Western Panama Birdwatching Tour
An 8-Day Western Panama Birding Tour which is moderately paced and available on request. In Western Panama, the wild Talamanca Range contains the best tracts of virgin forest in Central America. La Amistad International Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and its contiguous reserves combined are 820,000 hectares, covering all altitudinal zones found in the tropics, with forests that have remained largely intact since the last glaciations.
Perhaps no other protected area in the world hosts as many species and such diversity of flora and fauna. Two overlapping BirdLife International Endemic Bird Areas attest to this area’s variety of habitats and regional endemism. Bocas Del Toro is blessed with multiple National Parks and Nature Reserves and this tour will have you visiting many of them for their spectacular flora and fauna.
San Pond Sak Wetlands is a designated Ramsar site, as well as, part of the La Amistad UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The area is rich with abundant habitats including Atlantic wet lowland forest, Raphia palm swamp, freshwater river course, ocean impact beachfront, and mangroves. Access to this verdant wildlife area will be via boat through the historic Snyder Canal, as birds conveniently fly through the gallery forest back and forth across the waterway in this Panama birding Tour.
All six species of kingfishers known to the Americas can be found here and we will be watching closely for regional endemics like the diminutively distributed Nicaraguan Seed- Finch, White-collard Manakin (Almirante race), Olivebacked Euphonia, Black-cowled Oriole, Canebrake Wren, and Three-wattled Bellbird.
Also possible are, Masked Duck, Common Gallinule, Least Bittern, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Potoo, Northern Jacana, and Bare-throated Tiger-Heron. Raptor sightings might include Crested and Yellow-headed Caracara; Bat, Laughing and Peregrine falcons; Osprey; Pearl and Snail kites.
The Palo Seco Protection Forest, 167,000 hectares, is one of the most vital areas of La Amistad Biosphere Reserve. This incredible area consisting of wet Atlantic forest, foothills, and watersheds, is part of BirdLife International Endemic Bird Area Central American Caribbean Slope, EBA019.
It is a hotbed for restricted-range species and altitudinal migrants, like the theThree-wattled Bellbird, and is one of the most important protected areas in the Neotropics. Snowy Cotinga; Chestnut-colored and Cinnamon woodpecker; Rufous-tailed Jacamar; Crimsoncolored, Speckled, Emerald, and Silver-throated tanagers; Lattice-tailed Trogon; Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer; Green Hermit; Slaty Spinetail; Dull-mantled Antbird; Lanceolated Monklet and Band-backed and Black-throated wrens are all possibilities.
On this Western Panama Birding Tour we will explore Fortuna Forest Reserve, established in 1976, is a species-rich area and part of BirdLife International Endemic Bird Area Costa Rica and Panama Highlands, EBA 020. The distinct avifauna in this globally important area include many regional endemics and restricted range species.
Our visit here is sure to produce some outstanding birds with opportunities to see: Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Red-faced Spinetail, Ashythroated Bush-Tanager, Goldenbrowed Chlorophonia, Black and Crested guans, Blueand-Gold Tanager, Black-thighed and Black-faced grosbeaks, and Golden-winged Warbler to mention a few.
Western Panama Birding Tour Highlights include:
- Zapatilla Cayes, Bastimentos National Marine Park
- Bird Tranquilo Bay Trails
- Changuinola River, Bird Island
- Mainland forest birding
- Chiriquí Grande to the Continental Divide
- Tranquilo Bay Hummingbird Bathing Pools
If you’d like to try an alternative tour, look at what this Birdwatching Panama Tour in Bocas Del Toro has to offer.
Alternative Tour Name: Birding Western Panama
A representative from Tranquilo Bay will meet you at the airport in Bocas Town and assist you withm your entry into Bocas del Toro. Upon arrival at Tranquilo Bay you will leisurely settle into your cabana. Once you are settled in, you have the choice between a guided hike on Tranquilo Bay’s twomile nature trail, watching for wildlife, or a leisurely afternoon kayak and snorkeling session, searching out water life above and below the surface.
Today we will be exploring the Zapatilla Cays inside the national park. These pristine white sand islands just 15-minutes away are covered in coconut palms, tropical hardwoods, sea grapes, and almond trees draped in a collage of bromeliads, ferns, orchids and other epiphytes. Every year hawksbill sea turtles use these islands as an important nesting ground.
It is possible to walk around these islands while stopping to explore the white sand beaches, forests and reefs covering the entire circumference. Snapper, barracuda and vivid tropical fish abound on the beautiful coral reefs surrounding the area.
The birds are plenty – Common Black-Hawks, Mangrove Warbler, Magnificent Frigate, Brown Boobies, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, kingfishers, Great Kiskadee, Brown Pelicans, osprey, hummingbirds, plovers, and Gray-necked Wood-Rail. Guided activities include your choice of birding, hiking, snorkelling, sea kayaking and hammock surfing. As the sun goes down return to Tranquilo Bay for an incredibly fresh and healthy dinner inspired by local customs, flavours and ingredients.
Today have breakfast at your leisure and then regroup for birding the lodge’s trails. The Lodge grounds include over 200 acres with several kilometers of forested trails covering different habitats.
This forest and its edge are home to many of Isla Bastimentos common favorites including multiple raptors, Montezuma Oropendolas, Red-lored Parrots, hummingbirds, 5-species of kingfishers, Green Ibis, tityras, woodpeckers, honeycreepers, tanagers, pigeons, antbirds, manakins, seedeaters, and herons, and, in season Three-wattled Bellbirds. White-faced Capuchins, three and two toed sloths, green iguanas, basilisk lizards, butterflies and poison dart frogs are also common on these trails.
After dinner try to spot some of the local nocturnal residents such as the Common Potoo, Owls, Western Night Monkey, Four-eyed opossum, Wooly opossum, Crab-eating raccoon, Speckled Caiman and bats.
This morning will be an early breakfast so we can depart at around 6:30 AM for a one-hour journey to the Soropta Canal. Construction began on the 7-mile-long canal in 1898 and was financed by a banana plantation owner named Michael T. Snyder. Later purchased by the United Fruit Company (Chiquita Bananas) at the turn of the century, the canal was used to shelter banana barges from the open sea on their way to the shipping port in Almirante.
The canal parallels the coastline connecting the mouth of the Changuinola River with the protected Almirante Bay. The Soropta canal, no longer used by the fruit company, is now part of an important wetland reserve called the Humedal de San San Pond Sak. A unique collage of fruiting trees and habitats lines the canal making it possible to see 100 species of birds in one day.
While birding the canal by boat, we will have chances at Olivethroated Parakeets, Laughing Falcon, toucans, manakins, herons, Northern Jacana, Flycatchers, cuckoos, tanagers, honeycreepers, orioles, woodpeckers, White-throated Crake, hummingbirds and Nicaraguan seed finch. After a refreshing picnic lunch, we will bird the mouth of the Changuinola River by foot. This is an excellent area for shorebirds, Roseate Spoonbill, Brown Pelicans, terns, and nighthawks. Manatees can be seen here on occasion.
After we are done exploring the mouth of the Changuinola River, we will begin our journey back to Tranquilo Bay. Given favourable conditions, we will stray just offshore to a basalt outcropping called Swans Cay, known locally, as “Bird Island” or “Isla Pájaros”. This surreal island serves as a rookery for Magnificent Frigates, and Brown Boobies and is the only known nesting site for the Red-billed Tropicbird in the Caribbean’s southwest region. Return
to the lodge for a well-earned evening meal.
This morning, we will deploy by boat on a 20-minute passage across Dolphin Bay for the Green Acres Cacao Plantation, home of Green Acres Chocolate. Guided by Robert and Julie, the owners and operators of this organic farm, we will trek their stunning tropical gardens as Robert presents us with extensive information about shade grown organic cacao production.
It is here where one of the rarest strains of cacao plant in the world, the Criollo is grown. Highly prized and noted for its intense richness, this variety of bean in its purest form makes up only 5% of the worlds total crop. Details of his modest but extraordinary chocolate manufacturing techniques will accompany; including growth of the trees, a step-by-step process of how chocolate is made from bean to bar, and a superb sample of the farm’s product.
The wildlife viewing here is spectacular. We will easily find Dendrobates auratus, the black and neon green poison dart frog, some incredible tropical insects, and on occasion an ocelot that was reintroduced here. A wide variety of avifauna includes pale-billed woodpecker, keel-billed toucans, black-chested jay, scarlet-rumped tanager, hummingbirds, parakeets, and various raptors.
We will move onto another mainland farm for a late picnic lunch followed by a little light hiking in search of raptors, tanagers, manakins, hummingbirds, trogons, toucans, woodcreepers, motmots and tinamou. With a little luck might also see howler monkeys and several species of amphibians as we follow a spring fed creek beneath the forest canopy.
After dinner, for those interested in nature’s most incredible oddities, we will take a nighttime kayak in search of the bioluminescence (fire flies of the sea). These marine invertebrates lie on the ocean floor, upon shallow sandy grass flats, and illuminate in the presence of light.
A quick on/off of the flashlight activates a chain reaction, which can rapidly spread over 100 feet, lighting up all the marine life in its path. There is no need to worry about finding our way home in the dark, there is another species creating bioluminescence that will leave a glow in the dark trail as we proceed. This species is present throughout the water column and illuminates with every stroke of your paddle.
After an early morning breakfast, we will depart around 6:00AM for the scenic 50-minute boat ride to Chiriquí Grande. We will weave our way through a labyrinth of mangrove islets as we watch Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Pelicans, Brown Boobies, terns and kingfishers feeding at first light.
After passing through Split Hill, the closest point of the mainland in the entire archipelago, we will enter Chiriquí Lagoon. Across the lagoon sits the town of Chiriquí Grande, established as a port town on the doorstep of the highest mountain range in the country. Here we find the road that crosses the isthmus to the Continental Divide. Depending on conditions, we normally start at the top of the
Western Caribbean Slope and bird our way down through the Palo Seco Forest Reserve.
Altitude changes rapidly in this area contributing to a great diversity of species. This area hosts some of the most rare and spectacular species in the country such as the Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Three-wattled Bellbird, Azure-hooded Jay, Lattice-tailed Trogan, White tailed Trogan, snowy and blue cotinga, Black-bellied Hummingbird, Yellow-throated bush tanager, Ashy-throat Bush-Tanager, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Brown Jay, White-crowned Parrot and many more. While birding at the highest altitudes, the vistas are incredible as large steep forested valleys fall away to the Caribbean Sea. Several creeks and rivers provide great vantage points for hummingbirds such as Long-billed Starthroat, Bronzetailed Plumeleteer, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Bronzy Hermit, Green-breasted Mango, Whitetailed Emerald and Violet Sabrewing.
After descending from the cloud forest of the Talamanca Mountains, and passing through the low humid forest and wetlands, we will board the boat for a sunset cruise back to Tranquilo Bay.
On one of the many forest trails at the lodge, a winding spring creek creates a favourite locale for resident hummingbirds to bathe. We have set up some benches as viewing stations to comfortably observe and photograph this daily high-octane spectacle. Band-tailed Barbthroat, Purple-crowned Fairy, Crowned Woodnymph, and other hummingbirds fight ruthlessly for the best bathing positions. Once they get their turn at the fresh water, each species has its own dance like preparations before taking its first splash. Red-capped Manakins, Prothonatary Warblers, and Chestnut-backed Antbirds might be found along the creek’s shallow edges hoping for a bath as well. We will have the rest of the afternoon free to bird, explore the beautiful trails, kayak courses, or coral
reef surrounding the facility.
Depart Tranquilo Bay.
Wildlife species expected to see:
Birds: Antbirds, Ashy-throat Bush-Tanager, Azure-hooded Jay, Band-tailed, Barbthroat, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Black-bellied Hummingbird, Black-chested Jay, Blue cotinga, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Bronzy Hermit, Brown Boobies. Brown Jay, Brown Pelicans, Chestnut-backed Antbirds, Common Black-Hawks, Common Potoo, Crowned Woodnymph, cuckoos, Flycatchers, Golden-collared Manakin, Gray-necked Wood-Rail,Great Kiskadee, Green Ibis,Green-breasted Mango, Herons, Honeycreepers , Hummingbirds, Keel-billed Toucan, Kingfishers, Lattice-tailed Trogan, Laughing Falcon,Long-billed Starthroat,Magnificent Frigate, Manakins, Mangrove Warbler , Montezuma Oropendolas ,Motmots, Nicaraguan Seed Finch,Nighthawks , Northern Jacana , Olive-throated Parakeets ,Orioles,Osprey ,Owls,Pale-billed Woodpecker,Parakeets ,Pigeons,Plovers, Prothonotary Warbler ,Purple-crowned Fairy,Raptors , Red-billed Tropicbird , Red-capped Manakins , Red-lored Parrots , Roseate Spoonbill , Ruby-throated Hummingbird , Scarlet-rumped Tanager ,Seedeaters,Shorebirds , Snowy Cotinga ,Tanagers,Terns , Three-wattled Bellbird ,Tinamou,Tityras,Toucans,Trogons , Violet Sabrewing ,White-tailed Trogan , White, crowned Parrot ,White-tailed Emerald ,White-throated Crake ,Woodcreepers, Woodpeckers ,Yellow-crowned Night-Heron ,Yellow-eared Toucanet ,Yellow-throated Bush-tanager
Mammals: Bats, Crab-eating raccoon, Four-eyed opossum, howler monkeys Manatees, Three and two-toed sloths, Western Night Monkey, White-faced Capuchins, Wooly opossum
Amphibians & Reptiles: basilisk lizard, Dendrobates auratus, the black and neon green poison dart frog, Green iguanas, poison dart frogs, Speckled Caiman
Underwater: Barracuda, Coral reefs, Snapper, Tropical fish, Sponges, Starfish, Urchins, Upside-down Jellyfish
What is included?
- Transfers between Bocas Town and Tranquilo Bay
- Meals and Beverages at Tranquilo Bay
- Dinner - 3-5 course meal
- Snacks available all the time
- Beverages – Non-blended, non alcoholic fruit juices, soda, water
- Deluxe Air Conditioned Cabanas
- Access to water and land activities directly from Tranquilo Bay
- Activities daily as designated in the itinerary
- Taxes in addition to package price
What is not included?
- All international or domestic airfares
- Visa Fees (if applicable)
- Travel & medical insurance (incl. personal equipment and repatriation)
- Airport departure taxes or visa fees
- Items of personal nature or
- If providing binoculars and telescopes then add within above
- Excess baggage charges
- Laundry & telephone Charges
- Optional trip/tour/safari extensions where applicable
- Tips & gratuities
- Any other drinks not mentioned above
- Anything else not mentioned in the itinerary “What is included”
In Bocas del Toro, Panama, you'll find the all-inclusive resort known as the Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge. When it comes time to book their accommodations, we are aware that many of our guests have difficulty locating a genuine holiday experience and are anxious about what "all-inclusive" actually entails. We understand this difficulty. As a result, we respect the stay of our guests by being transparent about what is and is not included. Our team uses the information you provide to customize your stay. You spend your time getting away from the stresses of everyday life, engaging in novel experiences, gaining knowledge about the natural world, and unwinding with the other members of your party.
Most guests travel by air between Panama City and Isla Colon (Bocas Town). Air Panama has at least two flights each day departing Panama City and returning from Bocas. The flights are usually early in the morning (6:30 am PAC to BOC and 7:40 am BOC to PAC) and late afternoon (4:00 pm PAC to BOC and 5:10 pm BOC to PAC). During high season Air Panama schedules additional flights throughout the day. Tranquilo Bay will meet you at the airport and transfer you out to Isla Bastimentos. Some guests will travel from Boquete to Bocas by land. In this instance there are several options for transfers to and from Tranquilo Bay. We can arrange to meet you at an eco-lodge on the mainland and make the transfer direct to Tranquilo Bay or we can schedule a time and location to pick you up on Isla Colon. To get to Isla Colon from the mainland you will take a water taxi from Almirante. A few guests are traveling from Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro. Some of these guests travel by plane in which case we will pick them up at the airport the same as anyone traveling from Panama City. Others will travel by land and either meet us on the mainland at the designated eco-lodge or at a specified location on Isla Colon.
We suggest the following items in addition to your regular hot weather vacation clothes, etc.: • Rain jacket • Sunscreen • After sun lotion • Bug repellant • Water shoes or tennis shoes which can get wet (for hiking) • Long pants & lightweight long sleeve shirt for jungle hiking • Lightweight long sleeve shirt for water activities • Hat • Sunglasses
Yes, we can help you with a variety of additional services. Please see our Rates page for more information.
ALL PACKAGES INCLUDE: • Round trip transfers from Isla Colon to Tranquilo Bay on Wednesdays and Saturdays • Deluxe air-conditioned cabana with view • Breakfast, lunch and dinner each day of your stay • Non-alcoholic, non-blended beverages • Use of our expansive facilities and grounds • Use of our equipment • Access to naturalist guides for activities on our grounds or off of our dock • Panamanian Sales and Hotel Taxes Your expenses once you arrive at Tranquilo Bay are limited. You might have a small bar tab. You may have excursions that you elect to add on during your stay. Other than these items you will have any gratuities you choose to give to your guides and or the other staff. Tranquilo Bay is a small eco-lodge in a secluded location. You have access to the ocean and the jungle. We are next to a marine national park, thus we have no neighbors and our grounds are completely private. We have two full-time biologist guides on staff for your tours. Our tours are conducted solely for our guests in a completely secure manner. Due to our location, which puts you in the middle of the jungle, we must catch or own water, supply our own power and bring all materials in by boat.
Other companies a la carte vacations: You will manage all of the following items for your party during your vacation: • Transfers between the airport and your accommodations • Accommodations • Meals • Beverages • Access to jungle and ocean activities – generally group tours • Rental of equipment for said jungle and ocean activities • Gratuities • Sales and Hotel Taxes We cater to parties interested in nature and the activities within the jungle and ocean. There are other accommodations in the archipelago that will cost much less, but they do not provide you the value we do with the entire package we have. Any other accommodations you consider in the archipelago will be missing something from this package. Location and privacy change, comfort in your accommodations, and quality of equipment, facilities and guides is vastly different. No other business in the archipelago provides biologist trained guides or the activities that are all available on or from our facilities.
Our rates are based upon two people per cabana. If there are two people staying in the cabana they both pay the amount stated. If there is one person staying in the cabana then that person pays the regular rate plus the single person occupancy fee. Children fifteen and under staying in the cabana with their parents are one-half of the adult price unless a specific package or itinerary states otherwise.
Yes, we can accommodate you. Our reservation system guest information form has a few sections that ask you to provide us with information about anyone in your party's food allergies or health requirements as well as for what everyone in your party does eat.
No concerns at Tranquilo Bay with food or water. You can eat the fruits, salads and vegetables at our location. We do not have problems with our water, thus no traveler's illnesses. All of our water is rainwater. It goes through 5 micron filtration and UV light prior to entering any of our buildings. All of our water inside the buildings goes through this same treatment. Our water is safe to drink. We wash and/or peel fruits and vegetables so that you are free to eat whatever you would like to eat when you are staying with us.
If we can make a high quality product on-site we do. We prefer to carry bulk items out to Tranquilo Bay and prepare food from those items instead of purchasing things in small packages, etc. Thus our breads, chips, desserts and ice creams are all made on site. They are delicious!
The owners live on-site with their families. As such, we are familiar with providing support to families with babies or grandparents traveling with them. We believe it is important for each member of the family to be comfortable and happy. We have a variety of staff members to meet your needs at Tranquilo Bay. The staff to guest ratio varies between 1:1 and 1:3 depending upon the season. Our full-time biologists, Ramon, Natalia and Stacey, provide you with lots of information about all of the nature and wildlife found within Bocas del Toro. We also have our resident canine, Chola, who does what she can to improve your stay with us.
Couples traveling to Tranquilo Bay will find a great mix of “alone” time and more social times. Each party has its own cabana to relax in and spend time on the porch or otherwise enjoying our tropical location. Your excursions may be with other guests or on your own depending upon the other guests on site for your trip. Most meals are communal where you can share your adventures with the other guests.
We are happy to host groups either on their own or as a part of the rest of the guests we have on site in any given week. For groups of eight or more we can make special arrangements for you. Please contact us to give us the specifics for your group and we will get back to you with a variety of options.
Tranquilo Bay is in a secluded location. Individual travelers looking to get away from it all find Tranquilo Bay to be just what they needed. We eat meals communally each night so individual guest mingle with any of our other guests that are onsite at that time. This may include families, couples or other individual travelers.
We do not have a bug problem. We do run into small no-see-ums or chitras at dusk and dawn. If you will be out during these times on your porch or doing an activity we suggest that you wear long pants and a long-sleeve shirt or use insect-repellant. Otherwise, if you are hiking in the jungle we suggest the same attire. On most other excursions these types of precautions are not necessary. Since our cabanas were built for air-conditioning they are airtight and insects are not an issue within the cabanas themselves.
The weight limit in the small planes is somewhat small and you are likely to get dirty on some of your excursions so, we are happy to do some laundry for you. We do not charge for this service, but we do ask that you remember the domestic staff provided this service to you when you determine the gratuity you leave for the staff. During the rare dry spells in the jungle, we may need to limit the amount of laundry we do for each guest.
We haven't had any security issues to date. Each of the cabanas has a lock on the door. If you have any valuable items that you would like stored we can store them for you in the main building. Most guests do not lock the door on their cabanas. Our location is secluded. There are only a limited number of people with access to our facilities. As such, we do not have security issues that other locations may have.
Our guest's activities and excursions are available only to people staying onsite. We do have a day tour that we offer several days a week where people come onsite to experience Tranquilo Bay, however, our lodge guests and these people are not mixed for activity purposes.
We are flexible. Excursions can be full-day or partial-day depending upon what you choose to do. Unfortunately, the price does not change much if you only take a partial-day excursion as most of the expense of the excursion is in the transportation to and from the excursion not in the length of the excursion itself. Certain excursions are full day, but we will explain this to you as you are reviewing your options at the beginning of your stay and as we make a plan for the following days.
Tranquilo Bay has three boats, multiple captains and guides available to you during your stay with us. Generally we would consider our tours to be semi-private. We do try to manage excursions so that we do not make those specific excursions that are fuel and time intensive on a daily basis. We also manage the load between our guides and guests to maximize our guests’ enjoyment. If a particular excursion is best limited to six people we are not going to take ten people on that excursion we will break it up into two groups. We frequently include more than one party on excursions if it is appropriate. However, if one party includes a more mature group we will not include young children in that party’s outings unless the party specifically requests that we do so. If you want to book private tours then you should book it in advance so we may dedicate a boat and a guide to your party specifically.
Tranquilo Bay is centrally located in the archipelago and only a short boat ride away from a variety of depths and currents to accommodate all snorkeling skill levels. All snorkeling excursions depart directly from our facility where our staff will handle the preparation, maintenance and portage of the equipment. If you want to dive we can arrange this with one of the dive shops on Isla Colon. Diving requires a different set of equipment and staff than we have for Tranquilo Bay. As such, we outsource this particular activity to the professionals. With up to a few divers we transport the divers to Isla Colon for dives directly with a dive shop. If there is a larger group of divers, we can arrange in advance with a dive shop to have dives leave from our facility.