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Butterflies of Panama

Butterflies of Panama


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New for 2018! Join our fabulous and exclusive butterflies of Panama with tropical butterfly expert Adrian Hoskins, author of “Butterflies of the World” and “1000 Butterflies”. Adrian has led over 40 butterfly photography tours across South America, Africa, Europe & Asia.

Panama is a safe, welcoming and fascinating country with over 1500 butterfly species. Almost 700 of these have been recorded in and around the 3 lodges that we visit on this tour. Due to its small size, travelling distances within Panama are relatively short, the lodges where we will stay are all excellent, and the butterflies spectacular.

This trip is ideal for first time visitors to the Neotropics, but will also offer a huge range of new species for the more experienced enthusiast. The group size is limited to a maximum of 6, and the pace is very relaxed, so it’s perfect for butterfly photographers, who will have the opportunity to question Adrian about equipment and techniques during informal evening photography and ID sessions.

After being met at Tocumen airport we have a short 2 hour drive to our first lodge at El Valle, where we spend 4 nights. The lodge is modern and very comfortable, with excellent food, 24hr mains electricity, en-suite hot showers and free wifi.

Flowering bushes in the gardens attract many beautiful species including Banded Peacock Anartia fatima, Emerald-patched Cattleheart Parides sesostris, Apricot Sulphur Phoebis argante, Blue-winged Eyemark Eurybia lycisca and Red Postman Heliconius erato. At least 4 huge dazzling blue Morpho species can be seen patrolling back and forth along the stream that runs next to the lodge, and numerous other species including the Tiger-with-tails Consul fabius, the King Swallowtail Heraclides thoas and Two-spotted Prepona Prepona demophoon can be seen around the trees in front of the restaurant.

On daily excursions away from the lodge we explore the surrounding mosaic of flowery fields and cloud forest habitats, where we expect to see Tailed Orange Pyrisitia proterpia, Viardi White Pieriballia viardi, Cattleheart White Archonias brassolis, Togarna Stripestreak Arawacus togarna, Blue-patched Eyemark Mesosemia carissama, Beautiful Pixie Melanis pixe, Tailed Jewelmark Sarota chrysus, Tiger-mimic Queen Lycorea halia, Cream-spotted Tigerwing Tithorea tarricina, Diasia Glasswing Ithomia diasia, Variegated Glasswing Godyris zavaleta, Julia Dryas iulia, Green Longwing Philaethria dido, Crimson-patched Longwing Heliconius erato, Broad-banded Sister Adelpha cytherea, Mexican Banner Catonephele mexicana, Blue and Orange Eighty-eight Callicore tolima, Rusty-tipped Page Siproeta epaphus, Banded Owl butterfly Caligo atreus, a wide variety of Cissia, Pareuptychia, Euptychia and Taygetis Satyrs, plus dozens of skippers from genera including Urbanus, Staphylus, Bolla, Autochton, Astraptes, Callimormus and Saliana.

After El Valle, we have a 2 hour drive to the legendary Canopy Tower – an ex-US airforce radar base set in the rainforest of Soberania national park. Rooms here are quite small, but the treetop level lounge/restaurant is very spacious, and provides facilities including a library, iMac, printer and free wi-fi. The observation deck of the tower offers spectacular views across the rainforest and superb opportunities for birding. Often, the stunning long-tailed metallic green Regal Hairstreak Evenus regalis and equally impressive Balint’s Hairstreak Arcas gozmanyi settle on treetop foliage, within reach of a 300mm telephoto lens. In the small compound around the tower the gorgeous Green-celled Cattleheart Parides childrenae can be regularly seen basking on bushes early in the morning.

During our 4 night stay at the tower, we will make daily excursions to nearby tracts of rainforest where we should see Brown-bordered White Itaballia pandosia, Sky-blue Hairstreak Pseudolycaena damo, Dusky-blue Groundstreak Calycopis isobeon, Ziba Scrub Hairstreak Strymon ziba, Blind Eurybia Eurybia elvina, White-patched Emesis Emesis lucinda, Mantus Metalmark Nymphidium mantus, Lavinia Glasswing Hypoleria lavinia, Juno Longwing Dryas juno, Doris Heliconius doris, Iphiclus Sister Adelpha iphiclus, Pavon Emperor Doxocopa pavon, Little Banner Nica flavilla, Mexican Sailor Dynamine postverta, Sunset Daggerwing Marpesia furcula, Malachite Siproeta stelenes, Seasonal Leafwing  Zaretis ellops, Orange-striped Leafwing Memphis philumena, Moon Satyr Pierella luna, Stigma Skipper Paramimus stigma and Glorious Blue-skipper Paches loxus.

On our excursions we will also have fascinating views of the Panama canal – it’s quite a surreal experience to see an ocean going ship drifting silently past on the narrow channel that slices through the middle of the rainforest!

Next we drive for 4 hours to Avicar, where we spend the afternoon and the following morning visiting San Francisco – a private cloud forest reserve, where we expect to see species including Tiger-mimic White Dismorphia amphione, Bluish White Leptophobia caesia, Banded Tigerwing Aeria eurimedia, Celerio Sister Adelpha serpa, Cramer’s Red-ring Pyrrhogyra crameri, Tomato Temenis laothoe, Blind Eighty-eight Haematera pyrame, Orange Daggerwing Marpesia berania and Northern Sicklewing Eantis thraso.

From San Francisco we continue for another hour or so to our final lodge, on the edge of the Darien. Here we stay in large, luxurious “African safari-type” tents, each equipped with comfortable beds, chairs and 24hr electricity. The tents are on individual raised wooden decks, each with a large verandah, reclining chairs and an attached private bathroom with hot showers. A few metres away is a large covered area with restaurant and a lounge from where we can watch several species of tanagers and hummingbirds at the feeders and bird table. A truly wonderful place to spend the next 4 nights!

The extensive grounds of the lodge are a superb place to see and photograph butterflies. Heliconius butterflies are common and roost each evening in nearby trees. Purple flowered Verbena bushes attract dozens of other species including True Cattleheart Parides eurimedes, White Yellow Eurema albula, Belus Swallowtail Battus belus, Dumenil’s Hairstreak Arawacus dumenili, Castimonia Hairstreak Iaspis castimonia, and the beautiful Hecale Longwing Heliconius hecale. Excursions from the lodge will give us the opportunity to see many other fabulous species such as Blue Doctor Rhetus periander, Blomfild’s Beauty Smyrna blomfildia, Monarch Danaus plexippus, Red-striped Leafwing Siderone galanthis, Broken Silverdrop Epargyreus exadeus, Blue Flasher Astraptes fulgerator and the exquisite Barcastus Firetip Mysoria barcastus.

Back at the lodge, we will check out a tree that on our recce tour had 14 species simultaneously feeding at a sap run – Owl butterflies Caligo brasiliensis and C. telamonius, Two-eyed Numberwing Callicore pitheas, Mosaics Colobura dirce and C. annulata, Stinky Oakleafs Historis odius, Northern Ectima Ectima erycinoides, Split-banded Tree-bark Opsiphanes cassina, Tiger Beauty Tigridia acesta, and 5 species of  Cracker – Hamadryas feronia, februa, ipthime, amphinome and laodamia! Crackers get their name from the “crackling bacon” sound that males produce during territorial displays. All 4 species are very beautiful, particularly the gorgeous blue amphinome and laodamia.

Sadly our tour has to finally end, so we head back to Gamboa, a short distance from the Panama Canal. At Gamboa we stay overnight at a comfortable B&B before transferring the following day to Tocumen airport for our return flights.

Notes: The use of butterfly nets is prohibited on this tour. Tour starts and finishes at Panama Tocumen airport (PTY). Grading: Walks of up to 5 kms on easy trails with a few steep sections. Suitable for anyone who is reasonably fit. Please note that Canopy Tower has restaurant/lounge on 3rd floor and stairs are steep.


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