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Panama hosts a diverse palette of flora and fauna including 975-plus bird species, including 107 regional endemics, and more than 230 mammal species, amphibians, and butterflies.

Panama is not just a canal. Yes, there is an amazing one—the crossroads between two worlds—but there is so much more to the country of Panama! The natural history of the Isthmus of Panama has had a profound impact on Earth, from the formation of the Gulf Stream, to climatic events in Africa, Europe, and the Polar North. Situated perfectly between two continents, Panama, with its warm tropical climate and extraordinary geographic features, is bestowed with an abundance of habitats, a profusion of regional endemics and unrivaled biodiversity.

Tranquilo Bay, main lodge entry. Photo courtesy of Tranquilo Bay.

Tranquilo Bay, main lodge entry. Photo courtesy of Tranquilo Bay.

Our Panama Reader Rendezvous will begin at Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge in the epicenter of national parks and protected reserves on Bastimento Island, just off Panama’s northeastern coast. Tranquilo is surrounded by Panama’s highest concentration of important bird areas. This advantageous position enables an efficient use of the archipelago’s protected waters to reach otherwise inaccessible wildlife areas on the mainland and islands by boat. We will be traveling via boat for numerous short excursions each day. The lodge resides on 200-forested acres covering three distinct ecosystems. The main lodge’s veranda, private cabanas, and canopy observation tower provide elevated decks for a bird’s-eye view of the wildlife found here. Several miles of hiking trails, in addition to the lodge’s grounds, often provide encounters with two- and three-toed sloths, white-faced capuchin and Panamanian night monkeys, nine-banded armadillo, spectacled caiman, Central American woolly opossum, gray four-eyed opossum, northern tamandua, greater white-lined bats, kettles of migrating raptors, three-wattled bellbird, golden-collard manakin (several leks), and hummingbird bathing pools.

While we’re there we can take advantage of the warm Caribbean Sea just off the dock, where vibrant coral reefs encompass a garden rich in hard and soft corals, as well as, a brilliant kaleidoscope of tropical fish and invertebrates. We will be stationed here for the first six days of our trip. Destinations include The Chocolate Farm, Tranquilo Bay Canopy Observation Tower, San San Pond Sak Wetlands, Changuinola River Valley, Isla Popa, and the Palo Seco Protection Forest.

Canopy Tower, observation deck. Photo by Canopy Family.

Canopy Tower, observation deck. Photo by Canopy Family.

We will be at Canopy Tower for the last few days of our trip. If you aren’t familiar with it, Canopy Tower has a fascinating history and was formerly not known as one of the best birding destinations in the world. The facility was built in 1965 by the United States Air Force to house a powerful radar station used to defend the Panama Canal. In 1988, it was activated to detect airplanes carrying drugs from South America. By 1997, the government of Panama signed a long-term contract to transform the site into a center for Neotropical rainforest observation and ecotourism in Panama. We will be birding from the unique and legendary Canopy Tower Observation Deck as well as taking trips to Pipeline Road (the best place in Central Panama to find forest birds and one of the premier birding spots in Latin America) and the Ammo Dump Ponds and environs.

We will be lead by top-flight birding guides in both locations augmented by a BWD staff member or two.

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What to Expect

The tropical climate of Panama can vary tremendously, but temperatures average 86 degrees F during the day and 73 degrees at night, with consistent humidity around 82 percent. The cloud forest in the highlands can be much cooler, and rain showers are expected but rarely spoil an outing.

Participants should be reasonably fit and mobile. Our itinerary includes hiking on varied trail conditions and extended times on foot while birding. We will be taking a small boat to birding spots each day at Tranquilo Bay, so participants must be able to easily get in and out of small craft. Both the Tranquilo Bay Eco Lodge and Canopy Tower have stairs (not elevators). All hikes and outings are optional; there are many activities to do at the lodges should a participant choose to stay behind from an offsite tour.

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