Panama … November

Hi all, I am thinking of going to Panama for a long weekend at the end of November. Probably focussing on the pipeline road and perhaps Barro Colorado and Coiba island. Any advice on places to go, and is that time of the year any good?

Targets for me include Olingo, Tayra, Night Monkey, Woolly Opposum, Rothschild’s Porcupine, Northern Naked-tailed Armadill. Pygmy Sloth (where are these?), Coiba Island Howler and Agouti, and a Margay or Oncilla would be nice.

Any advice? And has anyone been to Coiba or Barro Colorado Islands?




  • Vladimir Dinets

    I spent about 24 hrs at Pipeline Trail a few years ago, and the only sp. from your list that I saw was the opossum. There was also some common stuff like coatis, raccoons, a tamandua, squirrels etc. It was in January. One notable thing at that time of year was that although the forests were teeming with rodents, I had virtually zero trapping success in the lowlands.

    I was on Coiba for one day, mostly looking for birds. Saw an agouti and a band of howlers, too, but I don’t remember the exact location. I don’t think any of these three island endemics will be recognized as full species once the current splitting wave ends. Coiba howler is listed as a subspecies even by CSC-based HMW. Pygmy sloth is on one uninhabited islet on the Caribbean side; I don’t think you can fit it into even an extended weekend unless you charter a hydroplane.

    Overall, by far the best place in Panama for me was Darien NP (34 spp. in one week), but it also takes more time to visit. I’d recommend at least five days if you fly there and back. It’s a half-day walk from the airstrip to the forest camp, and another half-day to the high-elevation campsite, plus there’re some low-elevation trails worth exploring, particularly at night.

  • tai haku

    I had a Tayra crossing the road in the Gamboa rainforest resort which is near pipeline road. We walked the road down past the serpentarium towards, I think, the cable car – there’s only one road with the orchid garden, butterfly farm etc on it – that’s the road. apparently they are seen relatively regularly in the afternoons.

    We also had hispid cotton rats in the grass around ammo ponds in gamboa (and lesser capybara). Wooly opposum was found spotlighting both the road up to canopy tower and again on the main road to gamboa. Agouti is easy in Gamboa and also on Barro Colorado. Barro Colorado is nice – you should get a couple of bats there too.

  • Matthew Steer (@otteradrift)

    We’re going in December, so can’t help. But if you do go, please get your trip report up quickly… ; )

    I’d love to see the pygmy sloth, it really does feel like a “last chance to see” with only 100 left hanging out on Escudo de Veraguas. Interesting news story about a bungled attempt to start a captive breeding programme by the back-door this year:

  • brugiere dominique

    Sorry, can’t help. Will be in Costa Rica and Panama next January.
    Good luck

  • charleswhood

    I’ve been birding in Panama four times and will be going again in August, so will add an update then. Via bird reports, tyras really seem like a matter of field time and luck; many of my friends have seen one (eventually) while I have not, yet I’ve seen jaguarundi in the neotropics five different times. Olingo I had in Panama on a night drive from Canopy Tower Lodge — so unusual that the owner didn’t believe me when I mentioned it at lunch the next day, thought that I meant kinkajou. Night monkey was a stake-out at their sister property in the foothills, Canopy Lodge, which sometimes has Rothschild’s porcupines (and nectar-eating bats). They have now opened a new camp in Darien, which may make access more regular, but I do think one would need more time than a weekend to have much luck on such an ambitious want list. / Charles Hood

  • WJE


    A friend of mine asked me if I could give some comments on this.
    I have lived on Barro Colorado Island for about half a year (studying agoutis). None of the species you mention are easy there, in fact, of your list I have only seen Tayra a couple of times which was always by pure luck.

    BCI is good for the following species (which are also quiet common in general):
    – Mantled howler (guaranteed)
    – Central-American agouti (guaranteed)
    – White-faced capuchin (good chances)
    – Red-tailed squirrel (relatively common)
    – Collared peccary (easy at night)
    – Red brocket (doable at night)
    – Coati (locally common, but groups are always on the move).
    – Northern tamandua (rather common, day and night)
    – Geoffroy’s/black-handed spider monkey (need some luck)
    – Geoffroy’s tamarin (need some more luck)
    – Tayra (need lots of luck, mostly during daytime)
    – Ocelot (BCI is probably one of the better places in C-America, but you need even more luck. Best chances are right after sunset.)
    – Tomes’ spiny rat (fairly common, nighttime)
    – Rufous tree rat (difficult, nighttime)
    – Common opossum (quite difficult, nighttime)
    – Robinson’s mouse opossum (not too difficult, nighttime).
    – Paca (doable at night, but don’t count on it).
    – Quite some interesting bat species, but I never looked into this.

    On BCI, your target species are very difficult (I don’t even know if all of them even occur there). The main problem with BCI however, is that tourists are usually only allowed on day tours with a guide. I find these tours rather disappointing and your chances for any of the better species are virtually zero. Also, most interesting species are active at night and are rather shy. So, unless you are able to arrange something so that you can stay for a couple of days (and nights!), I wouldn’t advice going there. Unless you want to see howlers, agoutis and maybe a tamandua. Olingos I have only seen in the Chiriqui cloud forests in west-central Panama.

    • Jon Hall

      Thanks – that’s extremely useful information! By the way do you know of a place called “Monkey Island” off of Panama City. Sounds like Tamarins and Night Monkey are easy to see there but are they wild and naturally occuring there or is it more like a zoo?

      • taihaku

        The tamarins we had repeatedly and easily from canopy tower itself. We also had brilliant views of them at what the CT staff refer to as the MetroPark (which is somewhere near Panama City).

        Night Monkeys were also seen repeatedly from the tower whilst we were there but not well. I think the best chance for these would be to find a roost tree – the CT guides knew where all these were but as luck would have it every time we went to check one the monkeys were elsewhere.

        As for the Woolly Opposum my gut feel on this is that with sufficient time spent spotlighting you should be able to get one but maybe we were just very lucky when we were there.

        Here’s a photo:

      • WJE


        I don’t know monkey island, so I can’t say much about it, sorry.
        Also, I believe that both tamarins and night monkeys are also regularly seen (and sometimes fairly easy) around Gamboa, including pipeline road. This area is always worth a visit, also for birdlife.

  • WJE

    Oh and, about the season, end of November is the end of the rainy season/beginning of the dry season. My experience is that the dry season is the easiest period for mammals… I saw most cool mammal species in Feb-March (high temperatures, good sight through the forest, not much food available so a lot of foraging activity).

  • Jon Hall

    Dear all thank you for the advice. Sounds like Barro COlorado isn’t worth a trip for me (even if I can stay overnight) but I will go for a few days and at the very least have a reasonable chance of seeing the Tamarins & Night Monkeys plus Woolly and Common Opposums and maybe a Tayra and Olingo.

  • morganchurchill

    The Canopy Tower Lodge does a mammal tour…reading up on their website might give you an idea of what stuff is around and gettable

  • John Pilgrim

    I was on the Pipeline Road for ten days in September 2011, and saw a few of your targets:
    Bushy-tailed Olingo – a group once in a flowering tree near the place with the canopy tower;
    Tayra – three times in the daytime, mostly quite a way down the road;
    Northern Naked-tailed Armadillo – twice, very near the entrance to the road.
    (also Tamandua, Neotropical Otter, Mantled Howler, Agouti & Red Brocket)

    • Jon Hall

      THanks John Sounds good. How did you get access to the Pipeline road. I heard there was a locked gate which prevents vehicles from getting down it Is that right?

      cheers Jon

      • John Pilgrim

        I just walked the road, so I can’t recall if there’s a gate or not. There’s a certain point beyond which only researchers are supposed to go, but this is not notably enforced. I never reached the end of the road, but got close once (a long way, but if you’re walking a lot in the dark anyway…)

  • iyufera1

    Jon, what they call “Monkey Island” is a small islet in Lake Gatún, the reservoir that feeds the Canal. Boats depart both from the Gamboa Rainforest Resort and the docks right across the river (cheaper) and take tourists along the Canal to the island, where habituated Geoffroy’s Tamarins will jump onto the boat. White-faced capucins and mantled Howlers are common along the way. Worth taking a very early boat, before the tourists arrive. I can give you the contact of a boat guy willing to depart at 7 am (not all do). Nowadays the Canopy Tower have habituated the tamarins and they are usually seen from the restaurant level.

    As for the rest, Olingo is actually not difficult on night drives from Canopy Tower; I’ve even seen it from the restaurant windows, as well as Night Monkeys, on the cecropia trees. Kinkajou, Woolly Opossum, Rothschild’s Porcupine and Northern Tamandua are all frequently seen on the drives (they have an open-top safari vehicle).

    Some friends of mine recently visited Escudo de Veraguas and photographed Pigmy Sloth, will ask around and get back to you.

    Lesser Capybara are almost guaranteed on night drives at the Gamboa Rainforest resort, and can be easily seen during the day at the Radisson Hotel golf course in Gamboa.

    Send me a message before you come, it’s possible I’ll be around in Nov.

    Best, Ignacio.

    • Jon Hall

      THanks Ignacio – this is all good information that I will link back to the site. The thread though is quite old (2013) and I went to Panama twice since then .. but thank you for your offer of help! I will make sure all these comments can be seen on the Panama page because I know others will find them useful. Hope all is going well and have fun in Nicaragua with JG. Jon

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