Canopy Family Panama


Panama's Natural and Cultural History

Molas by David Tipling
Molas by David Tipling

7-night, all-inclusive cultural and natural history tour

Day 1
Arrival, Orientation & Canopy Tower Observation Deck

Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met by our driver who will transfer you to the Canopy Tower, located at the top of Semaphore Hill in the rainforest of Soberanía National Park.  A member of our staff will greet you as you arrive at the Tower, and you will be provided with an orientation on the use of the facilities. At this time we will answer any questions you may have about our cultural and natural history tour.  As your luggage is being ferried to your room, you may visit the dining/bar area and enjoy a refreshing drink.  We highly recommend that you spend some time on the Observation Deck.  The view from the platform is incredible!  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!  Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.

Day 2
AM: Semaphore Hill Road Nature Walk

Your guide will be waiting for you at the Observation Deck for early morning birding.  While you look for birds you can enjoy hot coffee, tea and orange juice.  Some of the bird species that we are likely to see from the observation deck are Green & Red-legged honeycreepers, Green Shrike-Vireo, Blue Cotinga, Scaled Pigeon, Mealy and Red-lored parrots, Keel-billed Toucan & Collared Araçari, flycatchers and many others.  After breakfast, at mid-morning, you’ll start exploring Soberanía National Park by taking a pleasant walk down the 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 are common 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, and during migration it's easy to see more than 10 species of warblers and migratory songbirds in one morning.  Mammals are just as impressive as the birds, and we hope to see both Brown-throated Three-toed and Hoffmann's Two-toed sloths along our walk; Northern Tamandua (anteater), Nine-banded Armadillo, White-nosed Coati and Central American Agouti are also frequently encountered!  Your morning bird list will be impressive, as we ride back just in time to enjoy a delicious lunch at the CANOPY TOWER.

PM: Summit Gardens & Harpy Eagle Exhibit

On the afternoon portion of today's cultural and natural history tour, you'll be visiting Summit Municipal Park. Summit Municipal Park is a center for recreation, education, conservation and investigation dedicated to reflect and enhance Panama’s tropical and cultural diversity.  There is a small zoo where you can get a better look at King Vultures, Great Curassows and four species of macaws, as well as Jaguar, spider monkeys, and a host of other mammals.  The botanical gardens are great for migratory warblers and other forest-edge species, and Blue Cotingas have been found here too.  The Harpy Eagle is Panama's national bird, and this park is the site of the Harpy Eagle Exhibit, sponsored by SONY Corp.  You may view a video about this magnificent raptor.  A life-size nest and several interpretive panels, which trace the importance of the Harpy Eagle in Panamanian history and culture dating back to Pre-Columbian times, are on display.  No stop at Summit Gardens is complete without saying hello to Panama, the resident Harpy Eagle!  Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.

Day 3
City Tour FULL DAY

After breakfast you will depart for a tour of the major cultural & historical sights of Panama City.  You begin in the old city, Panama La Vieja, founded in 1519 by Spain and later destroyed by the infamous pirate, Henry Morgan.  You’ll visit the ruins and the museum, which contains exhibits of the pre-Hispanic and Colonial time.  Afterward, you continue to the newly designated (2003) World Heritage Site, Casco Antiguo, which was originally built and settled in 1671 after the destruction of Panama Viejo by Morgan.  Casco Antiguo, also called San Felipe, was constructed as a walled city on a peninsula near Panama City to protect its settlers against another siege such as that suffered in Panama Viejo.  We also visit beautiful historical churches, the Heron's Palace (Palacio de las Garzas, the home of the President of Panama), Plaza de Francia, Independence Plaza, National Theater and others.  You’ll take some time to visit the Museo Interoceanico.  This old building was once the Grand Hotel and later the French Canal headquarters.  The museum gives you a good understanding why the isthmus is the center of world trade.  It also explains the effect the isthmus and the canal have on Panamanian identity, as well as information on the construction of the Canal.  Our lunch will be enjoyed at a local restaurant with a delicious selection of Panamanian Fare!  Over at the Amador Peninsula, a beautiful tree-lined causeway leads to hotels, fishing vessels and popular night spots.  From the causeway, you can take in a view of both the old colonial city and the modern city of Panama—with its impressive skyline as a backdrop!  

This afternoon we will take a natural history tour in the recently opened BioMuseo along the Amador Causeway in Panama City. This spectacular and unique building, designed by renown architect Frank Gehry, features several halls focusing on the biodiversity of the isthmus of Panama—from its geological beginnings through to modern day culture, the great faunal interchange over the land bridge and other fascinating exhibits.  Our visit will no doubt open our eyes further to the incredible biodiversity of Panama!  Our final stop will be at the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal, known as one of the 8 wonders of the modern world, and a must-see for any visit to Panama!  The Visitor Center features an ample, fully equipped theater, three observation terraces and four exhibition halls.  The exhibits include historic pieces, video presentations, models of plants & animals encountered & fossils unearthed, models of the Panama Canal, and objects used in Canal operations.  Most importantly, we will be able to see huge ocean liners passing through the century-old locks!  Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.

Day 4
Barro Colorado Island FULL DAY

After an express breakfast we drive to the marina where you board a boat to Barro Colorado Island (BCI).  BCI is a 1,500-hectare island sanctuary administered by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and is the primary site for visiting scientists from around the world to study the dynamics of a Neotropical lowland moist tropical forest!  Together with five adjacent peninsulas, BCI forms the 5,400-hectare Barro Colorado Natural Monument, which is located in the middle of the Panama Canal.  Established in April 17, 1923, BCI has been administered by the Smithsonian since 1946. BCI offers much to be explored - the knowledgeable local guide will provide an informative natural history tour of the history of the island and research station, and a nature walk through the extensive forest found here, pointing out many of the common animals and plants including Crested Guan and Central American Spider Monkey. Lunch at BCI.  You’ll return to the CANOPY TOWER around 4:30 pm, well before dinner time.

Day 5
AM: Jungle Boat Tour & Embera Village

After breakfast this morning, we board a small boat for a spectacular natural history tour on the Panama Canal. Most of the Canal is actually an artificial lake, Gatun Lake, and our tour will take you from Gamboa—just 15 minutes from the Canopy Tower—to the interior of the large lake!  Along the way you will pass huge cargo ships and ocean liners.  You will also visit hidden caves and beautiful inlets with fascinating fauna and flora.  We will stop at the “monkey island” for a closer look at White-faced Capuchins.  On the way back we will visit a village where you’ll encounter the Embera Indians.  This unique opportunity allows you to learn about their culture, their way of living and their knowledge of rainforest plants, a science known as ethnobotany.  They’ll serve you a traditional Embera meal, hot fish and green plantain.  You are also welcome to enjoy and purchase their variety of handcrafts.  Lunch at CANOPY TOWER.

PM: Panama Rainforest Discovery Center & Pipeline Road

The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center is an ecotourism and environmental education facility created and administered by Fundación Avifauna Eugene Eisenmann.  It is located on Pipeline Road in the tropical forests surrounding the Panama Canal, in Soberanía National Park.  The center contains several attractions, including a 100-foot tall observation tower, with 4 rest platforms, each stopping at a different layer of the rainforest.  The view from the top is incredible!  Here we scan for some of the forest canopy birds such as Blue Cotinga, Black-mandibled Toucan, Scaled Pigeon and it is a great place to see raptors soaring over the vast forest canopy.  There is also a 1.1 kilometer circuit of well-maintained forest trails.  Along the trails we look for White-whiskered Puffbird, motmots, trogons, manakins, antbirds, wrens, tanagers, flycatchers and many others.  Agoutis and Coatis are common, and lizards and snakes are also regularly encountered.  The Visitor Center has several hummingbird feeders—attracting species that may be photographed easily—bathrooms and a small gift shop. After this exciting natural history tour, we return to the CANOPY TOWER to enjoy lunch.

Day 6
Partial Transit of the Panama Canal

You’ll start with early morning birding at the Canopy Tower observation deck.  After breakfast we proceed to the Marina in Gamboa to board the Pacific Queen for your partial transit of the Panama Canal, which includes transiting Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks.  You’ll experience at first hand the operation of the canal itself.  Lunch on board!  We return to the tower around 4:00 pm.  Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.

Day 7
Fort San Lorenzo & Panama Canal Railway FULL DAY

Today we have an early morning departure to the Caribbean coast of Panama, with a quick stop at the Gatun Locks and new canal locks at Aguas Claras.  Once at Fort San Lorenzo you immediately realize why the fort was built by the Spanish: it sits high on a cliff overlooking both the Atlantic Ocean and the entrance to the Chagres River, a perfect defensive position.  The fort was captured in 1671 by Privateersman Henry Morgan for access to get to Panama City!  You’ll enjoy a picnic lunch amidst the ancient ruins of Fort San Lorenzo.  In the afternoon, we’ll drive back to Colón to the Panama Canal Railroad Station.  In 1855 the Panama Canal Railroad became the first transcontinental railroad and was built to accommodate the vast number of "49ers" heading to California during the California Gold Rush of 1849.  Additionally, the Panama Canal would have been impossible to build without the Panama Railroad; also the railroad was instrumental in helping Panamá gain independence from Colombia.  We embark on the historic Panamá Canal Railroad, and during our 47-mile, 1-hour return, we look for Snail Kites (often 10 or more!), Limpkins & others from our luxury, air-conditioned railway car.  Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.

Day 8
Breakfast & Good-byes

After breakfast, and after one last look from the Observation deck for lasting memories, we take you to the airport for your international flight home.

Please note that the itinerary for this cultural and natural history tour may change without prior notice due to weather, alterations in habitat or other conditions.

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