married to an Embera man and began these tours to share the beauty of her Embera family and friends with others. Note: this page is for the tours offered by Anne Gordon de Barrigon's tour company, Embera Village Tours and not for other tour operators who also offer tours to visit other Embera villages throughout Panama.
Useful Information: Activities for young children, Bathroom facilities
Reviewed April 6, 2012

While visiting Colon on a cruise ship we booked Anne Gordon's Embra Village tour independently. It has to rank in our top 3 tours of all time; it is the "real deal" and should not be confused with any tour of a "day-time" Embra Village tours offered by some tour operators and cruise lines.

Anne met us at the cruise terminal and even though we got off a bit late she delivered us back to the ship right on time and plenty of time before we sailed. She told us she had never missed a ship's departure which is very important to us that are only there for a day.

On the way to the river Anne gave us a complete background on what we were going to experience and answered every question from our small (11) group. No question was too invasive or sensitive as I think a lot of us had a certain amount of anxiety about the village visit.

I won't go into all the details of the day as others have done an excellent job but let me say that being with the Embra people was amazing. They were open, friendly and really seemed to welcome us to their village. The children were incredible - my wife was using her cane and when moving down the steps to the river a young boy (maybe 5) reached out to hold her hand and help her. He just had a big smile on his face and had no expecations other than to help. Had she slipped they both would have taken a big tumble!

On the bus ride back to Colon the talk was a lot more somber on the way up. Everyone wanted to further understand the culture, the issues and how they could help the Embra Peru village people and especially the children in some small way.

If you want an authentic experiencd visiting an Embra Village do it with Anne Gordon - she is the best!

4  Thank BrizoSeattle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviews (238)
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Reviewed March 22, 2012

My dissatisfaction isn’t with the Embera village or the people living there: the village was quite interesting, and the people living there very friendly. Rather, the problem is with the tour operator, in particular the lack of even basic facilities. She charges $250 for a one-night stay. For that money, your sleeping surface is a very thin sleeping mat (5 feet long, less than 2 feet wide) on an open, dirty floor with cockroaches running around you. No pillow. No towel. No shower. No soap. Filthy toilet.
The food is abysmal: lunch – a fish head and some fried banana; dinner – a stewed chicken leg on rice. No vegetables, no drinks (not even soft drinks). The only other thing was some fruit which we brought ourselves.
I wouldn’t mind roughing it like this if I’m charged $20 a night. Or I wouldn’t mind paying $250 a night to have decent food, reasonable bed, and basic facilities. But charging $250 for rock-bottom end conditions – this is a disgrace. To provide a plastic sheet under the mattress to keep out the cockroaches, to provide normal matteresses, decent food, a soft drink or juice with it, towels and soap - all this would cost her very little, but she chooses not to do so.
A visit to an Embera village is worthwhile, but go to one of the other villages in the area, and avoid this tour operator.

5  Thank tnbms162016
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
EmberaTour, Owner at Embera Village Tours & More, responded to this reviewResponded March 24, 2012

As the owner/operator of Emberá Village Tours, I would like to explain the circumstances of this review. First off, I was saddened and very sorry to hear that this client was not happy with his tour. It is very important to me to hear any and all feedback about our tours, both positive and negative. It is also very important to me that each and every guest of ours has a wonderful visit to the Emberá community and if something has not met your standards then I would like the opportunity to hear about it so we can rectify the situation for the future and make any and all changes to avoid repeating disappointing a future client.
Let me explain the pricing of this tour. This particular client went alone. The price for a single person on this tour is $250.00, and if two or more people go on the tour the price is $200.00. I do understand it is a costly tour, especially when you were traveling alone and did not have anyone to share the expenses of the tour. In the interest of complete transparency, the village charges me $125.00 for the overnight stay for one person. That covers their gas for the outboard motor (they pay higher prices as they must pay a middle man as they have no access to a gas station), food, and then what is left over is spread amongst all the people in the village who participate, adults and children. Then I paid an overnight guide $150.00 for his time, (I often go as the guide myself, but had been on an overnight tour with two ladies the night before and met and greeted this client as he arrived to the village.) and from the math you can see that we have already passed the $250.00 price for the tour, and so I donated the use of my van and the fuel, plus the fruit for the tour. So as much as I would love to lower the price, I have lost money on this tour from the start. I feel the price is for the experience and this tour does not have a profit margin. If I had any profit on your trip, I would gladly refund it to you.
I think he was expecting a more “luxurious” sleeping situation. Sleeping in the Emberá village is rustic. It is glorified camping. I know it is not super comfortable for most people. I have searched for longer sleeping pads, knowing that most visitors are taller than the average Panamanian. However, these pads are made for shorter Latino bodies and I have never found longer ones in Panama. I am still looking. I will be adding more information about the sleeping accommodations to my standard information for the overnight tour to eliminate any false expectations on this tour in the future. This overnight tour is about sleeping and living like the Emberá people, it is not a hotel.
I also understand that you thought we provided towels. We did send you a list of things to bring on the overnight tour, and a towel and personal toiletries were on the list. As you know, we do provide sleeping pads, sheets and mosquito nets. I will consider adding towels to the things we provide, knowing that traveling with a towel is not always feasible. I do provide pillow cases and suggest people use their towels or extra clothes as a pillow, I have never had this complaint before. There were showers just below the bathroom, three of them, although normally, I and the guests bathe as the Emberá do, in the river. It is great fun.
The toilet is a pit style latrine with palm material walls, roof and cement floor. It is not fancy, it is very basic, but I saw myself the Emberá woman cleaning the latrines the morning you arrived. It was as clean as it could have been, given what it is. No marble floors and fancy linens in the Emberá village. :~)
I am very sorry to hear you did not enjoy the food. Literally every other person I have ever taken on this tour, for the day or overnight has raved about the food. Many have commented on it being the best meal(s) they have eaten in their entire trip to Panama. I am surprised to hear you were served the fish head. Usually, they keep that for themselves and offer you a filet instead. Some guests have chosen the head out of curiosity. You could have asked for another piece. I apologize for the fish head. The Emberá, and for that matter, most Panamanians, are not big vegetable eaters. In the village we eat Emberá style. They do not eat many, nor know how to cook vegetables. They do not grow them nor have refrigeration to keep them fresh in the tropical heat. I also explain in the list of things to bring that you need to bring your own drinks and water, and any snack food you may want.
I have seen other tour operators bring guests out for overnight tours and they all use the same style of mattresses or hammocks. I did provide you with a sleeping pad, mosquito net, a hammock and sheets. Using regular mattresses out there is problematic to get them up the river in a dugout canoe and storing them for the 2-3 times a month we use them is tough as things in the jungle humidity get ruined very fast.
I appreciate your disappointment and am very sorry you were not happy. I have been offering Emberá Village Tours for 6 years and this is the first time I have had a complaint of any kind on this tour. I will take your suggestions into consideration, such as towels, soap, etc.
I would also love to know what I can do to make this disappointment up to you in the future. If you choose to come back to Panama, I would be happy to offer you a free day tour of your choice as compensation for your unpleasant experience. If there was any profit on this tour, then I would be happy to refund you this profit margin, after expenses. Unfortunately, as I have explained, there was no profit for our company on this tour. For me it is more important to offer the Emberá experience to anyone who is interested and to give the Emberá people the opportunity to share their lives and culture with others and a source of income, than it is to have a profit margin.
For me

Very sincerely and respectfully,
Anne Gordon de Barrigón

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 13, 2012

My family (mother, father, husband) took a 6-day trip to Panama in February 2012. While staying at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, we ran into a Canadian family who had been out with Anne Gordon to the Embera Puru village earlier in the day. They recommended the tour so highly, that we called up Anne on the spot to book a tour for the next day. I feel so lucky that Anne was able to accommodate us, as it was hands-down my favorite day of the whole week. I was a bit concerned about the dynamic of tourists visiting a native village, but Anne put us at ease by explaining that the people of Embera Puru see tourism as a way to preserve their culture, both through income that allows them to live self-sufficiently and through the respect that comes through education. Everyone we met was gracious and open. I would like to especially thank Zuleika, who gave us a detailed presentation on village customs and culture, and Anselmo, who gave us a walking tour of medicinal plants. And the ladies who made us a wonderful lunch of tilapia and plantains! We were also able to spend some free time chatting with the villagers and playing with the kids down in the river (got a spearfishing lesson!). I cannot recommend Embera Village Tours and Anne Gordon highly enough.

2  Thank Mich N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 10, 2012

myself,my wife and 21 yr old son spent a great week in Panama in February.We stayed in a apartment right in casca veijo to experiance local living.We didn't want your typical vacation or big group tours.Katia was recommended by some locals and the canal tour along with a trip to fort San Lorenzo was better than could be expected.Katia takes you door to door,Is very informative and works hard to make your trip very enjoyable and memorable.HIGH PRAISE for Katia and Kats tours.Wish we could have stayed longer.I think our 21 yr old son liked it more than anyone and now has the travel bug.Thanx Kat. Carl,Sue and Cameron from Connecticut!!!

2  Thank carl h
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 2, 2012

Wow-we've done many adventurous things in our lives and visiting the Embera Indians ranks as one of the most amazing and touching experiences ever. It is like visiting something straight out of Natl. Geographic.

We were picked up at our hotel by Anne Gordon and driven for about an hour through the Gamboa and Sobernia parks while she delivered great info about Panama and the Embera Indians. Then we traveled up a small river in a (motorized) dugout canoe with 2 Embera for maybe another 45 minutes. We then spent about a half day in the Indian village where we witnessed their simple, harmonious lives. They sang, played, fed us a great meal, and led us on a medicinal plant tour. But mostly they touched us with the awareness of what is really important in life-family, community, and spirit. They live as they have for many hundreds of years but their simple way of life holds immense value, I believe.

We were astonished by the qualtiy of the workmanship in the beautiful crafts they sell(which provides much of their income). We bought and spent more than we expected to but we are grateful to be able to support their way of life which I believe offers lessons to our modern world.

I recommend Anne's tours because she is passionate about what she does. She takes you to the farthest village which are the least touched by modern society. This village is her husband's family. This is a must do experience.

2  Thank Jon O
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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