Pirre Station is just within the boundaries of Parque Nacional Darién , in an area known as Rancho Frío. The forest here is lush and primeval; it has never been cut.
The birding is excellent. Specialties include such beauties as lemon-spectacled and scarlet-browed tanagers, white-fronted nunbirds, and crimson-bellied woodpeckers.
Those who wouldn’t know a white-fronted nunbird from a nun should keep their eyes and ears open for flocks of macaws, an impressive sight by anyone’s standards.
Mammals include sloths, spider and howler monkeys, white-faced capuchins, and Geoffroy’s tamarins. A 150-kilogram jaguar has been seen in the area, but as usual the chances of spotting it are extremely slim.
The station is surrounded by primary forest and little else. Facilities are minimal, consisting of a dormitory, an outhouse with flush toilets and showers, a field kitchen, and a couple of picnic tables.
The dormitory is basic, to say the least. It consists of two bedrooms and a bare common area with concrete floors. Visitors sleep on bunk beds that are nothing more than foam mattresses on wooden frames. The rangers sleep in the second bedroom. There is no electricity at the station.
The site itself, however, is beautiful. The crystal waters of the Río Peresenico run by the camp, which sits in a clearing ringed by verdant forest.
Unlike many places in the Darién , it’s possible to visit Pirre Station on your own without tremendous hassle or expense. However, I recommend going with a good tour operator, as you’re likely to have a safer, more enlightening trip and won’t have to deal with making all the considerable arrangements.
Getting to Pirre Station can be an adventure. The usual point of entry is El Real .
There are two ways to get to Pirre Station from El Real: by boat up the Río Pirre and on foot along a forest trail.
The trail leads directly to Pirre Station. Do not hike it without a knowledgeable guide. Hiking in takes about 2.5 hours in the dry season, when it is generally the only option because the Río Pirre drops to an unnavigable trickle. In the rainy season, though, the trail to Pirre Station turns into a boot-sucking ribbon of mud and the hike becomes a miserable four-hour slog.
When it’s runnable, the river is definitely the way to go for those who can afford it. Narciso “Chicho” Bristán (tel. 299-6566) in El Real is an excellent boatman and the obvious first choice. The trip costs US$75 for up to five people each way and takes travelers up the Río Pirre to the poor little Emberá village of Piji Basal. This leg of the journey can take up to three hours if the river is choked with fallen trees, which it frequently is. Watching a boatman chainsawing a massive trunk in the middle of a fast-flowing river suddenly makes the fare seem quite reasonable.
It takes about 90 minutes to hike the trail from Piji Basal to Pirre Station, a little less if you take an overgrown shortcut for the first part of it. Again, go with a knowledgeable guide. It’s good politics (and karma) to hire a porter in Piji Basal. It’ll cost about US$5 up to Pirre. Don’t count on the porter knowing the way, oddly enough.
The trip back down the Río Pirre is much faster. Stay alert throughout the lovely ride. It’s remarkably easy to get your head taken off by treefalls if you’re dozing.