This edition comes with a clear objective, to show to a great extent what our beautiful Panama has to offer the world. And who is better talking about this topic than with a professional photographer who has portrayed Panama as few have had the opportunity. Born in Alicante Spain, our guest grew up surrounded by nature and breathtaking landscapes of the Mediterranean, as well as a passion for nature. This sensitivity is what has helped the renowned photographer Alfredo Maiquez to connect with the heart of Panama in each photograph. His work continually appears in international publications such as Conde Naste Traveler, Smithsonian Magazine, Adventure Magazine, National Geographic, and the Sunday Telegraph. On this occasion, this renowned photographer who feels our country as his second home, dedicates time exclusively to The Visitor – El Visitante to talk about everything that makes Panama special.
Before arriving to Panama, you had visited several countries, and you are still a photographer for Lonely Planet magazine, what did you see in Panama that motivated you to stay and explore it as few photographers have done?
“Before arriving in Panama, I had had the opportunity to travel and photograph various countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, as well as live in some of them such as Ecuador, which gave me a global perspective and an appreciation for the cultural and natural diversity that the world has to offer. However, when I arrived in Panama, I experienced something special that motivated me to stay and explore it further with my camera. I wanted to show the world the beauty of its landscapes, the vitality of its people and the richness of its culture. I wanted to convey the passion and energy that is felt when exploring its colorful streets, diving into its crystal clear waters or delving into the jungle to discover hidden treasures. By embarking on this photographic journey through Panama, I also realized that there was a unique opportunity to contribute to the promotion of responsible and sustainable tourism in the country. I wanted to show people the importance of preserving and protecting these natural and cultural treasures for future generations. In short, what I saw in Panama was a magical combination of natural beauty, fascinating history, and cultural diversity. This unique blend motivated me to stay.”
What are the most incredible destinations captured on camera and why?
“As a photographer, I have had the opportunity to capture many incredible destinations on my camera throughout my career. Each of them has been special and unique in its own way, but here are some of the destinations that I find especially incredible and why: The Salar de Uyuni is a place of extraordinary beauty and one of the most popular destinations for nature photographers. It is located in Bolivia and is the largest salt flat in the world, covering approximately 10,000 square kilometers. It is a surreal landscape as it is a flat white expanse of salt that resembles a giant mirror when covered in water. Reflections in the water can provide amazing compositions and play with visual perception.
Another destination is the Galapagos Islands, an unmatched treasure and an extremely incredible destination. These islands, located in the Pacific Ocean, more than 1,000 kilometers from the coast of Ecuador, are famous for their exceptional biodiversity and for being the place where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution. The Galapagos Islands are home to a wide variety of endemic and unique species in the world, many of which are found nowhere else. This makes the islands a paradise for nature photographers, since they have the opportunity to capture images of species that are true rarities and represent a true testimony of biological evolution. Fauna in Galapagos includes iconic species such as giant tortoises, Galapagos penguins, marine and land iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and many seabirds.
Patagonia is another dream destination for a nature photographer. This vast region, spanning southern Argentina and Chile, boasts impressive mountains, towering glaciers, crystal clear lakes, vast steppes, and wild coastline providing a variety of captivating settings to capture. Photographers can explore majestic landscapes such as Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, the Patagonian Andes, Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier, and Los Glaciares National Park. In addition to the impressive landscapes, the fauna of Patagonia is equally fascinating. Nature photographers have the opportunity to capture images of emblematic species such as the guanaco, rhea, puma or Andean condor. It is also possible to see whales, orcas, dolphins and a wide variety of seabirds on the Patagonian coast.
Each place has its own beauty and charm, and the most exciting thing is to be able to explore and discover new photographic destinations, always seeking to capture the essence and emotion they convey.
As a tourist who has traveled the world, what makes Panama different from the rest of the places you have been able to explore?
“Panama is a unique country with great diversity and natural beauty, as well as a rich culture and history. Here are some characteristics that can differentiate Panama from other tourist destinations: The Panama Canal: is one of the most important engineering marvels in the world. Biodiversity: Despite being a small country, Panama has a wide variety of ecosystems, from beaches and tropical forests to mountains and mangroves. La Amistad International Park, Coiba National Park, and Darien National Park are just a few examples of the many impressive places to explore nature in Panama. Panama has a rich cultural heritage that is reflected in its art, music, dance, and festivals. Indigenous, African and Spanish traditions are intertwined in the Panamanian identity. Panama’s Carnival, la Pollera (traditional costume), the music of the drums and folk dances are prominent elements of Panamanian culture.
For many Panamanians, their country has it all, do you think the same? And because?
“Above all, the size of the country is key, being able to move from the Pacific to the Caribbean in a single day is fantastic, imagine being able to be at the top of the Baru Volcano at dawn and in the afternoon being able to dive in the waters of Bocas del Toro in the Caribbean, that is easy to achieve in Panama. Besides, these are the keys for me in the country. The Panama Canal is one of the marvels of modern engineering and an emblematic tourist attraction of the country. It is an artificial channel that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean, allowing the transit of ships and significantly reducing the duration and costs of maritime transport.
It is impressive to witness the passage of large ships through the canal locks, which makes it a unique experience for tourists. Despite being a small country, Panama is home to a wide variety of ecosystems and rich biodiversity. It has a large number of national parks and nature reserves that offer opportunities to explore rainforests, mangroves, pristine beaches, mountains, and islands. In addition, Panama is a meeting point between the fauna and flora of North and South America, which makes it a very attractive destination for nature lovers. Panama City is a fusion of the old and the new, with an old town full of Spanish colonial charm and a vibrant metropolis filled with skyscrapers. In addition, Panamanian culture is influenced by indigenous, African, European and Asian traditions, which is reflected in its art, music, gastronomy and festivities. These are just a few examples of why Panama has it all.
What is your favorite place in Panama among so many you have visited and why?
“My favorite place in Panama is the Chiriqui Highlands and its fantastic cloud forests, by the way, I will give you a preview, we are about to finish a book on Chiriqui province, with an intense photographic work that has had me photographing in that province for the first 3 months of this year and that will soon see the light. A fascinating project that will make this wonderful province of Panama show its beauties to the world.”
If you had the opportunity to create a project focused on the tourist experience in Panama, what would it be and how would it help promote the country?
“I have been talking about it for many years, from the first time I arrived in Panama I realized the great potential that Panama has towards Green or Nature tourism, let’s see the example of Costa Rica, a country that I have visited on many occasions, it is really amazing how they handle the thematic of nature and its resources to attract tourists to that sector. In Panama, the potential of green tourism is incredible and I do not see that the direction is being taken towards this type of tourism, it is true that efforts are being made towards it, but many times are not well directed and valuable resources are wasted. For example, a huge market with a very high income is bird watching and here are some tour guides dedicated to it, but given the gigantic diversity of birds in Panama, a bigger effort should be made in this field. Also, for example, the market for nature photographers is huge around the world and some companies are now being born here that are dedicated to it, but on the tourism promotion side there is no effort towards this market, for example inviting great nature photographers to visit the country and show their audiences the enormous potential that exists in Panama. I always speak from my area of expertise as a nature and travel photographer and as I have said, Panama’s potential is enormous in this field, it just takes more effort to showcase Panama’s natural wonders.