Join Our Panama Birdwatching Tour: December 2022

by Allen M. Hale • July 22, 2022

Trips and Trip Reports

December 2-12, 2022

Panama, about the size of South Carolina, is the land bridge between North and South America where the Continental Divide reaches its lowest point. These geographic features along with the country’s location, 7°- 10° north of the Equator, have resulted in an extremely rich avifauna of over 950 species. The steep and rugged ridges that form the Continental Divide have resulted in different species occurring on the Caribbean and Pacific slopes and changes in the avifauna from lowlands to highlands. Many species familiar to us in North America use Panama as a migratory corridor or spend the winter there.

Led by Allen Hale of Buteo Books on his 35th trip to the Isthmus, this 11-day trip will focus on bird watching in Panama’s two westernmost provinces, Bocas del Toro and Chiriquí, providing an opportunity to experience and enjoy very different environments on both sides of the Continental Divide as well as in between. Limiting the group to four participants plus trip leader and local guides, optimizes the enjoyment of the experience for everyone.

Following our first night in Panama City, we’ll take a domestic flight to David, Panama’s second city in the Pacific lowlands. Here we’ll collect our Toyota Fortuner (4Runner) and head over to the Caribbean side via the Fortuna Forest Reserve to Puerto Róbalo. From there we’ll go by boat across the bay passing several islands of the archipelago before arriving at Tranquilo Bay Eco Lodge on Bastamientos Island.

Our 4-night stay at Tranquilo Bay provides ample time to explore the forest trails around the lodge, take in the views from the observation tower, and swim and snorkel from the dock. Excursions by boat will take us to Isla Popa, Snyder’s Canal, and Swan’s Caye each offering a variety of species not found elsewhere in Panama: White-crownd Pigeon, Red-billed Tropicbird, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Snowy Cotinga, Montezuma Oropendola. The air-conditioned cabañas are tucked away on the property and offer comfort and privacy rarely found in the tropical lowlands of Panama. The lodge itself a great place to relax, watch the wildlife, and learn from the owners and guides.

Following our stay at Tranquilo Bay, it’s back to Puerto Róbalo to collect our Toyota and cross back over Continental Divide, skirt the slopes of Volcán Barú (Panama’s highest mountain) and make our way to Mount Totumas Bellbird Lodge on the slopes of the of the Cordillera de Talamanca. a mountain range shared by Costa Rica and Panama. The birdwatching in the foothills and at higher elevations of the Cordillera is highly rewarding with views of such iconic species as the Black Guan, Resplendent Quetzal, Three-wattled Bellbird, and Prong-billed Barbet. A four night stay at Mount Totumas Bellbird Lodge, remotely located at an elevation of 6300 feet, provides a spectacular setting for our introduction to the flora and fauna of the cloud forest of La Amistad International Park.

Accommodations are luxurious and the meals excellent in a setting that can only be described as a naturalist’s paradise. Trails from the lodge lead in many directions: up into the cloud forest, down to a cascading steam in the valley, or to the hummingbird deck nearby. We’ll return to Panama City for our final day and night prior to flights home.

Our pace will be relaxed, contributing greatly to the enjoyment of this unique experience. We will also have the opportunity to learn about Panama’s history, culture, and indigenous communities. Contact Allen via email at or by phone (434-760-1218) for a detailed itinerary and pricing.

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