Canopy Family Panama

Panama Green Season - Short Trip Report

by Peter Chadwick

Violet-crowned Woodnymph
Violet-crowned Woodnymph by Arthur Morris

We went to Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge, both in central Panama, on a “special deal” of $1995 per person. We had an excellent two weeks, which we thought was very good value.

In the two weeks, we spent one week (seven nights) at Canopy Tower, an old US military weather observatory 1 mile east of the Panama Canal, and about 15 miles north of the Pacific, set in the jungle and at a height (ASL) of about 900 feet. The observation deck (level 4) is perfect for observing the canopy: we were close to monkeys, sloths, toucans. We then spent one week at Canopy Lodge, a hotel (series of cabins) set in truly gorgeous gardens: predominantly about 100 acres of jungle with a couple of impressive waterfalls, plenty of birds and a few mammals and lizards: about 60 miles west of the canal and about 2200 ft ASL.

In the fortnight we saw over 260 bird species (+ 4 monkeys, both sloths, armadillo, porcupine, Jesus lizard). The birds included both pottoos, six parrot species, four owls and a nighthawk, all 6 trogon species, all 4 motmots, and 5 toucanic species. Because we have not “done” Central America before, this included about 220 lifers. We had a guided outing every single half day: in fact, this was 21 half-day outings and two whole-day outings. (We chickened on two half days which were marginally possible!). Outings were normally 7-8 hours per day, with a three hour interruption in the middle of the day when birds are least active. The guides were excellent, I mean excellent. Because we were in the unpopular season (no migration, rainy season, etc) late July/ early August, we were the only people there part of the time: for more than half our outings, Vana and I had a guide to ourselves. We saw so much more because of this, and we are really pleased we chose the “quiet” months of the rainy season. Rain tends to be at night (Lodge) or night and lunchtime (Tower) - we actually got wet on only one outing.

We did not see “all” the birds in the first three days, as sometimes happens; they were spread out nicely and in fact we saw 12 new species on the very last morning!

The inclusive holiday involved collecting us from and delivering us to the airport (or the airport hotel)(two hours to Tower, and three hours from Lodge): three meals a day (with free wine in the evening): all our outings: and free transfer from one hotel to the other (2 hours).

Neither “hotel” is luxurious. There are not many luxury hotels with humming birds and tanagers outside the windows! Both are comfortable, rooms at the Lodge are large, both are en suite. The staff are exceptionally friendly and helpful (unlike most luxury hotels!)

A wonderful holiday. Excellent value. Happy that we took the whole two weeks, we would have regretted what we missed otherwise! Happy that we picked the “dead” season and had superb guides all to ourselves. The only extras we paid for in the whole fortnight were for one unscheduled “extra” outing – a wonderful boat trip on one of the mangrove lakes feeding the canal, and tips.


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