Tour At A Glance

Cost:

2999.00

Deposit:

1000.00

Single Room Supplement:

None

Tour Code:

Intermediate with some early starts

Group Size:

Eight plus leaders

Rufous Motmot Snowcap Fork-tailed Flycatcher Green Kingfisher Collared Aracari Lesser Nighthawk Violaceous Trogon Spectacled Owl

Panama - Canopy Tower and El Valle

Date: 23rd November - 2nd December 2019 [SPACES]
Leaders: Ashley Saunders and local guides

Itinerary

 

DAY ONE
Fly UK/Panama City via Amsterdam arriving late afternoon. From Panama's International Airport it takes only forty five minutes to drive to the Canopy Tower, located in the heart of Soberanía National Park. This evening we'll have an orientation meeting and will provide instructions on the use of the installation, followed by dinner and an early night!
 
DAY TWO
The Canopy Tower is a prime location from which to observe the birds and other wildlife of the forest canopy. Since they are right at eye level it is usual to get fantastic views of birds you would hardly see otherwise. You don't have to leave the Tower to find birds, you don't even have to leave your bedroom! Tanagers, Toucans and Tityras can be seen right from your window. The dining area and the roof of the tower are better for finding elusive canopy birds, as well as Howler Monkeys, Tamarinds and other mammals. Some of the bird species that we are likely to see from the observation deck are: Green and Red legged Honeycreepers, Green-shrike Vireo, Blue Cotinga , Scaled Pigeon, Mealy and Red lored Amazon, Keel-billed Toucan, Chestnut- mandibilled Toucan, flycatchers and many others including a range of raptors. At mid morning we'll start exploring the forests of Central Panama and we'll walk down Semaphore Hill Road. This paved road is a little more than a mile long and passes through the forest of Soberanía National Park. Here you will get a chance to see birds and mammals that spend their lives closer to the forest floor, like ant birds and Agoutis. The bird list of Semaphore Hill Road is extensive, and includes birds from the forest interior as well as edge dwellers. Olivaceous Flatbill and White-whiskered Puffbird are common, and Slate-coloured Grosbeak, Bay-headed Tanager, and Great Jacamar are seen frequently. Great Tinamou and Streak-chested Antpitta are heard often, but to see them takes a little more work. This road is also great for raptors: White, Tiny and Bi-coloured Hawks have been seen, and it's easy to see more than 10 species of warblers and migratory songbirds in one morning. Tennessee, Bay-breasted and Chestnut-sided Warblers are common, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, Yellow-throated Vireo and Blackburnian Warbler can also be seen. Plantation Road, which starts right by the entrance to the road to the Tower, is a good, easy graded dirt road that passes through a mature forest for about four miles. The road follows a small creek, Río Chico Masambi, where sometimes a Louisiana Waterthrush spends the winter. We have also spotted Sun bitterns and Caimans in this creek. In most places the forest is clear of undergrowth, which makes it especially suited for observing shy, interior forest birds like Tinamous and Leaftossers. Golden-crowned Spadebills are regular around the creek, and White-breasted Wood-Wrens are very easy to find. When visiting Plantation Road you also have a good chance to find an army ant swarm and many of the birds that follow these swarms as they roam the forest floor. Spotted, Bicoloured and Ocellated Ant birds, Grey-headed Tanagers, and Plain-brown, Northern Barred and [if you're lucky] Ruddy Woodcreepers. Sometimes a Great Potoo can be found roosting silently among the canopy of a large tree and overhead Grey-headed Kite and Broad-winged Hawk can be seen.
 
DAY THREE
The Old Gamboa road will be our first destination this morning, and at the beginning of this bird-rich area, you'll find Summit Ponds, where Boat-billed Herons nest and Capped Herons are seen regularly. Both Kiskadees, and both Green and Striated Herons are seen often, as well as the more common egrets. Going straight through the two ponds we’ll be on Old Gamboa Road South, one of the birdiest spots around. This road passes through a variety of habitats, and has plenty of specialties: Blue Ground-Dove, Great Ant shrike, Jet Ant bird, Black-tailed and Royal Flycatchers, Lance-tailed and Golden-collared Manakin and Rosy Thrush-Tanager are a few highlights. Going north of the pond we will find species like, White-bellied Ant bird, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Yellow-backed Oriole, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-headed Caracara and more. Back at the Tower we will enjoy a glass of wine and watch the sun go down over the rainforest from the observation deck. Perhaps a container ship will be silently drifting through the Canal below and on the horizon the distant skyscrapers of Panama City can be seen. Hummingbirds of five different species will be buzzing back and forth at the feeders, and a fruiting tree may attract a variety of warblers, vireos and honeycreepers coming to feed before dusk. All to the backdrop of calling Red Howler Monkeys and an orange sky across the forest canopy. This is rainforest birding at its very best!
 
DAY FOUR
Pipeline Road is the best place in Central Panama to find forest birds, and plenty of them. Eight species of wrens, five trogons, four puffbirds, three motmots, many ant birds and even more flycatchers have been reported from the road. And if its 17 Km are not enough, there's plenty of side trails plus eleven creeks and rivers that can be followed into the forest. Army ant swarms are found frequently, attended sometimes by Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, and there are many Manakin leks right beside the road. Pipeline Road is also a great place for raptors: all three Forest-Falcons are heard if not seen with ease, and Tiny and Plumbeous Hawks and Ornate Hawk-Eagles have been reported a few times. A Harpy Eagle was seen one time right beside the road! We will spend the whole morning exploring this pristine forest, searching for feeding parties of birds that can add scores of new species to our list in minutes! Two and Three-toed Sloth are frequently encountered and armies of Leaf-cutter Ants criss-cross the trails. This is also a good place to look for Trogons, with Black-throated, Violaceous and Slaty-tailed likely.  After returning to the Tower for a hearty lunch, we will head out in the afternoon to Miraflores on the Panama Canal where we will spend some time observing the impressive lock system and museum. Birding does not stop here though, as Great-tailed Grackle, Brown Pelican, Laughing Gull, Magnificent Frigatebird and Southern Lapwing will all be seen.
 
DAY FIVE
The Ammo Dump Pond is located just north of Gamboa, on the way to Pipeline Road. It is the best place to see the elusive White-throated Crake, as well as a host of other water birds. Least Grebes, Common Moorhens and Purple Gallinules are common, and Rufescent Tiger-Heron and American Pygmy-Kingfishers are around, but are not as easy to find. Sometimes you get a Limpkin and maybe even a Least Bittern, and lately a few Snail Kites have been reported. The Chagres River is located at the east side of Gatun Lake, we'll be walking along the banks of the river to see other water birds, for example, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, American Pygmy-Kingfishers, as well as, Blue-Crowned Motmot and Cinnamon Woodpecker. We could also see species like Gray-Necked Wood-rail, Green Herons, and Anhinga. Tropical Mockingbird, Social and Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Grey-breasted Martin, Mangrove Swallow and Spotted Sandpiper are further likely list additions, while in this area we have also often spotted alligators, turtles and capybaras. We’ll then board a comfortable a/c bus for the two hour ride to El Valle de Antón, also known as Crater Valley. We will spend four nights in this lovely village, nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano that exploded five  million years ago. The resultant scenery is quite unique- a steep valley surrounded by jagged peaks and filled with flowers, streams and verdant forests. No wonder it is one of Panama's most popular getaways. The village hosts a bustling market where artisans come down from the surrounding mountains to sell their goods and this will be an excellent opportunity to buy local handicraft directly from the "manufacturer." Prices are usually negotiable. There are ceramics, bateas [wooden trays], weaved baskets, hats, carved and painted totumas [cups made from squash] and trinkets made from acorn, as well as vegetables, fruits, ornamental plants, flowers and orchids. Our home for the next three days will be Canopy Lodge, sister company of the Canopy Tower, a charming small hotel built next to a lovely mountain stream and adjacent to the protected area of Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. In the gardens surrounding the lodge we can easily see species like the Crimson-backed, Blue-grey, Dusky-faced and Plain-coloured Tanagers, Social Flycatcher, Ruddy-ground Dove, Barred Ant shrike, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Rufous-tailed, Violet-capped Hummingbirds and Clay-Coloured Robin. The accommodation is superb and the setting exquisite, and we will spend the remainder of the daylight watching the host of birds coming in to the fruit-filled feeders, often only a few feet away!
 
DAY SIX
Today we will wake up early and go birding around the mountain trails surrounding the crater where it is possible to find one of the most sought after species in neo-tropical birding: the Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo. This area also offers frequent sightings of Emerald Toucanets, Orange-bellied Trogon, Spotted Barbtail, Common Bush Tanager, Black-faced Grosbeak, Rufous-capped Warbler, Gray-headed Kite, Tawny-capped Euphonia, White-tailed Emerald, Violet-headed Hummingbird and if we are lucky we might see a Scaled Antpitta and a Black-headed Ant thrush. After lunch, those who wish will also have the opportunity to experience The Canopy Adventure. A series of zip lines high in the canopy by which travellers can explore the rain forest using safe and modern climbing techniques. After an invigorating short climb to the top of the ridge through bird-rich forest, you strap in and soar through the treetops, where you see a wealth of unexpected natural beauty and activity. Swooping from platform to platform high among the sturdy cloud forest trees, you pass over the stream and waterfall not once, but twice. The Canopy Adventure is located in a private refuge in the foothills above El Valle. The main attraction of this refuge is a beautiful 150 feet high waterfall called Chorro Macho; the birdlife and the flora are especially rich and diverse because the area has been a wildlife refuge for several years. The principle purpose of this refuge, apart from the obvious task of keeping the area free from poachers and loggers, has been to provide sustainable, nature-based employment to 10 young men who would otherwise be cutting down the forest through slash and burn agricultural methods in order to survive and raise their families. The refuge is a way to keep the forest ecosystem whole while providing much needed employment. Those who prefer not to do the Canopy Adventure can explore the trail around the waterfall where it is possible to see the Dull-mantled Ant bird, Tawny-crested and Dusky-faced tanagers, Bananaquits, Green and Little Hermits as well as trogons and mot mots.
 
DAY SEVEN
Today we venture a short distance East of El Valle, to the cloud forest around Altos del Maria. This area has recently been discovered to host a number of high altitude species normally only found further west in Panama, and include the Snowcap hummingbird which will be one of our main targets. A huge variety of new species can be expected though, by carefully sorting through roving flocks for species such as Black and Yellow Tanager, Spotted Barbtail, Red-faced Spinetail, Blue-throated Toucanet and Tawny-capped Euphonia. This is a particularly good area for American wood-warblers, with Black & White, Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Canada, Magnolia and Black-throated Green all possible. Swainson's Thrush might also be seen skulking in the understorey and hummingbirds are represented by Brown Violet-Ear, White-tipped Sicklebill, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Green-crowned Brilliant and of course the Snowcap. We lunch by an ornamental lake whihc hosts Green Heron, Green and Belted Kingfishers, Spotted Sandpiper and a variety of passerines in the surrounding scrub. Perhaps a Lineated Woodpecker will be seen excavating its nest hole, or an Orange-bellied Trogon could be calling mournfully from the tangled jungle behind the lake. On our way back, we may make a couple of stops for special birds such as the rare Dull-mantled Antbird, Tody Motmot or Spectacled Owl if we are missing them.
 
DAY EIGHT
Today we will have an early breakfast and travel outside El Valle to visit the Pacific Lowlands around the area known as Juan Hombron. Here a network of ricefields near the coast provide us with a very different habitat to the lush forests, and subsequently we can expect many new birds. We will search for Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Crested Bobwhite, Rufous-browed Pepper Shrike, Brown-throated Parakeet, Fork-tailed Flycatcher and Pearl Kite among other feathered residents of this scarce scrubby area. The endemic Vereguas Mango Hummingbird and Panama Flycatcher can also be found, and with luck we will also encounter the superb Savannah Hawk. Bird activity is high during the first few hours then it gets hot and it will be time to return to the much cooler foothills. The wetter rice paddies can be excellent for waders, often atracting both Great and Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers as well as many Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons and other waterbirds. Pectoral, Least and Western Sandpipers are also recorded in optimum conditions, while areas of harvested rice attract many raptors that feed on fleeing prey. The rare Aplomado Falcon is often found, as well as American kestrel, Common Black Hawk and the localised Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture. Down at the coast, we take a break in the cooler breeze to check the shore for Hudsonian Whimbrel, Willet and American Oystercatcher, and sometimes see Blue-footed Booby, Gull-billed Tern and Magnificent Frigatebird offshore. Glossy and White Ibis, Wood Stork, Wattled Jacana, Southern Lapwing, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and Eastern Meadowlark are among the other species we may encounter in the marshy and scrubby areas behind the beach. After lunch at nearby Santa Clara, and a chance for a swim in the Pacific Ocean, we begin our journey back to El Valle, stopping to look for Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl on the way.
 
DAY NINE
After a leisurely breakfast and some last-minute-birding in the gardens surrounding the lodge, we will drive back to Panama City and catch our return flights home. Depending on the flight time, we will try and build in a stop on the outskirts of the city where a huge range of shorebirds can be seen including Marbled Godwit Wilson's and Semipalmated Plovers, Cocoi Heron, Short-billed Dowitcher, Semipalmated and Western Sandpiper as well as Black Skimmer and Franklin’s Gull. The overnight flight will get us back into the UK on day ten.
 
 
DAY TEN
Upon arrival in the UK, the tour will conclude.

 

Additional Information

 

WEATHER
Temperature varies between cool in the mountains at around 17C, to potentially very hot in the Pacific lowlands at over 35C. A light rain jacket is essential, as rain is possible almost every day - it is usually intense and short-lived, and most likely during early afternoon when we often take a break.
 
TERRAIN
Expect relatively easy walks of up to a kilometre at a time. walking is always slow paced, especially on the forest trails, but be aware that the paths can be very uneven due to tree roots and stumps. The walking around Chorro el Macho waterfall involves steep climbs up steps, which can often get very slippery in the high humidity.
 
ACCOMMODATION
Single rooms are avilable throughout, but please note that at the Tower, five single rooms share one bathroom. All rooms at the lodge are en suite. Double/twin rooms are en suite throughout the tour. Accommodation at the tower is more basic than the lodge, but still adequate, clean and comfortable, if not a little noisy due to the thin walls!
 
WHATS INCLUDED
Return flights UK/Amsterdam/ Panama City, four nights accommodation at Canopy Tower and four nights at Canopy Lodge, breakfasts, lunches and evening meals, services of leaders, ground transport and reserve entrance fees.
 
NOT INCLUDED
Transport to/from UK airport and any overnight stay that might be involved, travel insurance, drinks and any items of a purely personal nature.
 
PASSPORT, VISA & HEALTH
Visas are not required by UK nationals. Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return travel date and several blank pages. Standard health and innoculation requirements apply for UK nationals, visit www.masta-travel-health.com to check these and if necessary, download a free health brief to take to a travel appointment at your local medical practice. There is not thought to be malaria in the canal zone area so precautions should not be necessary. A Yellow Fever certifictae is required if you have travelled recently in an infected area.

 

Tour Reports

 

2012    2013   2015

 

2015 Photo Album

 

Testimonials

 

" We are still on a high, and we can't thank you enough for such a wonderful trip, which we shall never forget,  bless you.." VR & JL Herts

 

" I really enjoyed the tour " P.C. Preston

 

" Once again thanks for a great trip. Good company all round & a good laugh" CH Orkney

 

" Thanks all for your excellent company and for a fab trip and superb birds thanks to Ashley and the excellent Canopy 'family' guides. Who needs an mp3 player when you have Carlos and his crew! Couldn't have been better. " J & A W Glamorgan

 

"Just too wanted to say what a fabulous trip and great company I really enjoyed it all from start to finish – I’ve even got some half decent photos. Hope to see you all again on another excellent Oriole trip " M B London

 

" This was en excellent introduction to tropical birding. Ashley and the Canopy Tower family did everything possible to make our trip the success it was. Everything was absolutely first class - Ashley and local guides knowledge and enthusiasm, the variety of birds, the daily checklist and updates, the diversity of the daily trips that enabled us to see the different habitats, the group dynamics and having two centres with four night stays in each was a great idea as it enabled us to have tremendous birding experiences without too much daily travelling" J & K H Wirral

 

" We had a fantastic time and thoroughly recommend this trip " J S & B M Nottingham

 

" One of the best birding trips we have ever been on - everything was outstanding" G & M S Kent

 

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