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. Birds with South American affinities are found in the Darien near Colombia, while 500 miles to the west near Costa Rica, many species are characteristic of the Central American highlands. 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. Panama is also a major migratory corridor.

Led by Allen Hale of Buteo Books, this nine day trip to the Chiriquí Province of western Panama will include visits to several sites on the Cordillera de Talamanca, a mountain range along the continental divide 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. The Mount Totumas property, purchased by the Dietrich family in 2008, has been a work in progress for the past twelve years. Accommodations are luxurious with excellent meals, and a setting that can only be described as a naturalist’s dream. 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.

On our descent from Mount Totumas, we’ll have an opportunity to stop at several locations to observe the changes in avifauna as we pass through many life zones. Our base for the final two nights in Chiriqui will be at the Hotel Dos Rios in Volcán, This will provide us with access to Amistad International Park from the Cerro Punta side. Also, we’ll hike to a pass in Volcán Barú National Park and visit the lakes near Volcán. We’ll visit the Macho de Monte canyon and Birding Paradise for an opportunity to see many foothill species not found at higher elevations. And, on our way to the airport in David for our return flight to Panama City, we’ll wander the Pacific lowlands in search of raptors, wading birds, shorebirds, and waterfowl.

Our pace will be relaxed with an opportunity to learn about Panama’s history and culture. Each day will provide you with options for choosing different hikes or just soaking in the incredible landscapes of the highlands of western Panama. The flora and fauna of this tropical region of Central America are diverse and accessible. The places we stay on this trip offer exceptional quality and comfort contributing greatly to this unique experience.

Due to space limitations in our 4WD vehicle, our group will be limited to 4 participants. Cost for this 9-day trip is $2,500 per person, double occupancy, and includes airfare and ground transportation in Panama, lodging, meals, entrance fees, and guide services. A single supplement may be required. Not included are international airfare, alcoholic beverages, and items of a personal nature. Contact Allen Hale at Buteo Books (434) 263-8671, at home (434) 263-4842 or cellular (434) 760-1218 for further information and to reserve your spot on this unique tour. Two departures are planned for the 2020 dry season, early February 8th and April 18th.

Allen Hale, your trip leader and guide, has made 29 trips to Panama since 1998. He has travelled from one end of the country to the other and has had the benefit of learning about Panama’s history, culture, and wildlife from many individuals and sources.

Detailed, day-by-day itinterary available upon request.

Updated: September 14, 2019

See Allen Hale's report on his previous trip to Nusagandi.

and details of his previous trip to Gamboa and eastern Panama.

Read about his trip to Machu Picchu, Peru.