Wildlife watching tours - bird watching holidays -
culture tours for independent travellers and groups
Rufous-crested Coquette © D Tipling
Golden-headed Manakin © C BethancourtSunbittern © C BethancourtSpot-crowned Barbet © C BethancourtRufous Motmot © D TiplingGeoffroy's Tamarin © N WatsonBlue-crowned Motmot © M O'Dell

Panama Birdwatching Tour (15 days) P121

Tour ref. no. P121
Duration: 14 nights (15 days taking into account flights which are payable directly)
Panama City – Canopy Tower – Canopy Lodge – Panama City
  • Enjoy eye-level birding in the tropical rainforest of Canopy Tower and get close views of a wide range of stunning bird species, as well as sloths and monkeys
  • Explore a network of trails and roads for five species of manakin and six species of trogon
  • Visit in autumn to witness the impressive hawk migration
  • Explore local wetlands for Central American rarities and migrants
  • Visit the Pacific coast for waders, frigatebirds and terns
  • Bird the cool cloud forest at Canopy Lodge for mid-altitude specialist birds

Introduction

Dawn in the tropical rainforest of Panama can be breathtaking!  As dawn arrives at Canopy Tower, so near yet so far from Panama City, the forest awakens with the calls of countless unseen birds and the roar of Howler Monkeys. As light increases, the birds begin to appear: colourful and spectacular tanagers, trogons and hummingbirds, all rapidly identified by your expert guide. After a hearty breakfast you take to the trails, exploring new areas of the forest.

Along nearby rivers and wetlands you quickly add species to your list with Wattled Jacana, Rufescent Tiger Heron and White-throated Crake. Transfer to Canopy Lodge, a base from which to explore the cool cloud forest and Pacific Coast.  You’ll find a whole range of new species including White-ruffed Manakin and Purplish-backed Quail-dove.

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.

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 who will transfer you 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 the 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 view and scan across the rain forest canopy for a wide range of birds including Blue Cotinga, Mealy and Red-lored Parrots.  From this excellent vantage point you see the majestic Centennial Bridge (“Bridge of the Americas”) as well as ships transiting the Panama Canal.

Meals: Payable directly today

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 with wildflowers of many types.  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 locally.

The Ammo Dump Ponds are located 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.

Day 3: Pipeline Road and Summit Gardens

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

After breakfast you board the Birdmobile or the Rainfomobile, both are 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 beginning 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 while you are looking for the rather 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. 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 kilometre 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 - Canopy Lodge

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

If time permits, after breakfast you may have one last watch from the Observation Deck before setting off with your driver to Canopy Lodge, located in the mountains at El Valle de Antón and nestled against the cloud forests of Cerro Gaital Natural Monument.  At 2,400-feet, you will immediately notice the cooler temperature.

As your luggage is taken to your room, you may like to visit the dining/lounge area and enjoy a refreshing drink – you’ll certainly want to scan the bird feeders and look around the lodge grounds. Many species are likely – Crimson-backed, Blue-grey, White-lined, Lemon-rumped, Dusky-faced and Plain-coloured Tanagers, along with Red-crowned Ant-Tanager are all seen locally. Rufous-crested Coquette and several other species of hummingbird visit the garden.

Night at Canopy Lodge

Day 9: Las Minas Trail - Cara Iguana

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

After breakfast (watch for Orange-billed Sparrow at the end of the dining area) head towards Las Minas, an excellent place for a wide variety of birds. The road follows the ridge line, with sweeping vistas of forested mountains, dotted with grasslands and small fincas (farms). The views from here are fantastic; on a clear day both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans can be seen from near the summit. Specialties of the region include Black-and-yellow, Bay-headed and Emerald Tanagers, Tawny-capped Euphonia, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Grey-headed Kite, Barred Hawk, Bat Falcon, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Swallow-tailed Kite, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, White-tipped Sicklebill, Green Thorntail, Orange-bellied and Black-throated Trogons.

After lunch back at the lodge the Cara Iguana Trail offers outstanding foothill birding in some of the last remaining examples of quality Dry Pacific Forest. Specialties you can hope for in this bird-rich habitat are Lesser Elaenia, Yellow-olive and Panama Flycatchers, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Lance-tailed Manakin, Rufous-breasted and Rufous-and-white Wrens, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Tody and Whooping Motmots and Long-billed Gnatwren. Other residents are Striped Cuckoo, Little Tinamou, Common Potoo, Dusky and White-bellied Antbirds, Barred Antshrike, White-winged Becard, Tropical Screech-Owl and Bat Falcon. Hummingbirds to watch for are Garden Emerald, Long-billed Starthroat and White-vented Plumeleteer.

Night at Canopy Lodge

Day 10: La Mesa Road and Water Cress Trail

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

After breakfast, you continue the quest for more lifers with a trip to La Mesa Road. This area, a visually pleasing blend of secondary forest, scrubby pastures, overgrown fincas (farms) and grassy borders, is home to many of the area’s specialties. Look for such great birds as Spot-crowned Barbet, Cinnamon Becard, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Silver-throated, Golden-hooded, Tawny-crested and Bay-headed Tanagers, Spot-crowned Antvireo and Spotted Woodcreeper; hummingbirds include White-tipped Sicklebill, Rufous-crested Coquette, Violet-crowned Woodnymph and Black-throated Mango. Also resident are Blue-throated Toucanet, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant and Orange-bellied Trogon. Lunch will be served back at Canopy Lodge.

After lunch it’s off to Watercress Trail, named after the herb which is commercially grown in the terraced creek near the entrance. It’s an easy trail traversing good secondary forest framed by the picturesque forested mountains of Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. Good birds here are Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Black-headed Saltator, Great Antshrike, White-ruffed Manakin, White-thighed Swallow, White-bellied Antbird and Tody Motmot; hummingbirds such as Long-billed Starthroat, Rufous-crested Coquette and, if the Inga is in bloom, scan for Snowcap. You will also listen for the frog-like Purplish-backed Quail-Dove.

Night at Canopy Lodge

Day 11: El Chiru/Juan Hombron Beach/Playa Santa Clara

Meals: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

After breakfast there’s a full day of birding in more Dry Pacific Forest with a wonderful suite of birds. Amongst those to search for are Yellow-headed Caracara, Roadside, Grey and Short-tailed Hawks, Peregrine and Aplomado (rare) Falcons, White-tailed Kite and Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl as well as Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Brown-throated Parakeet, Blue Ground-Dove, Crested Bobwhite, Red-breasted Blackbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher and Crested Oropendola. There’s a spot along the way where Common Potoo is sometimes found. Hummingbirds to be on the watch for in this unique scrubby area are Garden Emerald and the endemic Veraguan Mango. Enjoy a picnic lunch at a popular Santa Clara beach and hope to spot Sapphire-throated Hummingbird working the coastal shrubbery. You may want to bring your swimsuit; the waters of the Pacific Ocean are nice and warm. Birds around the coast could include Least, Western and Spotted Sandpipers, Sanderling, Blue-footed and Brown Boobies, Sandwich, Royal and Elegant Terns plus Franklin’s and Laughing Gulls. Hoped-for species at Juan Hombron rice fields are Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Crested Caracara, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher, Southern Lapwing, Great Blue Heron, Tricoloured Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Glossy Ibis, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Savanna and Common Black Hawks and Pearl Kite.

Night at Canopy Lodge

Day 12: Cerro Gaital - Valle Chiquito

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Today after breakfast you’ll go to Cerro Gaital (3,500 ft), a steep, mist-shrouded, forested mountain which you can see from the lodge. It takes its name from Cerro Gaital Natural Monument, which protects more than 335 hectares of mature cloud forest and offers sightings of Black Guan (difficult), Blue-throated Toucanet, Orange-bellied Trogon, Spotted Barbtail and many others.

This afternoon’s destination is Valle Chiquito. The valley is accessible via a newly-paved road passing through forested woodlands crossed by two rivers. At Rio de Jesus you’ll search for Green Kingfisher and listen for Sepia-capped Flycatcher. There’s a nice colony of Chestnut-headed Oropendolas here in a Cecropia tree and you may find Tody Motmot, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-backed Oriole, White-bellied Antbird, Grey-chested Dove, Yellow-billed Cacique, Zone-tailed and Grey Hawks, Black Hawk-Eagle and Lance-tailed Manakin among many species frequently seen locally.

Night at Canopy Lodge

Day 13: Altos del Maria

Meals: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

After an early breakfast you’ll drive from El Valle in air conditioned 4×4 SUVs back along the Pan-American Highway and up to the mountains. As the sun rises over the highlands ahead of you, the vast valleys and spectacular mountains with towering cliffs come into view. Set in the mountains on the continental divide east of El Valle, Altos del Maria provides a fabulous location for birding. Ascending an excellent paved road along a ridge you will reach your destination; an extensive area of cloud forest at 3,600 ft. harbouring an exciting variety of highland forest birds. Some of the characteristic species of this cloud forest include Black-crowned Antpitta, Black-headed Saltator, White Hawk, Barred Forest-Falcon, Orange-bellied Trogon, Spotted Woodcreeper, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Russet and Great Antshrikes. Possible hummingbirds are Band-tailed Barbthroat, the exquisite Snowcap, Garden and White-tailed Emeralds, Purple-throated Mountain-Gem, White-tipped Sicklebill and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. After a picnic lunch in the field, you descend into a valley and climb to the ridge on the opposite side. Reaching some large swathes of mature humid forest along this ridge, explore trails and roadside spots in search of even more forest birds. Around mid-afternoon it will be time to head back into El Valle for some relaxation time prior to dinner.

Night at Canopy Lodge

Day 14: Rio Indio and Jordanal

Meals: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Depart after breakfast for a fun-filled day of Caribbean Slope birding! These fine forested areas are not well-birded – by anybody – so who knows what you could find!  First stop is Rio Indio, a great place to try for the area’s specialties: Sulphur-rumped Tanager, Spot-crowned Barbet and Barred Puffbird. Other species to strive for are Crested Oropendola, White-vented Euphonia, Buff-rumped Warbler, Long-tailed Tyrant and raptors such as White and Grey Hawks and Black Hawk-Eagle, as well as White-collared and Band-rumped Swifts. Hummingbirds might include Green, Long-billed and Rufous-breasted Hermits and White-necked Jacobin.  Search, too, for Lineated and Red-crowned Woodpeckers, Jet and Dusky Antbirds, Lesser and Yellow-bellied Elaenias, Tropical Pewee, Dusky, Piratic and Grey-capped Flycatchers, Cinnamon and White-winged Becards, Black-chested Jay, Bay Wren, along with Tawny-capped Euphonia, Emerald, Bay-headed and Golden-hooded Tanagers. If that’s not enough, you may see Shining Honeycreeper, finches such as Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Thick-billed Seed-Finch, Black-striped Sparrow, as well as Streaked and Buff-breasted Saltators! After a picnic lunch at a thatched-roof shelter on the Jordanal River, bird your way back to Canopy Lodge for a relaxing afternoon – but you can’t really relax until you’ve checked the feeders one last time!

Night at Canopy Lodge

Day 15: Canopy Lodge – Panama City

Meals: Breakfast

After a leisurely breakfast and some last-minute-birding around the Lodge gardens, you’ll be driven (approx. 3 hours) back to Panamá City to catch your return flights home.

Tour ends

Tour extensions available so please contact us for details.

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

Price per person:
Green/migration Seasons (16 April – 15 Dec 2016) $3199
High Season (16 Dec 2016- 15 April 2017) $4480

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

No single room supplement, but single rooms have a shared bathroom at Canopy Tower

Price includes:
Pre-travel information
All land transport
Accommodation in single/twin/double room
All meals and non-alcoholic beverages (except wine served with dinner which is included) from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 15.
Services of an experienced bird guide for two outings each day or a full day excursion (max. group size of 8)
Entrance fee to National Park
Taxes and internet service

Price excludes:
Fights and travel insurance
Alcoholic drinks (except for wine served with meals which is included)
Entrance fee to Miraflores Exhibition
Extra excursions (available for supplement)
Tips, laundry, phone calls and anything else not listed in the inclusions
Extra supplement if you wish to have a private bird guide of $150 per day

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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