Turn right at the cross over in Santiago if you come from Panama City and from there it is about a 50 – 60 minutes drive 50Km up into the cool hills where you find Santa Fe in Veraguas. Santa Fe counts with a small Hotel and a few shops where you can buy basic supplies. From here you can do a variety of hikes like to the waterfalls for example or up the slippery trail trough the wet mountain rain forest to the Cerro Tute. I recommend this only if you are in top shape because its way uphill and almost always slippery, but at the top a superb view (if the weather allows) awaits you. There are also some good spots for birdwatching along the way and onto the forest on the other side of the continental divide , but more from there once it get there on a later date. Each august there is a small orchids fair in the town well worth visiting and there are also many great spots along the Santa Maria river to be discovered. Santa Fe has a fresh climate due to the altitude close to the continental divide and it is becoming a great place where many folks build their weekend or retirement home in “Altos de Piedra”. The Artisan Market in Santa Fe sells fresh fruit and vegetables and also classic Panamá hats that are more durable and cheaper than hats found elsewhere in Panamá. BTW along the road up from Santiago there is a great place for a little pit stop where they sell fresh cheese and beverages, look out for the “Mirador” along the way, about 20 Km from Santiago, you cant miss it.
Macaws are small to large, often colorful New World parrots. In Panama mostly in the Darien we find the Blue and Gold Macaw, the Great Green Macaw and the Chestnut Fronted Macaw, the Red and Green Macaw and in the Coiba area and in the Cerro Hoya National Park the Scarlet Macaw. The majority of macaws are now endangered in the wild. Macaws eat nuts, seeds, fruit, and sometimes insects. For more Parrot Photos see this page here.
From the The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center brochure: Visitor Center: 140 square meters of open structure with terrace, 2 bathrooms and a small gift shop. There is parking for 8 cars and car access by 600 meters of dirt road from Pipeline Road. Hiking trails extend from the center to the forest. The center is energy self-sufficient with solar panels and a rain water collection system from the roof for bathrooms. 70% of construction materials come from old houses in the Canal area. The gift shop offers bottled water, sodas, snacks and souvenirs for sale.
Tower: 100 feet observation tower with a 200 meter walkway from the visitor center. Spiral stairs and 4 rest platforms every 25 feet. This painted steel tower has been specially designed by the Panamanian architect Patrick Dillon and was constructed entirely by hand.
Forest trails: There is a 1.1 kilometer circuit of forest trails. These trails are from mild to a moderate difficulty level, made of gravel and 1.2 meter wide. There are 2 rest areas along the trails, one small wood deck on the Calamito Lake shore for aquatic wildlife observation, and another wood deck in the forest with benches.
The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center is located 1.6 km from the Pipeline Road entrance. After arriving at Gamboa town at the end of Gaillard Highway, drive 3 more km following the signs for Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center is open daily from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. except Christmas and New Year days. For more info and prices see the The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center website here.
Woodpeckers are near passerine birds of the order Piciformes. They are found worldwide and include about 180 species, in Panama they can be found almost anywhere where there are trees and some of the species seen here are: the Linated Woodpecker, the Crimson Crested Woodpecker, the Pale-billed Woodpecker, the Golden Naped Woodpecker, the Red Crowned Woodpecker, the Golden Green Woodpecker, the Cinnamon Woodpecker amongst others.
Woodpeckers gained their English name because of the habit of some species of tapping and pecking noisily on tree trunks with their beaks. This is both a means of communication to signal possession of territory to their rivals, and a method of locating and accessing insect larvae found under the bark or in long winding tunnels in the tree. For more pictures of woodpeckers in Panama see this page here in our website.
From their brochure: “At only 10 minutes from downtown the Parque Natural Metropolitano is one of the most accessible tropical forests in the world.” Yes and im amazed that not more folks take advantage of this jewel within the city limits (or maybe thats a good thing, who knows). There are a few nice a easy trails, great for some bird watching or just to enjoy the nature and do some exercise. See the atached map and images. The park is open daily from 6 AM to 5PM and you need to pay a small fee at the Administration office shown at one of the attached images. See any city map for the exact location on de Ave Juan Pablo II. The parks brochure mentions that there are 227 species of birds living here and you surley will see many of them including some Toucans. The parks office also features a small store where you may buy some birding books or t-shirts and other souvenirs. Well worth a visit any time!! You can find some more photos from the Parque Natural Metropolitano here.
There are lots of vultures in Panama mainly American Black Vulture and the Turkey Vulture but there is also the majestic King Vulture and the Lesser Yellow Headed Vulture. Vultures are scavenging birds, feeding mostly on the carcasses of dead animals. A particular characteristic of many vultures is a bald head, devoid of feathers. This is likely because a feathered head would become spattered with blood and other fluids, and thus be difficult to keep clean. The decline in vultures has led to hygiene problems in India as carcasses of dead animals now tend to rot, or be eaten by rats or wild dogs, rather than be tidied up by vultures. Rabies among these scavengers is a major health threat, India has the world’s highest rate of rabies, so vultures are very important to clean up and to keep us all healthy! You can find more photos of vultures here.
The El Cope National Park or also known as the Omar Torrijos Herrera National Park is located in the province of Cocle. To drive to El Cope you turn off the Pan-American Highway about 20 miles after passing the town of Penonome coming from Panama City turning right. And from there uphill about half an hour or so. After the Village of El Cope (best ask locals for directions) you get to the Yayas Waterfalls well worth visiting also and from there its about 4Km or 45 minutes walk uphill to get to the entrance of the park where a few trails start. The El Cope Park covers 25,275 hectares and among its inhabitants we count from the Jaguar to the strong-billed woodcreeper a wide variety of animals and the forest is also know for its rubber trees. Even do its a bit hard to get to its well worth checking it out. ANAM has an office in El Cope (see the attached photo of the Village of El Cope, the ANAM office is behind those pine trees) where you can get more information as well. Its a good idea to get a local guide that knows the area so you dont get lost. To the waterfalls its easy on your own but up the park is another story, as surely you dont want to become Jaguar food.
Puffbirds in Panama - The Puffbirds and their relatives in the near passerine bird family Bucconidae are tropical near passerine birds breeding from South America up to Mexico. In Panama we find the Black Breasted Puffbird, the White Necked Puffbird, the Barred Puffbird, the White Whiskered Puffbird besides a few others. They feed on insects and small vertebrates caught by a watch and wait technique. The attached images where made along the Pipeline Road in Panama. For more images of Puffbirds from Panama see this page here.
Taboga Island is also a great place for a day trip or to stay over for a few days, its just a short boat ride from Panama City, the Calypso Queen ferry leaving from the Causeway, see the attached image for the schedules and fair. Taboga is known as the island of flowers, it is the site of, Iglesia San Pedro, claimed to be the second oldest church in the hemisphere. On Taboga you can either enjoy the sandy beaches or go hiking on some of the paths on the island even one that talkes you all the way up to the top of “Cerro de la Cruz” (around a 3 hours hike) from where you have a fantastic panoramic view. The back side of the island is a wildlife refuge where a great many seabirds make their home. Back in the village of Taboga there are a few shops and restaurants where you can have lunch or stay at one of the Hotels before heading back to Panama City.
The Blue Gray Tanager, Thraupis episcopus breeding habitat is open woodland, cultivated areas and gardens. In Panama this Tanager can be seen in almost all parts except in higher elevations. The Blue-gray Tanager lives mainly on fruit, but will also take some nectar and insects. This is a common, restless, noisy and confiding species, usually found in pairs, but sometimes small groups. It thrives around human habitation, and will take some cultivated fruit like papaya. For more photos of Tanagers see this page here.