Avian Jewels

Panama

March 16 - 30, 2019
Cost: $6,500
Leader: Paco Madrigal
Group Size: 10
Days: 15

Safari Overview

Explore a variety of habitats in a country with incredibly accessible biodiversity, including many beautiful birds and captivating mammals. Ascend a canopy observation tower in the rainforest to take in breathtaking views over the tops of the trees while watching birds weaving their way up and down through the foliage. Experience exquisite mammal-viewing opportunities in the wetlands and rainforest of central Panama’s Canal Zone. Trek along the world-renowned Pipeline Road to discover avian wonders such as motmots, antwrens, and antshrikes. Travel to the cool foothills of Cerro Azul and Cerro Jefe to search for the endemic violet-capped hummingbird and other higher-elevation species. Get away to the picturesque Anton Valley to enjoy flora and fauna of the misty cloud forest. Finish the tour exploring the unique dry tropical forest of Cocles Province. During this tour, you have the opportunity to see many bird and mammal species including hummingbirds, trogons, and sloths in a beautiful country with an astounding diversity of flora and fauna.

HIGHLIGHTS
• Watch flocks of migrating raptors and canopy species from the Discovery Center’s Canopy Observation Tower.
• Explore many ecosystems, from pastures to ponds to misty jungles, for excellent sightings and photo opportunities of tanagers, honeycreepers, hummingbirds, and many other colorful birds.
• Amaze at mixed flocks of birds following army ant swarms through the forest in search of a delectable treat.
• Keep your eyes on the tree branches for monkeys, kinkajous, and sloths, and search the landscape for agoutis and caiman.
• Visit the famous Panama Canal!

Itinerary Updated: November 2017



FAQ Print Trip
Date Description Lodge Meals
Mar 16 Arrive in Panama City and transfer to hotel. Radisson Summit Hotel, Panama City D
Mar 17 Explore Soberanía National Park via Pipeline Road and the Rainforest Discovery Center. Radisson Summit Hotel, Panama City B, L, D
Mar 18 Visit Metropolitan Nature Park to seek out sloths and birds. Radisson Summit Hotel, Panama City B, L, D
Mar 19 Drive up through the cool foothills of Cerro Azul and Cerro Jefe to reach a tanager paradise. Radisson Summit Hotel, Panama City B, L, D
Mar 20 Another trip up the famous Pipeline Road for wildlife sightings. Radisson Summit Hotel, Panama City B, L, D
Mar 21 Birding at Semaphore Hill and Ammo Dump. Radisson Summit Hotel, Panama City B, L, D
Mar 22 Habitat-hop between Plantation Road, Summit Ponds, and Old Gamboa. Radisson Summit Hotel, Panama City B, L, D
Mar 23 Day trip to Eastern Panama/Bayano Lake. Radisson Summit Hotel, Panama City B, L, D
Mar 24 Free day to revisit a favorite location (group decides). Radisson Summit Hotel, Panama City B, L, D
Mar 25 Drive to Anton Valley. Los Mandarinos Hotel, Anton Valley B, L, D
Mar 26 Discover the Macho Falls region of the Anton Valley for excellent birding. Los Mandarinos Hotel, Anton Valley B, L, D
Mar 27 Birding on Cerro Gaital and along Mesa Road. Los Mandarinos Hotel, Anton Valley B, L, D
Mar 28 Anton Valley wildlife exploration. Los Mandarinos Hotel, Anton Valley B, L, D
Mar 29 Survey the tropical dry forests of Cocles Province, drive back to Panama City. Riande Aeropuerto Hotel, Panama City B, L
Mar 30 Fly home. B

Our Trip Leaders

Paco Madrigal

Paco has over 20 years of experience guiding wildlife, natural history, and birding tours throughout his native Costa Rica. He has been leading tours in Panama since 2014. He studied English and Ornithology at the University of Florida then worked at Costa Rica’s La Selva Biological Station before following his dream of starting his own tour company. His deep knowledge and charming personality make him one of our best leaders.

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Fly to Panama City

Mar 16

Arrive in Panama City today. You will be greeted at the airport and transferred to the Radisson Summit Hotel, located amongst the forest a little way outside of the city. Most of the best areas to find birds are within an hour of Panama City, so we’ll use the hotel as our basecamp for the next several days.

Pipeline Road, Rainforest Discovery Center

Mar 17

White-necked Jacobin by Debbie Thompson

Explore world-renowned Pipeline Road, a Panamanian birding hotspot traversing Soberanía National Park. We’ll stop along the road to scout the diverging forest trails for songbirds such as trogons, antshrikes, and manakins. When we arrive at the Rainforest Discovery Center, climb the 32-meter tall Observation Tower for spectacular 360-degree panoramic views of the rainforest canopy, enjoying a unique bird’s-eye view. In the distance, you will see the Panama Canal and Centennial Bridge. During this time of year, you may witness the wonders of hawk migration as they funnel northward along this land bridge connecting the Americas. At the base of the tower, enjoy hummingbird feeders that are frequented by long-billed hermits and white-necked jacobins.

Metropolitan Nature Park

Mar 18

Three-toed Sloth

Metropolitan Nature Park, conveniently located within the city limits, contains a surprising variety of birds and other wildlife. As you make your way through the forest you will discover hidden avian treasures including lance-tailed manakins, rosy thrush-tanagers, and yellow-rumped caciques. While exploring the forest we will also look for mammalian species including coatimundi (coati), three-toed sloth, and the endemic and adorable Geoffrey’s tamarin – the only tamarin species in Central America – feeding on its favorite fruits of the cecropia tree.

Cerro Azul and Cerro Jefe

Mar 19

Today you travel east of Panama City for about two hours to this protected cloud forest within Chagres National Park. As you summit Cerro Azul and Cerro Jefe, at 2,500ft and 3,300ft above sea level, respectively, you will encounter trees dripping with epiphytes and orchids, and discover dazzling new species for the trip. Enveloped in the cool mists, you will encounter a wide array of tanagers among the mixed-species flocks; if lucky, you will see emerald, speckled, rufous-winged, golden-hooded, silver-throated, bay headed, hepatic, olive, and black-and-yellow tanagers! The ornate hawk-eagle inhabits this forest, as well as the scale-crested pygmy-tyrant and the endemic stripe-cheeked woodpecker.

Pipeline Road

Mar 20

We spend a second day at Pipeline Road to re-visit favorite wildlife hotspots and look for species we missed on our earlier visit.

Semaphore Hill and Ammo Dump

Mar 21

Rufescent Tiger-Heron by Debbie Thompson

At Semaphore Hill, wind along a jungle road in search of wildlife in this section of Soberanía National Park. Army ants commonly swarm here, drawing in mixed flocks of antbirds and woodcreepers. This habitat also hosts other forest bird species such as the slaty antwren, great tinamou, and the spectacular rufous motmot. You may also encounter troupes of white-faced capuchins as we travel through these forests.

The pond at Ammo Dump is an excellent place for spotting waterbirds. Resident birds include rufescent tiger-heron and American pygmy kingfisher. With some extra searching, you may encounter the striated heron or the capped heron. The surrounding fields and trees contain raptor, landbird, and shorebird species including collared forest falcon, Southern lapwing, and yellow-tailed oriole.

Plantation Road, Summit Ponds, and Old Gamboa

Mar 22

American Pygmy Kingfisher by Debbie Thompson

Today you will visit a variety of habitats with wonderful opportunities for spotting a plethora of wildlife. Plantation Road runs through both old-growth and secondary forest, and its relative lack of undergrowth increases your chances of viewing birds of the forest floor such as tinamous and the aptly named leaftossers. You may also encounter avian jewels such as the blue-crowned motmot, golden-crowned spadebill, and white-breasted wood-wren.

As you travel along the access road to Summit ponds, you have a chance to see the gray-headed chachalaca, buff-throated saltator, and other edge-associated birds. The ponds are home to an assortment of heron and kingfisher species; all six species of kingfishers of the Americas have been spotted here! Scrub and grassland habitats along Old Gamboa Road contain more open-habitat species, including kiskadees and manakins.

Day trip to Bayano Lake in Eastern Panama

Mar 23

During this day trip towards the east, you will visit Eastern Pacific lowland forests around Bayano Lake for bird specialties such as the black antshrike and the dazzling orange-crowned oriole.

Free day to revisit a favorite location

Mar 24

Today the group will decide which of the locations they would like to revisit, to look for birds or mammals that you missed before, or to see them again!

Drive to Anton Valley

Mar 25

Blue-gray Tanager by Debbie Thompson

Traveling into cloud forest country, you will be introduced to exciting new flora and fauna while enjoying cooler temperatures and misty mountain landscapes. Along the way you will look for colorful birds that inhabit this new region including the flame-rumped tanager, blue-gray tanager, and red-crowned ant-tanagers. The vocal and acrobatic chestnut-headed oropendula hang from high-up branches, swinging among their colony members and pendulous nests. You will settle into the lodge in the afternoon and have time to explore this quaint mountain village nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano.

Anton Valley Birding, Macho Falls

Mar 26

Spend the day scouting the lively forests around Macho Falls. Enjoy the breathtaking cloud forest and impressive diversity of wildlife as you seek the black-chested jay, white-throated robin, and other flora and fauna of the region.

Cerro Gaital and Mesa Road

Mar 27

As you ascend the mountain to Cerro Gaital, you will be on the lookout for the shiny cowbird and streaked saltator. With this rise in altitude you also have the opportunity to see the orange-bellied trogon and blue-throated toucanet. You may encounter many of the resident raptors, such as the black hawk-eagle, gray hawk, and barred forest falcon. Much of the day will be spent enjoying nature along Mesa Road. With its mix of habitats, from forest to pasture, you will see many bird species today.

Anton Valley Birding

Mar 28

White-faced Capuchin by Marc Lombardi

Spend the day enjoying the incredible flora and fauna of Anton Valley. The route will depend on the weather and your preferences. The group may choose to journey to the Altos de Maria highlands, or traverse the birding trails closer to the hotel. Wherever you travel, you are sure to see a spectacular variety of wildlife.

Tropical Dry Forests of Cocles Province

Mar 29

On your drive back to Panama City, a good part of the day will be spent exploring the dry tropical forests of the Pacific coast lowlands. Some of the spectacular inhabitants of this area include the lesser yellow-headed vulture, the sapphire-throated hummingbird, and the rare Veraguan mango, a splendidly colored small hummingbird of Panama and Costa Rica. We will end the day at the Riande Aeropeuerto Hotel in Panama City. You are on your own for dinner tonight, allowing you to enjoy dinner at the hotel, or venture into Panama City to explore the cuisine.

Fly home

Mar 30

Depart Panama City for your flights homeward.

Panama

Explore a variety of habitats in a country with incredibly accessible biodiversity, including many beautiful birds and captivating mammals.

9.066701, -79.387374

Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Cost Per Person
Trip Cost, double occupancy $6,500
Single Supplement $1,045

We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement fee. Single rooms are subject to availability.


Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Per Person
Deposit Due now to reserve your space $500
Second April 30, 2018 $1,000
Final October 1, 2018 Remaining balance

Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule and cancellation policy as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.


Cancellations

Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person, which can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.

Included

  • All leaders, transport, park entry fees, and permits for all activities unless described as optional.
  • Airport transfers to Radisson Summit Hotel on March 16 and from Riande Aeropuerto Hotel on March 30.
  • Accommodations for the nights of March 16 through March 29.
  • Meals from dinner on March 16 through breakfast on March 30, excepting dinner on March 29.
  • Gratuities for group meals.
  • A visit to the Panama Canal during one of the days you are staying in Panama City.
  • Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.

Not Included

  • All airfare, airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Airfare is approximately $600–$1,200 roundtrip from the continental US to Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, depending on origin (subject to change).
  • Passport and visa fees.
  • Dinner on March 29.
  • Gratuities – tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $15 to $25 per participant per day for March 17 to March 29 (about $195 to $325 total per participant) to be distributed amongst the two guides and the driver.
  • Emergency medical and evacuation insurance, but it is required for you to purchase. Read more about travel insurance.
  • Trip cancellation insurance. Read more about travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic and other beverages, items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.

Climate

Temperatures vary greatly. The Pacific coast is often hot, while the cloud forests can be surprisingly cool. In March, the average daily temperature in the Panama Canal Zone is around 28°C, with highs up to 33°C. Temperatures will be lower in the cloud forests of the Anton Valley, averaging between 25 and 29°C in March. Although March is considered the ‘dry’ season, rain can be encountered at any time of year.

Fitness Level

Minimal fitness level required. You can expect to walk two to three miles per day at a slow pace, allowing time for observation and photography. Most walking is on relatively level ground or gradual slopes. Please contact us if you have any health concerns that may make this trip challenging.

Flights

Airfare is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.

Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive at Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City, Panama no later than March 16. Depart from Tocumen International Airport (PTY) anytime on March 30.

FAQ

Why go to Panama in March?

March falls within the region’s dry season, increasing our chance for rain-free days. March also is good for migratory bird species.

I’m not an expert birder; will I enjoy Panama?

Birds are the main focus, so it is geared toward birders. That being said, you only need to enjoy bird watching to fully appreciate this tour. Our leader, Paco Madrigal, is very accommodating to both beginner and advanced birders. We do see mammals, reptiles, and beautiful plants and insects on this safari, too.

Will I be able to visit the Panama Canal?

Your guide will take you to see the Panama Canal during one of the days when you are staying at the Radisson Hotel near Panama City. This will not be an in-depth tour of the Canal, but you will learn about its history during your visit.

Is it safe to travel in Panama?

Panama is a relatively safe country. The two main safety issues in Panama are crime in some of the urban areas and narcotrafficking on the eastern border with Columbia. The Radisson Hotel where we stay is located about 30 minutes from downtown Panama City, surrounded by rain forest, and is located in a safe area. We will not be spending lots of time in the city overall. In addition, the tour does not travel to the Darien Region along the eastern border of the country. Our leader Paco Madrigal knows the regions we are visiting very well and we do not anticipate any problems with safety.

Accommodations

Seasickness

Transportation

Conditions

  • Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
  • Maximum time in nature: We try to spend as much time in nature as possible, sometimes resulting in long days, but giving you a more in-depth experience.
  • Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops, and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather or road conditions.
  • Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
  • Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but it is important to understand and accept the risks, both medical and logistical. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but because we are often far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this tour. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your deposit and signed Reservation/Release Form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.