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Birding Gamboa - public transport or rental car?

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Old Friday 11th July 2014, 18:30   #1
kilianwasmer
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Birding Gamboa - public transport or rental car?

Hi.

We are going to visit Panama. Gamboa will be our first stop. Is it necessary or useful to have a rental car in Gamboa or can you visit all birding spots (Pipeline road to Canopy Tower Lodge) on foot and by public transports (or by taxi/camioneta) easily?

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Last edited by kilianwasmer : Friday 11th July 2014 at 18:43.
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Old Friday 11th July 2014, 18:53   #2
Andrew Whitehouse
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I spent a week in Gamboa in April and didn't have a rental car. You can walk to the start of Pipeline Road from the village (and see quite a lot of birds whilst doing so). If you don't mind walking then you can get quite along way along the road if you spend a day there (it is quite hot though). You might easily expect to see/hear 100+ species a day doing this. It may be worth arranging a taxi at least on some days to drop you by the Rainforest Discovery Centre at dawn. This is a few kilometres along the road and they have a canopy tower here, which is good early in the morning (Blue Cotinga, raptors, puffbirds etc). The Canopy Tower Lodge is not on Pipeline Road - I suspect you could visit that area too, though maybe a taxi would help.

It's easy to get to Summit Ponds/ Park/ Old Gamboa Road area by bus from Gamboa. Buses going to Panama City stop outside the park, from where all these sites are an easy walk. I think you could also do Plantation Road by bus, although I didn't do this.

Gamboa is a very good place if you like birding on foot (though it could be improved a lot by having more places to eat in the evening!). Remember to drink lots of water though - it's a warm place.
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Old Saturday 12th July 2014, 01:36   #3
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I agree with Andrew on the walkability of Gamoba. My wife and I spent 5 days there in 2010 (at Ivan's) and walked regularly through town to the Discovery Center, its trails. the tower and of course, Pipeline Road. We enjoyed every part of those walks. As Andrew pointed out, the birding can be good at any point on the walk.
I don't remember seeing a taxi in town. We used the bus system to come and go from Panama City and also for a half day trip to a trail below the Canopy Lodge.
On the walk, you might also find it amusing as we did to be trying to focus on a Greater Ani or Yellow-bellied Seedeater with a huge ship gliding by in the near background.
When we were there, we ate regularly at the buffet at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort.

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Old Saturday 12th July 2014, 03:08   #4
njlarsen
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We did have a vehicle available during our visit to Gamboa some years ago. One of the advantages was that we could visit the north coast west of Colon while staying in Gamboa.

Niels
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Old Thursday 17th July 2014, 03:42   #5
kilianwasmer
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Thank's a lot for all your answers. It seems as if a car was not really necessary for visiting Gamboa. So I have just one last question.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehouse View Post
It may be worth arranging a taxi at least on some days to drop you by the Rainforest Discovery Centre at dawn. [...] I suspect you could visit that area too, though maybe a taxi would help.
Are there taxis/camionetas in Gamboa or is it possible to visit Canopy Tower, Plantation Road and Rainforest Discovery Center by public transports (at dawn)? The distances from Gamboa are not that short so getting there on foot early won't be easy.
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Old Thursday 17th July 2014, 11:26   #6
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I don't remember the bus schedule but we used it to get to the bottom of the steep hill leading to the Canopy Tower. If you feel like you'lll need a cab to get to the Rainforest Discovery Center, then you'll surely need one to get to the top of the hill that the Canopy Tower is on. When starting out on Plantation Trail, we were accosted by a ranger who asked for an entrance fee for the day. We saw him again while walking Pipeline Road. We said we were walking to the resort and he didn't charge us then. Apparently, the fee for the PRDC covers the daily fee for the park. Speaking of entrance fees, after walking up that very steep hill to the Canopy Tower, we were told we could not bird the Canopy Tower or grounds unless we were staying there. At $110 per night EACH, we declined. They had openings that night but would rather the rooms be empty than give a reduced price for walk up traffic.
As I mentioned, I don't remember seeing taxi's in Gamboa. Possibly, that type of transportation is more of a side business for one or more of the locals since the town is so walkable and the buses are frequent enough to go just about anywhere else. You might have to ask around for someone who would provide that service. The Resort might be of some help since they probably service clients who can afford to hire taxi's.
True, if you want to get to the PRDC (Panama Rainforest Discovery Center) at dawn, you'll have to get up early and walk in the dark. We did that once and spent the first morning hours listening to the dawn chorus near the entrance to Pipeline Road. Very few of the sounds were birds we could identify but the experience was exciting. As I recall, there were very few bothersome bugs.

Two of the photos attached may show you how walkable the town is. There are nicely built and well kept homes, paved sidewalks, landscaping, maybe a bit more upscale than what initially comes to mind for a small town in Central America. This little store is about the best option you'll find though for convenience food supplies. You might want to stock up before arriving in Gamboa! Finally, two lesser known trailheads that are right in town are pictured. You may have to ask about finding the trailhead to the watertower. There was a lek of Red-capped Manakins near the top and a continuation of that trail going past the tower that we never explored. Be prepared for a leg workout however; it is a steep climb. The fairly short La Laguna trail is near the Resort and may well be on the Resort property. It was not particularly well kept when we were there but the birdlife in the second growth habitat was terrific and it was less than ten minutes walk from where we were staying.

I hope all this helps; I did post a trip report for our visit back in 2010.

Steve
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Last edited by Hamhed : Thursday 17th July 2014 at 11:29. Reason: spelling
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Old Thursday 17th July 2014, 11:36   #7
Andrew Whitehouse
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kilianwasmer View Post
Thank's a lot for all your answers. It seems as if a car was not really necessary for visiting Gamboa. So I have just one last question.



Are there taxis/camionetas in Gamboa or is it possible to visit Canopy Tower, Plantation Road and Rainforest Discovery Center by public transports (at dawn)? The distances from Gamboa are not that short so getting there on foot early won't be easy.
I stayed at Ivan's and he was able to arrange a taxi early morning to take me to the entrance to the Rainforest Discovery Centre. He has a taxi driver he can make arrangements with, although I don't think he's able to get him on every occasion you might want. It only cost a few dollars. I guess if you stay elsewhere they're likely to have similar arrangements. If you stay somewhere like the Gamboa Resort they'll undoubtedly be able to provide their own transport (though perhaps at a high price).

If you were to walk the RDC entrance on foot it would probably take 45-60 minutes walking flat out (i.e. not stopping for any birds). I guess it's about 4-5km from the middle of Gamboa. There's no public transport that would get you significantly closer.
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Old Thursday 17th July 2014, 14:49   #8
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Regarding the Canopy Center: when we were there, we also walked up. They would not let us in, and any room reservation had to be handled through their office in Panama City (they did have a phone number). We did see a couple of hummers on a feeder before leaving, and we had Mealy Parrot along the road going down again. This is a long time ago, though.

Niels
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Old Thursday 17th July 2014, 15:35   #9
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Quote:
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(i.e. not stopping for any birds).
iWould that be possible?

Steve
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Old Thursday 17th July 2014, 15:40   #10
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iWould that be possible?

Steve
Almost certainly not, hence why it would probably take a lot longer to walk that far!
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Old Thursday 17th July 2014, 16:21   #11
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Even if you don't stay at the Canopy Lodge, the road up to it is quite good for birds. We had lots of motmots, tinamous, and even a nesting fasciated antshrike right over the road.
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Old Sunday 20th July 2014, 17:29   #12
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Thanks for your answers! We finally have decided to spend the first days in Gamboa without a car.
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Old Friday 22nd August 2014, 15:17   #13
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I agree with all that was written here, and plan to visit Gamboa a second time without a car in September.
I plan to spend a few nights at Canopy Tower and a few nights at the Gamboa resort when my girlfriend visits, and then I am going to be broke! Is there economy lodging in Gamboa not including Ivan's which I didn't like? There was a house managed by a tour company at the edge of the town, but I can't contact them and think maybe Canopy has taken that over, as I see they have a B&B. I am happy with the most basic of accomodations.

While I am posting, I have two more weeks in Panama and have no idea what to do. An ideal place would be at the edge of the forest in a place with great birds, and not $150/night.

thanks!
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Old Saturday 23rd August 2014, 00:37   #14
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Take a look at my report: http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=106934 - the place we stayed in Gamboa might still be functional.

There also was a birding station in Gamboa where some people seemed to stay more dorm level. I cannot with a quick google find this, sorry. But Guido C. Berguido (http://advantagepanama.com/our-guides.html) had something to do with that place.

Niels
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Old Saturday 23rd August 2014, 01:02   #15
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Thanks but the link in your report is not working, and I actually stayed in that hostal from advantage panama around 2010 when they were just fixing or renovating it, and liked it a lot, but can't seem to contact anyone and wonder if Canopy Tower took that over.
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Old Saturday 23rd August 2014, 02:49   #16
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Guido used to be a member of birdforum (user name Capito), it is possible that a pm still would work.

Niels

Edit: have you tried tripadvisor.com?
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Old Saturday 23rd August 2014, 21:03   #17
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For those of you wondering about lodging in Gamboa, try Airbnb.com. In addition to Ivan's and Guido's place, I found two rentals when searching for a potential holiday trip in December; one for $61 and another for $80. One mentions birders and the other mentions breakfast. (Most of Airbnb places that we've stayed in are really "bed and bath" as opposed to "bed and breakfast" though many offer some sort of food items, use of their kitchens, etc.)
Worth a look if you are not already committed.

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Old Saturday 23rd August 2014, 22:03   #18
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Ivan (Ivan's B&B) used to rent out golf carts to get to pipeline road quickly - I had a car so didn't need to use - but that is good enough for pipeline road and nearby, but you will probably want to also go to Old Gamboa road (Jet antbird, Spectacled Owl, Capped Heron etc etc) if access is still allowed - probably need a taxi for that.
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Old Monday 1st September 2014, 15:49   #19
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Driving along Pipeline Road

Hello.

We are visiting Gamboa too. How far can you drive along Pipeline Road?
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Old Monday 1st September 2014, 15:55   #20
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Hello.

We are visiting Gamboa too. How far can you drive along Pipeline Road?
You can drive in to around the Rainforest Discovery Centre (and maybe a few hundred metres further). I think after that there's a locked gate and access by vehicle is more restricted.
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Old Monday 1st September 2014, 16:00   #21
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You can drive in to around the Rainforest Discovery Centre (and maybe a few hundred metres further). I think after that there's a locked gate and access by vehicle is more restricted.
Thank you. So it will be a long hike all the way up Pipeline Road...

Our group arrives in PC late at night and we want to drive straight to Gamboa. Is it safe? Some travel websites recommend not to drive in Panama at night.
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Old Monday 1st September 2014, 16:22   #22
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Our group arrives in PC late at night and we want to drive straight to Gamboa. Is it safe? Some travel websites recommend not to drive in Panama at night.
How used are you to driving where people may do alternative driving? I am, and I did prefer that travel in daylight. Roads are narrow and winding, and other drivers may not have that much light. This is the hotel we stayed in at the airport: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Rev..._Province.html (I think it was cheaper to book directly at their own website back then)

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Old Monday 1st September 2014, 16:56   #23
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Thank you. So it will be a long hike all the way up Pipeline Road...
It's a long walk if you want to go all the way but the whole road is great for birds (including the bit you can drive along). You will probably be seeing too many good birds to be able to walk really long distances.
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Old Tuesday 2nd September 2014, 11:37   #24
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You can drive in to around the Rainforest Discovery Centre (and maybe a few hundred metres further). I think after that there's a locked gate and access by vehicle is more restricted.
Here is a picture of the gate Andrew mentions and one of the many small bridges several kilometers down Pipeline Road. If you get that far by walking, you are probably walking too fast and missing too much. Remember, just walking to the beginning of Pipeline Road is a bit of a hike but a very birdy one. If you include the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center and its trails, feeders and tower, you've easily done a long morning's birding.

Steve
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Old Tuesday 2nd September 2014, 11:50   #25
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How used are you to driving where people may do alternative driving?
Niels
That's a good term for Panamanian driving, Niels. One must be prepared to think beyond normal defensive driving. Stay focused!

Steve
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