Wildlife watching tours - bird watching holidays -
culture tours for independent travellers and groups
Fasciated-tiger-heron-8-H-J-Badley
Tody Motmot © J BadleyOrange-bellied Trogon © J BadleyLong-tailed Silky-flycatcher © J BadleyGreen Honeycreeper © J BadleyVolcano Hummingbird © J BadleyBlue-and-gold Tanager © J Badley

Central and West Panama Birding Tour (12n/13days + ext. available) P127

Tour ref. no. P127
Duration: 12 nights (13 days taking into account flights which are payable directly)
Panama City – Canopy Tower – Panama City – David – Cerro Punta – David – Panama City
  • Search for shared Western Panama/Costa Rican endemics in the forest of the Western Highlands
  • A jewel of the west – Resplendent Quetzal
  • Eye-level tropical rainforest birding from Canopy Tower with incredible views of stunning Collared Aracari and cotingas
  • Soberanía National Park – home to hermits, honeycreepers and much more
  • Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher seen near your lodge garden in the west
  • Explore the famous Pipeline Road for manakins and trogons
  • Search Summit Ponds for Boat-billed Heron, Grey-necked Wood-Rail and even a Spectacled Owl is possible nearby
  • Volcano and Magnificent Hummingbirds

Introduction

With almost 1,000 species in a country smaller than Scotland, Panama links North and South America and is one of the best places for birding in Central America. The rich and varied tropical rainforest of Soberanía National Park has toucans and tinamous, manakins and motmots – you’ll be dazzled by an amazing variety of colourful birds and a range of fascinating mammals such as Mantled Howler Monkey and two species of sloth.  On some days in the migration season incredible numbers of raptors move through.  Add to this the proximity of the Panama Canal (just 3km away) and the rather odd sight of a ship seeming to float through the forest, and you have a unique and unforgettable bird tour location.

Western Panama encompasses a range of different habitats from tropical lowland forest and mangrove, to forested hills and mountains extending eastward from Costa Rica, containing a heady mix of bird species not seen elsewhere in Panama. These include the exquisite Resplendent Quetzal, plus tens of species of endemic birds shared only with Costa Rica, such as Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Fiery-billed Aracari, Silvery-throated Jay and Flame-throated Warbler.

Itinerary and price

Day 1: Flight to be organised by you

For help with your flight arrangements and to receive a no obligation quote, you can complete the enquiry form on our website or call 0800 280 8947 to speak to a flight advisor at StudentUniverse (in partnership with Gapyear.com), part of the Flight Centre Travel Group, a leading retailer of airfares and worldwide flights.

Meals: Dinner at Canopy Tower

If you board a flight from the UK very early morning you may well arrive by the evening into Panama City.

On arrival at the airport you will be met by your driver for the transfer to Canopy Tower, located at the top of Semaphore Hill in the rainforest of Soberanía National Park.  As you arrive at Canopy Tower you will be enthralled by hummingbirds dashing around the feeders at the entrance – commonly seen are Long-billed Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Violet-bellied and Blue-chested Hummingbirds and White-vented Plumeleteer with an occasional Snowy-bellied Hummingbird making an appearance.

From the Tower’s observation deck you can admire the 360 degree panoramic view across the rain forest canopy for a superb range of birds including Blue Cotinga, Red-lored Parrot and Scarlet-rumped Cacique.  From this excellent vantage point you see the majestic Centennial Bridge (“Bridge of the Americas”) as well as ships transiting the Panama Canal.

Day 2: Canopy Tower, Semaphore Hill Road and Ammo Dump Ponds

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Your guide will be waiting for you at the Observation Deck for some early morning birding while you enjoy hot coffee, tea or orange juice. Some of the birds you are likely to see are Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers, Green Shrike-Vireo, Scaled Pigeon, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Araçari, a variety of flycatchers and raptors sometimes including King Vulture and Ornate Hawk-Eagle. After breakfast you’ll start exploring Soberanía National Park by taking a pleasant walk down Semaphore Hill Road. This winding, shady paved road through the forest is bordered by a variety of wildflowers.  A little over a mile long it crosses a large creek about half-way down. The species list is extensive with forest interior birds as well as edge-dwellers. Olivaceous Flatbill, Plain Xenops, Lesser Greenlet, Black-breasted and White-whiskered Puffbirds, Fasciated and Western Slaty-Antshrikes are just a few of the species likely to be seen.

The Ammo Dump Ponds are just past Gamboa on the way to Pipeline Road. It is the best place to see the elusive White-throated Crake and a host of other waterbirds. Least Grebes and Purple Gallinules are common and Rufescent Tiger-Heron and American Pygmy-Kingfisher are also resident. You can often find Greater Ani, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Whooping Motmot (recent split from Blue-crowned) and you may be lucky enough to see a Capybara.

Night at Canopy Tower

Day 3: Pipeline Road and Summit Gardens

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

After breakfast you board the Birdmobile or the Rainfomobile (open-topped vehicles) which take you to Pipeline Road, the best place in Central Panama to find forest birds and one of the premier birding spots in the world!  Birding here is tricky, though, and you need patience. Concentrating on the start of Pipeline, you will look for Greater Ani, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Masked Tityra, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Plain Wren, Streaked Flycatcher, Violaceous Trogon, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Squirrel Cuckoo, Grey-headed Chachalaca, Southern Bentbill, Forest Elaenia, Panama Flycatcher, Blue Ground-Dove and Little Tinamou.  You may see Western Night Monkey in their day-time roost whilst you are looking for the gorgeous Golden-collared Manakin.

In the afternoon visit Summit Gardens, a centre for recreation, education and conservation, dedicated to reflecting and enhancing Panama’s tropical and cultural diversity. The botanical gardens are great for migratory warblers and other forest-edge species, including a colony of Chestnut-headed Oropendolas, Yellow-margined Flycatcher, Laughing Falcon, Grey, Crane and Great Black Hawks, Collared Forest-Falcon, Tropical Pewee, Masked Tityra, Golden-fronted and Scrub Greenlets, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Giant, Shiny and Bronzed Cowbirds and Blue Cotinga. This park is the best place to find Streak-headed Woodcreeper, a difficult species to get elsewhere.

Night at Canopy Tower

Day 4: Plantation Trail and Chagres River/Gamboa Feeders

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

After breakfast, a short ride takes you to the bottom of Semaphore Hill and on to Plantation Trail, one of the premier birding areas. This easy trail passes through mature rainforest and follows a small creek (Rio Chico Masambi) which is a reliable place for Golden-crowned Spadebill. Black-chested Jays are often found at the parking area near the entrance. Other birds to look for along the trail include Ocellated, Bicoloured, Chestnut-backed, White-bellied and Spotted Antbirds, Broad-billed and Whooping Motmots, trogons, White-whiskered Puffbird, hummingbirds (Blue-chested, White-necked Jacobin and others).

After lunch a short drive takes you to the Canopy B & B, in the picturesque village of Gamboa, to check out the bird feeders. Here you are likely to see Red-legged, Shining and Green Honeycreepers, Lemon-rumped, Crimson-backed and Blue-grey Tanagers, Thick-billed Euphonia, Yellow-bellied and Variable Seedeaters, Whooping Motmot and Grey-headed Chachalaca. Beneath the feeders there could be some foraging Central American Agoutis

Next, it’s off to Chagres River, the main tributary for the Panama Canal. Birding along the river banks and the forest edges of Gamboa Resort can be spectacular as you search for Amazon, Green and American Pygmy Kingfishers, as well as Whooping Motmot and Cinnamon Woodpecker. There’s a good chance of Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Cocoi, Green and Striated Herons, Wattled Jacana, Pied-billed Grebe, Anhinga, Royal and Sandwich Terns, Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Tricoloured and Little Blue Herons, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Mangrove Swallow and Black-chested Jay.

Night at Canopy Tower

Day 5: Pipeline Road

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

You will spend all day along the bird-rich Pipeline Road to search for one of the area’s super-rare specialties, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, which can prove difficult to see. You’ll also be searching for eight species of wren, five trogons, four puffbirds, three motmots, many tanagers and flycatchers, including the unusual Brownish Twistwing, Great Jacamar and Common Potoo, among others. The calls of Streak-chested Antpitta and Black-faced Antthrush will lure you in and a swarm of army ants might be found, attended by a host of birds including, Bicoloured, Ocellated and Spotted Antbirds.

Night at Canopy Tower

Day 6: Summit Ponds - Old Gamboa Road - Chagres River

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Old Gamboa Road and the associated ponds at Summit are great places to find Canal Zone birds. At Summit Ponds scan for residents such as Green, Striated, Capped and Boat-billed Herons as well as Green, Ringed, Amazon, Green-and-rufous (rare) and American Pygmy Kingfishers. Look for Rusty-margined and Streaked Flycatchers, Mangrove Swallow, Bat Falcon, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers. Beyond the two ponds you’ll be on Old Gamboa Road, one of the birdiest spots around as it passes through varied habitat with plenty of specialties, including Blue Ground-Dove, Great Antshrike, Jet Antbird, Black-tailed and Royal Flycatchers, Lance-tailed and Golden-collared Manakins as well as the delightful Rosy Thrush-Tanager.  Spectacled Owl is a real possibility, too, as the guides know where these birds often roost.

Here, along the banks of the Chagres River, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Green and Striated Herons, Black-tailed Flycatcher, Wattled Jacana, White-throated Crake and Anhinga can be found. On the river itself you might see Least Grebe, Muscovy and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks.  Embera Indians are often out on their fishing canoes.

Night at Canopy Tower

Day 7: Rainforest Discovery Centre - Miraflores Lock (optional)

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

After breakfast we depart for the Panamá Rainforest Discovery Centre, an ecotourism and environmental education facility created and administered by Fundacion Avifauna Eugene Eisenmann. Located off Pipeline Road adjacent to Soberanía National Park, the area contains several attractions, the best of which is a 100-foot-high observation tower with four rest platforms, each stopping at a different level of the rainforest. The view from the top is incredible! Scan for raptors like Double-toothed Kite and Semiplumbeous Hawk then explore the 1.1 km circuit of well-maintained forest trails.

This afternoon you have the option to relax on your own, catch up on some photography, or perhaps visit Miraflores Locks Museum. In addition to seeing first-hand the operation of the Canal, with huge container ships negotiating the narrow locks, you can also explore the world-class museum – keep an eye open for Magnificent Frigatebirds which often perch on the buoys or glide overhead.

Night at Canopy Tower

Day 8: Canopy Tower - Panama City - David - Cerro Punta

Meals: Breakfast and lunch

You’ll have breakfast at Canopy Tower and enjoy some local birding for as long as time permits (on your own this morning).  Canopy Tower will provide you with the transfer to Panama City to arrive in good time to check in for your flight to David (booked by you).  Flight options include Copaair (flight no. CM20) departing at 1226 and arriving in David at 1347 hours.
Lunch and dinner are payable directly by you today.
Los Quetzales lodge in Cerro Punta will arrange for your driver to be at David Airport waiting for you with your name on a placard.  You will have an emergency 24/7 number, just in case you have difficulty locating the driver, though this shouldn’t be the case.  Expect the drive to take around 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Please expect to pay this driver directly $50 in total each way for the transfer.  Your stay at the lodge is in a room in the main lodge in the town.  This is the basic category and there are options to stay in a cabin if you would prefer – please ask for a supplement.  Your stay here  is on a bed and breakfast basis without transport.  There are several places you can choose to eat locally or at the lodge itself.  Our price excludes the cost of a bird guide as many birders like to explore without assistance.  However, if you feel you would like to have some guiding on some of the days we can book an exclusive guide for you in advance, or you can speak to the lodge staff who will be able to arrange local walks with a guide on a shared basis and for this you would need to pay the lodge directly. Any entrance fees from this point on are payable directly.

You should arrive at Los Quetzales in late afternoon which will, should you wish, allow some time to bird the environs of the lodge.  Strategically placed hummingbird feeders offer point blank views of Violet Sabrewing, Stripe-tailed and Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds, Lesser Violet-ear, and Scintillant Hummingbird.  The gardens surrounding the lodge contain a mix of open grassy areas, flowering bushes, and other varied habitats.  Expect to see species such as Band-tailed Pigeon, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Mountain Elaenia, Brown-capped Vireo and Thick-billed Euphonia.

Night at Los Quetzales Lodge

Day 9: Cerro Punta area

Meals: Breakfast

After breakfast, take a packed lunch (payable directly) and head off into the trails of adjacent La Amistad National Park (entry on direct payment – no guide is included in our main price).  Los Quetzales Lodge has some cabins located in the forest at the edge of the National Park, about a 20min walk from the Lodge.  Maps of how to access the cabins and the trails that lead from them into the forest are available from the Lodge.  Keep your eyes open for birds such as Admirable Hummingbird and Yellow-bellied Siskin as the track passes through a patchwork of small fields of vegetables and scrubby patches, before reaching the forest proper.  There is one small stream to wade across when first entering the forest (wellington boots can be borrowed from Los Quetzales lodge if you wish). Beyond this, the trail leads upwards with offshoots every now and again to isolated cabins. Apart from the area around the widely scattered cabins (which is all well worth birding), there are two main trails.  To the west (left, when walking in from Los Quetzales), is the Waterfall trail.  This is a loop trail and only for the fit and agile.  It is less good for birds, probably mostly due to the noise of the stream and associated small waterfalls.  Much better is the eastern (right-hand) trail, which climbs slowly higher into the forest, eventually reaching a viewpoint overlooking a small waterfall and pool.  Birds may include Green-fronted Lancebill, Prong-billed Barbet, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Yellow-winged Vireo, Black-and-yellow Phainoptila, Ochraceous Wren, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Mountain Thrush, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Flame-throated Warbler, Black-cheeked Warbler, and Collared Whitestart.

Night at Los Quetzales Lodge

Day 10: Cerro Punta area

Meals: Breakfast
An option to consider today is hiring a guide (we can fix this in advance with additional payment of $200 in total for up to four people and this includes use of the vehicle) as follows: –

After an early breakfast, meet up with your guide who will take you by vehicle into nearby Volcan Baru National Park.   Volcan Baru is the highest mountain in Panama at 11,401 feet, and you will stop at various points on the track to bird areas at different elevations, eventually reaching a ranger station high on the forested slopes (though several thousand feet below the summit), where you will be able to explore trails into the forest.  Flowering bushes in the open areas around the ranger station are likely to give stunning views of the exquisite little Volcano Hummingbird.  Other species to be encountered may include Resplendent Quetzal, Blue-throated Toucanet, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, White-throated Mountaingem, Ruddy Treerunner, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Black-capped Flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Wrenthrush, Large-footed Finch, Yellow-thighed Finch, and Sooty-capped Bush Tanager, amongst others.

Take lunch at a local restaurant (payable directly).  After lunch, with your guide you could visit Las Lagunas, an area of forest surrounding two lakes a short distance from the town of Volcan, which is located a few kms from Los Quetzales.  Just prior to reaching Las Lagunas, birding along the track which runs adjacent to grassy fields may well produce species such as Slaty, and Red-faced Spinetail, Chiriqui Yellowthroat and Crested Oropendola.

The thick forest surrounding the lakes at Las Lagunas is home to a whole host of good birds such as Green Hermit, Fiery-billed Aracari, Spotted Barbtail, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Silver-throated Tanager, Cherrie’s Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, plus a range of wood-warblers likely to include Tropical Parula, Golden-crowned Warbler and Slate-throated Whitestart.

Night at Los Quetzales Lodge

Day 11: Cerro Punta area

Meals: Packed breakfast (you’ll need to ask the lodge if they can supply a few items or alternatively you can purchase from a shop just one minute walk from your lodge).
An option to consider today is hiring a guide (we can fix this in advance with additional payment of $250 in total for up to four people and this includes use of the vehicle – the daily rate is a little more today for a longer day and more travel involved) as follows: –

Should you wish to, a very early start would be beneficial today to ensure arriving on top of the Continental Divide on Fortuna road for dawn (a 2.5hr drive). The forested hills through which you will be birding are located in the south eastern part of the huge La Amistad National Park.  In migration season Fortuna road is an excellent place to observe migrating raptors.  You will stop and bird at a number of locations at varying altitudes, and will be searching for species such as Black Guan, Black-bellied Hummingbird, White-bellied Mountaingem, Crowned Woodnymph, Orange-bellied Trogon, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Silvery-throated Jay, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Black-eared Warbler, Blue-and-gold Tanager, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Emerald Tanager and Black-and-yellow Tanager, amongst many others.

Eventually descending to the Caribbean lowlands you will bird along quiet side-roads through open woodland, scrub and marshy fields.  The fields are likely to provide opportunities to view a variety of waterbirds including Northern Jacanas, various egret and heron species, as well as some passage waders.  The woodland should include species such as Lineated Woodpecker, Brown Jay, Band-backed Wren and Olive-backed Euphonia.

After lunch at a local restaurant (payable directly) the afternoon will be spent ascending back up Fortuna road into La Amistad National Park to look for species missed earlier, before driving back to Los Quetzales lodge at the end of the afternoon/early evening.

Night at Los Quetzales Lodge

Day 12: Cerro Punta area

Meals: Breakfast

Los Quetzales lodge staff will be able to order you a taxi (payable directly), or we could book a guide for your on an exclusive basis for extra payment, to take you the 10 min drive to the main entrance to La Amistad National Park.  Arrange with your driver what time you will need to be picked up.  Take a packed lunch and explore for the day.  You will need to sign in and pay a small entrance fee upon arrival (the gates open around 0800 hours and you can confirm the opening times with staff at your lodge).  Maps at the entrance show the various maintained trails leading up into the park.  Exploring these trails will give additional chances to observe many of the species already seen in the area, as well as others such as Green-crowned Brilliant, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Northern Tufted Flycatcher, Barred Becard, and, with luck, Ochraceous Pewee.

Night at Los Quetzales Lodge

Day 13: Cerro Punta - David - Panama City

Meals: Breakfast

You’ll have time to explore locally for a good part of the morning.  Please just confirm with staff what time checkout is and vacate your room accordingly.  Just confirm the lodge has arranged your transfer to the aiport and again expect to pay the driver directly around $50.  You’ll be taken to David to arrive in good time to check in for your flight to Panama City (booked by you). Flight options include Copaair (flight no. CM21) departing at 1540 and arriving in Panama City at 1640 hours. 

Tour ends

Tour extensions available to include Canopy Lodge (see below) and Canopy Camp (contact us for details).

If you require an extra night in Panama City to link with flights please let us know and we will provide you with a price and book this on your behalf.

Please note: The stay at Los Quetzales Lodge is on a breakfast only basis and without guiding or entrance fees as stated.  If you prefer we can book a guide on an exclusive basis – see exclusions for the daily rate and contact us and we can email you details of other locations you can visit with an exclusive guide.

Extra note: The order of visits and places visited may vary depending on weather and other factors.

Price per person on a twin share basis:
Green Season (16 April – 15 Dec 2017) $2095
High Season (16 Dec 2017- 15 April 2018) $3335
Green Season (16 April – 15 Dec 2018) $2285
Single Room Supplement $220

To add three nights at Canopy Lodge the supplement is as follows:
Green/migration Seasons (16 April – 15 Dec 2017) $699
High Season (16 Dec 2017- 15 April 2018) $1049
Green/migration Seasons (16 April – 15 Dec 2018) $735

To add five nights at Canopy Lodge the supplement is as follows:
Green/migration Seasons (16 April – 15 Dec 2017) $1299
High Season (16 Dec 2017- 15 April 2018) $2099
Green/migration Seasons (16 April – 15 Dec 2018) $1369

Supplement surcharge for stays from 20 Dec – 5 Jan inclusive – please enquire

There is no single room supplement for staying at Canopy Tower.  The supplement shown is for a single room at Los Quetzales Lodge

Price includes:
Seven nights accommodation at Canopy Tower
Five nights at Los Quetzales Lodge
Pre-travel information
All transfers except for your journey and time in Cerra Punta where you would pay $50 each way in total for the journey David – Los Quetzales and Los Quetzales – David.  Any extra transport required during your stay in Cerra Punta is payable directly
Accommodation in twin/double room
All meals at Canopy Tower and non-alcoholic beverages, plus wine served with dinner from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 8.
Breakfast at Los Quetzales lodge in Cerra Punta
At Canopy Tower services of an experienced bird guide for two outings each day or a full day excursion (max. group size of 8)  from Day 2 to Day 7 inclusive.  No guide services are included during your stay at Cerra Punta.
Entrance fee applicable during your stay at Canopy Tower
Internet service during your stay at Canopy Tower

Price excludes:
Flights and travel insurance
The transfers to your lodge at Cerra Punta where you would pay $50 each way in total for the journey David – Cerra Punta and Cerra Punta – David.
Any National Park or Sanctuary entrance fees during your stay at Cerra Punta
Any transport during your stay at Cerra Punta
Guide services during your stay at Cerra Punta – supplement for exclusive expert guide with vehicle to visit local sites is $200 per day and for further afield is $250 in total for up to 4 people and if you wish we can book the guide in advance. Further details can be supplied on request.
Lunches and dinners during your stay at Cerra Punta
Drinks during your stay at Cerra Punta
Alcoholic drinks (except for wine served with meals which is included only during your stay at Canopy Tower)
Entrance fee to Miraflores Exhibition should you decide to visit
Extra excursions (available for supplement)
Tips, laundry, phone calls and anything else not listed in the inclusions

How to book

The booking of this itinerary is with Wild About Travel Limited and our booking terms and conditions apply. In order to protect your payments we operate a trust account in accordance with the requirements of the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.

Please contact Jo Thomas at Wild About Travel (jo@wildabouttravel.co.uk) / 01480-370593 to register your interest and request a booking form.

To confirm your booking please complete the booking form and send a 25% deposit by £ sterling cheque * payable to Wild About Travel Trust to the Wild About Travel Office, 25 Sapley Road, Hartford, Huntingdon, Cambs PE29 1YG. The balance payment would be due 40 - 60 days (to be confirmed at the time of booking) prior to your travel dates.

* Note: Where a price is given in another currency you can pay in £ sterling. We will use the Lloyds Bank exchange rate at the time of making the deposit payment and the balance payment to convert the figure to £. If you would prefer to make a payment by internet banking please let us know and we can supply you with the bank details.

Flights

We can advise on appropriate flights and timings that you may wish to book, but we do not organise or arrange flights on our customers’ behalf. You will need to make your own flight arrangements directly with a flight retailer or the airline concerned; we recommend StudentUniverse (in partnership with Gapyear.com), part of Flight Centre Travel Group. They can be contacted by completing the online enquiry form or you can call 0800 280 8947 to speak to one of their flight advisors.

For any help or advice please call or email Wild About Travel and we would be happy to assist.
Tel: +44 (0)1480 370593 Mobile: +44 (0)7817 574235
Email: jo@wildabouttravel.co.uk
Wild About Travel Limited is a company registered in England and Wales.
Reg. no. 5522066. Registered Office: 25 Sapley Road, Hartford, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE29 1YG, UK

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