Photo Galleries: Panama's Canopy Tower David Tipling/Canopy Tower

Click on a picture to view a larger image

For a birder searching for a next frontier, the joys of tropical birding are easily realized in Panama. Only hours from the States, this small Central American country meets all the important criteria for the traveling birder—outstanding birding, terrific accommodations, and modern services. The sister lodges, Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge, are, without question, the two most highly regarded eco-lodges in the country. Owned and operated by native Panamanian Raul Arias de Para, these two lodges are a paragon of ecotourism. Combining his three great loves of business, conservation, and birding, Raul has overseen the development of a lodge system with wide appeal among birders and other naturalists. Each year the number of visitors to the Canopy Tower has grown considerably, while the new Canopy Lodge is showing strong promise. Each of these lodges offers a unique perspective on the natural treasures of Panama, and each presents the opportunity for a fulfilling birding vacation. VENT shares Raul's vision for the future of birding and ecotourism, and was the first bird tour company to bring groups to both of these remarkable lodges. VENT offers more departures to the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge than any other company.

The Canopy Tower. Only 45 minutes from Panama City, the Canopy Tower presents the best birding Panama has to offer. Set in the heart of Soberania National Park, you'll be surrounded by nature, yet gain access to a host of habitats and other locations. Like a hilltop citadel, the Canopy Tower stands above an ocean of rainforest. This amazing eco-lodge—formerly a radar tower owned by the U.S. Air Force, then later the property of the Panamanian government—was the culmination of years of hard work and perseverance on the part of Raul, who worked tirelessly to bring his goal of having a lodge in the middle of nature to fruition. Among the most unique lodges in the world, the Canopy Tower, at five stories, allows guests limitless views and a bird's-eye perspective on a treetop world of seldom seen birds.

On the roof of the tower, where you'll enjoy inspiring sunrises and glowing sunsets, you can look out on an expansive and totally protected rainforest, and down on the historic Panama Canal. Birding from atop the tower is an unforgettable experience and the sounds of woodpeckers, toucans, trogons, tanagers, flycatchers, and shrike-vireos will serenade you daily. A walk down Semaphore Hill below the tower is always a treat, a perfect introduction to an unfamiliar suite of tropical flycatchers, antshrikes, motmots, and manakins. Monkeys are common too, and red howlers and white-faced capuchins provide stark reminders of where you are.

Only minutes away is famous Pipeline Road, likely the single most famous birding site in all of Panama. Pipeline Road provides access to a tract of forest deep in Soberania National Park. A trip here is an essential aspect of the Canopy Tower experience, and you're assured of immersion into a secret world of trogons, woodcreepers, and antbirds. Mixed species flocks will delight you while innumerable tropical plants will astound you. Birds of marsh and wetland are readily found at a variety of locations, and all are only minutes away from the tower.