Tropical environments and ecosystems are extremely diverse in comparison to their temperate counterparts. Panama encompasses many distinct biomes and ecosystems, teeming with plant and animal life. Location, elevation and climate influence these environments and the plants and animals within, all part of an intricate and delicate web of interactions. When you first step into a tropical forest, you may be overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and smells around you. From the towering canopy above to the soil beneath your feet, there is life lurking in every nook and cranny.
The Canopy Family is excited to offer a special Tropical Rainforest Biodiversity tour, featuring guest scientists Dr. Howard Topoff and Dr. Carol Simon, formerly of the City University of New York and the American Museum of Natural History, as they bring their expertise on tropical environments and biodiversity to us! We will spend our time exploring the forests in search of birds, mammals, frogs, insects and fascinating trees and plants, and almost every day there will be an informative and entertaining presentation on a wide variety of tropical biodiversity topics. Lodging will be at the world-famous Canopy Tower, surrounded by the lowland tropical forests of Soberania National Park, and the Canopy Lodge, in the picturesque foothills of El Valle de Antón, both perfect locations for exploring tropical ecosystems.
The Introduction to Tropical Biodiversity special eight-night tour will run October 1–9, 2022, with a minimum of six people.
Rate for this special tour: $2,950.00
(Contact us for 2023 rates)
Rate is US$ per person (+ taxes), double occupancy. This all-inclusive rainforest tour includes lodging and meals at the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge, bilingual professional guides, wine with dinner, airport transfers to and from Panama City and all tours and presentations as per the itinerary. Please check with our reservations office for the times of our scheduled airport transfers to coordinate your arrival and departure times.
This tour does not include taxes, flights to and from Panama City, private airport transfers, tips and alcoholic beverages (apart from dinner).
To book this special nature package, please contact us. Spaces are limited so book your spot now!
Day 1 – October 1, 2022
Welcome to your Introduction to Tropical Biodiversity Tour!
You will be met at the airport and transferred to the Canopy Tower, just a 45-minute drive from Panama City to the lush lowland rainforests along the Panama Canal. As you enjoy a cold drink, we suggest you make your way up to the observation deck overlooking the vast forest canopy of Soberania National Park. The great raptor migration is underway at this time of year, consisting of huge numbers of Turkey Vultures and Swainson’s Hawks, with a mix of at least twenty other species. On a single day in 2014, it was estimated that two million raptors passed over the narrow Isthmus of Panama. Raptors conserve energy during their long migrations by riding warm columns of air that form only over land. Therefore the migrating birds are forced together over the Isthmus and easily seen.
From the observation deck you can also view many stunning tropical birds, mammals and reptiles. It is common to see Geoffroy’s Tamarins, Mantled Howlers, Brown-throated Three-toed Sloths and Green Iguanas in the rainforest canopy. Green-and-Black Dart Poison Frogs have been seen just outside the front doors of the Tower, along with mating Turnip-tailed Geckos. Tungara Frogs call loudly there and you can often find their foam nests nearby. It is an exciting place to stay.
Before dinner you will meet your Canopy guide and guest scientists. During cocktails you can enjoy the first of Carol and Howard’s many multimedia presentations, entitled “Introduction to Tropical Rainforests.” Get ready for a great week!
DINNER AT CANOPY TOWER.
Day 2 – October 2, 2022
AM: Plantation Road (5 minutes from Canopy Tower)
As we awaken to the roars of Mantled Howlers in the distance, breathe in the fresh air and make your way up to the observation deck at dawn. This is the best time of day to observe the canopy, both for the beautiful sunrise and for the bird activity. With warm coffee or tea in hand, we watch for Red-lored and Mealy Parrots, Keel-billed Toucans, Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, Masked Tityras, Green Honeycreepers, Green Shrike-Vireos and dozens of other species as they actively communicate and feed in the treetops. After breakfast, we board one of the Canopy Tower’s specialized nature-watching vehicles and head slowly down Semaphore Hill Road, scanning the understory of the forest for animals such as the Central American Agouti and White-nosed Coati. This morning we take an introductory walk along Plantation Road, one of the trails of Soberania National Park. The Canopy Tower is surrounded by 22,000 hectares of lowland tropical rainforest of Soberania National Park, adjacent to the Panama Canal and mighty Chagres River. It is the perfect setting for our first morning. Walking through the forest with its towering forest giants (Ceiba and Cuipo trees), we will spend the morning searching for animals from tiny leafcutter ants on the ground to large raptors in the treetops. Broad-billed Motmots, White-whiskered Puffbirds, Gartered Trogons, South American Common Toads, Northern Tamanduas and so much more can be found along this trail. The rainforest is so full of life! After our morning walk we return to the Canopy Tower in time for lunch.
BREAKFAST AND LUNCH AT CANOPY TOWER.
PM: Summit Gardens & Harpy Eagle Exhibit (10 minutes from Canopy Tower)
This afternoon we visit the Summit Municipal Park and Botanical Gardens. Roaming freely we can find Central American Agoutis, Central American Ameivas, Laughing Falcons, Tropical Mockingbirds, Crimson-backed Tanagers and hundreds of other species of bird. We also visit some of the enclosures housing Panama’s native fauna. In the 1960s, Summit Botanical Gardens started receiving injured and non-releasable animals from all over Panama. Now, this facility houses over 100 animals including macaws, spider monkeys, tapirs, jaguar, puma and Panama’s national bird, the Harpy Eagle. We will make a stop to visit a non-releasable Harpy Eagle living at this wildlife refuge. It is a great opportunity to see some species that are rather difficult to encounter in the wild in Panama.
Back at the Canopy Tower, we will meet at the cocktail hour for Howard and Carol’s early evening presentation. Almost every day our guest scientists will choose a talk that fits the day, depending upon what was seen and participant interests. Possible topics include primates, social insects, reptiles and amphibians, tropical botany, animal coloration, animal communication, butterflies, the Panama Canal and bird brains. Our scientists wish they could give them all (it is their goal to give eight!) but after all we do want to spend significant amounts of time in the field! Carol and Howard are with us ALL the time, however, and a LOT of information is transmitted informally. For dinner we can expect an enjoyable blend of Panamanian and international fare!
DINNER AT CANOPY TOWER.
After dinner we will take a short night excursion, riding in one of the open vehicles. We will listen for owls and potoos and scan the trees with a spotlight for Western Night Monkeys, Kinkajous, Olingos and other nocturnal wildlife. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, we’ll reschedule for another evening.
Day 3 – October 3, 2022
AM: Pipeline Road (20 minutes from Canopy Tower)
After some time on the observation deck, head down to a hot breakfast at the Canopy Tower’s third floor dining room, surrounded by the forest canopy just outside the open windows. We will board our vehicle once again and head out to the world-famous Pipeline Road — once an access road built during WWII to serve a pipeline installed as a precautionary measure for the Panama Canal. Surrounded by mature secondary lowland forest and protected within the boundaries of Soberania National Park, Pipeline Road boasts incredible biodiversity—over 500 species of birds have been recorded in these Caribbean slope forests, as well as hundreds of mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and even more insects and trees and other plants. As we walk the first part of the gravel road, we will watch for five species of trogon, Whooping and Rufous Motmots, Cinnamon and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, three species of manakin, hummingbirds, raptors, peccaries, lizards, frogs, butterflies, insects and more. It is hard to decide whether to look up or down! We hope to come across a swarm of army ants, where many species of birds attend the feeding frenzy! Howard is an army ant specialist, and we can look forward to his very entertaining talk on social insects. Central American Whiptails and Striped Rocket Frogs may be seen along the road. Our list from the morning alone will no doubt be extensive! After a full morning in this superb forest, we will make our way back to the CANOPY TOWER for LUNCH.
PM: BioMuseo (30 minutes from Canopy Tower)
This afternoon we will visit the stunning BioMuseo along the Amador Causeway in Panama City. This spectacular and unique building, designed by renowned 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! And don’t forget your binoculars, as we may see Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds flying over the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal.
Back at the Canopy Tower, we will meet in the lounge for cocktails and appetizers before dinner and if time permits Howard and Carol will choose a talk from their extensive repertoire.
DINNER AT CANOPY TOWER.
Day 4 – October 4, 2022
AM: Summit Ponds & Old Gamboa Road (10 minutes from Canopy Tower)
Once again we will start our morning on the observation deck before breakfast. It isn’t just the rich bird life that is of interest here. Often we can watch Geoffroy’s Tamarin and search for other primates as well. After breakfast we visit an excellent site just down the road from Canopy Tower, the Summit Ponds and Old Gamboa Road. Our first stop will be at the two forest lagoons. Birds abound, including Boat-billed Herons, Capped Herons and five species of kingfishers. American crocodiles, Black River Turtles, Common Basilisks and occasionally a Boa Constrictor are found here too.
Walking down the Old Gamboa Road we will scan the grassy edges and roadside trees for arriving migrants, as many species of raptors, warblers and flycatchers are passing though Panama at this time on their way to South America. Impressive groups of raptors especially are often seen in the skies over Panama. But it isn’t just birds that are of interest here. Leaf Cutter Ants, for example, are usually crossing the road. Howard’s social insect talk will amaze you when you see what is going on underground with these ants! Mammals are here too, and we may see Variegated Squirrel and White-nosed Coati.
BREAKFAST AND LUNCH AT CANOPY TOWER
PM: Chagres River and Gamboa Resort Grounds (15 minutes from Canopy Tower)
The Chagres River is the main tributary for the Panama Canal. Here Embera Indian Trails lead from the river, and we often see individuals fishing from their canoes. The birding along the banks and forest edges of Gamboa Resort can be spectacular. And so is the tropical vegetation. Here you may be “kissed” by Psychotria, commonly known as Hot Lips. And if you are fond of Panama hats, you will be interested to see the Toquilla Palm, whose leaves are woven to make your hat. There is a butterfly house and the Verbena shrubs around it attract dozens of species of butterflies, including Erato Longwing, Apricot Sulphur, Banded Peacock and Banded Orange. We may even find some bats, hiding out in the daytime. After a pleasant afternoon we will make our way back to Canopy Tower.
DINNER AT CANOPY TOWER
Day 5 – October 5, 2022
AM: Jungle Boat Tour (15 minutes from Canopy Tower)
As always, you can enjoy early morning hours on the observation deck where there will always be a bird guide with a scope. After breakfast, we board a small, covered boat for a spectacular 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 edges and inlets of this large lake. We start our tour by exploring the edges of the mighty Chagres River, where Common and Purple Gallinules, Rufescent Tiger-Herons, Amazon Kingfishers and Spectacled Caimans may be found. Along the way to Gatun Lake along the Panama Canal we pass huge cargo ships and ocean liners; American Crocodiles may be seen basking along the beaches and we should spot Common Basilisks, also known as Jesus Christ Lizards for their ability to run across the water. We will visit hidden coves and beautiful inlets with fascinating fauna and flora, and search for White-faced Capuchins, Mantled Howlers and Proboscis Bats along the water’s edge.
We should be back at the Tower with enough time for Carol and Howard to present their very informative talk about the building and running of the Panama Canal. You won’t want to miss this one!
BREAKFAST AND LUNCH AT CANOPY TOWER.
PM: Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal (20 minutes from Canopy Tower)
After lunch, we take our bags and bid farewell to the Canopy Tower, heading for the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal. The canal is an engineering marvel, truly one of the wonders of the modern world. The Miraflores Locks are the first set of locks on the Pacific side of the canal. They operate 24 hours a day and have changed very little since 1914 when the Panama Canal opened. Today over 14,000 ships and boats pass through the Canal annually. At the Miraflores Visitor Center we visit the four-floor museum and (hopefully) watch large container ships pass through the locks from an observation deck. After our visit to the locks, we continue to drive west along the Pan-American Highway, passing by Pacific dry forest and scrub fields, at times with great views of the Pacific Ocean! Along the way, we will keep our eyes open for Crested Caracara and other roadside birds.
We’ll arrive at the Canopy Lodge, just in time for dinner, noting the cool, fresh air and the moist tropical forests around us.
DINNER AT THE CANOPY LODGE.
Day 6 – October 6, 2022
AM: La Mesa and Las Minas Road (15 minutes from Canopy Lodge)
This morning early risers can enjoy checking out the feeders that are positioned near the outdoor dining area. There is an abundance of hummingbirds including Long-billed Starthroats, Violet-headed and Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteers, Garden Emeralds and Black-throated Mangos feeding at the verbena in the gardens. Thick-billed Euphonias, Dusky-face and Flame-rumped Tanagers, Rufous Motmots, Gray-headed Chachalacas and many others are commonly found at the banana feeders. Central American Agoutis also forage in the garden. A stream flows near the building and Common Basilisks bask on the rocks there every day. With a little patience you WILL see one run across the water.
After BREAKFAST AT THE LODGE, we continue our biodiversity tour along several roads, searching mainly for birds and insects. Las Minas Road follows a ridgeline, with sweeping vistas of forested mountains, speckled with grasslands and small fincas (farms). The views from the higher elevations are fantastic, and on a clear day near the summit, both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans can be seen! The road is lined with sensitive Mimosa, a plant that closes up quickly when touched. It is a great place to see some of the most beautiful tanagers, including Black-and-yellow, Bay-headed & Emerald, as well as many other birds. It is also a great place for butterflies, as many skipperlings, satyrs, ticlears, hairstreaks and clearwings flutter along the roadsides. We get back in time for LUNCH AT THE CANOPY LODGE.
PM: Cara Iguana Road (10 minutes from Canopy Lodge) and visit to Mario Urriola’s Reptile Facility
After lunch, we’ll meet again to drive to a nearby area where we are almost always successful in getting great views of Spectacled Owls. Next, we’ll head out to meet Mario Urriola, a native of El Valle who has extensive experience and knowledge about the reptiles of the area. Mario is the owner of “El Serpentario Maravillas Tropicales,” a reptile facility in El Valle, which houses various species of snakes and lizards that can be found in the area. Up-close looks at some of these difficult-to-find creatures will be paired with an informative narrative about local species. Mario is an important figure in the area for both education and conservation. Carol also has a strong interest in reptiles and amphibians and one of the presentations will focus on venomous species.
DINNER AT CANOPY LODGE.
Day 7 – October 7, 2022
Altos del Maria FULL DAY (40 minutes from Canopy Lodge)
Departing after an early BREAKFAST AT THE CANOPY LODGE, we’re off into the highlands of Altos del Maria! With the sunrise ahead of us, we will climb into the mountains along the Continental Divide east of El Valle. Often engulfed by the mist of the expansive cloud forest that surrounds the area, Altos del Maria sits at an altitude of 1,100 meters (3,600 feet). Today we can find highland forest birds, including Black-crowned and Streak-chested Antpittas, White Hawks, Barred Forest-Falcons, Northern Emerald and Yellow-eared Toucanets, Spotted Barbtails, Tufted and Sulphur-rumped Flycatchers, Rufous-browed Tyrannulets, Orange-bellied Trogons, and the tiny yet stunning Snowcap. We hope to see a tiny Western Pygmy Squirrel working away in the treetops. Plants will not be ignored and this is a good place to see the large white Sobralia orchids.
Carol’s favorite walk is here, on a paved path along a narrow, riparian canyon. After a PICNIC LUNCH IN THE FIELD, we return back to the Canopy Lodge by mid-afternoon. It should be a good evening for one of our presentations during cocktail hour.
DINNER AT CANOPY LODGE.
Day 8 – October 8, 2022
AM: Butterflies of Cerro Gaital (20 minutes from Canopy Lodge)
This morning, while birding (there is always a Canopy bird guide with us) and searching for other animals in the forest, such as the deep forest Dunn’s Spiny Lizard, we will take a close look at the fascinating world of butterflies and insects in Central America. The biodiversity of butterflies (and moths, their nocturnal counterparts) is incredible in tropical regions around the world, and Panama alone has over 1500 species! From the beautiful metallic blue of the large Blue Morpho, to the pretty little Passion Vine butterflies (Heliconius spp.), tropical butterflies always capture the attention. We will look for such eye-catching species as Mimosa Yellows, Deep-blue Eyed-Metalmarks, Sara Longwings, Orange Mapwings, Togarna Hairstreaks, Puerta Satyrs, Common Ur-Satyrs, Red-headed Firetips and the crepuscular Yellow-bordered and Giant Owl-Butterflies, roosting along the trails. Insight into the lives of butterflies – their life cycles, how they eat and various methods to evade predation – are just a few of the interesting topics we will explore!
LUNCH AT CANOPY LODGE.
PM: Artisan and fruit Market plus El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (10 and 15 minutes from the Canopy Lodge)
This afternoon, we visit the artisan and fruit market in the heart of El Valle de Anton. The market is run by Panamanian artisans from Guna Yala and sells beautiful “molas” – traditional handmade panels sewn by combining layers of fabric and showing geometric and animal designs, – as well as hand-painted wooden decorations, paintings and jewelry. The market in El Valle is very colorful, and a great place to take photos and purchase souvenirs before returning home.
Next, we will visit the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC), which began in 2006 in response to massive chytridiomycosis-related amphibian declines in the area. Here we can still see the iconic endemic Panamanian Golden Frog, which is extinct in the wild. This facility has not only successfully bred the Panamanian Golden Frog, but over 40 other amphibian species. Their main objective is to preserve and protect nine of the most endangered amphibian species in Panama.
Tonight is our farewell dinner, which will allow us to reflect upon our eight days together. We will have seen and heard a lot!
DINNER AT CANOPY LODGE.
Day 9 – October 9, 2022
Departure to the airport (3 hours from Canopy Lodge)
This morning participants are scheduled to leave in small groups so everyone gets to the airport in time for their flights. One last look around the grounds of the beautiful Canopy Lodge will stay with us for a very long time!
BREAKFAST AT THE CANOPY LODGE.
Please note that the itinerary for this Introduction to Biodiversity Tour may change without prior notice due to weather, alterations in habitat or other conditions.
The Canopy Tower is located in impressive rainforest atop Semaphore Hill within Soberanía National Park, 35 miles north of Panamá City in the Republic of Panamá right in the center of the New World— and just 2½ hours from Miami! It’s one of best locations for birding lodges in Panama.
El Valle de Antón In Coclé Province, home to both the Canopy Lodge and the Canopy Adventure, is an enchanting mountain valley town much cooler than the tropical lowlands. Surrounded by scenic misty mountains traversed by creeks, its true charm is revealed by its unhurried pace and its peaceful residents. Located just two hours from Panama City, El Valle is the perfect resting place for someone trying to escape traffic jams, office buildings, pollution and the pressures of everyday city life.