10 Best things to do in Panama City

There are a lot of reasons to visit Panama. You have probably already thought of the Panama Canal, which is one of the world’s most famous accomplishments of modern engineering. Maybe you have considered a tropical island or beach, or just the climate, which is warm all year round. But there is a lot more to Panama: read here some of our staff picks to do in Panama City.

1.  Visit Seafood market and walk or bike Cinta Costera towards the Casco Antiguo neighborhood while eating a fresh seafood ceviche.
2.  Take a tour at the Biodiversity Museum and hire of our naturalist guides for an introductory rainforest tour in the Metropolitan Park

3.  Bar hopping in Casco Viejo at night and don´t miss the Jazz Bar in the American Trade Hotel

4.  Historical City Tour– walking Panama la Antigua and learn about the Pirates and Conquistadors and the Canal zone era

5.  Kayaking the Panama Canal in the Gatun Lake and a visit to a local Wounaan community for handcrafts shopping

6.  Visit the Contemporary Art Museum and take a Art Cultural Tour with a local panamanian artist

7.  Hike, bike or wildlife observation at one of the many trails of the Soberania National Park

8.  Go on a historical trekking the old 8-mile Camino de Cruces Trail takes you through primarily tropical forest

9.  Ride the Transcontinental train towards the Atlantic side in one day: The Pirate trail and Panama Canal

10.  Enjoy the local gastronomy (tasajo empanada, carimañola, tortilla, yuca frita, and the seafood of Panama).

A day in the Tropical Rainforest

By Raffaele Capomolla

Yesterday the EcoCircuitos team had the great pleasure to offer a morning rainforest tour to a group of travelers from Australia.  This group has been exploring different sights of Panama and yesterday  they have a wonderful day in the Rainforest.  We want to share with you some of the pictures of this trip.   Our guests enjoyed a delicious lunch with a stunning view over the rainforest and having some very beautiful Hummingbirds to bear company.

Our guests enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Rainforest Discovery Center, an environmental facility that focus on birds habitats.  They learn about the efforts in Panama to support conservation throughout the tourism industry.   The place offers stunning views over the rainforest and having some very beautiful Hummingbirds to bear company and to practice Photography.

Our naturalist guide Kenny Weeks was explaining the group about how Panama is the Isthmus that changes the world by becoming a bridge between continents and offering different interpretations of the tropical rainforest.

As  Tony Coates  mention in an interviewAll the animals of South America would be unique marsupials, like in Australia, very different to today because they would never have been invaded and overtaken by all the species that colonized from North America. The Caribbean and the East Pacific would be one ocean with similar species; today they are very different with corals reefs abundant in the Caribbean but without large supplies of commercial fish, whereas the Pacific has few small coral reefs and large important commercial fisheries. Humans from Asia might not have reached South America via the Bering Land Bridge from the north so different kinds of humans might have arrived, say, from Polynesia. Columbus might have sailed on to Asia! The Ice Age would have been different and Europe’s ports might freeze every winter like the Saint Laurence seaway does. El Niño and climates in other parts of the world might have been different in ways that we still do not fully understand.”

After lunch the group went for a nice hike through the trails surrounding the Rainforest Discovery Center at the core of the Soberania National park, more precisely the Pipeline Road called ‘Camino del oleoducto’, and went up to the top of the tower which has an incredible view over the tree tops. With a little bit of luck, you can see Monkeys, Sloths and beautiful birds in this amazing National Park.

For more information on this tour and others please click here

GAMBOA RAINFOREST AND APPC

By Juliette Darmon

Nature, wild animals, birds, rainforest, amazing views… What a beautiful day in Gamboa, less than one hour away from the city!

Asociación Panamericana para la conservación (APPC) center rescues threatened wild animals finding in the middle of the jungle to save, care and heal them all year long before putting them back in their territory.

The owner, his wife and all the volunteers are really devoted to their job, and they will explain you with commitment and passion what their work consists in and how do they help these animals, but also what happened to them, how do they live, and even some touching personal experiences.

You will learn why a sloth is that slow, but also that they can usually live 15 years in nature against only some weeks or months, in captivity!

You couldn’t touch these little lovely creatures in order to not scared them but you will be so close that it’s going to be the same! And as me, you will for sure, enjoy taking some selfies with sloths! You will also love meeting the famous and gorgeous jaguar Fiona, rescued at the age of 3 months!

Note bis: Some volunteer experiences are available at APPC Center.

Under a beautiful and hot sun, we have boarded on an aerial tram in the middle of jungle where we discovered and learned a lot about wildlife and nature with our guide.

We had the chance to see wild sloths grabbed to trees, impressive ants’ nests but also amazing views of the jungle and canal while we were going up.

Once up, like us, you will enjoy to climb on the Gamboa Tower and chill out for some time to admire this beautiful view!

End your day by three wonderful and rewarding exhibits.

One about orchids and gorgeous flowers and plants you could find in Panama. The guide will make you smell some herbs, and you will probably smell one which seems to be chicken…! Really weird for plants, but true story!

Then, enjoy looking at these little colored frogs in a private greenhouse. Definitely cute yes, but from far away! These little animals are indeed venomous and better not meeting them on your way.

To end, let’s discover this lovely and relaxing butterfly house. Hundreds butterflies were flying above our heads, and we could watch them feeding with some mixture especially prepared for them. Learn the process from their eggs to their transformation in butterfly.
It’s always so impressive to learn about how the Nature works and what she is able to do… Did you know that the butterfly lifetime is about one month? Did you also know that when a butterfly’s egg becomes black it means that it has been infected by another insect or mosquito which would have put some venom inside? And that this egg will actually become the insect or mosquito in question later on? Really fascinating…!

After this instructive and enjoying day, your driver will drop you off to your hotel in the city, and as us, you could take some time to look at your beautiful pictures of the day!

If you are staying in Gamboa Rainforest Resort try visit APPC.

For more information, contact us info@ecocircuitos.com

 

Beyond the Panama Canal

Beyond the Panama Canal, you could find yourself in lush tropical rain forests of the Canal Watershed or walking through the maze like streets of Casco Antiguo between the colorful colonial buildings and art shops and gourmet restaurants. You may also find yourself on a deserted island watching tropical fish weave through your toes. This is just a touch of what you will find in Panama. The country’s rich history is just like the fine detail you will find in a Guna indigenous mola.

In a diverse country like Panama, it comes as no surprise that travel and tourism are well developed. Tiny locally owned luxury boutique hotels coexist with many of the world’s big names in the hospitality sector, such as Waldorf Astoria, Trump, Hilton or Marriott.

Escape the winter and let yourself be surprised by Panama. Encounter traditional indigenous settlements less than two hours from the city’s international banking district, watch the incredible wildlife along the Panama Canal while huge cargo ships cross from ocean to ocean in the background, spend the morning in a state-of-the-art convention center and the afternoon on a perfect beach. Whatever you are looking for, you can find it here.

Suggestions: Stay in the colonial district of Casco Antiguo and visit nearby landmarks such as the Miraflores Locks, Panama Viejo arqueological site, the Biodiversity Museum designed by Frank Gehry and climb Discovery Centre Rain Forest tower-climb up 30 meters and gaze over the forest canopy in the Soberania National Park.

Visit the picturesque San Blas Archipelago, home of the Guna people and eat amazing seafood while learning about this vibrant culture. Then make your way to the Chiriqui highlands and search for the resplendent quetzal and drink the renowned Geshia coffee. Also make your way to the Bocas del Toro Archipelago for great snorkeling and beach combing at its best. If you have time visit the Azuero Peninsula the heart of Panama´s colonial culture and great beaches for surfing and sunbathing. For the more adventurous trek the Darien gap. Panama has something for everyone.

By EcoCircuitos Panama

New Tour: Night walk the Soberania National Park

Experience the thrilling of the rainforest at night! Use your flashlight, and with the direction of our naturalist specialize guide, you will uncover the nocturnal wildlife and their habitats of the tropical rainforest.  We will hike the Soberania National park towards the Rainforest Discovery Center and will walk around the different trails of the area in search for frogs, bats, insects, kinkajous and other surprises of this secreted, nocturnal world.

Medium walk, some hills. 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Minimum 4 people: $95.00 per person

Chemical from sea hares active against Leishmaniasis

Image

From STRI.org

Found worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas and oceans, Dolabrifera dolabrifera is a species of sea hare, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Aplysiidae. Researchers working at the Smithsonian in Panama discovered that the digestive gland of D. dolabrifera contains a compound active against Leishmania donovani, the parasite primarily responsible for visceral leishmaniasis, a devastating tropical disease spread by sandflies. If left untreated, this form of leishmaniasis can have a fatality rate as high as 100 percent within two years.

The sea hares were collected from Pacific ocean tide pools on Panama’s Coiba Island by STRI botanist, Alicia Ibañez, and Alicia Hermosillo from the Universidad de Guadalajara. Many soft-bodied organisms such as sponges, tunicates, octocorals and sea hares, living in tropical marine ecosystems use chemical compounds to defend themselves against predators.

“This is one of more than 45 compounds with potential pharmaceutical activity that we’ve reported from Coiba National Park and World Heritage Site so far,” said Todd Capson, who played an instrumental role in the protection of the park, is one of the founders of the Panama International Cooperative Biodiversity Group, and a participant in the Neotropical Environment Graduate Option (NEO), a collaborative effort between STRI and McGill University. “NEO and the ICBG promote multidisciplinary efforts like this one that brought together ecologists, experts in tropical disease drug discovery, natural product chemists, and students from McGill University as a team.”

Their publication is the first reported isolation of a compound from Dolabrifera dolabrifera with potential as a treatment for any disease. The chemical, an epidioxysterol, has been isolated from other marine organisms. The authors suggest that chemists should base new approaches to synthesizing a compound for the treatment of Leishmaniasis on the activity of this group of chemical compounds.

Kathryn Clark, first author of the paper announcing the discovery, was supported by a Canadian graduate scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and a Levinson Fellowship from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute-McGill Neotropical Environmental Option.

Clark, K.E., Capper, A., Della Togna, G., Paul, V.J., Romero, L.I., Johns, T., Cubilla-Rios, L, and Capson, T.L. 2013. Ecology-and bioassay-guided drug discovery for treatments of tropical parasitic disease: 5a,8a– epidioxycholest-6-en-3ß–ol isolated from the mollusk Dolabrifera dolabrifera shows significant activity against Leishmania donovani. Natural Products Communications 8 (11), 1537 – 1540

A must for bird lovers: The great Panama birding tour

Are you a bird watcher? Do you want to see the very best of Panama’s almost 1000 bird species? Then make the most of it with this amazing new bird watching tour:

When you arrive to Panama City you will be comfortably housed at the Country Inn and Suites Amador out on the Causeway, where more than 40 shore birds are waiting to be spotted by you as soon as you have checked in and dropped your bags.
And yet, you are still in Panama City! Take a day to explore the Causeway and its feathered inhabitants, while looking out over the Pacific towards the Skyline of Panama City. The next days will be busy:

You start off on your third day in Panama with a visit to Metropolitan National Park.
Situated only 15 minutes from downtown Panama City, it is the most accessible rainforest in the region and the only tropical forest in Latin America located inside a major urban center. The Park is characterized by the increasingly rare dry lowland pacific forest and is home of the Two- and Three-toed Sloth as well as over 200 bird species. Take your time spotting and identifying them with your specialist guide, who will accompany you for the expedition.

To give your spotter’s guide no rest, you will spend your next nights at Canopy Tower Lodge in the rainforest of Soberania Park. With bedrooms at treetop level and a viewing platform atop the tower, you cannot possibly miss sighting a variety of birds, among them Blue Cotingas and Green Shrike-Vireos, while you are still having your morning coffee.
soberania national park
Continue the next day to Panama’s Pipeline Road, where the Audubon Society once spotted 300 species of birds in a single day – one of the best birding spots in the world. Located in the Panama Canal watershed, this former US military access road takes you into old growth secondary forest, ideal for the observation of flora and fauna from the Pacific and Caribbean slopes. The tour begins with a preparatory talk about the geography and animal life of the Panama Canal areas by your expert guide. Soon you will be enjoying an easy walk under the forest canopy into a veritable bird sanctuary. Keep your binoculars at the ready!

For day five, get ready to explore Plantation Road in Soberania National Park. This road was the first paved road that went into the interior of the country during the time of the cocoa plantations. Thie trail is approximately 4.8 kilometers long and connects with the famous Camino de las Cruces Trail that was used to transport riches from South America. Some of the typical birds that may be observed are Tinamous, leaftossers, Golden-crowned Spadebills, White-breasted Wood-Wrens, Spotted, Bicolored and Ocellated Antbirds, Gray-headed Tanagers, and Plain-brown, Northern Barred and Ruddy Woodcreepers, and Hook-billed Kite.

As you have now thoroughly explored Soberania national park, the following day it is time to visit San Lorenzo, on the Atlantic side of Panama, taking one of the most scenic drives in central Panama. From the road you will be able to see remnants of the old sea level French Canal, drive through wooded hills and will be able to reach the Gatun Locks. The woodland along the road is noted for Trogons, Motmots and numerous other forest and woodland birds. Then head to Achiote Road and hike the CEASPA new trail for other species such as White-headed and Stripe-breasted Wrens and Montezuma Oropendolas among others. Return in the evening for your last night’s stay in Canopy tower.
Rise early the next day for your journey to El Valle, where you get comfortably accommodated at Canopy Lodge, Canopy Tower’s sister Lodge in the mountains.
Here, each day is pleasantly cool early and late, and pleasantly warm mid-day. The habitats are varied, the birds diverse and numerous, the accommodations extremely comfortable and tastefully appointed, and the food tasty and creative. The Lodge serves as a splendid base for birding and makes for a perfect tour for spouses who might be “lite” birders.
Still missing Tody Motmot or Rosy Thrush-Tanager on your spotting list? Or how about Black-crowned Antpitta or Rufous-browed Tyrannulet? Your chances are good to find them here as you explore with your guide around the Lodge.

Canopy-Lodge-(12)-Panama-29

Sleep in the next morning, then stroll on your own to bird a waterfall area behind the Lodge known as Chorro de Macho. With some luck, you may find a roosting Mottled Owl to make today’s top spotted bird.

A short distance from the Lodge, the Cerro Gaital Trail begins at the main road in La Mesa. This area is protected as part of Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. So rise early on day 10 to make sure you get to see it all: Leading through prime cloud forest habitat, the trail starts out flat and wide. This first portion of the trail is often very birdy, with foraging flocks of tanagers and other species. Flowering trees along the trail attract Green-crowned Brilliant and the occasional Green Thorntail among the more common hummingbird species. The next portion of trail ascends more steeply and deeper into the cloud forest. Purplish-backed Quail-Doves are often heard calling and it is also where the first Common Bush-Tanagers are often spotted. Higher up, the trail levels out again and weaves through excellent cloud forest habitat. Here we will be watching for Black Guan, White-ruffed Manakin, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, and even Blue Seedeater in addition to other species. Rarities here include Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, and Black-headed Antthrush. Managing to see just a couple of these would be a real feat. This area can be good for Barred Hawk and Red-shouldered Parrotlet.
In the late afternoon you will return to Panama City.

Your final visit on this tour will be to Birders View, a famous birding spot with imposing views of the Chagres National Park. The gardens and feeders attract a variety of colorful tanagers, such as Bay-headed Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager and Speckled Tanager. Hummingbirds include: Bronzed-Tailed Plummeteer (A hummer with pink feet), Violet-capped Hummingbird and the sought after Rufous-crested Coquette.
Spend your last night at the Country Inn and Suites on the Causeway again, before being transferred to the airport the next day for your flight home.

Birds of Panama, check list.  click here

Interested? Click here for more info or to ask questions