Panama’s central Caribbean coast is prime bird-watching country. The Audubon Society once identified 350 species on a single day during its annual Christmas Bird Count. Especially popular spots for birding include what is now the Área Protegida San Lorenzo and the Achiote and Escobal Roads, in Costa Abajo west of Colón.
The roads to Achiote and Escobal start just past Gatún Dam, though they can be tough to drive, particularly in the rainy season. Bird-watchers should go with an experienced guide.
Nattur Panama (tel. 442-1340, fax 442-8485, www.natturpanama.com) offers a popular tour, the Conquerors’ Path, that includes a boat trip down the lower Río Chagres to Fuerte San Lorenzo, a tour of the fort, and a trip to Gatún Locks. The cost is US$85 per person with a four person minimum. It also offers tours of Portobelo, Gatún Locks, and (gulp) Colón, as well as fishing and birding trips.
Consider the birding trip if the owner, Willie Martínez, is leading it; he’s widely considered the best birding guide in the country. The group has a new nature lodge in Sabanitas.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition