Río Sambú

Darién Province

Traveling the wide and very brown Sambú River is a memorable experience: you'll glide past spectacular mangroves – five of the world's seven known species grow here – deep jungle and, beyond Sambú and Puerto Indio, traditional villages. A trip up the Sambú is a real adventure, something that may not be possible anywhere in the tropics 50 years from now. Even if you traveled deep into the Amazon, you'd be hard-pressed to find such wilderness.

Be warned, though, that it's not everyone's cup of tea. You'll probably need to bring several large containers of gas from La Palma (where you'll arrange boats and guides for this section of the trip) to fuel the canoe you hire upriver. Other hardships include a lack of showers and toilets and an abundance of creepy crawlies.

At night you can make camp if you have a tent or a jungle hammock. However, your boatman may prefer to make a deal to sleep on the floor of an Emberá or Wounaan family's home. If you can speak Spanish, finding a family to move in with for the night won't be difficult, and you might even get a hot meal.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Darién Province attractions

1. Río Sábalo Bridge

5.55 MILES

Cross the Río Sábalo bridge to reach Sambú's twin indigenous village of Puerto Indio.

2. Puerto Indio

5.71 MILES

From Sambú, visitors can cross the Río Sábalo Bridge to the twin village of Puerto Indio (with permission from the Emberá and Wounaan) and visit…

3. Bayamón

8.19 MILES

This Emberá village south of Sambú is worth visiting. Get here by public bus (US$1), which runs along the paved road leading south from town between 6am…

4. Reserva Natural Punta Patiño

12.13 MILES

On the southern shore of the Golfo de San Miguel, this 263-sq-km wildlife reserve is owned by the private conservation group ANCON. It contains species…

5. Waterfall

14.24 MILES

This waterfall and its crystal-clear pool is a welcome relief after a hot and sweaty climb to spot harpy eagles.

6. Fuerte San Lorenzo

25.88 MILES

Just across the Golfo de San Miguel on Isla El Encanto are the ruins of the Fort of St Lawrence slowing being consumed by the jungle. There's not much…