The Rainforest Discovery Centre and Pipeline Road

The Rainforest Discovery Centre is on the edge of Soberania National Park. It has a some trails, a viewing tower over the forest canopy, and a hummingbird area – what’s not to like! 🙂

The answer to that question is… getting there, and getting up early… there isn’t any public transport to the park, and the birds all come out at the crack of dawn – and so we found ourselves in a taxi heading towards the centre at 5.30am! Yes, maybe this trip has turned us a bit crazy…  🙂

It took around an hour to get there, and our driver Gina was a little surprised that the last 2km were on a gravel road…. :-). We arranged to be picked up by her colleague at the junction where the gravel road met the paved road – we didn’t mind walking the 2km back as it gave us more area to look for animals and birds! 🙂

By 7am we were on our way to the canopy viewing tower – there were hardly any other visitors – it was nice and tranquil – time to spot some birds! 🙂 There are apparently more than 400 bird species in this area – it’s a bird hotspot!

The path towards the viewing tower.
Scaled pigeon.
CC on top of the viewing tower.
Blue dacnis – female.
Blue dacnis – juvenile.
Red-lored Parrot.
PB on the viewing tower.
View from the tower.
Red-legged honeycreeper.
Keel-billed toucan

We did pretty well on the bird viewing and had managed to see a few new birds – not quite all 400 of them – but it was a start! 🙂 It was time to come down from the tower and walk some of the trails.

Trail through the forest.
Some wetlands along the trail.
Western slaty-antshrike.

As well as the trails and the canopy tower, the centre also has a big deck area with hummingbird feeders hanging up to attract the hummingbirds. So of course we had to spend a bit of time hanging out there 🙂 We saw tons and tons of hummingbirds…

White-necked jacobin – female.
White-necked jacobin – male.
Two hummingbirds hanging out on a branch.
Violet-bellied hummingbird.

After we left the hummingbird area we headed back towards the entrance, and as a bonus we saw some howler monkeys!

Mantled howler monkey.
Appropriately for Panama – the centre’s ticket office is constructed from a shipping container!

After we left the centre, our morning was not over. That’s because near the centre is the famous ‘pipeline road’. The pipeline road is very famous as a bird-watching area, as it’s a long (17km) flat road that goes straight through the middle of undisturbed jungle. We weren’t about to walk the whole 17km :-), but we thought we would stroll for a few kilometres and back to see if we could find more birds.

Entrance to the pipeline road. No cars allowed.
We found a lizard.
CC on the pipeline road.
Red-throated ant-tanager.

We didn’t see very many birds on the pipeline road – probably because it was getting towards midday and they were all hiding! So we headed back towards the rainforest centre, and then walked the 2km gravel road back to the edge of Gamboa – where we had arranged to be picked up. This turned out to be a really good walk – it was shady and we saw a coati and a whole bunch of howler monkeys making a massive racket in the forest.

A howler monkey takes it easy.
This howler monkey is not taking it easy…
We’ve arrived at the end of the road. A sign marks the way back to the Rainforest Discovery Centre.

Now all we needed to do was wait for our ride back to Panama City. Luckily there was a shady spot with a view of Gatun Lake – we even saw a couple of ships go past on their way to the canal locks. We were exhausted, but it had been a great morning. 🙂

View of Gatun Lake.

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