On this 12-day tour we will explore the Darien region of eastern Panama as well as the natural wonders of the Panama Canal Basin.
Arrival at Tocumen International Airport (PTY) and transfer to Riande Hotel. Pick-up and ground transfer to Riande Hotel – a 5-minute drive the airport. An afternoon arrival will give us time to unpack and freshen up before dinner.
On the Caribbean slope of the Continental Divide is the Nusagandi Natural Reserve, almost 100,000 acres of protected foothills and lowland forest. This area is ideal to see three hard-to-find species: Sapayoa, Speckled Antshrike and Black-crowned Antpitta. Besides these enigmatic birds, we will hope to see Sulphur-rumped Tanager, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Stripe-throated Wren, Carmiol’s Tanager and Black-and-Yellow Tanager. After lunch, we will drive to the town of Torti, stopping in some strategic areas to search for Pied Water-Tyrant, Jet Antbird and Pale-bellied Hermit.
We will spend the morning birding in San Francisco Natural Reserve. Here we will focus on searching for Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, White-fronted Nunbird, Speckled Mourner, Royal Flycatcher, Golden-collared Manakin and Orange-billed Sparrow. We will finish our exploration of the reserve around noon, to have the lunch at the hotel and head to Yaviza. In the evening, we will visit places close to town to find Black Antshrike, Barred Puffbird, Spot-breasted Woodpecker and Double-banded Graytail.
We will begin the day with a visit to El Salto road. This is an infrequently traveled dirt road that runs along a dry-forest area. Quebrada Felix is located next to a hydrological reserve, surrounded by clear, flowing streams and towering trees. Both of these areas are home to a number of important Darien specialties such as Golden-green Woodpecker, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, White-eared Conebill and Black Oropendola.
On our last day in Darien, we will visit the Embera community of Nuevo Vigia and take advantage of their flat trails. On those trails we will look for Red-billed Scythebill, Bare-crowned Antbird and Golden-headed Manakin. One of these trails parallels a stream, providing a great opportunity to see some aquatic birds like Black-collared Hawk, Boat-billed Heron, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher and the spectacular Agami Heron. After lunch, we will make the drive back to Panama City.
We will check in to our hotel and, depending on the time of arrival, we can do some light birding around the hotel grounds.
Pipeline Road runs through Soberania National Park – one of the best places to bird in Panama. Over 400 species have been documented here. We will begin with an early-morning visit to the Rainforest Discovery Center soon after sunrise. There we will climb to the top of the observation tower to search for some high-canopy species including Blue Cotinga, toucans and puffbirds. We may even spot a few soaring raptors – perhaps a Black Hawk-Eagle – later in the morning.
We will then take a short walk to a nearby lagoon – where Wattled Jacana, Snail Kite, Little Blue Heron, Osprey, Lesser Kiskadee, and 5 species of trogons can be found. We will round off our visit with a stop at the center’s hummingbird feeders, observing several species including White-necked Jacobin, Long-billed Hermit, Violet-bellied Hummingbird. We will then make our way back to Pipeline Road to search for White-whiskered Puffbird, Golden-collared Manakin, Streak-chested Antpitta, Ocellated Antbird and Pheasant Cuckoo.
We will return to the hotel for lunch and a short rest. We will depart again at around 3 p.m. for birding in Gamboa and Summit Ponds where we hope to add Boat-billed Heron, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Lance-tailed Manakin and Rosy Thrush-Tanager among others.
In the morning, we will visit Metropolitan Natural Park, the only tropical forest in Latin America located within city limits. Here, we will be on the lookout for more birds of the Dry Forest such as Lance-tailed Manakin, Yellow-green Tyrannulet, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Yellow-crowned Parrot, Yellow Tyrannulet, and Red-crowned Ant-Tanager. At the afternoon, we will explore the Old Gamboa Road and Summit Pond area places frequently visited by birds like American Pygmy Kingfisher, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Barred Antshrike, Jet Antbird and Yellow-billed Cacique.
We will spend the morning on Gatun Lake, exploring its many small jungle islands and inlets. During the 3-4 hour boat ride we hope to get close-up views of Mantled Howler Monkeys, White-faced Capuchins and the tiny Geoffroy’s Tamarin. We will also look for sloths, crocodiles, and a number of waterbirds including Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Snail Kite, Mangrove Swallow, Greater Ani, Purple Gallinule, Limpkin and many others.
In the afternoon, we will drive west to a small village located inside a wide caldera named El Valle de Anton – a perfect place to settle for the next three days and explore the Pacific lowlands, the highlands and the forests around El Valle.
Our first destination in this area will be the highlands of Altos del María. After an early breakfast, we will move to higher elevation (around 2,200 ft) where we will search for Central American endemics such as Black Guan, Snowcap, Black-crowned Antpitta and Ochraceous Wren. Some South American species are possible to find in this area like Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, White-throated Spadebill and Rufous-browed Tyrannulet.
We will leave very early to take advantage of the cool morning before the sun warms the lowland prairie of Juan Hombron. There, we will travel the roads between agricultural fields and remnants of Panamanian Dry Forest to run into some lowland birds like Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Crested Bobwhite, Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant. In addition to that, we will seek the regional endemic hummingbird, often seen buzzing near the Erythrina trees, the Veraguan Mango. At noon we will head backed to our hotel to have lunch and take a short break. After that, we will head southwest of the caldera on the slope of the Cara Iguana Hill to focus on Tody Motmot, Spectacled Owl, Rosy Thrush-Tanager and Lesson’s Motmot.
We will explore the northern part of the valley in the La Mesa area and Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. By exploring the quiet forested roads here, we will search for Northern Emerald-Toucanet, Spot-crowned Antvireo, White-ruffed Manakin, Spotted Woodcreeper, Tawny-capped Euphonia, but the one that will stand out will be the regional endemic Orange-bellied Trogon. In the afternoon, we will head back to Panama City and have our farewell dinner.
After breakfast, we will return you to Tocumen International Airport for your departure.
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