PANAMA CITY--The best seat in the house from which to observe the
rich bird life of the Soberania National Park will probably be the
Canopy Tower, a rain forest lodge due to open Dec. 1.
The tall, silo-like building, capped by a dome and converted
from a former radar installation built by the U.S. Air Force, sits
atop Semaphore Hill in a well-preserved forest 30 minutes by car
from Panama City.
The project is the brainchild of Raul Arias de Para, who has
taken a long-term lease for conservation-related development of the
37-acre site granted to his newly formed company, Divertimento
Ecologico. "This hill," Arias said during a site tour, "is
considered one of the best bird-watching areas in Panama, and from
the Canopy Tower you can easily see birds that inhabit the
uppermost layer of the forest and are normally very hard to
Arias and his six-man crew stripped much of the interior of the
original conical building to create a lodge with four floors.
Guests are accommodated, seemingly in the trees, on the third-floor
level in six double rooms with 80-foot ceilings, private bathrooms
and hot showers. Toilets reuse the water from the shower and sink,
and faucets are fitted with low-flow heads.
During a tour of the facility, Arias pointed out a special hook
by the shower for binoculars, so that bathers may scrub up yet keep
up with the toucan and parrot spotting.
Guests booking the suite accommodation will be able to rock in a
hammock while enjoying the views and sounds of the rain forest, and
all rooms and bathrooms have windows with canopy vistas.
Sitting above the forest canopy, the fourth floor houses the
dining facilities and lounge area, all looking out to surrounding
deck space, already equipped with telescopes. The ground floor will
house a museum documenting how the water cycle operates in the
canal watershed; it will also outline a history of the tower, while
above, on the second floor, is a mezzanine lounge area.
Access to the tower is up a mile-plus-long rain forest road,
joining the main road but limited to pedestrians and two specially
equipped golf carts. A survey of this corner of the Soberania park,
conducted by the National Association for the Conservation of
Nature (Ancon) and the Nature Conservancy, identified 269 species
of plants, 96 species of birds, 35 species of mammals and 15
species of amphibians.
The double room rates with all meals are $95 per person, and
taxi fare from Panama City will cost approximately $30. By advance
reservations and with guides on site, Divertimento Ecologico offers
three tours: the Awakening of the Rainforest, 6 to 11 a.m., the
most active time of day for the inhabitants of the rain forest, and
a tour including breakfast; Lunch on Top of the Hill, 11 a.m to 3
p.m., the best time of day to see birds of prey, particularly hawks
during their migrations in fall and spring, and Night in a
Different World, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., another period of high activity,
with owls, monkeys and star gazing.
Phone: (507) 264-5720
Fax (507) 263-2784
E-mail [email protected]