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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Panama’s Canopy Lodge‏

March 24th, 2011 · 3 Comments

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Canopy Lodge, where I stayed on the nights of March 6 through 9, opened in 2005 along a clear running stream. The lodge consists of four buildings: the main building is the kitchen, and the completely open dining room, the library, and the living room. The other buildings have a total of 12 guest rooms, each with a private bath.

Raúl Arias de Para created Canopy Lodge. The grandson of Don Tomás Arias, one of the founders of the Republic of Panama, Raúl graduated from St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia, and from the University of Virginia, where he obtained an MS degree in 1970. Returning to Panama, he became a banker, then a member of the National Assembly, then after the fall of Noriega became the country’s Financial Director of Public Security, then a businessman. He is now perhaps the country’s leader in fostering its ecotourism.

Visiting Canopy Lodge during the dry season was comfortable in every way. None of the guest rooms even had locks. But because the lodge is within a gated compound, I felt completely safe leaving my camera, my MacBook Air laptop, and iPad in the unlocked room or even in the open living and dining areas of the lodge.

I was amazed at the absence of mosquitos and other bugs. And the lodge, at 2,000 feet according to Google Maps, was well above the sweltering heat and humidity of Panama’s lowlands. The lodge sits next to the protected area of the Cerro Gaital Natural Monument within El Valle de Antón, a 20-mile wide crater.

We had fast and easy Internet access, but no phones, no TV or radio, which I think is the ideal scenario. The computer for guest use is a 27-inch iMac, just like my main computer at home. Raul told me that originally he had used a PC, but guests often downloaded viruses to it, so he switched to a Mac.

The Main Canopy Lodge Building

The Main Canopy Lodge Building

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Our leaders at Canopy Lodge were naturalist Eric Horvath and bird guide Harmodio “Moyo” Rodríguez. Both were incredibly knowledgeable, positive, and helpful.

A little story tells how helpful Moyo was. In Panama as at home I usually wear tight blue jeans without a belt. But wearing them day after day in warm, humid Panama seemed to make them grow. I badly needed a belt and asked Moyo if he had a piece of string. Instead, he immediately drove me to the market in the town of El Valle, where at a stall I bought a belt for $6. My belt became my souvenir of Panama.

Eric and Moyo

Eric and Moyo

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Eric, Bob, Larry, and I arrived in mid-afternoon. Soon afterwards Chris and Mariana arrived, bringing our group up to six Americans.

During our visit to Canopy Lodge we explored all the best nearby birding trails for the next two days. We saw more than birds.

A Tree Orchid

A Tree Orchid

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A Banana Flower

A Banana Flower

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Two Boys Play in a Tree

Two Boys Play in a Tree

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Then, on March 9 we drove down to the lowlands to see different species. Our first stop was some cattle pastures and forest near the Pan-American Highway.

A Cashew

A Cashew

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A Lowlands Scene Near Cattle Pastures

A Lowlands Scene Near Cattle Pastures

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Our final stop of this lowlands morning was some rice fields along the road to the town of Juan Hombrón, near the Pacific Ocean. I jumped a small ditch to make some photograph, and when I finished I jumped it again. While I made it with ease, I slipped on loose gravel and fell. Protecting my expensive camera and lens was like second nature to me, but somehow I managed to hurt both my left and right hip. A muscle in my left hip was quite painful, but the muscle relaxant that Chris gave me worked quite fast. My right hip suffered no more than an 8-inch-long bruise.

We left Canopy Lodge the next morning for the two-hour drive through Panama City to Canopy Tower. En route we stopped in the town of El Valle so everybody could do some shopping.

Bob Bought a Panama Hat as His Souvenir

Bob Bought a Panama Hat as His Souvenir

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Chris and Mariana Study the Fabric

Chris and Mariana Study the Fabric

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Larry Ponders Which Container to Buy

Larry Ponders Which Container to Buy

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Canopy Lodge was my first taste of how wonderful a Central American ecolodge can be. It got me thinking about where to go next.

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Posted in: Panama

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gretchen // Mar 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Fast Internet and no mosquitoes sounds like heaven!

  • 2 Patty // Apr 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing your adventures!
    I might have missed it, but when you stayed at the lodge did you have access to a fridge? I inject both insulin and leptin and they (especially the latter) need to be kept refrigerated.
    This is always my big worry when I’m thinking about traveling.

  • 3 David Mendosa // Apr 2, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Dear Patty,

    At both Canopy Lodge and Canopy Tower (same ownership) they were most accommodating. For example, I told them that I follow a very low-carb diet (no starches or sugars) and they provided that for every meal. While I didn’t have a fridge in my room at either place, I could certainly have used one in their kitchens.

    Best regards,

    David

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