Crossing the Darién Gap A Deadly Jungle on the Trek to America

Some 90,000 people have crossed the Darién Gap this year on the trek to the U.S. The jungle between Colombia and Panama is one of the most dangerous migrant routes in the world - and not everybody makes it out alive.
By Nicola Abé and Santiago Mesa (Photos) in Panama and Colombia
A Haitian family waiting at the Lajas Blancas camp for family members. They have just completed the dangerous crossing of the Darién Gap.

A Haitian family waiting at the Lajas Blancas camp for family members. They have just completed the dangerous crossing of the Darién Gap.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
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Women standing in line at the ticket counter in Necoclí, Colombia. They must cross the Gulf of Uraba before embarking on the dangerous jungle crossing.

Women standing in line at the ticket counter in Necoclí, Colombia. They must cross the Gulf of Uraba before embarking on the dangerous jungle crossing.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
The journey through the rainforest of Darién takes about six days. It is considered the densest jungle in the world.

The journey through the rainforest of Darién takes about six days. It is considered the densest jungle in the world.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
Wickendy Romain waiting with his wife and daughter Kasumi for the boat trip across the Gulf of Uraba.

Wickendy Romain waiting with his wife and daughter Kasumi for the boat trip across the Gulf of Uraba.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
A Haitian mother spends the night with her baby in line to buy a boat ticket in Necoclí, Colombia.

A Haitian mother spends the night with her baby in line to buy a boat ticket in Necoclí, Colombia.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
The Lajas Blancas camp is a kind of initial reception center for migrants who emerge from the jungle.

The Lajas Blancas camp is a kind of initial reception center for migrants who emerge from the jungle.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
The Gonzalez family embarked on the journey through the jungle with 17 people, but only 14 of them made it.

The Gonzalez family embarked on the journey through the jungle with 17 people, but only 14 of them made it.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
Rosmary Gonzalez lost her youngest son and her husband in a river.

Rosmary Gonzalez lost her youngest son and her husband in a river.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
Families waiting in the Lajas Blancas camp for family members who haven't yet emerged from the forest.

Families waiting in the Lajas Blancas camp for family members who haven't yet emerged from the forest.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
The beach of Necoclí is covered with tents. Those who have run out of money end up here.

The beach of Necoclí is covered with tents. Those who have run out of money end up here.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
Necoclí has around 35,000 residents, but that number has swollen by the addition of 20,000 migrants.

Necoclí has around 35,000 residents, but that number has swollen by the addition of 20,000 migrants.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
A Haitian man lives with his wife beneath a plastic tarp on the beach. The families cook over a small fire and wash themselves in saltwater.

A Haitian man lives with his wife beneath a plastic tarp on the beach. The families cook over a small fire and wash themselves in saltwater.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
People from Haiti waiting for their boat trip across the Gulf of Uraba. They pack their belongings in plastic bags, on which they write their names.

People from Haiti waiting for their boat trip across the Gulf of Uraba. They pack their belongings in plastic bags, on which they write their names.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
Migrants from Haiti arriving in the village of Bajo Chiquito after crossing the jungle in the Darién Gap.

Migrants from Haiti arriving in the village of Bajo Chiquito after crossing the jungle in the Darién Gap.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
Hundreds of people arrive in Bajo Chiquito every day. The village has set up stands selling everyday items along with a Western Union counter.

Hundreds of people arrive in Bajo Chiquito every day. The village has set up stands selling everyday items along with a Western Union counter.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
Dieubeni Joli witnessed extreme acts of violence in the jungle.

Dieubeni Joli witnessed extreme acts of violence in the jungle.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
The onward bus journey to Costa Rica costs $40 per person.

The onward bus journey to Costa Rica costs $40 per person.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
A Haitian woman who crossed through the jungles shows all that she has left.

A Haitian woman who crossed through the jungles shows all that she has left.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
Migrants on a wooden boat on the trip to the first reception center after crossing the rainforest.

Migrants on a wooden boat on the trip to the first reception center after crossing the rainforest.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
Marie Bernadine Syon and her husband Wickendy Romain want a better future for their three-month-old daughter.

Marie Bernadine Syon and her husband Wickendy Romain want a better future for their three-month-old daughter.

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL
Two Haitian girls on the beach of Necoclí

Two Haitian girls on the beach of Necoclí

Foto: Santiago Mesa / DER SPIEGEL

This piece is part of the Global Societies series. The project runs for three years and is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.