Regarded by renowned ornithologists as one of the best birding sites in the world, Ancon Expeditions' Cana Field Station is located at 1,600 feet above sea level (500 meters) in the heart of the 1.2 million-acre Darien National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The station is made up of a set of old wooden buildings that originally served as the headquarters of the gold mine that exists there. Mining in the area ceased almost 90 years ago. However, prospectors maintained the concession rights until 1997 when Ancon Expeditions negotiated with the government of Panama to ban for good this activity within the national park and turn Cana into an ecotourism and scientific research area.
The lodging accommodations are made up of 10 bedrooms with 2 single beds and 2 bedrooms with 1 double bed. Each room has 1 night table with a portable battery-powered lamp and a shoe rack. Beds are fitted with semi-orthopedic mattresses, sheets, blankets, pillows and pillow cases. The rooms are screened. There are 4 full bathrooms (showers and toilets) that are shared by the guests. Hot water for showers is available thanks to solar panels dedicated solely for this purpose (we encourage the proper management of this resource). Each guest will have a towel on their bed upon arriving to Cana. Towels and sheets are changed every 2 nights.
A small power generator (110V) provides electricity for 1 1/2 hours in the morning until breakfast time and for the same amount of time during dinner in the evenings. The generator provides electricity to light bulbs in the bedrooms, hallway, bathrooms and balconies of the dormitory and for the dinning hall, kitchen and staff quarters. There are outlets available for guests who wish to charge batteries for their electronic equipment.
A separate building houses the dinning hall and kitchen. The entire building is screened-in, but it also has an ample open balcony. Depending on the weather meals will be served on tables set up in the balcony facing the river. Meals in Cana are served family style. For special dietary requirements our cook is prepared to provide alternatives to the served meals as long as the specifics of the diet are informed to Ancon Expeditions of Panama in advance of the trip. Drinking water, coffee and tea are always available for guests at the dinning room for self service. Soft drinks, beer and wine are available for sale.
There are two other smaller open sided structures in the compound that are used as viewing points for flora and fauna.
Access to Cana is accomplished by chartered airplanes. We use either Britten-Norman Islanders (up to 8 passengers) or DeHavilland Twin Otters (up to 16 passengers), depending on the group size. The flight from Panama City is approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes long. All provisions and passengers' gear travel on the same plane from Panama City. Therefore, we enforce the need to travel light. There is a luggage weight limit restriction of 25lbs per passenger on all our flights. In addition, a lightweight day-pack is allowed as carry-on. The airstrip is 2,200 feet long (670 meters) and its landing/take off surface is grass. A drainage system allows for operation of the airstrip year round. The airstrip is 500 feet away from the lodge.
Even in the dry season passengers must be prepared to get their feet wet when crossing small creeks. We provide rubber boots and walking sticks for those who request them.
Biting insects are not common in Cana except for chiggers. We recommend wearing loose fitting clothes and always put on bug repellent particularly in areas where the garment is tight against the skin (ankles, waist line). In the latter part of the dry season (late March through April) ticks are also present. Wearing socks over pants and using bug repellent is a good deterrent against this insect.
Most tours to Cana include overnights at the remote Pirre Tent Camp located in the cloud forests close to the top of the mountain at 4,900 feet above sea level (1,500 meters). The tent camp is made up of two-person screened tents located under a thatch roof structure for further protection against rains. Tents are provided with comfortable lightweight mattresses (2 per tent), sheets and blankets. There is no electricity and water is rationed strictly for drinking and washing up (no showers). Meals are prepared daily in a small outdoor kitchen and served on dinning tables. Guests are responsible for bringing their own overnight packs on the birding hike up to the tent camp. Porters carry the supplies necessary for making the guests' stay in this remote place a comfortable one. The uphill hike to Pirre Tent Camp is about 5 hours long including intermittent stops for birding, enjoying the magnificent vistas and resting.
The temperature around the Cana Field Station reaches the high 80's (F) at noon time. At night the temperature may drop to the low 70's (F). In the cloud forests of Pirre Mt. the temperature may reach the low 80's (F) during the day and will drop to the mid 50's (F) at night. These temperatures are prevalent all year long.
Trails are not groomed in Cana and its surroundings. However, they are maintained and kept free of fallen trees and branches. Where needed, bridges have been set up to cross creeks and small rivers. The trails are not marked therefore we discourage guests who wish to hike on their own, especially at night. Travelers must always hike in the company of the Naturalist Guide or with a staff member of the Cana Field Station.
Communication with Panama City headquarters is accomplished via satellite. The telephone is only used for administrative purposes or in case of emergencies.
Given the remoteness of the area where the Cana Field Station and Pirre Tent Camp are located, every effort made to make our guests feel comfortable and safe and to allow them to enjoy their trip is a major task. Without the expertise and human skills of our staff none of it could be accomplished. We encourage guests to demonstrate their gratification by tipping the staff for the services provided.
Location: Cana, Darien National Park, Panama