Global Adventure - Bird and Hike the Cloud Forests of Western Panama


Global Adventure - Bird and Hike the Cloud Forests of Western Panama

See and hear a multitude of bird species, search for monkeys, and find many unique flowers, trees, and plants on early morning and late afternoon hikes with a local naturalist from two stunning lodges in the Cordillera de Talamanca of Panama. We will spend 8 nights at Mt. Totumas Lodge, the highest ecolodge in Panama at 6,500 elevation, and three nights at Finca Hartmann, a coffee plantation outside of Volcan that also features an abundance of bird species. Daily hikes will be 4-6 miles on well-maintained trails with daily elevation gains under 1,000 feet, though an optional strenuous hike to the top of Mt Totumas (8600’) will be offered. Share a cabin or a room in the Coffee House at Mt Totumas lodge, and eat at the Lodge. At Finca Hartmann, we share a rustic cabin and make our own meals. NOTE: The member fee listed is for the deposit only. See Leader's Notes for more details about the trip price.

  • Wed, Apr 15, 2020 — Sun, Apr 26, 2020
  • Global Adventures Committee
  • Global Adventures, Exploring Nature
  • Adults, Retired Rovers, Singles
  • Moderate
  • Moderate
  • High Point Elevation: 8,600 ft
  • Pace: <1 mph for birding and photography

The adventure starts and ends in the airport in David, Panama, where we meet after our connecting flight from Panama City.  All participants are expected to connect through Panama City, meeting the leader at the domestic terminal there and taking Copa Airlines CM0017 departing at 7:30 AM on 15 April 2020, and arriving at Enrique Malek International Airport in David, Panama.   EVERYONE MUST BOOK ON THIS FLIGHT AND THE RETURN LISTED BELOW!  At 9:00 AM at David Airport, we will catch a 4-wheel drive shuttle to Mt. Totumas Cloud Forest in the mountains outside of Volcan, Panama.   (The leader will be taking a red-eye flight out of Seattle on 14 April, but if participants don’t want to do a red-eye, they can arrive earlier and stay at any of the numerous hotels by the international airport in Panama City.)

We will return to the David Airport early on April 26th so participants can catch the 9:30 AM Copa flight back to Panama City and then make their way home.

Itinerary Highlights:   Spend ten and half days hiking, birding and exploring nature in the mountains of western Panama where three species of monkeys and over 200 bird species live, including Howler Monkeys, Resplendent Quetzals, and Three-wattle Bellbirds. This is a naturalist-oriented trip so the pace on our hikes will be slow with a focus on finding birds, wildlife and looking at flowers, trees, and various plants.

Stay 8 nights at Mount Totumas Lodge where a local naturalist will take us on daily 4-6-mile hikes into the remote jungle. Spend afternoons watching ten hummingbird species zip around feeders, the clouds drift over the Rio Colorado valley, or simply relaxing in a tropical paradise. Optional, late afternoon hikes into the rainforest will allow us to watch and listen to the forest change from day to night before returning to the lodge for a gourmet dinner. We will then spend three nights in a cabin at Finca Hartmann near Volcan, and bird in lower elevation forests where other species live.

April is the transition from the dry season to the wet season and so the Caribbean and the Pacific are in a daily fight over who will dominate the weather. Tropical showers may catch us on some hikes and give us a different feel for the forest. It is also the start of the breeding season so the birds will be in full chorus and the monkeys caroling early in the morning. Our hikes will start early to maximize our chance of seeing birds and wildlife. Some as early as 5:30 AM and others between 7:00 and 8:00 AM. On two days we will take a bag lunch and hike into La Amistad International Park or deep into the tropical mountains. An optional steep and strenuous hike to the top of Mount Totumas, a cinder cone inside an ancient caldera, will provide sights of a totally different ecosystem and other bird species.

Mt. Totumas Lodge is located at the end of a dirt 4-wheel track, 10-km back from a main road. The preserve is at 6500 feet elevation in the Cordillera de Talamanca and adjacent to La Amistad International Park. These rugged mountains are covered with montane and cloud forests. Bromeliads, orchids, ferns, lichens, and mosses adorn the trees. Many tropical plants will be in flower. We will be only a dozen or so miles from the Costa Rican border.

The optional hike to the top of Mt. Totumas is up a steep slope through a thick tropical forest. The elevation gain on this hike is 2300 feet in a mile and half, and the hike is strenuous. The top though is worth the effort. The summit of the cinder cone is flat, maybe a quarter mile wide, and covered with giant Costa Rican oaks, more than four or five feet in diameter. Their trunks and branches are blanketed in epiphytes. The understory is a thick bamboo forest.  Well marked trails around the lodge offer the option of exploring on your own or simply enjoying the setting if you chose not to do this hike.

Then we will spend three nights at Finca Hartmann Plantation. This is lower elevation than Mt. Totumas, and we likely will see other species such as toucans, parrots, hummingbirds, and tanagers not found at higher elevations. Finca Hartmann runs an environmentally friendly coffee operation. Shade grown coffee plantations are important wintering areas for neotropical migrants.

Time of Year:   April is a beautiful time to visit these mountains. The area is under transition from the dry season to the rainy.  The weather can be unsettled, so tropical showers may happen, usually in the afternoon. The breeding season for the birds is in full swing and the howler monkeys should sing most mornings. Temperatures will hover in the mid 60s to low 70s, the sunsets should be outstanding, the hummingbirds glorious, and the drifting clouds spectacular. Temperatures might be ten degrees warmer when we are at Finca Hartmann

Lodging:   At Mt Totumas Lodge, four people will share the cabin that has one private bedroom, a bathroom, and three beds in an open loft, and two will share a room in the Coffee House. These have beds, showers, hot water pots, WIFI and electricity for recharging devices.  At Finca Hartmann, we will share a rustic cabin that has 6 bedrooms, a bathroom with hot water, and an equipped kitchen. Finca Hartmann does not have electricity for charging electronics and no WIFI.

Food:   Except for one or maybe two mornings when we will need to make our own breakfast, full board will be provided at Mt. Totumas Lodge. Alma, the head chef, combines her expertise in Asian and European Cuisine and Karin graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. The food is gourmet and a treat after a morning or day of hiking. Generally, only one or sometimes two options are available. Vegetarian options are available but other special diets may not be available. Bring snacks for the hikes, along with your water bottle and a day pack.

At Finca Hartmann, we will pick up food supplies on our way through Volcan. The trip leader will organize dinners and breakfasts, and we will have supplies for participants to make their own lunch.

Leader’s Experience:   Thomas Bancroft,, has led many naturalist hikes for the Mountaineers, Eastside Audubon, and Washington Ornithological Society, taught birding classes for Audubon and the Introduction to Natural World class for the Mountaineers. He has traveled extensively around the world to search for birds and nature including organizing a private group trip to Mount Totumas in 2019. He has a Ph.D. in Ornithology and worked on conservation issues in the United States and Latin America. He was the Chief Scientist for National Audubon, the Vice President of Research Department for the Wilderness Society, and a researcher on conservation issues in Florida and the Everglades.

Participant Requirements:   Must be a current Mountaineers member with an up-to-date waiver on file. Although the elevation gain on our daily hikes will be less than 1,000 feet, the altitude makes them physically challenging.  Therefore, participants will need to demonstrate recent experience hiking 6 miles with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet or more (the 6,500 feet elevation will add to the challenge), and recent experience with hikes of 6 miles is good. In addition to basic fitness, participants must be willing to rise before sunrise and excited to be out in the woods early in the morning, often before sunrise. This is a group trip so participants must be comfortable spending extended time in the company of others and supporting each other.

Trip Price Detail:   Price is $2,700 per person. The trip price includes the cost of a shuttle from and back to David, Panama, the cost of lodging, meals (alcohol and sodas are not included), and guides at Mt. Totumas and Finca Hartmann. It does not include your international or domestic airfare (~$1,600), tips ($200), alcoholic beverages, snacks, medical supplies, medical and evacuation insurance, and any personal supplies.

Registration Instructions:   Leader approval is required to register.  Please complete and submit the online application form at the button below; it will automatically be forwarded to the leader for review.   After the leader’s approval, go to the trip listing and click the REGISTER button to pay the 50% deposit ($1350) and hold your space on the roster. Registration will close on February 15, 2020 or whenever the roster fills. Space is limited to 6 people.  The date for completing the balance of the payment will be communicated by the leader later (probably January of 2020).

application     trip agreement     release

Cancellation Policy: If you cancel because of an emergency, you may receive a refund less non-refundable expenses incurred and a $100 administrative fee.


Bird and Hike the Cloud Forests of Western Panama

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

After receiving your deposit, the leader will send out a series of letters or emails providing information to help participants succeed on the trip, including recommended and required gear, recommended maps and guidebooks.


Trip Reports