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Darién Lowlands
September 3 - 8, 2017
                             With Diego Calderon

Trip Cost & Travel Planning>     Registration >
Contact to reserve your space!

2016 Report (pdf)>      2016 Species List (pdf)>

Photo: Harpy Eagle.  Darien Lowlands.  Seen during Sunrise Birding's 2016 Canopy Camp Special! Photo by Luke Tiller.

Read what clients said about our 2015 trip>    2015 Report (pdf)>   2015 Species List(pdf)>

Golden-collared Manakin. Photo by Gina Nichol. The Darién Province in eastern Panama has long been regarded as one of the most diverse and species-rich regions in all of Central America playing host to both Central American birds as well as South American species at the northern limit of their range. Renowned for rare and endemics species, access to this area has been limited but now with a new road and the fantastic new Canopy Camp opened in 2013, birders can enjoy the avian specialties of this rich area in comfort.

Of course the latest news is the discovery of not one but three Harpy Eagle nests in the Darien Lowlands. Now it is possible to visit a Harpy Eagle nest site from Canopy Camp and our group did just that in September 2016.  We were the first group to do so!  Our trip report tells the story>  The young should still be in or around the nest in September 2017 so a trip to see this spectacular bird will definitely be part of our itinerary! 


Barred Puffbird (Photo by Gina Nichol)Built in a shaded clearing adjacent to the tall forests and hills of La Reserva Natural Filo del Tallo, the Canopy Camp incorporates the custom of Panama’s Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge offering the combination of comfortable accommodation, superb food and hospitality, and fabulous birding. The “camp” features a small number of permanent, well appointed, safari-type tents on raised metal platforms with wood decking and private baths positioned right on the doorstep of fabulous avian offerings of the Darién lowlands including 25 species restricted to eastern Panama. The habitats here house so many species and emphasis will be given to indigenous birds special to the Darién lowlands.

Some of the birds possible to see at the Camp and in the surrounding areas include Golden-collared Manakin (Top photo by Gina Nichol), Barred Puffbird (Left photo by Gina Nichol), Black Antshrike, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Spectacled Parrotlet, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Beautiful Treerunner, Green-naped Tanager; Sooty-headed Wren, White-headed Wren, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Red-throated Caracara, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Dusky-backed Jacamar, Double-banded Graytail, Viridian Dacnis, Black Oropendola, and the stunning Orange-crowned Oriole to name a few.

CANOPY CAMP & ACCOMMODATIONS:The newly constructed Canopy Camp has seven luxury African safari-style tents. This includes two Tent Suites and five Standard tents. Inside, the tents have a wood floor and screened windows with zip openings so they can close partially or completely. All of the tents have adjacent but private bathroom facilities including shower, sink, and flush toilet. Both Tent Suites, one of which has a queen bed while the other has two twin beds, have more space than a standard tent.

The Camp’s central building has a dining room, kitchen, and library (with a charging station for batteries, laptops, cameras, etc.), and a terrace overlooking the forest. Energy is provided by solar panels plus propane in the kitchen.


Canopy Camp
Photo above: Canopy Camp "Tent".  Photo by Gina Nichol.

Trip Cost & Travel Planning>      Registration Form>      

ITINERARY (Subject to change depending upon weather and birds!)

Day 1: Arrive Panama City. Night Hotel Riande
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Photo by Gina Nichol)Today you will be arriving to Central America’s southernmost country! Plan on arriving at Tocumen Airport in Panama City (Airport code: PTY). On arrival, you will take the hotel’s free airport shuttle to the Riande Aeropuerto Hotel near Tocumen Airport. There will be a room reserved in your name. Check-in time starts at 3 PM. If there is still daylight, you can look for the birds in the grounds of the hotel. Great-tailed Grackle, Clay-colored Thrush, Variable Seedeater, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-gray Tanager, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Photo by Gina Nichol) are among the possibilities here in the gardens. For those arriving in time, we will meet for dinner and welcome to Panama. Night Riande Aeropuerto Hotel. The tour will start the following day, bright and early.


Day 2: Bayano Region, Travel to Canopy Camp
This morning we will meet in the hotel restaurant for an early breakfast at 5 am. After breakfast, we will pack our van and depart for eastern Panama at 5:30 am. The journey to our final destination is approximately 5 hours, but we will make stops along the way for birding.

As we drive east along the Pan-American Highway, we will scan for roadside birds and open-field raptors including Savanna Hawk and Crested Caracara. We will stop at the bridge at Lake Bayano, Panama’s second largest lake. This reservoir supports great amounts of water birds, including a large colony of Neotropic Cormorants, as well as Anhinga, Cocoi Heron and the rare Bare-throated Tiger-Heron. We will scan the water’s edge for Snowy-bellied Hummingbird (Photo by Gina Nichol)Purple Gallinule, Pied Water-Tyrant, Smooth-billed Ani and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater. A short trail leading from the water’s edge is a great place to search for Black Antshrike, Bare-crowned Antbird, Rufous-winged Antwren and Golden-collared Manakin.

Continuing on, we will make a stop at the Río Mono Bridge, where the surrounding forest is home to One-colored Becard, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Blue Cotinga, Pied Puffbird, Orange-crowned Oriole, Blue Ground-Dove and more.  We'll have a delicious lunch in the village of Torti at a restaurant that also hosts hummingbirds at their feeders including Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Long-billed Starthroat, Black-throated Mango, and Snowy-bellied Hummingbird (Photo by Gina Nichol). After lunch we will continue east to Canopy Camp Darien, and arrive before daylight fades so we can settle into our tents and get acquainted with the setting. After a delicious dinner of fresh American and Panamanian fare, we will gather to have a meeting about the days to come, and settle into our tents for the night.


Days 3-5:
Spot-crowned Barbet from the deck of Tent 8. Photo by Gina Nichol.We will have three full days to bird the Canopy Camp and surroundings. Our itinerary will remain flexible depending on the weather and birds, so we can enjoy the best birding that the Darien lowlands has to offer.  Mornings we will be up early for coffee and to enjoy the birds around the camp. Breakfast will be at 7:30 AM followed by our morning excursions. As time permits, there will be a mid-day break after lunch we can enjoy the hummingbirds and other species around the camp, dip our feet in the rocky stream or have a siesta. Later in the afternoon, around 3 or 3:30 pm we will meet again for another birding excursion. After dinner we will review our checklist, tallying our sightings for the day and reviewing the plans for the next day. Those that still have energy can look for owls, including Striped, Barn, Black-and-white, Mottled, and Crested Owls as well as Common and Great Potoos and likely some nocturnal mammals.  We'll have at least one organized night of owling.

Spot-crowned Barbet from the deck of Tent 8

(Photo by Gina Nichol)

(Mostly half days with lunch back at Canopy Camp though a picnic is possible):

Canopy Camp & Trails
Keel-billed Toucans (Photo by Gina Nichol) The Canopy Camp grounds and forested trails around the Camp offer great birding. Yellow-throated (formerly, Chestnut-mandibled and Black-mandibled) Toucans and Keel-billed Toucans (Photo by Gina Nichol) call from the towering Cuipo trees; Red-lored and Mealy parrots fly overhead; White-bellied Antbird, Bright-rumped Attila, White-headed Wren and Golden-headed Manakin sing from the surrounding forests.  Golden-collared Manakins lek along Nando's Trail while Pale-bellied Hermit and Sapphire-throated Hummingbird visit the flowers around camp. Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Barred Puffbird are also seen frequently around the camps. We will work our way into the forest on “Nando’s Trail,” in hopes of finding Double-banded Graytail, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Royal Flycatcher and Russet-winged Schiffornis. Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Plumbeous Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk are also possible.

Gray-cheeked Nunlet (Photo by Gina Nichol)Canopy Camp Access Road
The Access Road to the camp also offers great birding and also leads to an open garden area with large vervain bushes that attract Blue-throated Goldentail, Black-throated Mango, Blue-chested, Rufous-tailed and Violet-bellied hummingbirds feeding late in the afternoon. Birding along the road can produce Tiny Hawk, Black Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Cinnamon Becard and Black-tailed Trogon. We will also be looking for Red-throated Caracara, King Vulture and Zone-tailed and Short-tailed hawk overhead in the clearings. We will scan the roadsides for Striped Cuckoo, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Black-crowned Tityra, Spot-crowned Barbet, Smooth-billed Ani, and Ruddy Ground-Dove.


El Salto Road (40 minutes from Canopy Camp)
El Salto Road extends 6 km north from the Pan-American Highway and ends at the mighty Río Chucunaque. This open road and surrounding dry forest is a great place to search for regional specialties including Gray-cheeked Nunlet (Above photo by Gina Nichol), Golden-green Woodpecker, Double-banded Graytail, Blue-and-gold and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Black and Crested Oropendolas, Blue Cotinga, White-eared Conebill, Black-breasted Puffbird, Orange-crowned Oriole and the majestic King Vulture. A trail at the end of the road will take us into low-canopy forest, where we hope to find Bare-crowned Antbird, Pale-bellied Hermit, Olivaceous Piculet, Streak-headed Woodcreeper and Forest Elaenia.


Las Lagunas Road (30 minutes from Canopy Camp)
Las Lagunas Road extends 12 km south off the Pan-American Highway through open farmland, dry scrub and roadside habitat. The road eventually crosses a small stream and ends at small ponds. Along the roadsides, we hope to find Red-breasted Blackbird, Spot-breasted Woodpecker (Left photo by Gina Nichol), Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, White-headed Wren, Smooth-billed and Greater Ani, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Southern Lapwing, Blue-headed Parrot, Striped Cuckoo, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Ringed and Amazon kingfishers, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Buff-breasted Wren, Bananaquit, Giant and Shiny Cowbirds, Crested Oropendola, Laughing Falcon and Aplomado Falcon. If we’re lucky, we may get a glimpse of a Chestnut-fronted Macaw or a shy Little Cuckoo, both having been seen along this road.

Nueva Vigia Village
Piraguas (Photo by Gina Nichol)Today we have a very special day of birding by boat along the Chucunaque and Tuira Rivers, deep in the heart of Darién. Bordered by extensive lowland forest, the river offers shrub, grass, mudflats (depending on the water level) against the backdrop of larger trees with plenty of birds to see. We will use large Piraguas (Photo by Gina Nichol) which are locally-made dugout canoes with quiet motors to cruise the rivers looking for Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Cocoi and Capped Herons, White Ibis, Green Ibis, Pied Water-Tyrant, crested and Black oropendolas. Specialties here include Spectacled Parrotlet, Dusky-backed Jacamar, Large-billed Seed-Finch, Black-capped Donacobius and more!

We will land in a spot where Nando, one of the Canopy Camp guides, found Dusky-backed Jacamar in early 2014. We'll spend some time looking for this range restricted species and then walk through the forest and hope to find Bare-crowned and White-bellied Antbird, Black-tailed Trogon and Black-bellied Wren. The trail leads to two ponds that hold more specialties for us. In 2015 we found Black-collared Hawk, Agami Heron and Green-and-rufous Kingfisher at the ponds and had spectacular views of all three and more. From here we will walk to Nuevo Vigia, a village of the Embera Tribe where local artisans will be waiting to show us the colorful decorative masks and plates that they weave out of palm fronds. If you wish, you can purchase some of these local crafts (Photo by Gina Nichol) and your purchase will directly benefit the community.

local crafts (Photo by Gina Nichol)

Ruddy-breasted Seedeater (Photo by Gina Nichol)Pan-American Highway (1 hour from Canopy Camp)
For this excursion, we will head southeast and will bird the forests and swampy meadows along the road toward Yaviza, to the end of the Pan-American Highway! Black-billed Flycatcher, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Jet Antbird, Black Oropendola, Pied Water-Tyrant, Bicolored Hawk, Black-collared Hawk, Pearl Kite, White-tailed Kite, Limpkin, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater
(Photo by Gina Nichol), Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Black-capped Donacobius and Red-breasted Blackbird can all be found as we head farther into the Darién today.

San Francisco Nature Reserve (2 hours from Canopy Camp)
We will stop at San Francisco Nature Reserve on our way from or to Panama City. This private forest reserve owned and managed by the St. Francis Foundation, covers 1,300 acres in eastern Panama Province. The San Francisco Reserve was established in 2001 by Father Pablo Kasuboski, an American Rufescent Tiger-heron (Photo by Gina Nichol)priest from Wisconsin who came to Panama in 1988. The reserve serves as a wildlife refuge and protects the headwaters of the main rivers of the area. The foundation created by Padre Pablo, as Father Kasuboski is called, also works on infrastructure development in the area by building and maintaining aqueducts, roads, schools and churches. In fact, the St .Francis Foundation built and maintains the largest private rural aqueduct in all of Panama and Central America.

The reserve has a variety of habitats including primary, secondary and riparian forests, forest edge, fields, farmland, ponds and wetlands. During our time here, we will explore the different habitats along the short road that enters the reserve. Possibilities here include Great Jacamar, Russet-winged Schiffornis, Royal Flycatcher, White-fronted Nunbird, Brownish Twistwing, Yellow-green Tyrannulet, Rufescent Tiger-heron (Photo by Gina Nichol), Central American Pygmy-Owl, Blue and Plain-breasted Ground-Doves, Sulphur-rumped Tanager, Spot-crowned Barbet, King Vulture, Sirystes, and if we’re very lucky, a Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle soaring overhead or a Wing-banded Antbird along the trails!


Day 6: Return to Panama City
This morning, depending on the schedule, we will do some last birding around the Camp. Then we will bid farewell to superb Canopy staff and guides and make our way back to Panama City. We will stop at Torti for lunch and depending on the timings we can stop at Lake Bayano and other birding locations enroute to Panama City to pick up any birds we may have missed. We will end our tour at the Airport or Riande Aeropuerto Hotel. From here, you can continue to the Canopy Tower and start a new birding
adventure or depart for home.  Chestnut-backed Antbird (Photo by Steve Bird)


Extensions to Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge possible. 
Please inquire!

Pace & Physical Requirements:

This is a standard birding tour and walks are generally easy and at an appropriate birding pace. Participants should be able to walk forest trails (sometimes uneven) up to two miles and ascend hillside trails up to a few hundred feet in elevation. Much of the birding is along roads and wide tracks and along rivers. If there is an active Harpy Eagle nest nearby, getting to it might involve a longer, more strenuous hike of a couple kilometers one way.


Days will start at first light with breakfast before or after birding around the camp clearing. Mid-day heat in the tropics reduces bird activity and some days you might enjoy afternoon siestas (but not every day!). Temperatures early and late in the day are cooler, especially inside the forest and you will be in the field early and possibly until night fall to take advantage of the cool of the later afternoon and allow us opportunities to look for crepuscular and night creatures.


Leader(s):  Carlos Bethancourt and Diego Calderon with 8 or more participants.

PANAMA! Darién Lowlands
September 3 - 8, 2017
Contact to reserve your space!    Registration Form>

TOUR PRICE: $2195 per person/double occupancy based on 6 passengers from Panama City, Panama (Airport code: PTY). Tour price is for Standard tents and is based on double occupancy and a minimum of 6 clients.  NOTE: If you wish to upgrade to a Suite (two are available), you may do so for an additional fee of $200 per person in double occupancy. All tents are pre-reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. Tent availability and assignment will be determined at the time of your registration.

Single supplement: Singles may not be available at Canopy Camp. Please inquire.

Deposit: $500.00 per person. Note: Tour deposits can be paid by credit card via PayPal.  Use this link to make your credit card payment.  Please advise when you have made payment. 

Included in cost: Accommodation in /double twin rooms, all meals from dinner on Day 1 through lunch on Day 6, airport transfers by Hotel Riande, ground transport throughout, natural fruit juices, sodas, wine at dinner time, all taxes, WIFI, entrance fees to National Parks as mentioned in the itinerary, and bilingual professional guides.

Not included: International flight, passport fees, departure tax, insurance, drinks, laundry, tips, and items of a personal nature.

Note: The tour price is based on a minimum of 6 participants. If there are less than 6, a small group supplement may be charged.

Transportation/Travel Planning: You will be responsible for making your travel plans to Panama City, Panama (Airport code:PTY).  We have a flight agent that can help if needed. Information will be forthcoming about timings for arrival and departure schedules.

RESERVATIONS: To reserve your place on this tour, complete the Registration & Release Form and mail it with your deposit of $500.00 per person to Sunrise Birding, LLC.  Instructions are on the form. Reservations are held with a deposit on a first-come, first-served basis.   
>Download & print the Registration Form 

Contact to reserve your space!  Then follow up with your completed registration form and deposit within two weeks to secure your place.  Final payment is due May 3, 2017.  Check or bank transfer are preferred but credit card payments are possible (surcharges of up to 5% are added depending on amount to cover credit card company fees).  Please inquire.


Please note: Tour prices are based on quoted costs from ground operators (in their local currency), estimated fuel costs, and the rate of exchange the time of itinerary publication. The erratic nature to global financial markets makes it difficult to predict changes in costs and foreign currency exchange rates over the long term. Since tours are priced well in advance of the actual operation of the tour, tour costs, fuel costs and exchange rates can change, sometimes drastically. Depending on the extent of such changes, it may be necessary to implement a surcharge on this tour. If a surcharge is necessary, every effort will be made to minimize the amount.

Cancellations and Refunds:  All cancellations must be made in writing.  In the event that you must cancel your booking at any stage, all payments you have made to Sunrise Birding, LLC will be retained by us, except at our discretion. Please ensure that you take out adequate insurance to cover this and any other eventuality as early as possible. You may have the opportunity to transfer your booking to another tour or another person, provided you are unavoidably prevented from coming on the tour. In this case, you will bear any extra costs that such changes may incur.

There are no refunds once the trip is confirmed to go ahead and no refunds will be made for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features. 

Insurance:  The purchase of trip cancellation insurance to cover any eventuality is strongly recommended.  Sunrise Birding, LLC cannot accept liability for airline cancellations or delays or penalties incurred by the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for this tour. 



Questions? Contact Gina Nichol at 
Phone: 203.453.6724

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Green-and-rufous Kingfisher. Photo by Gina Nichol."Your tour was really right at the top of my travel experiences. The camp is so well organized and located in the heart of the Darien. My past experience there was in far less comfortable accommodations as well as access to such prime habitat. Along with Carlos and Nando you both have very impressive birding skills and appreciate all the great birds and scope views you gave us."
--DB, St. Louis, MO

"My three favorite birds were Dusky-backed Jacamar, Golden-crowned Manakin and Red-billed Scythebill. The whole trip was wonderful for me. I especially liked the boat ride and expansiveness of the wetland. But I also loved the Camp and the garden there. The facilities, service and food were wonderful."
--AB, Corvallis, OR

Butterfly by Gina Nichol."Your birding tour was absolutely fabulous! The birds were outstanding and I enjoyed everyone in the group. You, Steve, Carlos, and Nando were excellent guides. In my opinion, I got a lot of value for the price you charged. FG is charging $3,850 for an upcoming trip to CC and even if it might be a day or two longer, I just don't want to spend that much money on a single trip. I had been looking for a trip to CC and had given up after checking the prices of FG and VENT. Then, one morning, I woke up to find your email about Canopy Camp and when I looked at the dates and the price, everything was perfect!" --YM, St. Louis, MO

"Favorite birds - too many, I had 42 lifers!" --CL, Wethersfield, CT

"Just wanted to say thank you for an incredible stay at the Camp - it was all superb - congratulations on organizing everything and delivering a terrific time to us all. You are the best!"  --AD, Sherman, CT

Above:  Green-and-rufous Kingfisher & Butterfly (Photos by Gina Nichol.)

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