You can see most species of wildlife all year round in Panama. Bird watching in Panama is one of the best in the world. There are over 975 species of birds found in the country of Panama. In the US and in Canada combined, there are only 900 species of birds. Panama has a land mass similar to South Carolina, yet it has over 975 species of birds. The species of birds that you will find will depend on the time of year, but overall, bird watching is great here in Panama.
We have monkeys, sloths, and anteaters that can be seen year round. You can easily find them in specific places. You can find monkeys in Lake Gatun. Some of the animals that live in the forests of Panama are deer, wild boar, and the predators such as jaguars, cougars, and other big cats. The forests here are very thick and are not densely populated by humans so these animals avoid the roads and avoid humans. I have spent a lot of time in the jungle and I have seen jaguar tracks only once.
Whales and dolphins are another thing. We have a resident year round population of dolphins both on the Caribbean and the Pacific sides, so when we go out looking for them, we have about 75% to 80% success rate of finding them. Panama and Costa Rica are the only two places in the world where humpback whales migrate from both the northern and the southern hemispheres. However, our peak season is in between July and October when the humpback whales from the Southern Hemisphere migrate. We have a 100% success rate in our whale watching tours in the last couple of years. During the rest of the year and the migration of the humpback whales from the Northern Hemisphere, we have very few whales here. We only have about 300 compared to 2,000 during July to October. So when the northern humpback whales are here between December to March, we only have about 10% to 25% success rate in seeing a whale.
We also have whale sharks in the Isla Coiba area and sometimes around the Pearl Islands. Isla Coiba is one of the largest islands in the Pacific coast of North, Central, and South America. Is it a huge island, a national park, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the former site of a penitentiary here in Panama, so the island is virtually untouched except for the small area where the prison was, which is why Isla Coiba has such a vibrant variety of wildlife and plants. There are wild scarlet macaws, endemic birds, and even mammals. They have crocodiles, monkeys, nesting sea turtles, etc. The waters around Isla Coiba is very clear and you will see dolphins every day. You can go snorkeling every day and have a great time. They also have whale sharks, harmless whitetip reef sharks, colorful coral, and lots of tropical fish.
It is not easy to get to Isla Coiba, and that helps preserve that area. It is a six hour drive from Panama City to Santa Catalina. From Santa Catalina, you can hire a local tour operator or some dive shops that offer scuba diving and snorkel trips as well in the Coiba area. It is another two hours, depending on the speed of your boat, to Isla Coiba coming from Santa Catalina. You can do it on a day trip from Santa Catalina. You can also spend the night out on the ranger’s station there, which is pretty basic. You have to bring your sheets, towel, and your food. You can also go to Isla Coiba from David in Boca Chica and take a boat to Isla Coiba, which is also a two to four hour boat ride, depending on the speed of your boat.
Overall, wildlife viewing here in Panama, depending on what you are looking for, is possible every day of the year.