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Easy access to some of the best birdwatching in Latin America draws many people to this small Central American country. Just outside the capital, the Radisson Summit Resort is close to the lowland rainforest of Soberiana National Park and the famous Pipeline Road. A couple of hours west, we will search for foothill species in the vicinity of the beautiful town of El Valle de Anton. A longer drive west will take us near to the border with Costa Rica. Here, the cloud forest cloaking Volcan Baru is home to abundant birdlife including the amazing Resplendent Quetzal.
All accommodation is of a high standard, food isexcellent and tap water is safe to drink. In addition to the abundant birdlife (we can expect more than 400 species), there are many mammals that can be seen, all with the help of our local guide. We will visit in the driest month. You should certainly think twice about visiting the rainforest in the wet season, which Panamanians euphemistically call the ‘green season’!
We will arrive at Panama City on the evening of day one and transfer straight to the Radisson Summit Resort for a five night stay. We then have three nights in El Valle, followed by two nights near Boquete and the last four nights near Volcan. On day 15, we will fly back from David to Panama City and connect with our evening flight home.
SOBERIANA AND CHAGRES NATIONAL PARKS
Arriving in the evening, we will transfer straight to the Radisson Summit Hotel for a stay of five nights. Here you are at the edge of the rainforest and yet you are just 20 minutes from the city!
On our first morning we will quickly forget about the journey of the day before. In the grounds there are numerous parrots, toucans and other colourful species that can be watched sitting out on exposed perches to get the benefit of the first warming rays of sun. Sloths and Capybaras can also be seen in the grounds.
The engineers who built the Panama Canal realised that it was vital to protect the surrounding forest. The trees regulate the flow of water and prevent the canal from silting up during the rainy season, while the system of locks relies on a steady supply of fresh water for its operation. The Soberiana National Park was created to protect this forest and the result is the best preserved and most accessible lowland rainforest in Central America. Access to the park is along Pipeline Road. We will go in search of Great Potoos, Purple-throated Fruitcrows, Black-breasted Puffbirds, Broad-billed Motmots, Golden-collared Manakins, Slaty-tailed Trogons and Cinnamon Woodpeckers. We will hope to come across an ant swarm, with its attendant birds which may include Spotted Antbird, Ocellated Antbird, Northern Barred Woodcreeper and Greater Ani. Many species are found here which do not occur in neighbouring Costa Rica.
We will visit wetlands in the area, where we have a chance of seeing Capped Heron, Rufescent Tiger-heron, Agami Heron, White-throated Crake, American Pygmy Kingfisher and Lesser Kiskadee.
A short drive from our hotel will take us to some dry forest at Chagres National Park where we can look for the common but secretive Rosy Thrush-tanager, as well as Lance-tailed Manakin, Rufous-and-white Wren, Crimson-backed Tanager and the endemic Yellow-green Tyrannulet. Various mammals are likely to be seen such as Two-toed and Three-toed Sloth, Geoffroy’s Tamarin, Agouti, Coati, Mantled Howler Monkey and Northern Tamandua. On one afternoon we can visit the Gatun Locks, and watch huge cargo ships passing through the canal with just inches to spare.
EL VALLE DE ANTON
Two hours west of Panama City, the pleasant town of El Valle nestles in the crater of a huge extinct volcano. At nearly 2000 feet above sea level, temperatures are pleasant and life is very relaxed. We will stay at the lovely Los Capitanes Resort, at the edge of town. Nearby trails take us in search of Red-crowned Ant-tanager, Rufous-capped Warbler, Chestnut-headed Oropendola and the elusive Tody Motmot.
The hills above El Valle are home to the wonderful Snowcap. Males of this tiny hummingbird are superb, with deep purple bodies and gleaming white caps. This is also a great place to search for Orange-bellied Trogon, White Hawk, Blue-throated Toucanet, Brown-billed Scythebill, Tufted Flycatcher and Silver-throated Tanager.
On day nine we will leave El Valle and drive to Boquete, birdwatching en route. Our first stop is Aguadulce, an area of lagoons and salt pans on the Pacific coast. We will look for Common Black Hawk and Mangrove Yellow Warbler, as well as a variety of waders including Black-necked Stilt, Southern Lapwing, Collared Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper. We will check dry areas for Yellow-headed Caracara, Fork-tailed Flycatcher and even Aplomado Falcon. Our final stop is at Las Lajas, where we have a good chance of finding the endemic Veraguan Mango. We will then continue on to the lovely Panamonte Inn, for a two night stay.
The Panamonte Inn is a beautiful old fashioned hotel with lovely gardens. The accommodation and food are superb. It is close to Los Quetzales Trail where we can see Three-wattled Bellbird, Sulphur-winged Parakeets, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird and even our first chance of Resplendent Quetzal. The next day we will head to Volcan for our final four nights.
At 11411 feet above sea level, the dormant Volcan Baru dominates the western province of Chiriqui. Closely reminiscent of the Costa Rican highlands, many species of bird are found only in this region. Four nights at the excellent Casa Grande Resort will give us a great opportunity to explore the cloud forest which cloaks this mountain.
We will find a new range of birds here including Dusky Nightjar, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Red-headed Barbet, Ruddy Treerunner, Buffy Tufted-cheek, Flame-throated Warbler, Collared Whitestart, Black-cheeked Warbler, Sooty-capped Bush-tanager and Yellow-thighed Finch. The forest resounds to the hauntingly beautiful songs of Black-faced Solitaires and Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrushes. We also have a great chance of seeing the world’s most beautiful bird, the Resplendent Quetzal. Hummingbirds are a feature of this mountain. White-throated Mountain-gem, Magnificent Hummingbird, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Scintillant Hummingbird and Volcano Hummingbird are all likely.
At a nearby farm, shade-grown coffee plantations have plenty of large trees in which numerous birds can be found. The highlight is the Turquoise Cotinga, which can be seen alongside Flame-coloured Tanager, Cherrie’s Tanager and Elegant Euphonia. Migrant warblers from North America are found in good numbers: Golden-winged, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Chestnut-sided, Tennessee and Mourning Warblers are all easier to see here than on their breeding grounds.
On day 15, we will drive the short distance down to David, then take a morning flight back to Panama City. We will have lunch at a small hotel in Cerro Azul, in the hills above the airport, and spend the afternoon birding and relaxing in the relative cool of this lovely spot. We will have day-use of a couple of rooms, and you can shower and re-pack at your leisure. It is then just a short drive down to the airport, allowing plenty of time to catch our flight home.
Most days we will make an early start but have a siesta in the afternoon, when the temperature is at its highest and the birds are rather quiet. The birding sites are close to the hotels, so with the exception of the transfer days, travelling is kept to a minimum. Basic fitness is all that is required and the pace will be relaxed. There is some uphill walking, but at a sensible pace.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full-board accommodation is provided, with five nights at the Radisson Summit Hotel near Gamboa, three nights at Los Capitanes in El Valle, two nights at Panamonte Inn, Boquete and four nights at the Casa Grande near Volcan. All accommodation is of a high standard with private facilities en suite. Lunches will sometimes be packed and other times be at the hotels.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 8th, ending with lunch on 22nd), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, park entrance fees, one domestic flight, international flights and airport taxes.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Items of a personal nature, alcoholic drinks, tips, laundry.
Return flights from most UK airports to Panama City (via Amsterdam) using the scheduled services of KLM. Outbound flight departs early morning, return flight arrives back late afternoon.
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