Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Panama. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they took this tour. Although we do our best to make sure what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.
ENTERING PANAMA: Panama requires a valid passport for entry by US citizens. Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check their nearest Panamanian embassy. Your passport, as a general rule, should be valid for at least six months after the date the tour ends.
PANAMA MAP AND COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can view maps of Panama in the University of Texas series here. The size of the map can be adjusted by clicking on the lower right corner of the map. You can review the U.S. Department of State background notes on Panama here.
HEALTH: It is the opinion of the Centers for Disease Control that travelers to rural areas in Panama are no longer at risk for malaria. Due to extensive and decades-long efforts at mosquito control in the area the disease has been virtually eradicated. You should consult further with your doctor about the CDC’s recommendation and what action you should take.
No specific inoculations are necessary, although up-to-date tetanus protection is always a good idea.
Biting insects and arachnids are seldom a major nuisance, although chiggers and biting gnats can be locally numerous around the Panama Canal and in the dry forests below the Canopy Tower. Don’t forget that the sun and the humidity in Panama can both be very intense. Please be sure to bring adequate protection, including a sun hat and a strong sunscreen lotion.
Please note that any health/medical information contained herein is gleaned by WINGS from websites that are dedicated to traveler’s health issues. Advisories and recommendations by agencies such as the CDC can, and do, change frequently. We urge you to consult with your physician, local health department or the CDC for the most up-to-date health advisories for travel to Mexico. You can check with the CDC here.
PACE OF THE TOUR: As with all tours in the tropics, we will try to be in the field at dawn. Most mornings will involve departures between 7:00 and 8:00 am, with the exception of days spent at Achiote Road (5:00 am) and Cerro Azul (5:30 am). Many of the birding sites we’ll visit are within a 30 minute drive of our lodges.
Breakfasts will be at the Canopy Lodge or Tower before departure, and will include fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt, eggs, bread, and a meat dish. Some lunches will be picnics and some will be at the lodges. All dinners will be at the Canopy Tower or Lodge, except for the final dinner at the hotel in Panama City. The food is of good quality, featuring local produce and seasonings.
Birding in and around central Panama will take us from sea level to 3,500 feet in elevation. Other than uneven ground and some potentially muddy and narrow trails, walking presents no particular problems. On our day at Altos de Maria, at 6,500 feet elevation, we’ll be walking on gravel roads that are steep in places; the van will be nearby at all time.
The sun can be intense, so have a hat and sunblock lotion.
CLIMATE: We’ll encounter a variety of climates. The days will likely be between the mid 70s and low 90s F, with some afternoon showers. Rarely do these showers reach the intensity or duration that would compromise a birding excursion, but in November we should count on some wet weather on some days. Good raingear and a small umbrella will go a long ways towards making rainy periods more enjoyable.
At the higher elevations it can be cool (in the 60s), and if it’s rainy, the temperatures can feel downright chilly. A heavier shirt or light jacket will help.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Three hotels are used during the tour. The Canopy Tower near Panama City is a retrofitted U.S. radar tower. Although the rooms are not large and the noise-proofing leaves something to be desired, the novelty of your surroundings makes up for any of the hotel’s somewhat spartan conditions. Guests staying in the single rooms will share bathroom facilities (two toilets, one shower) with up to four other people. If space permits, single travelers may request to stay in a double-occupancy room with ensuite restroom facilities. In these cases, a significant single-occupancy supplement will be applied to the tour price.
The recently built Canopy Lodge is opulent, with large staterooms, balconies and all new fixtures. The Canopy Tower has a free public Internet terminal and Wifi, and the Lodge has a public computer and limited Wifi in the dining area. Single rooms at Canopy Lodge have been recently renovated and are all large and modern with ensuite bathroom facilities.
The last night of the tour will be spent at the Country Inn Amador, a fully apportioned hotel just west of Panama City along the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal.
FOOD: All meals will be prepared by the Canopy Tower or Lodge. Breakfasts and dinners will be taken at our lodge, while lunches and snacks will be in the field. The food is excellent , with a varied menu featuring local cuisine and seasonings
DRESS: Informal throughout.
TRANSPORTATION: Transportation during the tour is in specially modified rainforest trucks (see our slideshow) and by van and comfortable buses. Transfers from the airport and between hotels will be by fifteen-passenger van.
SMOKING: We request that you not smoke in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF WINGS TOURS: Please take a moment to read the About WINGS Tours. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours, and other information that will help you prepare for the tour.
FINAL INFORMATION: Final information with instructions for meeting the group, hotel addresses, etc., will be mailed about three weeks before trip departure. Other news will be communicated as necessary. If you have any questions, please let us know.
Updated: December 2012