- 1 National Park Information
- 2 Park Geography
- 3 Hydrology
- 4 Ecosystems and Biodiversity
- 5 Touristic Activities
- 6 Conservation Challenges
- 7 Culture and Human History in Sarigua Park
- 8 Visitor Program
- 9 Photo Gallery
In the natural areas of Panama, where the land meets the sea and ancient history blends with a unique landscape, a priceless gift awaits nature and history enthusiasts: Sarigua National Park. Join us in exploring this remarkable park, where biodiversity and human culture intertwine in a captivating dance of survival and resilience.
National Park Information
Designated as a National Park on January 24, 1985, through Executive Decree 72 of October 2, 1984, Sarigua is the oldest and one of the most unique parks in Panama. Its history dates back thousands of years when it was inhabited by the region’s first civilizations, formalizing its creation in the publication of Official Gazette 20,231 on January 24, 1985, under the Spanish name "Parque Nacional Sarigua". The primary objective of establishing this park is to preserve the valuable ecosystems, coastal areas, marine environment, and rich cultural heritage of the region, including the significant archaeological site La Mula, with a total area of 8,000 hectares (80 km2).
The area of Sarigua National Park is a region that has undergone complete deforestation and devastation due to local inhabitants’ colonization in the second half of the 20th century. It is also known as Sarigua Desert National Park, although it is not an actual desert but a highly degraded area.
Located in the country’s driest region, this park presents a unique landscape not found anywhere else in Panama.
Starting in 1979, studies were conducted in the area that revealed the presence of albinas (salt deposits) in Sarigua, which extended inland. This led to the proposal to declare it an "Area of protection for the scarce existing natural resources."
The albinization of Sarigua dates back thousands of years and was a result of geological changes, such as the displacement of water masses from the sea and deforestation caused by wood extraction and land conversion into grasslands.
In 1984, archaeologist Richard Cooke conducted studies that unveiled the presence of pre-Columbian human settlements in Sarigua, covering an area of almost ten hectares. This site, known as "La Mula," is considered the country’s oldest village, with origins ranging from 1500 to 5000 BC. Remains of ceramics, arrowheads, and stone tools have been discovered at this site.
Significant archaeological remains of a human fishing settlement dating back 11,000 years have also been found in Sarigua, making it the oldest known inhabited enclave in the Isthmus of Panama. Additionally, the country’s oldest agricultural village, dating from 1,500 to 5,000 years ago, is located here.
Meaning of the Name "Sarigua"
The word "Sarigua" originates from an indigenous term that means "salt and water", referring to the entry of the sea and the classification of the soil as the tide recedes.
Located in the Herrera Province, in the Gulf of Parita, the park is situated in the Puerto Limón district within the Parita district. To the north, it borders the Cenegón de El Mangle Wildlife Refuge, and to the south, it borders the Parita district. The park’s boundaries extend to the east with the Parita River, and to the west, they are marked by the Parita landfill and Los Grullos. The coordinates for the park are: 8°01′26″N 80°28′06″W / 8.0238, -80.4684.
Sarigua is located in the premontane dry forest zone with a strong marine influence. The climate in the park is of a dry tropical type and is characterized by two well-defined seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. The average annual precipitation is 1,100 mm, and temperatures vary significantly throughout the day. During the day, the average temperature is 41°C, while at night, it drops to around 19°C. During the dry season, temperatures can reach 45°C, highlighting the extreme conditions prevailing in the park.
How to Get There
Access to Sarigua National Park can be achieved by land or by water.
By land, you can reach Sarigua National Park via the paved road that connects to the town of Puerto Limón. This road offers an accessible and safe route for visitors who prefer to travel by vehicles.
To reach the park by water, you can use the river ports of París, located on the Santa María River to the north of the park, or the Boca Parita port, situated to the south of the park in the Parita Bay. These water routes provide a scenic and alternative way to access Sarigua National Park.
Both the land and water routes offer options to reach the park and enjoy unique Panamanian landscapes.
Its geography and topography consist of a muddy sandy plain that is part of an albine. In the western part of the park, there are old pastures, while in the south, small hills of no more than five meters in height can be observed. This area shows gullies, mineralized soils, and rocks of volcanic origin, a result of wind erosion on the site.
The park is characterized by an extensive sedimentary plain formed by runoff from the surrounding areas and the constant process of erosion and sedimentation of the Santa María River, along with the effects of tides from Parita Bay.
An ecosystem restoration and recovery process for the mangrove and forested area is currently underway. Thanks to ecosystem care and preservation, a natural regeneration is occurring within the park.
Sarigua National Park borders two of the most voluminous rivers in the central provinces of Panama: the Santa María River and the Parita River.
Santa María River
The Santa María River flows through the provinces of Veraguas, Coclé, and Herrera. With a length of 168 km and a drainage basin of 3326 km², it originates in the El Pantano community, in the Santa Fe district of Veraguas, and empties into Parita Bay, located in the Herrera Province.
On the other hand, the Parita River is located on the Azuero Peninsula, and its waters serve various purposes, such as supplying water for communities, recreational activities, crop irrigation, and livestock water supply, among others.
These rivers flow into Parita Bay, which is an important source of marine product production in the central provinces. Furthermore, they play a crucial role in preserving coastal ecosystems, which serve as habitats for marine life and birds’ reproduction.
Ecosystems and Biodiversity
The process of soil salinization in Sarigua has given rise to a unique desert landscape in this tropical region. Along the coastal section of the park, mangrove forests are found, providing an ideal habitat for the reproduction of shrimp and other marine species.
Present Fauna Species
Among the diverse fauna of Sarigua, you can find migratory birds, reptiles, and small mammals. Observing these animals adapted to the harsh conditions is a testament to the resilience of life in nature. Bird species include pelicans, kingfishers, sora rails, and butterflies. Sarigua National Park is considered one of the driest areas in the country and is home to the Agallo tree, an endemic species of the region.
Mammals present in the park include the Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis annectens), the Crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivoras), Gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), and Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus).
The bird species contributing to its natural richness are the Gray-headed chachalaca (Ortalis cinereiceps), Crested bobwhite (Colinus cristatus), White-tipped dove (Leptotila verreauxi), Pale-vented pigeon (Patagioenas cayanensis), Ruddy ground dove (Columbina talpacoti), and Scaly-naped pigeon (Patagioenas leucocephala). These birds find the park’s habitat suitable for feeding, breeding, and resting. Mangrove forests and surrounding vegetation provide shelter and resources for these birds, while coastal landscapes and open areas offer feeding and nesting opportunities. The songs and flights of these birds enhance the park’s environment and provide visitors with a chance to enjoy avian biodiversity in this impressive natural setting.
Emblematic flora species within Sarigua National Park include:
- Mangroves (Rhizophora mangle): These biotic forests are located in intertidal zones near river mouths. They are rich ecosystems with biodiversity and habitats for birds, fish, crustaceans, and mollusks.
- Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis): An evergreen tree with aromatic, bluish leaves, valued for its ornamental and culinary uses.
Iconic fauna within the park includes:
- Pelicans (Pelecanus): Birds characterized by their long bill with a gular pouch, used for capturing and draining water from their prey. They are found in inland and coastal waters, where they primarily feed on fish.
- Kingfishers (Alcedines): A group of small to medium-sized, colorful birds with interesting behaviors, many of them distributed in tropical forests.
- Butterflies (Lepidoptera): Insects known for their beauty and elegant flight, found in tropical regions with abundant vegetation.
- Scorpions (Scorpiones): Arachnids with grasping pincers and a segmented tail with a venomous stinger, primarily found in desert habitats.
- Grasshoppers (Caelifera): Insects with strong hind legs for jumping, found in grasslands, forests, crops, and dry areas.
- Crustaceans (Crustacea): This category includes species like lobsters, crabs, shrimp, and barnacles, inhabiting various aquatic depths and environments.
- Mollusks (Mollusca): Invertebrates with a wide diversity of species such as clams, oysters, octopuses, and snails, present in marine and terrestrial environments.
These iconic species contribute to the biodiversity of Sarigua National Park and offer a unique natural spectacle for visitors.
Species facing the risk of extinction in Sarigua and requiring special attention for their conservation include the Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis), also known as the water cat, a semi-aquatic mammal inhabiting the park’s bodies of water and facing threats such as habitat loss and indiscriminate hunting.
The ruddy pigeon (Patagioenas subvinacea) is a bird in danger due to habitat loss and capture for illegal pet trade.
Endemic Flora Species and Their Ecological Importance
Sarigua’s plants, including various endemic species, have developed fascinating adaptations to survive in the arid climate. These plants play a crucial role in the park’s ecosystem, providing food and shelter to many animal species.
The park’s flora includes species like mangroves, bay laurel, barrigón, and carate, with predominant slow-growing trees. Present vegetation includes legumes, trees, cacti, and plants from the Portulacaceae family. There’s a great diversity of plant species, among which the Agallo (Caesalpinia coriaria), a legume native to the Antilles, northern South America, Central America, and southern Mexico, stands out. Also present are the Mesquite (Prosopis juliflora) and various species of cacti like Acanthocereus and Opuntia.
Hiking Trails and Fauna and Flora Observation Points
Sarigua National Park offers exceptional hiking trails that take you through its diverse ecosystems. From these trails, you can observe the unique fauna and flora of the park.
Educational and Interpretive Activities
The park offers a series of educational and interpretive activities to help you understand and appreciate its biodiversity and history. Expert guides will take you on a journey through time and the evolution of life in Sarigua.
Tips for a Safe and Environmentally Respectful Visit
It’s important to remember to respect the environment during our visits. Always carry your trash with you, avoid disturbing animals, and stay on the designated trails.
Threats to the Park’s Ecosystem
Like many natural parks, Sarigua faces threats to its ecosystem, such as deforestation and climate change. It’s essential that we take measures to protect this valuable natural resource.
Conservation and Recovery Projects
Several ongoing projects aim to conserve and restore Sarigua’s ecosystems. The work of conservationists is vital for the park’s survival.
Culture and Human History in Sarigua Park
Archaeological Importance of the Park: The Sarigua Archaeological Site
Sarigua hosts an important archaeological site, providing insight into the earliest civilizations that inhabited the region. The site offers a fascinating glimpse into human history in Panama.
The Park’s Relationship with Local Communities and its Role in the Local Economy
The park has a strong connection with local communities, benefiting them through tourism and other economic activities. Sarigua National Park plays a vital role in the local economy by promoting tourism and generating employment opportunities for nearby communities. Sustainable tourism in the park provides additional income through guide services, accommodation, transportation, and local craft sales. This positive relationship promotes park conservation and the sustainable development of the region.
Practical Information: Hours, Tickets, Nearby Accommodation
- Hours: The park is open to the public every day of the week, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Tickets: A ticket must be purchased at the visitor center. Prices vary based on age and nationality.
- Nearby Accommodation: There’s no on-site accommodation, but lodging options are available nearby, such as hotels, inns, and campsites.
Visitor Rules and Recommended Behavior
- Respect marked trails and stay on them.
- Do not litter and carry your trash back with you.
- Avoid disturbing or feeding wildlife.
- Follow guide instructions and adhere to park regulations.
- Be mindful of the environment and conserve natural resources.
By following these respectful rules and behaviors, we contribute to preserving the beauty and integrity of Sarigua National Park for future generations.