This important archaeological site has been dated back 11,000 years based on shell mounds and pottery fragments, although much of it is yet to be excavated. Created in 1984, the park consists of 80 sq km of wasteland that was once dry tropical rainforest and coastal mangrove patches. Sarigua is the end product of slash-and-burn agriculture; because the forest that had held the thin topsoil in place was removed, the heavy rainfalls that occur each year have carried the topsoil away.
A visit to Sarigua is a sober reminder of the earth’s fragility, and the rapid speed in which humans can alter the environment. From the mirador (lookout) behind the ranger station, you can gaze out at the dry, cracked earth and swirling dust storms that used to be a living, breathing ecosystem. If you have your own transportation, you can drive a few kilometers into the park, but much of Sarigua is off-limits to the public. The coastal edges of the park are also home to privately owned commercial shrimp farms, which stand as a testament to the rapid destruction of Panama’s wetland habitat.