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. As of 2014 Canadians and citizens of the UK do not need a visa. Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check 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 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: Most days will involve departures between 7 and 8 a.m., with the exception of days spent at Achiote Road (5 a.m.), Cerro Azul (5:30 a.m.), Breakfasts will be at either the Canopy Lodge or Canopy Tower before our departure (sometimes with birding atop the tower pre-breakfast). Most of the birding sites that we visit on the tour are within a 30 minute drive of our lodges. Birding in and around central Panama is from Sea Level to 3,500 feet in elevation and, other than uneven ground and some potentially muddy and narrow trails, the walking presents no particular problem. For our longer walking days the van or bus will repeatedly catch up to us, allowing one to leave extra gear nearby while out in the field. On roughly half the days we will have time set aside after lunch for a siesta. The sun can be intense at times, so have a hat and sunblock lotion.
On our day at Altos de Maria, which is at 6,500’, we will be walking on steep gravel roads at times. The van will be nearby at all times, and accommodations for those with limited mobility may well be possible.
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 contacting 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 can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/panama.
Special medications may be unavailable so bring enough to cover your particular needs for the entire trip.
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.
Altitude: Maximum elevation reached on the tour is about 6500 feet (one day only). Otherwise we’ll be below 3500 feet.
Insects: 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. Careful application of repellent provides good protection.
The Tower and Lodge provide Sulphur powder that can be dusted onto shoes, pant legs and socks as a prophylaxis against chiggers.
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.
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.
Sun: Sun in Panama can be very intense. Please bring adequate protection, including a sun hat and a strong sun screen of at least 15 rating.
CLIMATE: The days 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 impact on a birding excursion, 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, the temperatures can feel downright chilly. Bring at least one heavier shirt or light jacket as well.
ACCOMMODATION: 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 private restroom facilities. In these cases, a significant single-occupancy supplement will be applied to the tour price. There is wifi in the public areas.
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 fast 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 en suite 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: 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. On our full day excursions a light mid-morning snack will be provided, often with coffee and tea. 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.
WINGS tours are all-inclusive and no refunds can be issued for any missed tour meals.
TRANSPORTATION: Transportation during the tour 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. On our day at Altos del Maria we may have to commute in multiple 4X4 pick-up trucks depending upon the weather and number of clients.
Updated: December 2014