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Darien Gap Tourism, the trivialization of the migrant crisis

A German company offers a tourist package for almost USD 4,000. More than 500 migrants expose their lives in the Colombia-Panama jungle every day

Tapón del Darién

Agencia EFE

30 de junio 2023


“Our goal is to cross what is probably the most wicked jungle in the world.” This could be said by the thousands of migrants who pass through the Darien Gap daily, which separates Colombia from Panama. But, instead, the phrase is an offer from a German luxury adventure tourism company.

Two weeks through this dense jungle with “tremendously diverse and severe challenges” entail “the adventure of a lifetime,” offers Wandermut, a German company that offers experiences in Darien for 3,643 euros (almost 4,000 dollars).

Their “adventure” takes place in that large jungle, without crossing borders and on the Pacific side, some 90 kilometers from where migrants —mainly Venezuelans and Haitians— pass daily, risking their lives to reach the United States, which has sparked controversy recently.  Many thousands of Cubans have also shared that horrible experience.

“The Darien Gap is a very vast region. We operate in the Pacific, the southwest part of the Darien, far from the border, while the migrant routes are in the Caribbean, to the north, literally crossing the border between Colombia and Panama. There are almost 100 kilometers of dense jungle and wide rivers between them and us,” Rick Morales, one of the company’s guides, told EFE in a written statement.

Just this Friday, the Panama Tourism Authority also came out in defense of the company and the tourism it offers in Darien, rich in diversity and open for more than a decade to excursions, natural expeditions and other types of tourism.

“This type of connection does not exist, as these two activities take place in completely different areas of the Darien, separated by more than 55 miles (more than 90 kilometers) of tropical forests and tribal territories,” the Tourism Authority highlighted.

For them, the migration crisis, “as a relatively new phenomenon, has nothing to do with the tourism activities that have been taking place for decades in Darien and the rest of our territory.”

Trivialization of a humanitarian crisis

Although the number of migrants has skyrocketed in the last two years, with more than 184,000 people who have already crossed from Colombia to Panama through Darien this year (five times as many as in the same period of 2022), the humanitarian crisis in this natural border is not new and people from all over the world —including Africa and Asia— swhave been trying to cross the mountains and rivers of the Darien for more than a decade, not exactly to “enjoy an adventure.”

“We are witnesses to what it means for migrants to cross this jungle. It is an inhospitable jungle, very difficult, without services. The migrants are exposed to a huge number of accidents due to the geography of this jungle (cliffs, rivers, etc.), to diseases due to poor sanitary conditions on the route,” explains to EFE Luis Eguiluz, head of mission in Colombia and Panama of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).


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This organization carries out almost all medical consultations at the migrant-receiving stations in Meteti, on the Panamanian side, at the jungle exit. 

“It is an authentic humanitarian crisis…We are talking about more than 500 people a day who are exposed to this situation: children, adolescents, pregnant women, people with disabilities who are exposed to this route,” denounces the head of the MSF mission.

Haitian migrants on their journey to Panama through the Darien Gap, in Acandi, Colombia, Photo: EFE/ Archive.

Additionally, in this jungle, which has served as a hideout for decades to the Colombian guerrilla and paramilitaries, armed groups and drug traffickers continue to operate, exposing migrants to armed robberies, aggressions, and constant sexual assault.

“We avoid the direct border area to Colombia and eastern Darien. Anything else would be reckless,” warns the German tour company. Migrants, however, cannot avoid this pathway and are in fact exposed to paying money for a route that is in the hands of armed and criminal groups.

Those brave enough to pay the 3,643 euros are offered security, “state of the art” equipment to avoid getting lost and, “in extreme emergencies, a signal is sent via satellite phone.”

Ninety kilometers away, migrants crossing “cannot pay for security, cannot pay for the easiest routes, so they expose themselves to most difficult routes,” recalls Eguiluz. In the Darien zone through which the migrants pass, it is unknown how many have fallen by the wayside.

“In our medical and mental health consultations, we see the suffering that exposure to this jungle has caused them. Therefore, any trivialization of this humanitarian crisis does not exactly help to show the tragedy of these people,” Eguiluz regrets. 

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times.


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Agencia EFE

Agencia EFE

Agencia de noticias internacional con sede en Madrid, España. Fundada en Burgos durante la guerra civil española en enero de 1939.