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 of U.S. citizens a passport valid for at least three months after entry and containing at least one blank page for an entry stamp. Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check with their nearest Panamanian embassy.
Anyone coming directly from a country where Yellow Fever is endemic must show proof of a current vaccination.
COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information for Panama at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/panama.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Panama at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pm.html.
PACE OF THE TOUR: We will try to be in the field at dawn. Most days will involve departures close to 7 a.m. with the exception of days spent at Achiote Road (4:30 a.m.) and Cerro Azul (5 a.m.). Mornings at the tower, other than on days with very early departures, will start with an optional per-breakfast hour’s vigil atop the building looking out at the surrounding canopy. Many of the birding sites that we’ll visit are within 30 minutes of our lodges. Other than some narrow, slightly uneven trails and some steep paved roads at Cerro Azul (where we try to walk mostly downslope), the walking presents no particular problem. For the days at Cerro Azul and on the Pipeline Road we’ll spend much of the time walking slowly along the road, with some breaks for midmorning snacks, so consider bringing a small folding stool if you are concerned about time afoot. For most days we’ll offer a morning outing, returning to the tower or lodge for lunch and a siesta, and then a second outing in the afternoon, returning about an hour and a half before dinner.
Important note: Moving between floors at the Canopy Tower requires climbing several sets of steps repeatedly on a daily basis. Guest rooms are located on the second and third floor of the tower. The dining room and lounge area are located on the fourth floor and the observation deck is five stories above ground level. There is no elevator. Those with knee problems or mobility issues should take these conditions under consideration.
On our day at Altos de Maria (on the lodge extension) is at 6,500 ft. We’lll be walking on steep paved roads at times. The van will be nearby and we’ll try to walk mostly downhill.
HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.
The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations for Panama can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/panama .
Malaria: It is the opinion of the Centers for Disease Control that travelers to western Panama including the Canal Zone are not at risk for malaria.
Elevation: Maximum elevation reached on the tour is about 6500 feet (one day only). Otherwise we’ll be below 3500 feet.
Smoking: Smoking is prohibited 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.
Miscellaneous: Sun in Panama can be very intense. Please bring adequate protection, including a sun hat and a strong sunscreen of at least 15 rating.
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.
CLIMATE: For our fall tour to Panama temperaturs will likely be between the mid 70s and low 90s, with some afternoon showers. Rarely do these showers reach the intensity or duration that would curtail our birding, but November birding in Panama will involve some wet weather on some days. High-quality rain gear and a small umbrella will go a long way toward making rainy periods more enjoyable. At the higher elevations it can be cool (in the 60s) and, if rainy, feel downright chilly. Bring at least one heavier shirt or light jacket as well.
In Spring we generally experience slightly higher average temperatures (between the low 80’s and mid 90’s), with a much reduced chance of rain, and often more wind. The sun typically feels more intense in March, making adequate sun protection of even more import. Some rain showers can occur in March, and at the higher elevations that we visit. A light jacket and raingear are still recommended.
ACCOMMODATION: 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 comparatively opulent, with large staterooms, balconies and all new fixtures. Single rooms at Canopy Lodge have been recently renovated and are all large and modern with en suite bathroom facilities.
On 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.
Internet: 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. The Country Inn has wifi.
FOOD: Breakfasts will involve fresh fruit, cereal, yoghurt, eggs, bread and a meat dish. Some lunches will be picnic and some will be held at the lodges. All dinners will be at either the Canopy Tower or Canopy Lodge, save for the final dinner at the hotel in Panama City. The food is of very good quality and features local produce and seasonings. For our full day outings a mid-morning picnic snack will be provided, and at all times we will have an ice chest with water, soft drinks and juice in our tour vehicles.
WINGS tours are all-inclusive and no refunds can be issued for any missed tour meals.
Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.
TRANSPORTATION: Transportation is by specially modified rainforest trucks, or by vans and comfortable buses. Transfers from the airport and between hotels will be by 15-passenger vans. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in our tour vehicles.
Updated: January 2015