My Girlfriend is a well known and published birder and outdoor enthusiast and I travel teaching people how to rescue injured and orphaned wildlife. So we frequently travel to very isolated locales and our vacations usually involve activities that most people don't want to do. Our idea of "camping" is much mire primitive and short on comforts. This trip was different. While we still hiked through Central American rainforests and rode down rivers in dugout canoes in order to access the locations of some very rare birds, we returned, every night, to Canopy Camps Darien Camp. There we were spoiled with platformed tent bedrooms with private bathrooms and outside showers with hot water. The meals were as good (or better) than at any big hotel and they were served at an outdoor dining room. The entire setup was first class and give them my highest recommendation. I encourage anyone going there to have thorough understanding of what and what is not covered in the cost of the trip. Also ask what other activities might you participate in and whether those activities have additional costs. All the guides were excellent but our favorite was "Nando."
A very well run operation.
I loved this place. The "rooms" are referred to as tents and though they have canvas sides, there are wood floors and supports. The bathroom is separate, but each room has their own one and the "walk" there is literally feet and on wood, not dirt. The eating area is open air and there are always birds around to look at. I especially liked the nesting Chestnut-headed Oropendolas. There were decent numbers of birds on the grounds, and the location gives access to more of the Darien. Staff was very helpful and meals were good. Wifi was intermittent.
Canopy Camp is a long way from Panama City airport but not quite to the end of the to the Panamericana Highway. The camp is about 1 kilometer off of the highway which is far enough not to hear any noise.
It consists of tents pitched upon decks with a shower room and sink built off to one side. We where in #1 which was more secluded from the others but some of the tents where fairly close to each other.
There is a common open air dining room and lounge with a small frig stocked with sodas and local beer also single servings of assorted alcohols and wine. The dining is family style with all guests sitting at the same table. The food was good, plentiful and tasty but a little heavy on the beef.
The grounds of the camp has very nice well maintained trails through jungle and fields. We skipped a tour just to enjoy these trails.
OK so what do you do here? This is Primarily a "birding" base camp. You'll split into two groups of six get up, usually early and take a van to some location and then walk trails looking for and at birds. If your not a birder this place is probably NOT for you, if you are this place is definitely for you. Be warned the amount of birds you'll see is like drinking from a fire hose. Mostly different from what you see in North America.
Which brings me to our Camp issued guide Eliecer Rodriguez (I hope I got that right) WOW he was amazing. He could bird by ear as well as by eye, he knew every field mark in the book and he could get a scope on a bird faster than I could get binoculars on it. I can't say enough good stuff about him. A birding machine!
Weather. We went in the dry season March 5th or so for about a week the weather was perfect, hot 80-90F but relatively low humidity about 60%. It rained the second to the last day and it was very humid probably close to 100% not the most comfortable.
If your worried about coming to Panama, don't Panama City it is a very modern city, they use U.S. dollars and the people are friendly.
If your coming to bird the Darian Canopy Camp is a must!
I had heard of this location many times in the two years since it opened. It was everything I had heard and more. Very comfortable tents with very clean floors and bedding. Designer bathrooms with open-air showers. The common area and dining room are open to the grounds and very comfortable. The food was served buffet style and was terrific at every meal. The staff could not have been more accommodating. Altogether a dreamy experience - and then there were the birds! I would definitely stay here again and would recommend it to anyone seeking a birding experience to remember.
If waking in the pre-dawn to the calls of Great potoo, Black & white owl, and Common paraque appeals to you, then Canopy Camp Darien should be high on your list of places to visit. Though it's called a "camp" and room accommodations are tents, it is every bit as comfortable as any other Central American eco-lodge I've stayed (e.g. Pico Bonito, Chan Chich, Canopy Tower, etc.). An array of solar panels provide electricity, so there's no roar of a generator drowning out the sounds of nature.
Guides Nando and Danilo Jr. are adept at finding birds and quickly training scopes on them. They're warm, affable, and patient caballeros who go out of their way to make the visitor feel welcome, and they'll do everything in their power to assure everyone has had a look at a bird before moving on.
Though my chances of seeing "new" bird species diminishes with each visit to Central America, I eagerly anticipate a return to Canopy Camp in the not-too-distant future.