Canopy Tower; photo by Alex Alba
Darien Panama
Darien tented camp

Travis Audubon - Birding Panama's Canopy Tower and Darien Camp - with Laurie Foss - 8 nts

Panama Tropical Birding Tour with Travis Audubon and Laurie Foss

  • Pace - lots of walking, hot and humid weather
  • 9 days/8 nights
  • 2016: Feb 13-21 - Travis Audubon   FULL 
  • $3800 per person in double room, $4550 per single .  Based on 8 paying passengers
  • $3600 per person in double room, $4245 per single.   Based on 10 paying passengers



The Canopy Tower is located in impressive rainforest atop Semaphore Hill within Soberanía National Park, 35 miles north of Panamá City. The structure is quite unique; it is a re-purposed radar tower turned boutique eco-lodge! The Canopy Tower is a prime location from which to observe the birds and other wildlife of the forest canopy. Because the birds and mammals are at eye level, it is common to get fantastic views otherwise nearly impossible from the ground. Tanagers 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 Mantled Howlers, Geoffroy's Tamarins and other mammals and birds, as you can scan in all directions.​ We will spend two nights at the Canopy Tower.​

Areas to visit:
The Observation Deck, 50 feet above the ground, gives guests a grand view of the canopy and beyond. Here, you get a unique eye-level perspective of the rainforest canopy.  Many birds, including toucans, parrots, tanagers of various types, hawks, and dozens of others, as well as 2 species of sloths, monkeys and other mammals are commonly seen.  From this vantage point you can also see ships transiting the Panama Canal, the majestic Centennial Bridge and miles of rainforest!  You may also want to watch the hummingbird feeders at the base of the Tower for Long-billed Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Violet-bellied & Blue-chested hummingbirds and White-vented Plumeleteer.  Occasionally, a Snowy-bellied Hummingbird is spotted! 

Semaphore Hill Road.  This winding, shady paved road, festooned on the shoulders by wildflowers of many types, is a little more than a mile long and crosses a large creek about half-way down.  The bird list here is extensive, and includes birds from the forest interior as well as edge-dwellers.  Olivaceous Flatbill, Plain Xenops, Lesser Greenlet, Black-breasted & White-whiskered puffbirds, Fasciated & Black-crowned (formerly Western Slaty) antshrikes, Slate-colored Grosbeak, Bay-headed & White-shouldered tanagers, Black-throated Trogon, Broad-billed & Rufous motmots and Great Jacamar may be found.  Great Tinamou is often heard, but harder to find.  This road is also great for raptors—White, Tiny & Great Black hawks have been seen.

Pipeline Road, the best place in Central Panama to find forest birds, and one of the premier birding spots in the world!  We will look for Greater Ani, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Masked Tityra, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Plain Wren, Streaked Flycatcher, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Squirrel Cuckoo, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Southern Bentbill, Forest Elaenia, Panama Flycatcher, Blue Ground-Dove and Little Tinamou.  Other birds recorded here are Black-bellied & Buff-breasted wrens, Golden-collared Manakin, White-necked Puffbird, Gartered, Slaty-tailed, Black-throated, White-tailed & Black-tailed trogons, Purple-crowned Fairy, Yellow Tyrannulet, White-bellied & Dusky antbirds, Fasciated & Black-crowned antshrikes. 

Darién, as this entire eastern-most region of Panama is called, is perhaps the most diverse and species-rich region of Central America.  Long coveted by avid birders as an impenetrable haven for rare species, this region is now readily accessible by a highway extending through the spine of Panama right into the heart of this bird-rich land.  During this exciting 8-night adventure, we visit, en route to the Canopy Camp, the Bayano Reservoir, to look for such specialties as the starkly beautiful Black Antshrike, Rufous-winged Antwren and stunning Orange-crowned Oriole.  We also visit the swampy meadows along the Panamerican Highway, the haunts of the magnificent Spot-breasted Woodpecker!  We will enjoy great birding through the mature secondary forests, tranquil lagoons and riversides of this region, where we hope to get excellent views of Stripe-throated Wren, Black-collared Hawk, Black-capped Donacobius, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Large-billed Seed-Finch and others. 

We will spend five nights at the new Canopy Camp Darien, where we will enjoy comfortable, large, safari-style tent accommodations, each with full-size beds, private bathroom facilities with refreshing showers, flush toilets, electricity, and fans.  The protected forests of the Filo del Tallo Hydrological Reserve surround the Camp.  In the vicinity of the Camp itself we will enjoy such regional specialties as Gray-cheeked Nunlet, White-headed Wren, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Pale-bellied Hermit right in the gardens!  This tour offers other surprises, such as Spectacled Parrotlet, Golden-green Woodpecker, Double-banded Graytail, King Vulture and the spectacular Great Curassow! 
Areas to visit:
Nusagandi and Bayano Region - heading east from Panama City, the trip is about 5 hours to reach the Darien, but we'll take our time birding along the Pan American Highway. We'll probably bird along the Llano-Carti Road in the area of the Guna Yala Comarca (reserve), in search of rarities like Sapayoa, Yellow-eared Toucanet, the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, Swallow-tailed Kite, Black Hawk-Eagle, Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Streak-chested Antpitta, Tawny-capped Euphonia and more. Off to a good start!  We'll arrive the Darien Camp in late afternoon and settle into our tents before a delicious yet local Canopy dinner.
Most days, we will meet for coffee before we take off on trails or birding drives. Breakfasts and lunches will be either back at the Camp or picnics on the road.  One day will be spent on the Camp's own trails and surrounding forest. One day we will bird along El Salto Rd looking for regional specialties including Golden-green Woodpecker, Double-banded Graytail, Blue-and-gold and Chestnut-fronted macaws, Black and Crested oropendolas, Blue Cotinga, White-eared Conebill, Black-breasted Puffbird, Orange-crowned Oriole and the majestic King Vulture. Other sites to visit are Las Lagunas Road, the Serrania ilo del Tallo Hydro Reserve, and a morning at Nuevo Vigia, a village of the Embera Indians, surrounded by secondary growth dry forest and two small lakes, a great place to see Black-collared Hawk, Bare-crowned and White-bellied antbirds, Green Ibis, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Spectacled Parrotlet, Black-tailed Trogon, Striped Cuckoo, Black-bellied Wren, Little Tinamou, Golden-green Woodpecker and Green-and-rufous Kingfisher!  In the village of Nuevo Vigia, local artisans weave colorful decorative masks and plates out of palm fronds and carve cocobolo wood and tagua nuts into animals and plants, and we will have the opportunity to meet some of the community members and admire (and purchase) some of the beautiful products they make by hand. We will spend a full day birding Tupisa Road, Marranganti and Rio Tuquesa.  Full of good secondary growth forest, ponds, and as well get further into the area, mature secondary forest, where there is the possibility to find macaws, large forest eagles and other regional specialties. When we head back to Panama City we'll stop at the San Francisco Nature Reserve, which is a wildlife refuge that protects the rivers in this area. It was founded by Padre Pablo Kasuboski, originally from Wisconsin. The reserve has a variety of habitats including primary, secondary and riparian forests, forest edge, fields, farmland, ponds and wetlands.  During our morning here, we will explore the short road that enters the reserve, looking for Great Jacamar, Broad-billed Motmot, Collared Aracari, Russet-winged Schiffornis, Royal Flycatcher, White-fronted Nunbird, Brownish Twistwing, Yellow-green Tyrannulet, Central American Pygmy-Owl, Blue and Plain-breasted ground-doves, and if we’re very lucky, a Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle soaring overhead or a Wing-banded Antbird along the trails! 
Bird buide Laurie Foss goes to Panama
Laurie Foss started birding in 1971 at the urging of her high school science teacher in Wisconsin.  Since moving to Austin in 2003 she has discovered the joys of Hill Country birds and birding.  A member of Travis Audubon and a board member of the Friends of Balcones Canyonlands NWR, as well as other local, state and national birding organizations, Laurie is active leading field trips both local and afar, teaching birding classes, traveling to see birds and working for habitat conservation. 
In addition to her guiding services for JB Journeys, Laurie works at Shield Ranch in the Texas Hill Country.  The ranch is under a conservation easement and hosts El Ranchito, a summer camp for economically disadvantaged youth in central Texas. JB Journeys makes a donation to conservation organizations from the proceeds of Laurie's trips.
Prices based on minimum of 8 passengers. Surcharge will apply with fewer than 8 paid passengers. Maximum group size 11 + Laurie.
  • Accommodations:   2 nights Canopy Tower (single at Canopy Tower is a small room and shared bath) , 5 nights tented camp in Darien, private bath, hot water, all very comfortable, 1 night Riande Airport Hotel
  • Included:  8 nights lodging, all transportation, all meals from dinner on February 13 through breakfast on February 21, basic tips for lodge staff, services of local bilingual bird guide, escorted by Laurie Foss of JB Journeys, a donation to Travis Audubon Society
  • Not included: International airfare to Panama City, alcoholic beverages, gratuities for bird guides (Laurie Foss and Panamanian guides), gratuities at Riande (meals, maid, driver)