Canopy Family Panama

Itinerary

Tamarin Tour: Mammal & Birding Adventure

Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth by David Tipling
Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth by David Tipling

9-Night All-inclusive Tour

Neotropical mammals are a fascinating faunal group, with many unique members, including sloths, manatees, Neotropical monkeys, armadillos and more, that cannot be found on any other continent on earth.  There are parts of the world, such as Africa, where we are dazzled by the abundance of large mammals like elephants, giraffes and lions, out in the open and easy to see.  Mammal watching in Latin America, however, can be a little more challenging, but no less fun!  The majority of the mammals here are small to medium-sized, and many are predominantly nocturnal.  This tour is tailored to finding the unique and interesting mammals of the Neotropics.  We will strive to find diurnal mammals like monkeys, agoutis, coatis    and tamanduas during the day; at night, we will venture out with our spotlight to search for nocturnal mammals, such as Kinkajous and various opossums and bats.  The forests of Central Panama are full of mammals, and although it may take a little searching, finding Neotropical mammals is memorable and rewarding!  While looking for mammals, we will also take advantage of the forests around us to find birds, frogs, reptiles and insects – there will never be a dull moment!

Day 1
Arrival

Today you will be picked up at Tocumen International Airport and then you will be transferred to Canopy Tower. After settling in, visit the observation deck where you will most likely spot your first mammal, a Brown-throated three-toed Sloth, munching on Cecropia leaves!

Day 2
AM: Canopy Tower Observation Deck

We will start early today, 6am, on the observation deck on the Canopy Tower. The Canopy Tower’s observation deck offers a great opportunity to scan the treetops, where we can often see Geoffroy’s Tamarin, Mantled Howlers, Three-and Two-toed Sloths, Red-tailed Squirrel and a variety of colorful birds that come to feed on the Cecropia trees. Then we come down to enjoy breakfast about 7:30 am. After breakfast, we will start walking down the Semaphore Hill Rd, to continue our search for Tamarins, other Monkeys, Sloths and Squirrels. On this road there is a chance to find Brown-throated three-toed Sloth and Hoffmann’s two-toed Sloth, as well as a Northern Tamandua. This paved road is a little more than a mile long, and passes through some of the forest protected by Soberanía National Park. Here you will get a chance to see mammals as well as birds and interesting plants, wildflowers and butterflies. The rare Silky Anteater, as well as the secretive Tayra, have been spotted occasionally along this road (See the Guardian article, March 29/03). At the end of this walk, we will get picked up by one of our open-air vehicles and driven up to the Tower for lunch.

 PM: Summit Botanical Garden & Ammo Dump Ponds

After lunch and a “siesta,” we head up to the Summit Botanical Garden. Our main target here will be to find a roosting colony of Common Tent-making Bats. Other mammals are always a possibility. After a short visit to the gardens, we will drive about 5 miles north to Ammo Dump Pond, located in the small town of Gamboa. This is a great place to look for the World’s largest rodent, the Capybara, which can be found in or near the river. Also, in Gamboa's forested neighborhoods, we also hunt for Red Squirrels and Central American Agouti, a large diurnal rainforest rodent. Depending on time, we will make a quick stop at the marina on the Chagres River, the main source of water for the Panama Canal. With a bit of luck, we can find a Neotropical River Otter and Variegated Squirrels. Dinner at the Tower.

Day 3

AM: Pre-Dawn Drive Down Semaphore Hill and Pipeline Rd.

Nocturnal creatures are more active right before dawn and right after dusk, so today we are going to wake up early, take a cup of coffee and slowly ride down Semaphore Hill Rd, at 5:30 am, in one of our open, modified vehicles, to look for some of Panama’s most interesting nocturnal creatures. Allen’s Olingo, Kinkajou, Western Night Monkey, Common and Central American Woolly Opossum, Nine-banded and Northern Naked-tailed Armadillo, the endemic Rothschild´s Porcupine and the two species of Sloths, among some species of bats and nocturnal birds, such as owls and potoos. At 6:30 am we will have a full breakfast to get ready to visit world famous Pipeline Rd. This 17-km gravel road with eleven creeks is most famous for its four hundred plus bird species and is also a great place for mammals, including White-faced Capuchin, Mantled Howler, Central American Agouti, White-nosed Coati, Tayra and Collared Peccary. There have also been sightings of three species of cats, namely Jaguarundi, Ocelot and even, rarely, the Jaguar. We head back to the Canopy Tower for lunch at 12:30pm.

PM: Plantation Trail

At about 3 pm, we will drive down to the bottom of Semaphore Hill to the Plantation Road, which starts right by the entrance to the tower. It is a good, easy graded dirt road, passing through a mature forest for about four miles. The road follows a small creek, the Chico Masambi River. This trail, once a black topped road, has some incredible forest, including gigantic Wild Cashew, Ceibas, and Cuipo Trees that reach heights of more than 100 feet. During this walk there is the chance to find more Mantled Howlers, Geoffroy's Tamarins and White-faced Capuchins. There is also the probability of encountering a Northern Tamandua (Anteater). Then, we return to the Tower to enjoy the sunset and wait until nightfall to see the Great False Vampire Bat, the largest bat in the New World, foraging around the Tower. Dinner at Canopy Tower.

Day 4
Barro Colorado Island (BCI): ALL DAY

On our fourth day, after having breakfast at 6am, we will be driven to the town of Gamboa, located at about 7 miles from Canopy Tower. There, we will board a boat that will ferry us to Barro Colorado Island. BCI is a 1,500-hectare island, and together with five adjacent peninsulas, forms a very biodiverse 5400-hectare Natural Monument. BCI has been administrated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute since 1923. This Natural Monument located in the middle of the Panama Canal is home to more than 200 Researchers from all around the world. This island is considered the most studied area in the Neotropics. It houses a field station and modern labs, only open to researchers and tourists with a reservation. A great trail system is also available. BCI offers a great opportunity to see many mammals in a short period of time, including Brown-headed Spider Monkey, Tayra, Central American Agouti, Northern Tamandua, Mantled Howler, both species of Sloths, Geoffroy's Tamarins & White-nosed Coatis.
We leave the island around 3 pm, and we will be back to Canopy Tower by 4 pm. This will give us some time to take a rest before a delightful BBQ at 6:30 pm. As we mentioned before, nocturnal creatures are most active right before dusk, we will take this opportunity of an early dinner to do another ride down the Semaphore Hill at about 7:30 to try again to find any extra mammal that we could have missed on our first trip.

Day 5
AM: Boat Trip in the Gatun Lake

This morning after breakfast we board a 20 ft. boat with a 75 hp outboard motor, for a spectacular tour on the Panama Canal. Most of the Panama Canal is actually an artificial lake, Lake Gatun, and this tour will depart from Gamboa, just 15 minutes from the Canopy Tower. Along the way we will pass huge cargo ships and ocean liners and will also visit hidden coves and beautiful inlets with fascinating fauna and flora. We will also stop at one of the islands that was used by the now defunct Primate Research Center to look for Spider Monkeys, Mantled Howlers and White-faced Capuchins that remained on the island after the center closed. There is also a chance to see some interesting reptiles, including American Crocodile (some reach 14 or more feet in length) and its smaller relative, the Spectacled Caiman, Basilisk Lizard (Jesus Lizard) and Black River Turtle. A little scarcer, but not impossible, is the Neotropical River Otter and, if we are really lucky, a Manatee. This species was introduced to the Panama Canal in the 1960s to control the growth of water weeds, and they have adjusted very well to this habitat. There is also a Tiny Proboscis Bat roost here we will probably see! We are scheduled to be back at the Canopy Tower by noon to enjoy lunch.

PM: Panama Rain Forest Discovery Center

This afternoon there will be a longer break after lunch, and we leave to the Discovery Center at about 4 PM. Our plan for this evening is to bring a picnic dinner, so we can stay until nightfall to have another opportunity to look for nocturnal creatures as we work our way back to Canopy Tower. The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center is an ecotourism and environmental education facility created and administrated by Fundacion Avifauna Eugene Eisenmann-on Pipeline Road. It is located in the tropical forests surrounding the Panama Canal, adjacent to Soberania National Park. 70% of the materials used in the construction of this facility were recycled from old Canal Zone houses. At only 200 yards from the main building, there is an observation tower reaching a height of 100 feet from the forest floor. From this vantage, we scan the tree tops for mammals and hawks! The road leading to the center is well known for sightings of Ocelot, Jaguarundi, Collared Peccaries, Gray Fox, Paca, Western Night Monkey, White-tailed Deer, Silky Anteater and Capybara.

Day 6
AM: Metropolitan Natural Park

After breakfast, we head to Metro Park, located right next to Panama City, and only 25 minutes from the Canopy Tower. The forests of the Metropolitan Natural Park are much drier than those around Pipeline or Plantation Roads. This park is also a great place for bird migration (September through October). There is a wonderful over-look at the summit of a hill, which will give you an incredible perspective of Panama City, the scenic bay and some of the closer islands. One of the most common residents are Geoffroy´s Tamarin and Variegated and Red-tailed Squirrels. Northern Tamandua is also a possibility.

PM: Panama Canal Miraflores Locks Museum

On the last afternoon at Canopy tower, after lunch at about 2:30pm, as part of the things you most see when you visit Panama, we visit the eighth wonder of the engineering history, the world famous Panama Canal. There are four exhibition halls at this ultra-modern museum, which includes historic artifacts used in the construction of the Canal, interactive modules, video presentations, models of the Panama Canal, and objects used in Canal operations. Models of the biota collected during the construction are also on display. We also have a chance to see huge cargo ships negotiate the tight-fitting locks! At 5 PM we head back to the Tower for Happy Hour and then dinner!

Day 7
Fort San Lorenzo, Caribbean Coast ALL DAY

Today after an early breakfast, we will drive to the Caribbean side of Panama, only 1 ½ hours from Panama City, over a newly constructed four-lane highway. The purpose of this day's tour will be to look for mammals at San Lorenzo Forest Preserve and to enjoy a picnic-style lunch. This area was the site of the US Army Jungle Training School, and is also known as Fort Sherman. San Lorenzo National Park is known for the abundance of Mantled Howlers, White-faced Capuchins and Sloths. Some other elusive animals, such as Jaguarundi and Western Night Monkeys are often seen. Occasionally, visitors are surprised by a herd of Collared Peccaries crossing the road. Also, a White-tailed Deer may jump out of the woods and across the road. There is also the added benefit of visiting the old Spanish fortress of San Lorenzo, a World Heritage Site, built on a promontory at the entrance of the Chagres River. This fort was the last bastion of the Spanish Empire on mainland America and was abandoned by the Spanish in 1821. In addition, to get to this area, we have to cross the Panama Canal, which gives us a unique view of the locks from below. Dinner at the Tower.

Day 8
AM: Canopy Tower / PM: Transfer to Canopy Lodge

This morning, after a relaxed breakfast and a last look from the Observation Deck, we will be transferred to the Canopy Lodge, in El Valle de Anton, in the foothills of Central Panama, about 2 hours west of the Canopy Tower. El Valle is located in the crater of a gigantic volcano that erupted 3.5 million years ago. It is the largest inhabited caldera in the world. The volcano has been dormant for many, many years, but there are mud baths and thermal pools in certain areas of the caldera. Both the Canopy Lodge and the town where it is located are just delightful. When you arrive at the Lodge, it is usually hard to get to your room since visitors are hypnotized by the several colorful tanagers visiting the feeders-- not to mention the very pleasant temperature. The altitude here is about 700 meters above sea level.
After having lunch and looking at the bird feeders or after our recommended siesta, we will take a walk on some of the trails near the Lodge, and this will include a visit to a 120 ft high waterfall. Then we come back to the lodge in time for “happy hour” and dinner.
What a great place to catch up on some of the mammals we may have missed at the Tower and to get some other foothill specialties. Some of the animals often seen in this area are Gray, Four-eyed, Virginia and Water Opossum, Western Pygmy Squirrel, Rothschild´s Porcupine, Orange Nectar Bat (They come to the hummingbird feeders at night!), Western Night Monkeys, Tayra, Neotropical River Otter, Striped Hog-nosed Skunk, Ocelot, Jaguarundi, Greater Grison, Collared Peccary and White-tailed Deer.

Day 9
El Valle's foothills mammals

After being awakened by the morning chorus of birds and having breakfast, we will go out again in search of any other animal that is still missing on our list. This time we will visit two places, the first one is Cerro Gaital, within the protected area of Cerro Gaital Natural Monument, located at about 5 miles from the Lodge. From the top of this mountain you will be able to appreciate the extent of the caldera and see the Pacific Ocean (if clear that day), beyond the rim of the crater. We will have lunch back in the Canopy Lodge and afterwards we will visit La Zamia Trail at the base of the Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. This is an easy, level trail in which the rare Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo has been seen occasionally. We will also visit the El Valle Amphibian Rescue Center. This installation is an effort of the Houston Zoo and local conservationists, to quarantine treat ailing frogs and are also doing captive breeding of the most endangered species. The central exhibit showcases the golden frog, a cultural icon and a national symbol for wildlife conservation in Panama. Dinner at Canopy Lodge.

Day 10

After breakfast we depart to the International Airport, with memories of the many species of mammals seen and photographed!

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