media release: 27/02/17

Media release: 27/02/17

Explore Panama’s Darien jungle before the roads arrive

A Secret Compass expedition team is about to plunge into the depths of the notorious Darién Gap jungle of Panama, aiming to join the few to have crossed one of the world’s finest rainforests and final adventure frontiers on foot (short expedition video below).

Panama’s mountainous Darién Gap is the only break in the 30,600km Pan-American Highway which connects Circle (Alaska) with Puerto Montt (Chile). This 150km of unfinished business is described as ‘the last roadless place’ by Lonely Planet and was a Sunday Times Top 10 Wildest Trips of the Year.

Kerry O’Neill, marketing director with Secret Compass, said, “The Parc Nacional Darién is the most ecologically diverse land-based park in Central America, whose rewards are sadly often over-shadowed by the region’s shifting security situation. As expedition professionals, we use only the best in-country experts and our contingency plans have contingency plans in case called upon.” states that crossing the Gap on foot is ‘so-risky-as-to-be-insane’, mentioning the narco-traffickers, guerillas and anti-drug agents who do on occasion operate in the Darién region.

Interviewed by Lonely Planet, leading local naturalist and Secret Compass’s in-country guide, Rick Morales, said, “When you’re out in the Darién forests trying to spot something, hone into a slight sound or movement [and you might see] a rare bird, a troop of monkeys or a herd of peccaries.”

Morales, who has many first-crossing trekking successes under his own belt and is familiar to working in challenging regions like the Darién, added, “We carry binoculars instead of firearms.”

 Highlights of the Darien Gap adventure

  • Discover the 150km gap in the 30,600km Pan-American highway
  • Explore the ecological diversity of Central America’s mountainous rainforest
  • Travel alongside the Emberá Indians on foot and in dug-out canoes
  • See 5,000-year-old Petroglyphs, remnants of an ancient culture

Though mired in political indecision and tempered by environmental concerns, there are rumours that a road connection, the ‘Interamericana’, might one day be built due to increased trade benefits.

O’Neill continued, “For now, the Darién’s undisturbed wilds remain filled with endemic flora, fauna, cultures and ancient petroglyphs. This makes it prime expedition territory for our pioneering team.

“To discover the hidden histories and raw adventures this pivotal Central American region and its rainforests have to offer before roads encroach, ambitious adventurers seeking their next challenge are invited to apply to join March’s Darién Gap expedition team today,” concluded O’Neill.

Expeditions for 2016/2017

Tom Bodkin, director of Secret Compass, added, “Through our pioneering expeditions to often misunderstood regions, our team-mates return home to share their positive stories through blogs, articles and social media. It’s a key reason we’re passionate about this type of exploration.”

Expedition styles range from mixed-terrain trekking and minimalist desert traverses to mountain-biking, rafting and horseback expeditions. Secret Compass welcomes applications from anyone with a good level of fitness who’s keen to achieve the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places.

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Press Factsheet download

View or download the Secret Compass Factsheet (PDF) from our Press page for an outline of Secret Compass and its upcoming expeditions.

Notes for editors

Secret Compass redefines what is possible by creating pioneering projects in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass is built around a team of trusted experts who combine a passion for exploration with industry-leading professionalism. Secret Compass reignites your primal need for adventure, providing the catalyst for you to come alive and achieve the extraordinary. Meet Secret Compass HQ staff and a selection of its expedition professionals.

Expedition Types include Epic, Cultural Immersion, Adventure Academy and Classics Redefined. Expedition styles include mixed-terrain trekking, jungle trekking and minimalist desert traverses, to mountain-biking, rafting and horseback expeditions. Secret Compass welcomes applications from anyone with a good level of fitness who’s keen to achieve the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places.

Secret Compass destinations

View current expeditions filtered by region here. Past, current and upcoming destinations include Afghanistan, Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Burma/ Myanmar, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Egypt’s southern Sinai desert, Ethiopia, Gabon, Georgia, Greenland, the Himalayas, Iceland, India (Arunachal Pradesh), Iran (Mount Damavand and the Lut Desert), Iraqi Kurdistan, Kamchatka, Kilimanjaro, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Malawi, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, North Korea, Panama, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Siberia, Socotra, South Sudan, Sudan (the Bayuda desert), Uganda, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and more.

Secret Compass TV and Film

Secret Compass TV and Film is trusted by production companies and brands to capture the extraordinary in remote and wild regions thanks to its unrivalled location and risk-management expertise. Credits include location-managing Channel 4’s Walking the Nile/ Himalayas and Americas series with Levison Wood, alongside projects for the BBC, National Geographic, Animal Planet, the Discovery Channel and more.

Secret Compass Brand Projects

Secret Compass Brand Projects works with brands on projects designed to create the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Unique branded content and other projects have to date been staged in destinations from South Sudan and the DRC to Greenland and Finnish Lapland. Clients to date include Mitsubishi, Sony, Nespresso, Giro, Xbox and Jagermeister.


For further information concerning Secret Compass bespoke and team expeditions, TV and Film, or Branded Projects: