Jungle Training & Expedition Skills Course

Available dates

  • From 31 May 2024To 10 Jun 2024 Days 10 Price £2,499 Places Standard
  • From 26 May 2024To 10 Jun 2024 Days 15 Price £3,699 Places With WFR
  • From 31 May 2025To 10 Jun 2025 Days 10 Price £2,799 Places Standard
  • From 26 May 2025To 10 Jun 2025 Days 15 Price £3,999 Places With WFR
  • Destination Americas
  • Activity Training + Hiking & Trekking
  • Terrain Jungle

Home to a myriad of life in all its forms, no land based ecosystem manifests greater quantity or diversity than the jungle. Plot and forge your own route across one of the most alluring yet inhospitable environments on Earth as you develop essential expedition planning, leadership and jungle safety skills. On this Adventure Academy expedition, the Panamanian Jungle is your classroom and the experienced local experts who call this region home are your teachers.

The primary focus of this Jungle Training & Expedition Skills Course is to learn and develop the skills required to plan and lead a successful jungle expedition. In doing so, as part of a team you will navigate your own crossing of Panama’s Chagres National Park.

Under the supervision of expert instructors, team mates will plot and follow their own route through this iconic tropical rainforest. Effectively negotiating humid jungle terrain, river-crossings, and tree-clad mountain ranges will all be part of the challenge as the team navigates its chosen route through the jungle. While start and end points of the expedition phase are predetermined, what unfolds in-between is up to you.

The course is also open to people not aspiring to become guides, but those wishing to enhance their own  knowledge of the jungle and of carrying out expeditions. This could be in order to prepare them for their own jungle expeditions or purely because you have an interest in jungle environments and learning new skills. Whatever your motivation, you are welcome on the expedition.

Interested in learning wilderness medicine skills? Head to our “WFR bolt-on” tab, for more information on our optional Wilderness First Responder bolt-on course.


  • Learn skills needed to plan and lead a jungle based expedition.
  • Plot a route and trek across Panama’s iconic Chagres National Park.
  • Hone personal navigation skills.
  • Acquire and perfect jungle skills in an expedition environment.
  • Learn from Industry leading professionals and locals.


Learn new skills to prepare for your own adventure, or expand on existing wilderness knowledge. Alongside these learning objectives, this expedition also provides a fantastic opportunity for exploration in a varied, remote and unspoilt region of Panama bursting with life.

Course Objectives

Students will both learn about and practice skills in the field, and discuss more theoretical subjects in the evenings.  Due to the course taking place in an expedition environment, lessons and exercises will take place where best suited depending on the location and weather conditions on the day. Official training objectives during the expedition will include:

  • Expedition provisioning.
  • Route planning.
  • Navigation.
  • Search and rescue.
  • Campsite selection.
  • Problem/conflict resolution.
  • Best guiding and environmentally friendly practices.
  • Survival and jungle-specific bushcraft skills.
  • Maintaining health and hygiene in the jungle.
  • Jungle specific hazards.
  • Natural history.

If you’re interested in learning jungle-specific first aid, head to the “WFR bolt-on” tab for information on our optional Hybrid Wilderness First Responder Course.

Further details on the pre-requisite skills and assessment methods are available in the course Handbook.


This course is a great foundation for anyone aspiring to guide jungle expeditions professionally, as well as people who want to hone their wilderness skillset, whether that be for travelling or working for an extended period in a jungle setting or going on an expedition. Leading the course will be Panamanian guide and expert naturalist Rick Morales. A founder of the TransPanama Project, in 2011 Rick became the first person to walk from the Colombian border to Costa Rica, known now as the Panama Trail through-hike. He’s also been running our Darien Gap expedition since day one. Arguably the most knowledgeable and experienced jungle expedition leader in Central America, you’ll be learning from the best in the industry.

Chagres National Park

Comprising a mix of tropical rainforests and mountainous terrain, the Chagres National Park covers some 319,000 acres (129,000 ha) of land, located about 40 miles north of Panama City.

This iconic national park is home to an abundance of tropical plants and animals. Over 900 plant species and 114 mammal species, including tapirs, whitetail deer, Geoffroy’s spider monkeys, and five species of big cats have all been identified in the region. Also calling the national park home are 396 known species of birds, including stripe-cheeked woodpeckers, red-legged honeycreepers, violet-capped hummingbirds, and harpy eagles. Additionally, there are 96 reptile species, 79 amphibian species, and 59 species of freshwater fish.

Besides flora and fauna, the indigenous Embera tribe lives along the upper reaches of Lake Alajuela within Chagres. Portions of a trail once used by the Spanish to transport gold across the isthmus known as the Camino Real are still visible today.

Various waterways snake their way through the national park, many of which now feed the world famous canal to the west. In 1914, the Chagres River was dammed to form the Panama Canal and again in 1935 to form Lake Alajuela. Today the water flowing from the park accounts for nearly 40 percent of the water in the Panama Canal and serves as an important source of drinking water for Panama City and Colón.

Secret Compass runs expeditions and courses with framework itineraries, rather than guided tours with set daily plans. Read more about our Approach here. The following is the outline plan for this course although coordinating the specifics will form part of the students’ training. A fuller itinerary is provided in the Handbook which is available upon request or application to join the course.


To ensure you make the most of your time in-country, your course will actually start before you depart for Panama with the completion of some learning and expedition preparation via an online platform. This is a brilliant opportunity to get to know your instructors and team mates before you arrive, as well as get lots of advice on equipment in the run up to the expedition.


Meet in downtown Panama City at noon on Day 1 of the course. Starting with a briefing on the plan and expedition safety, the course starts immediately with budgeting and meal planning as the team head out to arrange supplies for the expedition. Under the guidance of the course instructor all team mates will take on responsibility for buying in provisions for the expeditions, working within recommended expedition guidelines and keeping to the budget set by your instructor (and paid for by Secret Compass). Once fully supplied, the team will transfer by road to the trailhead followed by a short trek to the first campsite.

During the expedition

Over the next 9 days and nights teammates will acquire and develop survival, leadership and emergency management skills as they establish a route through the Chagres National Park, and to the summit of Cerro Bruja. While the start and end locations are pre-determined, the route itself is not. Instead the exact route will be chosen by the students during the course with the aim of applying newly acquired expedition planning and navigational skills. During evenings and en-route will be the opportunity to discover natural history and learn the cultural context which surrounds this journey.

Goal achieved

After successfully navigating your way out of the jungle you’ll be transported back to Panama City. It is expected that the team will be back in Panama City on the evening of Day 11. In case of delays, you should not book outbound flights/transport out of Panama City until the next day.

Secret Compass expeditions and courses are achievable by anyone with a healthy lifestyle and a good level of general fitness. You will however need to be capable of travelling in a remote region for the duration of the trek without external support and be comfortable with the fitness requirements below. 

Prior to departure, students must be comfortable with the following.

  • Trek: up to 15 km but often less in the jungle.
  • Daily activity: Expect to trek for around 8 hours per day.
  • Carry: up to 12 kg per person in a rucksack.
  • Terrain: expect boggy, wet and close tropical rainforest and river crossings. It can be hilly with a maximum elevation of 1000m.
  • Climate: a hot, humid jungle environment.
  • Swim: River crossings will be an unavoidable part of this course and as such you need to be able to swim.
  • Age: 21+

View Secret Compass’s suggested Expedition Training Advice and get in touch with any fitness, health, training or kit questions that remain. Students who arrive without meeting the agreed minimum fitness requirements can jeopardise themselves and the course’s goals so do take training seriously, prepare as appropriate and arrive fit and ready to go!


  • Professional Secret Compass expedition leader.
  • Full communications kit and group medical kit.
  • Support and teaching from local jungle experts.
  • All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
  • Hammocks and shared cooking equipment.
  • All food during the course (from dinner on Day 1 till lunchtime on Day 11).
  • Special permits and permissions if required.
  • Certificate of Attendance.

Not included

  • International flights/ travel to and from Panama City.
  • Accommodation and meals in Panama City.
  • Travel insurance (obligatory).
  • Visas where relevant.
  • Tips to local guides (discretionary).
  • Personal equipment (full kit list in the Handbook).
  • Beverages and any costs of a personal nature.
  • Optional Wilderness First Responder course & certification. Refer to “WFR bolt-on” tab for details.

On application, potential teammates will receive a detailed Expedition Handbook. Here are some FAQs which should answer many questions. Get in touch if your question remains unanswered.

Who will be on the expedition?

We expect teammates to fall broadly into three categories: Those wishing to pursue a career as a jungle guide or practising guides wishing to learn specialist jungle skills; those planning their own non-professional jungle expedition (or aspiring to), for who this expedition is excellent preparation, and lastly non-professionals with an interest in learning new skills, the jungle environment and wilderness journeys. All prospective teammates must fulfil the fitness requirements (see “Fitness” tab).

Is this a bushcraft course?

Although the expedition covers survival and jungle-specific bushcraft skills, it is predominantly focused on the professional skills needed to lead an expedition in the jungle, rather than being a bushcraft expedition.

Are there any prerequisites for the course?

To attend the course you need to be capable of travelling in a remote region for the duration of the trek without external support, and therefore a base level of wilderness experience including unsupported multi-day trekking is essential as well as fitness levels as per the “FITNESS” tab. 

During the course, all students will share responsibility for navigation and route planning and there will not be time to teach basic compass skills. Students are therefore expected to be able to confidently use a compass and map prior to arriving in Panama – this includes navigating using a bearing and pacing. If required, these skills should be learnt and practised as part of your preparation for the course.

You will be invited to join a web platform in order to meet your teammates and commence your meal planning ahead of the course. Your instructor will also share useful tips on preparing for the jungle expedition via this platform.


As part of the jungle training you’ll be required to submit a written Expedition Plan and deliver an element of this while in the jungle. An expedition plan template will be provided to help you structure this. There is no minimum pass mark for the course – instead, we provide participants with individual feedback on their expedition plan and performance in the jungle, as well as advice on areas for further personal development. We believe this is far more valuable than a simple “pass” or “fail”.

Will there be ‘phone signal or Internet?

There will be mobile phone coverage in Panama City at the beginning and end of the course. Signal in the jungle is unlikely. Joining this course with the mindset of escaping technology and the day-to-day routine is advisable.

Can I charge my electricals?

You will not expect to be able to charge electrical items once the expedition phase of the course has started. You are advised to bring your own spare batteries or power packs. Due to the shade of the jungle, solar packs might not work as well as usual.

Will there be toilets or showers?

There will be no toilets or showers available during the trek, however there are plenty of trees to duck behind and rivers and stream to wash in.

Dietary requirements

All meals are included during the course. Please advise us on booking if you have any special dietary requirements.

How can I find out more?

Get in touch with SCHQ to receive a copy of the Expedition Handbook with further details on this upcoming expedition and the next steps to joining the team.


This is an optional additional training course suited for those new to wilderness medicine as well as those with some previous medical experience. The course provides essential training in wilderness medicine, leadership, and critical thinking for professionals and leaders working and travelling in outdoor, low-resource, and remote environments.


The primary focus of this Hybrid Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course is to learn the essential principles and skills required to assess and manage medical problems in isolated and extreme environments.

The course consists of two elements: 30 hours of compulsory e-learning prior to arrival in Panama, followed by 5 days of in-person WFR training in Soberanía National Park, a renowned bird-watching paradise just outside of Panama City. After completing the WFR course you’ll move on to the jungle expedition training phase.


  • Learn the essential principles and skills required to assess and manage medical problems in isolated and extreme environments.
  • Become a certified Wilderness First Responder
  • Learn from an industry-leading, Wilderness Medical Associates Instructor
  • Discover the rich avifauna of Soberanía National Park


the plan


As part of the Hybrid WFR Course, you will need to complete 30 hours of online, computer-based learning prior to participating in the 5-day in-person WFR course. The online learning modules are designed with multiple learning preferences in mind. Interactive videos, readings, self-practice assignments, quizzes, and case studies prepare students to apply the curriculum during in-person drills and scenarios. Students are encouraged to register and begin online course work in advance of the required deadlines. Allowing 6 weeks for the e-learning module is considered ideal. All students must complete the online learning module in order to attend the in-person sessions.


Meet in downtown Panama City on the morning of Day 1 of the course. Travel to the Panama Rainforest Discovery Centre, on the borders of Soberanía National Park.

During Course

The course begins upon arrival at Soberanía National Park, where, over the course of 5 days you’ll participate in 45 hrs of in-person Wilderness First Responder Training. Classes take place in a pavilion-style “nature classroom” in the rainforest, which doubles up as your sleeping shelter for the night! On the last day of the WFR course, you’ll spend a night at a hotel in Panama City where you can rest and prepare for the jungle expedition training phase.

Goal achieved

Upon successful completion of the course, students will receive a Wilderness First Responder certification and certification of CPR taught to an equivalent health care provider level. Certifications are valid for three years.


course content

The course will be tailored to include jungle-specific first aid, as well as the following:

  • The general principles of wilderness and rescue medicine with an emphasis on the prevention and identification of medical emergencies, appropriate technology, and risk management.
  • Patient assessment and emergency care including CPR, basic life support, and the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis and asthma.
  • Environmental medicine including altitude illness, hypothermia and heat illness, frostbite and cold injury, lightning, submersion, and environmental toxins.
  • Backcountry medicine including the assessment and treatment of common medical problems.
  • Musculoskeletal problems including unstable and stable injuries, overuse syndromes, and dislocations.
  • Wound management including open fractures, lacerations, burns and blisters.
  • Practical skills including splinting, bandaging, litter packaging and medical kit preparation.
  • WMA wilderness protocols including wound cleaning and exploration, spine injury assessment, dislocation reduction, CPR in the remote setting, and anaphylaxis and asthma


  • Support and teaching from Wilderness Medical Associates Instructor.
  • Access to 30 hours of WFR e-learning modules and course materials
  • All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
  • Hammocks and shared cooking equipment.
  • 1 night’s hotel accommodation in Panama City (between the WFR & the Jungle Training & Expedition Skills Course)
  • All food during the course (from lunchtime on Day 1 till lunchtime on Day 16 – except lunch during the rest & admin day in Panama City between courses).
  • Special permits and permissions if required.
  • Wilderness First Responder certification (subject to meeting minimum pass requirements)

not included

  • International flights/ travel to and from Panama City.
  • Accommodation and meals in Panama City before/after course.
  • Travel insurance (obligatory).
  • Visas where relevant.
  • Tips to local staff (discretionary).
  • Personal equipment (full kit list in the Handbook).
  • Beverages and any costs of a personal nature.




No previous medical training is required in order to participate in the course. The Hybrid WFR is suited for those new to wilderness medicine as well as those with some previous medical experience.

To attend the in-person course, you need to have completed the 30 hours of compulsory WFR e-learning modules prior to arriving in Panama. Students must register four to two weeks before the in-person course date to receive access to and adequately complete the required online course work. If your schedule permits, allowing 6 weeks for the e-learning module is considered ideal.

Students are expected to have a working knowledge of computers and access to high-speed Internet in order to complete the required e-learning prior to the in-person WFR training.

  • High speed Internet Access
  • A computer with a PDF Reader, Anti-Virus Software and internet browser (latest version of Chrome, Firefox, or Edge). Note- the system is NOT compatible with Safari.
How are students assessed?

Successful completion with certification is based on 100% attendance, satisfactory performance on homework assignments and written quizzes, demonstrated proficiency with practical skills, and a successful grade on a final written exam.


Hybrid Wilderness First Responder certificates are valid for three years from date of issue. Should you wish to renew this in the future, you will need to complete a recertification course with a registered WFR provider prior to the certificate’s expiry. Please note that recertification requirements may differ between WFR recertification providers and it is your responsibility to check how this might affect you. At the time of writing this (11/10/23), NOLS and SOLO accept Hybrid WFR certificate holders onto their recert courses, whereas Remote Area Risk International generally does not – however, exceptions can be made depending on your circumstances.

can i do a wfr recertifcation instead?

In theory, yes this should be possible. If you already hold a current WFR certificate and would like to recertify instead of doing the full WFR course, please email us directly at to discuss your options.

In order to recertify you must provide proof of a current WFR certification (unexpired or within your grace period) earned in one of the following course types:

  • A WFR course with a minimum of 70 hours of in-person instruction
  • A 70-hour Hybrid course with a minimum of 45 hours of in-person instruction
  • A WFR Recertification course with a minimum of 16 hours of in-person instruction