A ZEISS Partnership Tour
PANAMA: Birding the Darien and Pipeline Road
BIRDS & WILDLIFE
From: $3,975 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Panama City, Panama (PTY)
4 - 8 Participants
PRIVATE TOUR OPTION
This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.
Highlights of PANAMA: Birding the Darien and Pipeline Road
Description of PANAMA: Birding the Darien and Pipeline Road
Barred Puffbirds, Rufous-tailed Jacamars, White-headed Wrens and many more make up a distinct dawn chorus like no other in Panama. Located in Central America’s most diverse and least-explored region, the Darién province of Panama is a birder’s paradise. Situated in the humid lowlands of far eastern Panama, near the end of the Pan-American Highway, at the new Canopy Camp you can feel the wilderness around you, from just a step outside your tent. Towering giants – Cuipo trees – provide a panorama of the Darién, and are in clear view above the forest canopy, right from your tent. It is in these enormous rainforest giants that Harpy Eagles and Crested Eagles place their nests and raise their young.
While you sip your morning coffee, listen for the buzzy trills of Golden-headed Manakins lekking in the forests beside the camp. A walk with your knowledgeable guide will be thoroughly awe-inspiring and entertaining. From tiny, colorful poison dart frogs on the forest floor to Red-throated Caracaras in the canopy above, these forests are full of life. At the end of the day of exploring the region, settle into your tent and doze off to the calls of owls, potoos, nightjars and a symphony of frogs, bidding you good-night from the forests of Darién.
The Canopy Lodge is well known by birders as one of the top destinations in the Americas. Nearby is the world-famous Pipeline Road… one of the best birding locations anywhere! The difficult to see Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo has been seen regularly during ant swarms along the road. These much hoped-for Army Ant swarms happen quite often along the road and many species otherwise difficult to see, like grey-headed tanagers, red-throated ant tanagers, bicolored antbirds, spotted antbirds, western-slaty antshrikes and several species of woodcreepers, might be seen.
We will visit other well-known birding locations around the lodge as well, like Semaphore Hill, Summit Gardens, Summit Ponds and the Metropolitan Nature Park.
Length of Tour
Day 1 - Arrival in Panama City
Upon arrival in Panama City you will transfer to the Riande Aeropuerto Hotel, 5 minutes from the airport, where we will meet as a group, have a nice dinner and prepare for our journey to eastern Panama! Dinner and overnight at Riande Aeropuerto Hotel, Panama City.
Day 2 – Nusagandi, Bayano Lake and arrival at Canopy Camp Darien
This morning we will meet for an early breakfast at the hotel, where our Canopy Family guide will be waiting for us to start our exciting trip. Shortly after breakfast, we will embark along the Panamerican Highway, east toward Colombia, into some of the most remote environments in all of Central America. The journey to our destination, the new Canopy Camp Darien, will take all day, as we will stop at some of the best birding areas along the way.
As we drive the highway east, we will watch for Savanna Hawk, Crested Caracara and Pearl Kite, as well as Southern Lapwing and Smooth-billed Ani at the roadsides. Our first stop will be a detour off the highway north on El Llano-Carti Road to Nusagandi, into the Guna Yala territory, where pristine Caribbean Slope forest awaits! White-eared Conebill, Sulphur-rumped Tanager, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, and the elusive Sapayoa are some of the avian specialties we will search for here. At Bayano Lake, Panama’s second largest reservoir, we can scan the water’s edge for Pied Water-Tyrant, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Neotropic Cormorant, Cocoi Heron and Purple Gallinule wading in the aquatic vegetation.
A short trail leading away from the forest edge is a good place to search for Black Antshrike, Golden-collared Manakin and Rufous-winged Antwren. By early afternoon, we will stop for a satisfying Panamanian lunch in Torti, where Long-billed Starthroat, Scaly-breasted and Snowy-bellied hummingbirds visit the feeders at Avicar Restaurant. Lunch in Torti.
After a satisfying lunch, we will cross into Darién province and carry on further into eastern Panama. As we pass small communities and Embera villages, we will also keep an eye out for any interesting birds at the roadsides. Just before dusk we will arrive at Canopy Camp Darien, and be greeted by the friendly staff. Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Pale-bellied Hermit, Black-crowned Tityra and Streak-headed Woodcreeper may be the first birds we see on our arrival.
Before dark we will settle into our spacious African safari-style tents, and meet in the lounge for cocktails, appetizers and orientation, followed by a delicious dinner of Panamanian and American fare! We will settle into our tents, and drift off to the sounds of owls and other nocturnal wildlife. Dinner and overnight at Canopy Camp Darien.
Day 3 - 5 – Each day will include one of the following endeavors, dependent upon weather or other factors… not all locations will be visited
Canopy Camp Trails and Access Road
We’ll be up at dawn with the birds! As the sun rises, we can enjoy our first full light at the Canopy Camp and the morning bird activity—Keel-billed and Black-mandibled toucans call from the towering Cuipo trees and Red-lored and Mealy parrots fly by while Barred Puffbird, Olivaceous Piculet, Spot-crowned Barbet, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, White-headed Wren, Ruddy Pigeon, White-bellied Antbird and Scaly-breasted Hummingbird are found in the immediate area.
After a hot breakfast, we’ll spend the morning exploring “Nando’s Trail”, a looping trail through the mature secondary forest adjacent to the tents. As we pass large tree bases and buttress roots, we’ll search for Darién specialties including Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Double-banded Graytail, Golden-headed Manakin, Black Antshrike and Rufous-tailed Jacamar, as well as Royal Flycatcher, Tiny Hawk and Black-tailed Trogon. Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon, Semiplumbeous Hawk and Great Potoo are all possibilities this morning! We will head back to the camp for lunch. Lunch at Canopy Camp Darien.
After siesta, we will meet again to walk the access road to the camp. Open fields and roadsides attract a nice variety of birds. Just meters from the camp, a patch of verbena attracts Black-throated Mango, Blue-throated Goldentail, Crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-tailed and Violet-bellied hummingbirds. Ruby-topaz Hummingbird has been seen here!
As we carry on along the road, we’ll look for Blue-headed Parrot, Crested Oropendola, Laughing Falcon, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Smooth-billed Ani, Striped Cuckoo, Zone-tailed Hawk and the majestic King Vulture. At dusk we’ll return to the camp for cocktails and dinner. Dinner at Canopy Camp Darien.
After dark, we’ll grab our spotlights and search the grounds for night birds—Mottled, Black-and-white and Spectacled owls may be curiously close, while eyeshine of Common and Great potoos may be found in the distance. In addition to nocturnal birds, many species of mammals, including Kinkajou, Bushy-tailed Olingo, Central American Woolly Opossum and Paca, become active at night. Overnight at Canopy Camp Darien.
El Salto Road and Las Lagunas Road
We will be greeted by the morning bird activity at dawn outside our tents. This morning we are going to bird El Salto Road, a 6-km road ending at the Chucunaque River. The road traverses mature secondary forest, presenting a great habitat for us to look for Double-banded Graytail, Blue Cotinga, Orange-crowned Oriole, White-headed Wren, Black-tailed Trogon, Crane Hawk, King Vulture, White-necked and Black-breasted puffbirds.
In a short trail into a thicket at the end of the road we hope to find Bare-crowned Antbird, Black Antshrike, Pale-bellied Hermit, Gray-cheeked Nunbird, Olivaceous Piculet among others! Butterflies and dragonflies are abundant as we approach the river’s edge. Lunch at Canopy Camp Darien.
After lunch, we will head out again, this time to explore the diverse bird life along Las Lagunas Road and the Aruza lagoons. The road passes through open fields where we will hopefully encounter Muscovy Duck, Giant, Shiny and Bronzed cowbirds, Red-breasted Blackbird, Crested Oropendola, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Fork-tailed and Gray-capped flycatchers, Long-tailed Tyrant and Striped Cuckoo. We will stop at a forest patch to call for Little and Dwarf cuckoos.
At the lagoon, we will scan for Black-capped Donacobius, Smooth-billed and Greater anis, Ringed and Amazon kingfishers, Cocoi and Capped herons and Yellow-hooded Blackbird! Back at the camp, after a delicious dinner, we will review our growing checklist and retire to our tents under a starry Darién sky. Dinner and overnight at Canopy Camp Darien.
Nuevo Vigia and Tierra Nueva Foundation
After an early breakfast, we will once again prepare for a morning of great birds! Today we will bird the lagoons around the Embera village of Nuevo Vigia, where we will watch for Black-collared Hawk, Capped Heron, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Little Tinamou, Great Antshrike, Lesser Kiskadee, Pied Water-Tyrant, Wood Stork, Cocoi, Little Blue, Green and Striated herons, Green Ibis, Wattled Jacana among many other water birds and edge species. We will also try calling for Gray-breasted Crake. Before heading back to the camp for lunch, we will visit the rural community of Nuevo Vigia, where we will experience first-hand the day-to-day life of an indigenous village in Darién.
White-bellied Antbird, The community members make beautiful plates, bowls and masks out of palm fronds, colored with natural dyes from the area, as well as tagua nut and cocobolo woodcarvings. We will have the opportunity to admire and purchase their hand-made artisan products, great souvenirs from Panama! We’ll hope for Spectacled Parrotlet sighting in the village. Lunch at Canopy Camp Darien.
After a siesta during the hottest time of the day, we will spend the later hours of the afternoon at Tierra Nueva Foundation. This large property hosts a technical high school focused on applications in agriculture, and has a series of trails well worth exploring!
Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Great Tinamou, Spot-crowned Barbet, Black-mandibled Toucan, Orange-crowned Oriole, Gray-headed Kite, Collared Forest-Falcon, Cinnamon and Cinereous becard, Yellow-breasted and Black-billed flycatcher, Red-rumped Woodpecker and the majestic Great Curassow are all possibilities this afternoon! Dinner and overnight at Canopy Camp Darien.
Tupisa Road & Marranganti—(would be a full day)
We have an exciting full day of birding ahead of us today! We will venture back to Nuevo Vigia, and from there follow the road to Tupisa, east through the expanses of Darién. The first part of the road passes through open habitat and towering Cuipo trees. Black-cheeked and Spot-breasted woodpeckers, White-eared Conebill, Golden-hooded Tanager, Cocoa and Streak-headed woodcreepers, One-colored Becard, Gray-lined Hawk, Crowned Woodnymph, Masked and Black-crowned tityras among others play around in the treetops.
Carrying on down the road into mature secondary forest, we will hope to encounter Great Jacamar, Golden-green Woodpecker, Stripe-throated Wren, Red-billed Scythebill, Yellow-backed Tanager, Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Moustached and Rufous-winged antwrens and the spectacular Ornate Hawk-Eagle soaring overhead! We will stop for a delicious picnic lunch in a shady area along the road, and some time for a rest.
As we head back down the road, we’ll keep our eyes and ears open for Chestnut-backed Antbird (eastern race showing white spots on the wings), Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Marbled Wood-Quail, Olive-backed Quail-Dove and other forest dwelling birds. Before heading back to the camp, we will take a detour up the road to Marranganti in search of a nesting colony of the spectacular Black Oropendola, yet another Darién regional specialty!
Back at the camp, we will enjoy our last dinner in Darién, and review our extensive list of birds. Tonight is our last opportunity to search the grounds for owls, potoos, nocturnal mammals and insects before the journey back to Panama City. Dinner and overnight at Canopy Camp Darien.
Day 6 – San Francisco Nature Reserve and Drive to Canopy Tower
This morning we say our goodbyes to the Canopy Camp and lowlands of Darién, but there is still more birding to do before getting to the Canopy Tower! After breakfast we will gather all of our belongings and make our way back towards central Panama. We will make a well-deserving stop at San Francisco Reserve, a large property owned by the St. Francis Foundation, protecting 1,300 acres of primary and secondary and riparian forests, wetlands, marshes, fields streams and water springs in eastern Panama province.
We will spend a couple hours exploring some of the fantastic habitats here, in hopes to see Sirystes, Broad-billed Motmot, Russet-winged Schiffornis, Royal Flycatcher, White-winged Becard, White-fronted Nunbird, Brownish Twistwing, Yellow-green Tyrannulet, Blue and Plain-breasted ground-doves. By mid-day, we will head to Torti once again for lunch. Lunch in Torti.
Then our journey Canopy Tower continues, depending on our time we can stop at Rio Mono bridge and Bayano Lake to search for any species we may have missed. Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher and Savanna Hawk are all possibilities! We will end our day at the Canopy Tower watching the sun set over the forest from atop the lodge!
Day 7 – Pipeline Road / Summit Ponds
The legendary Pipeline Road once held the world record for the one-day Bird Count. Hummingbird feeders and an observation tower at the new Discovery Center will bring us many new species. Five trogons, three motmots, four puffbirds, two toucans plus many woodpeckers will keep us busy, but if we run into an ant swarm, beware the whiplash as you try to keep up with the birds!
After lunch and siesta time, we’ll visit Summit Pond to seek Boat-billed Heron, American Pygmy Kingfisher and possibly a day-roosting Spectacled Owl and other species.
Day 8 – Metropolitan Nature Park / Canal
One of the best city parks anywhere, Metropolitan Nature Park is home to Lance-tailed Manakin, Rufous-and-white Wren, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, and the endemic Yellow-green Tyrannulet.
After returning to the Tower for lunch and siesta time, we’ll visit Miraflores Locks to observe the Canal in operation. An optional spotlighting trip after dinner may offer a Mottled or Spectacled Owl or a Great or Common Potoo. We may also see Kinkajou, Night Monkey, or other nocturnal mammals.
Day 9 Pipeline Road
Another great morning on Pipeline Road, we’ll take a box lunch with us so we can explore farther down Pipeline Road. Sunbittern, Brown-hooded Parrot, Pheasant Cuckoo and Tawny-crested Tanagers and perhaps a Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo will be found!
Lunch back at the Tower where we may see hawks on the thermals and enjoy relaxing birding around the lodge and at the hummingbird feeders for the afternoon.
Day 10 – Flights Home
Cost is $3,975 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Panama City, Panama (Airport code PTY).
This trip ends in Panama City, Panama (Airport code PTY).
If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $1,250 will be assessed.
A $500 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.
If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.
How to Book
In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.
For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.
For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.
NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.
RIANDE AIRPORT HOTEL
Excellent quality hotel, 3 minutes from the airport, with bar and restaurant on premises.
Remote… peaceful and full of birds! The Darien Camp is certainly not camping. Beautiful safari tents mounted on permanent structures with private bathrooms are quite comfortable. Excellent meals are prepared in the main dining area, and served family style.
Not far from Panama City, in the Gamboa region, the Canopy Tower Lodge sit high on a hill overlooking the surrounding forest. Birds galore surround the lodge, including Green Shrike-Vireo and Blue Cotinga!
Activity Level Rating: 2 (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)
Most walks on this trip will be fairly easy, however, it may be hot and humid. The Canopy Tower Lodge has only stairs to go to the top, including the dining room.
Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.
Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.
Detailed Trip Information
Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.
Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.
As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.
Passport & Visa
US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.
Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.
The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.
This is a new itinerary