Birding Panama
Birding Panama
5

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Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.


5.0
5.0 of 5 bubbles40 reviews
Excellent
35
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Robert C
Toronto, Canada42 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2024 • Family
Our February trip was fabulous in every regard. Over two weeks our group of 6-8 congenial participants visited many birding hotspots over the Canal Zone, the northern Highlands and throughout the Darien. Our guide, Moyo, was patient, thoughtful, full of good humour, knowledgeable of Panamanian culture, and particularly adept at locating and pointing out difficult to find birds. Our driver, Francisco, kept us safe and on time , as well as locating a few rarities for us. The trip organizer, Jose, was a master of logistics , making the trip seamless from touchdown to take off.
Hotels all had air conditioning and most had scenic gardens and trails to explore during off times.
The group itself, was diverse, congenial , all having great tales of previous trips and life experiences.
A marvellous trip
Written February 20, 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ByronS
14 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2024 • Friends
We had a great 4 days trip to the Darien, organized by Birding Panama. Our guide was great, the logistics worked perfectly, and we saw 215 species including a number of endemics. Hotels in this area are comfortable but basic. Nice also, the overall cost was very reasonable.
Written May 31, 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Dan S
St. Albert, Canada9 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2018 • Couples
It seems only fair to take a little bit of time to pass along thoughts and ideas about my experience with Birding Panama. I certainly read the reviews that can be found through Trip Advisor and they were very helpful and put my mind at rest when I found myself sending thousands of dollars off to Panama to people I had never met. I thought I could uncross my fingers when I saw good things being stated by many different people.

Let me set the scene. My wife and I like to bird. We have friends that are learning and wanted to go as well. The four of us were joined by seven (total 11, one over what is normal) and we ended up being a very cohesive and fun group. Although a couple of the group members were 'seasoned' vets of birding with many thousands of lifers to their credit, we were not 'over-the-top', elbow-swinging, scope-hogging types, none of us. On the contrary, we were pleasant, mindful, cooperative with a lot of stories to tell and share. I've been told you don't get guarantees of who might show up on a tour. With many days spent in close proximity, eating, vanning, walking, viewing, this is an important aspect of each tour but it is never a sure thing.

So let's talk about Kilo Campos. To me, he is a birding genius, a birding marvel and a very nice guy. He is mindful of the group needs. I think he probably adjusts his pace and his intensity based on the people he is leading. He knew that some in the group were searching for new lifers and he knew that many in the group were probably seeing most of the species for the first time. Some were helpful, also trying to find birds, while others tended to wait for him to make the next discovery, rarely using their binoculars on their own unless Kilo had already spotted something. Perhaps all groups have a wide variety of interest and skill levels but Kilo seemed to appeal to everyone. He was a master at setting up his scope to facilitate a view to check off another species for the listers. In the evening he, along with the group, did the day review and his memory was exceptional.

A couple of thoughts on a bit of a tangent. I use e.Bird. Kilo uses e.Bird under the name Euclides Campos. I wish more people shared this method of recording birds and I wish Kilo had made an effort to share information on the particular 'Hotspots' we were visiting. Hotspots can be found on maps in e.Bird. Listers like myself want to put their sightings in checklists in e.Bird. It is very hard to figure out where you are travelling day by day. Panama is a different world. Their are lots of different 'hotpots'. I eventually clued in to the fact that Kilo was logging his daily sightings while travelling in the van returning to the hotel after the morning or evening birding episodes. He didn't share the exact names given to the sites. I tried to figure it out on my own. I should have asked but I didn't realize all this until late in the tour.

I think if you use e.Bird, make it known to your tour companions and as a group ask Kilo for the extra information (Hotspot names) before finishing off the day with the tally.
Also, another thing the tour leadership should strongly consider is having a set of detailed maps in the van, blow ups of the particular region in which the van is travelling each day of the tour. These could be plastic laminated, even on cardboard backing to preserve them from tour to tour. Each evening or each morning, Kilo could show everyone just before getting into the van where the tour was headed for the morning and/or the afternoon. I for one would have had a much better feel for where I was at any moment instead of just being in Panama. I'm not sure if the Birding Panama owner reads these reviews so it may be up to the next people to pay money to ask ahead for this to be part of the experience. People like to know where they are going and maps are excellent for that!

Other reviews have covered a lot of things that I probably won't but generally I loved the experience. On the contrary, my wife and my friends who joined us said they wouldn't go on another birding tour. For them it was too much birding and not enough something else. I am heavy into the hobby so it was great for me. Don't get me wrong, I think my wife and friends had a very good time but it was just too much birding for them. Mind you, their were days when a hotel pool was available on a hot afternoon and they could have easily chosen a 'siesta afternoon' in luxury but they didn't. They went to see more birds, so there you go.

OK, some other points. We did not go to see the harpy eagle in the Darien. We actually only spent a portion of one day in the Darien province on the Darien Extension. Although the harpy would have been nice, the nest apparently had been abandoned. One member of our group was upset that she was not told this ahead of time. Everyone else of the 7 that continued on the Darien Extension didn't seem too upset. We also didn't go up a canopy tower which was to be part of the tour while staying at the Radisson Summit in the Panama City area. That should be removed from the tour write-up to be fair to the paying customers, you. So, ask if anything described on the tour outline has changed radically, before you put money on the line. That way you get what you pay for.

The Radisson Summit is great. If you want to arrive a day or two early to acclimate on your own or stay a day late to make a better connection or flight, it is a very nice place to stay. It has good to great food, superb service (lots of able staff), a very nice pool (remember sunblock), and walking trails that can yield some nice birds and get you into the spirit of Panama birding. Around 4:00 pm looking out from your balcony (request a view over the jungle and not the golf course) on the 4th, 5th or 6th floor, the trees can come alive with some very nice feathered friends and some turkey vultures as well. We spent two extra days on arrival in downtown Panama and hired a tour guide to take us to tourist spots before the birding tour began. The hotel was good but the traffic jams are terrible and walking the busy, noisy streets before it gets dark around 6:30 was not a pleasant thing to consider so we didn't. It would have been better to be at the Radisson Summit and have our tour guide pick us up there and travel out of their to see the locks, old town, etc. We travelled to the Caribbean side and Colon and that was a wasted day both time and money. The locks are virtually the same at each end of the canal. Portobelo was a nice spot with a nice restaurant overlooking water BUT it was far to far for a day trip out of Panama City unless you really like driving in a van and traffic.

All our connections, all our accommodations (including the Darien Extension) were good. The accommodations in El Vale ranked the lowest although the town was one of the cleanest we encountered. The rooms seemed small. I banged my head on a low doorway about three times which was my fault for being 6 foot 2 inches tall.

Jose Carlos Garcia picked us up at the airport and seemed nice but he was not our guide. It sounds like he sometimes is the guide but we had Kilo and I know for sure he is great. I've heard good things about Jose as well and administratively, everything was as expected including having Francisco pick us up a day after the tour ended from the Radisson to get us out to the airport in a timely fashion.

Some tours can be a lot more expensive. Using local people can keep the costs down. The bang-for-the-buck probably can't be beaten if you go with Birding Panama at least if they maintain the quality we experienced. Kilo's skill is unquestionable. the most avid birder will be impressed. Is the experience going to be at a tempo too slow for you, who knows. I could have hiked twice as far but the people around me couldn't. I could have been even more focused but the people around me were perhaps more casual birders, at least a few. These factors remain unpredictable. You get what you get and if you wake up on the right side of the bed each morning, rain or shine, you should have a good time!
Written March 5, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thanks for your comments we are glad you enjoyed the tour. Certainly with "Kilo" the guide you will feel welcome and that you are birding with a long time friend. As previously mentioned, yes our tours are mostly birding tours, during the afternoon the plans allows for those who feel a bit tired to stay at the hotels enjoining a tropical pool. If people feels they had enough birding in the future they could mention this to the guide, we will be more than happy to send one of the drivers to take them at no cost around the city to visit some of the interesting sights Panama has to offer. The Radisson Hotel also offers free shuttles in the Afternoon to the Panama Canal if someone is interested to go. We are happy to host visitors to Panama and guide them around the country every season. Once people is here, feel free to contact the administration we will be happy to assist. We are having hopes for the Harpy Eagle for the 2019 season! We will take note on your advice and will have maps on the van describing the route of the itinerary and with marks of some of the hot spots as described in eBird. Happy Birding!
Written June 11, 2018
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Jeff L
Tucson, AZ12 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2019 • Solo
This review is mostly a shining reflection on our guide: Euclides "Kilo" Campos--our guide for the 14-day Isthmus of Panama tour. That man knows his birds! He can find and identify them backwards and forwards and with his eyes closed (and then get his scope on them before you've even picked it out amongst the leaves). I saw 380 species in two weeks! Additionally, Kilo was professional, friendly, flexible, and kind. We had a group of 10, photographers and non-photographers, ages 28-70. And Kilo was able to cater to all of us. Plus, his English is excellent!

Our driver, Francisco, was also great, and would help Kilo find birds from time to time. Jose Carlos Garcia runs the logistics behind the scenes but didn't interact with us much. Logistics went smoothly. The days started early; but had plenty of rest built in an didn't feel frenetic.

With Kilo at the helm, I'd highly recommend this tour!
Written March 22, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Angela D
Quincy, CA1 contribution
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2017 • Solo
I took the "Central Panama and Chiriqui Highlands" tour, and the Darien extension in April of 2017 with guide Jose Carlos Garcia, and it was wonderful! We covered most of the interior of the country: from the western highlands near Costa Rica to the central Canal Zone and the lowland jungle of the east. We went to 3 National Parks (Volcan Baru, Soberiana, and Darien), some local parks (like Metropolitan Park in Panama City), and walked along numerous empty roads in rural areas, including the famous Pipe Line Road. We also visited two small, privately owned preserves (Birding Paradise in Chiriqui and St. Francis in Darien.) I don't think I could have accessed them on my own and they were HOPPING with birds! The result: I got 253 lifers - need I say more? This includes two vagrants that are very rare for Panama - Dwarf Cuckoo and Bi-colored Wren. And we saw the Harpy Eagle & chick! We saw the Quetzal! And Toucans and Macaws! The combination of excellent itinerary and great guide resulted in me seeing far more birds than I could have using a book and maps - which is how I usually travel. Jose has an amazing ability to detect and identify birds by the smallest movement or call. I quickly learned that if he picked up his binoculars to see the bird then it could be something really special! He was able to explain differences in similar species and wasn't defensive if we challenged him on an occasional ID. Jose carried a spotting scope so we didn't have to, although one birder in our group brought his own scope and shared, which was nice. Jose has a very relaxed and patient style, which was helpful when we encountered glitches or when the heat started getting to the members of the tour group. He also gave us what options he could for birding locations or meals when he sensed we needed a change. I think he did a very good job of balancing the diverse needs of our group of 7 - and we each had our own preferences! You have to be flexible when you are in a group, and, in my opinion, a couple of our group were not very flexible. This was the down side of the tour for me. But I did meet a couple of really cool people that I hope to bird with again. And I learned a lot about bird photography from the other birders - one of our new friends has shared a truly stunning Flickr page of his photos from our trip, which seems proof positive that this tour is good for photography. Our driver, Francisco, was so much more than a driver! He helped us manage our gear, watched our bags when we were out birding, made sure we had lots of icy water, and found some very good birds for us too! When we had a long hike into Darien NP for the nesting Harpy Eagles, Francisco hiked with us and made sure no one was left behind, while Jose was up front with the more vigorous birders. That was our most strenuous hike and hottest day. I'm 52, overweight, not fit and I made it without collapsing. And it was the only way to see the Harpy with chick - an amazing experience! Our daily routine was typically this: meet for breakfast at 6:30, into the van at 7:00, drive 30 min +/- to the first spot, walk along a road or trail at a relaxed pace for a couple of hours, drive to the next spot and do the same. Drive to lunch at 1:00 ish, then have a couple of hours at the hotel to relax and pack up. Then back on the van for a 2-3 hours evening birding session. Return to the hotel around 6:00 pm and meet for a group dinner shortly afterwards. During dinner we'd review the locations and bird species we encountered that day and make plans for tomorrow. Variations included a couple of late afternoon flights or longer van drives between Provinces, and a jungle boat ride 1 hour each way into Darien NP. We covered a lot of the country, but I felt we spent much more time outside birding than we did driving. Very little (5%?) of our walking was off of road or trail. I'd say no more than 20% of the hiking was on steep sections of trail, but there was always adequate time for me to catch my breath. I actually found it to be rather slow paced walking (and I'm not an avid hiker), but I didn't mind because there were so many cool things to see. It is a mountainous country and if you want to see the birds and country side, you can't avoid hills. I was expecting lots of mosquitos, but was pleasantly surprised. (I went late dry season.) When we were off trail I did get bit - not by mosquitos but a type of black fly. Otherwise, I rarely had to use repellant. One lady in the group got bit more than the rest of us, while my husband got almost no bites. Definately bring bug spray and a topical anti-itch ointment like Bendaryl gel. We drank bottled water but also lots of local made fruit juices and salads, and not one of us got sick during the trip, which was pretty remarkable, I think. Four of the 5 hotels we stayed in were lovely! And I must give a special mention for the Raddisson Summit which has great birding on premises, a lovely pool and the best Pina Coladas ever! Our last hotel, however, near the end of the PanAmerican Hwy, was very basic, more like a dormitory. On the positive side, it was new, spotlessly clean, and had wonderful air conditioners. That was in the least developed part of the country and tourism infrastructure just isn't the same caliber as the rest of the county. I never felt unsafe anywhere I went. I especially enjoyed learning about the indigenous cultures of Panama. Jose had knowledge of each of each group and even took us to lunch at a super-cool Embera Community in Darien NP. I liked that a lot. He was also able to explain local politics - protesters opposing a dam under construction, how the canal zone has saved the rain forest, complications for indigenous people trying to maintain autonomy, and he explained a demonstration that was in the news - that all helps round out the trip for me. So yes, I enthusiatically recommend this tour and Jose as a guide! I would caution you to think about whether you really have the temperament for a group tour. You spend many days living closely with a group of strangers, in hot weather, with everyone having different expectations. Maybe a private guide would be better for you if you have real specific needs and desires. I will say that I was on the same tour as the reviewer below, Lawrence M., who gave a poor review. I have a very different perspective on the tour than he does. I would definitely go on another tour with our guide, Jose. I would NOT go on another trip with that reviewer.
Written May 2, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

sally v
Arnold, MD80 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2014 • Couples
My husband and I just returned from a 12 day trip, including 3 days in the Darien, with Birding Panama, and it was fantastic! Our guide, Kilo, was absolutely amazing in his ability to hear, identify and help us locate birds. We added 237 new birds out of the over 400 identified--these included the harpy and crested eagles, 5 owls, and other rare finds. Kilo was sensitive to the abilities of every member of the group, making sure each person got a good look at the birds. As one of the slower birders, this was much appreciated! Birding Panama offers birding experiences in a variety of habitats, giving partipants an opportunity to see lots of Panama and birds of different areas. Everything was well organized, accommodations were very good, and Kilo and Jose work hard to keep group members safe and healthy. Really an amazing adventure!
Written April 25, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

JfromMI
Ann Arbor, MI26 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2019 • Friends
Birding Panama did a fine job with all the travel arrangements. Everything worked well: airport transfers, hotel reservations, meals, locations were all as described. Our birder Kilo was AMAZING! He is incredibly knowledgeable about birds, very calm and helpful to all group members, flexible, humorous and informative. As other reviewers have mentioned, birding with a group of strangers can be challenging. Kilo accommodated quite a range of interests, styles and abilities with marvelous grace. We also had an excellent driver, Francisco, for much of our travel. He too went well beyond what a usual driver might do.
Written February 14, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

crypticprism66
Milwaukee, WI18 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2017 • Couples
We participated in a birding tour led by Birding Panama; it was an amazing, unforgettable experience. In advance of the trip, Jose Carlos was very helpful with providing information and making sure that all logistical details were provided. Our guide, Kilo Campos, is an incredibly gifted birder and a very friendly, knowledgeable person. As other reviews have stated, he has an amazing ability to detect birds and then quickly arrange the spotting scope on them; he has to be seen to be believed. Also important, though, is that he worked hard to make sure that each of us actually saw the birds that he detected. This can be very tricky, given that many of the birds are shy or are situated way back among dense foliage, but Kilo really worked hard to make sure that all of us--birders and well as non-birders--had an opportunity to view the birds. By the end of the trip, we had seen approximately 400 species of birds, and nearly 300 were lifers for me.

The pace every day was fairly rigorous, often from 5:30 am until 6:30 pm, with some driving, an hour lunch, and maybe 90 minutes rest at the hotel during the day. Most of the hikes were reasonably easy to deal with, but a couple of them were rather strenuous for us. This was a great birding experience, but we were exhausted at the end of the trip, so be prepared. Meals and lodgings were generally fine, but not usually amazing, and sometimes they were close to rustic. At the final leg of the trip--the Darien Extension--lodgings and meals were suitable, but a vegetarian couple who joined us for that leg had some difficulty meeting their needs. Remember, this trip includes rural Panama, so you have to be flexible and open. All in all, I highly recommend this trip, even though it was very tiring for us. Very much worth it, though: an unforgettable experience.
Written February 5, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Jeannie M
Denver, CO20 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2013 • Couples
Jose Garcia picked us up at 6:00 sharp and took us on a fabulous 5 hours of birding on the Pipeline road in Soberania Park. His knowledge of Panama's great wealth of birds is outstanding and we saw 50 species of birds during this short hike. In short, he was great. We highly recommend Birding Panama.
Written August 14, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

rex_bradshaw
Yorkshire, United Kingdom2 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2018 • Solo
Kilo was my guide and he was brilliant in every respect. He worked tirelessly to find the birds and to make sure that I saw them all as well as possible.
His ability to hear, identify, and locate the birds was quite exceptional. Quite possibly the best I have experienced in nearly 50 years of birding.
We saw more than 350 species in 7 days including many of the most difficult and spectacular birds I have ever seen. Kilo simply wouldn't give up until he had located our target.
I feel as though I have missed virtually nothing.
Written December 11, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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