Gloverís 2 months in Panama

Feb 28th, 2018, 09:54 PM
Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 10
Sounds like an amazing trip! We're hoping to make it to Panama next year, so your reports are very much appreciated!
carnalismocc is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 01:06 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,672
Absolutely incredible, Glover...both this excellent TR and that I haven't seen it until today.

I am delighted that you and Mr. G enjoyed your winter getaway this year toPanama. My DH and I are now planning a few weeks in Panama next year - prior to our annual stay in Argentina/Uruguay. Be sure that you and Mr. G have a dinner
invitation coming so we can pick your Panama brains even more . And let's include those Yes/Gettravels too.
Hasta la Pasta !
MarnieWDC is offline  
Mar 6th, 2018, 08:10 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,950
Sounds like a fantastic trip. How would you compare Boquete vs Cerro Punta, in both overall experience as well as bird/wildlife viewing?
RAC is offline  
Mar 8th, 2018, 11:14 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2003
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Bocas del Toro 1 - (Fodors tells me I have to do this in more than one message, sigh)

We lingered over the dinner table and then finally headed back up the hill to our cabin. Swung in porch hammocks for a while and then crawled into bed. Nice comfortable beds. Listened to the jungle noises - then it began to pour down rain - which was a nice experience to have as well. The cabins have heavy canvas drapes that can be pulled across the open sides to keep out blowing rain if need be. Not a problem for us on that night.

Next am employee delivered a wooden tray with thermos of fresh coffee and muffins. (This happens daily at 7 am before 8am breakfast -to eliminate need for coffee fiend guests to hike up and down hill earlier on. ) A well appreciated little touch! After a great breakfast of
great juices, homemade bread (a different kind each day) and eggs, we opted to go on the lodge's "chocolate tour" with "Mr. Kelly" one of the lodge's employees. This amounted to a slow paced hike on one of the lodge property trails. Mr. Kelly - a local - has a wealth of knowledge about all the local trees and other plants, how they grow, and their uses. Obviously chocolate is grown on the property, though not commercially. Mr Kelly explained the process from plant to end product. Along the way he also pointed out a sloth and a few
minuscule red frogs - fairly common in the area. After another great lunch and chill at cabin we two asked another employee to take us out on the water briefly - in hope of seeing some water birds. No luck there, but driver did stop briefly so we could see a large number of the unusual hanging nests of the most common bird on the island - the orependula - a large dark noisy bird with an interesting colorful face and bright yellow tail. On the same stop we also saw two very interesting colorful spiders and the very rustic local schoolhouse (students were on vacation). Back at the cabin later we were fortunate to watch a troupe of about a dozen capuchin monkeys cross through the trees beyond our porch. Got really good views of them, but alas no pictures.

That night the rain beat down again on our cabin's metal roof. Left reluctantly at 8:30 next am after another delicious breakfast (oatmeal made with coconut milk - a little sprinkling of fresh/local coconut and chocolate on top. yum! We had to catch a 10:10 flight from the Bocas town airport back to Panama city. Nice boat ride back was interrupted by sudden rainshower - so got a little wet..... We loved this little lodge and highly recommend it to nature lovers. Very well run. Though we had only a day and just did chocolate tour, there are other activities available as well, longer trails, boat rides to near/far away beaches, snorkling, visit to bat cave, etc. Forgot to mention that I briefly observed the lodge's intern conducting an English class for some local kids. The lodge does its best to support the local community - supports a local school, sells local craft products. Hires locally.

To be continues
glover is offline  
Mar 8th, 2018, 11:15 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 1,184
Arrived back in Panama City - staying once again at Best Western in El Cangrejo neighborhood, which seemed like "home" by now. Our room wasn't ready so we had casual lunch down street at a place we'd discovered earlier on. Later we took a long walk to main drag
Balboa Ave in search of a big bike store alleged to sell "Panama" bike shirts (Mr. G has started to collect). Bike store was huge and mobbed - registration was in process for some kind of big bikeathon following day. Alas, no Panama bike shirts. So we took another long walk
again along the beautiful Cinta Costera coastal path - all the way to Casco Viejo for some last minute shopping. Very hot and sunny, but a delightful walk nonetheless. As Mr. G said, "Only mad dogs and Englishmen........" were out in the afternoon sun.

Thought of researching and hitting some city 4 star restaurant, but got lazy. Went around the corner to our familiar "El Caribe." and had some jerk chicken and decent salad. Watched the neighborhood action. from outside table. Then had a final drink on the beautiful rooftop of our hotel. Easy on time direct Copa flight home next day at civilized hour of 9:15. Downloaded Mobile Passport app. It worked like a charm and we sped through immigration upon arrival at Dulles. We were feeling so smug........ But the unwashed masses all caught up with us
at the baggage carousels as we all waited..... FOREVER....... for our flight's bags. Some kind of snaffu - what exactly was never clear.

All in all a great trip. Pretty relaxing, slow paced, good weather, met lots of interesting people. Gotta love those <5 hour direct flights with no time change. Heck they even use the $.

Thanks for following along, all.

MarnieDC - so nice to see you on outbound flight! Look forward to that dinner in the nabe with you, DH, and the yestravels.

RAC - Compare Boquete and Cerro Punta. hmm. Don't know that I could spend a month in Cerro Punta - just not enough services/restos/lodging. Both areas are beautiful. I do love the hilly agriculture area around Cerro Punta. Probably easier to access hiking trails and guides in Boquete. Other than Los Quetzales trail - and rather challenging trails on property of Los Quetzales Lodge itself, I find it difficult to get good information on other areas to hike/bird. Though surely they exist. There are at least a half dozen trails on outskirts of Boquete that are pretty well known/marked and a good choice of guides to take you there if you want/need one. Have you been to Panama? The two towns aren't too far apart - so it's nice to spend some time in each. The energetic could even hike all the way from one to another.

mlgb - question re guides from earlier. I usually check tripadvisor for guide recs, sometimes just google "bird guide and locale," other times get recs from lodge, or other word of mouth.

Not glad to be back to cold weather and crazy politics.....
glover is offline  
Mar 8th, 2018, 11:21 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,950
We did 4 nights in Cerro Punta area--two nights in Cabin #8 (the one with the cacomistles) and two at Los Quetzales's lodge.

For our birding we did the day trip thing for Finca Hartmann and the Lagunas de Volcan.
RAC is offline  
Mar 9th, 2018, 05:43 PM
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Looks like I managed to post only second half of my Bocas del Toro report. Sorry, will look for first half and repost.
Composing elsewhere then posting here has its difficulties. But then so does entering directly into fodors. Surely it can’t be me!
glover is offline  
Mar 10th, 2018, 08:52 AM
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OK - trying to get this right - here's first half of my report on our time in Bocas del Toro - which I managed to cut off when I pasted the rest here.

Bocas del Toro

Back home now, so will wrap up this long trip report!

It was indeed a pretty drive from Boquete to the harbor town of Almirante on Panama's Caribbean coast - from which boats go to the archipelago of Bocas del Toro. We traveled in a shuttle van run by the very efficient Hello Panama travel agency located just on the plaza in central Boquete. Cost was $30 each one way for the 3 1/2 hour van trip over mountains to coast and 30 minute boat trip from Almirante to the largest island of the archipelago (Isla Colon) and its main town - Bocas town. Enjoyed chatting on the trip with a group of contemporary Dutch women who were on a tour arranged by the agency called Spanish by location (with branches in many places in Panama.).

After disembarking and grabbing luggage we went out on main street of town and quickly found a waterside restaurant for lunch. Had nice lunch at Buena Vista (?) restaurant and watched comings and goings of boats on water. Hailed taxi on street to go to our first night's lodging
in the "Big Creek" neighborhood about a 10 minute drive outside the center of Bocas Town. We decided to stay outside of town because the town itself sounded like it had a noisy partying young kind of vibe. We chose a small new hotel "Villa Sevilla" based on descriptions in reviews - a quiet jungley location and four new simple, but nicely appointed rooms. Breakfast is included and served on small table just outside each room. Owners Mayra (from Venezuela) and Jose (from Sevilla Spain) were delightful. We talked to them a bit. Chilled on our patio. Then walked up the beach road. Not such a great walk, since the two lane road had no sidewalk or shoulder of any kind. But we were intent on seeing some of the beach in that area and ultimately landing in one of only two restaurants within walking distance. We were surprised to spot a howler monkey sitting calmly on a branch of a tree that extended over road. Seemed like a pretty inhabited and relatively busy area for him to be willing to show himself! After a half mile or so the paved road ended and turned to sand. We walked along that road and narrow beach until light started to fade and then retraced our steps to "Skullys." This was kind of a classic outside bar/hostel/pool, rec area right on beach. Sat at bar and had a couple drinks and marginal food. Talked to a few barflies. Then walked home in dark on streetlit road. We were somewhat unnerved when we heard someone come running behind us. Young local man was in running clothes and said something about running. We had some minor conversation in Spanish, but then wondered why he never ran off. When we slowed our pace, he slowed his, etc. If we stopped, he stopped. He asked the name of our hotel. Just said we were staying with friends locally. Odd. Couldn't decide if he was just an odd guy looking for conversation or he was thinking to take advantage of us in some way But it put us on high alert. He finally gave us up when we turned off the main road to go to our hotel.

Nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, fresh fruit and great coffee next am on porch in front of our room. Owner Mayra was excited to show us a sloth and baby just outside the gate to their property. She's a nature enthusiast and watches for animals every day. We had lots of
conversations about things she sees there and some of our own sightings in Panama. We lazed around the patio and I swam in the pool. Eventually took a taxi back into town to the dock/restaurant where we were to meet boatdriver who would take us to our next lodging
"La Loma Jungle Lodge and Chocolate Farm." Had a nice late lunch there and again enjoyed watching comings and goings on the waterfront. I walked down the hot main street far enough to get more of a sense of "town." Guess it's charming in a ramshackle kind of way. Lots of tiny restaurants and clubs, some old Caribbe style frame houses on stilts in various stages of restoration or deterioration. Hot and dusty. Backpackers and surfers.

Around 4 in the afternoon, as arranged, a small boat arrived and, after driver loaded up some supplies, took us and 3 women across water about 20 mins or so to the far end of another large island "Bastimentos." Enjoyed a brief stop for gas on the way - gas station was just a little shack on stilts in water with single employee handpumping and pouring.

After another refreshing boat ride we arrived at small dock surrounded by forest. We were greeted by owner Henry and another employee or so, who took our bags to our cabin. Henry showed us to the open lounge/dining area and gave us the lay of the land, as well as a welcome drink of delicious cool lemon grass tea. Then, fortunately without luggage, we trudged wayyyyyyyyyyy up a hill to our cabin. Nice path with LOTS of steps. Cabins have only one wall - the side with locking door and mostly enclosed bathroom. The other 3 sides are open to the beautiful forest. The two nice beds, night tables, and reading lamps are surrounding with high quality ceiling to floor mosquito curtains. Metal roof over all. From our porch we could only see jungle - and a bit of the water. We watched the forest until dusk and time to trek back down to lodge for cocktails and dinner. Henry makes a different exotic cocktail every night from local fresh fruit, assorted booze, and herbs/spices. The first night I had a kind of margarita made with passion fruit juice. Delicious. The next kind of a gingery mojito like drink.
Enjoyed talking to the 3 women travelling together - all obstetrical nurses from Fort Lauderdale - and two other couples from Midwest US. Together we filled the small lodge - just four cabins for guests. Food here was wonderful (ironic that best food we had in Panama was in the two most remote spots). Emphasis was on the healthy - they were careful about food allergies, diets, etc - no red meat. Everything served was fresh and nicely seasoned - great use of some local greens and herbs. Very inventive. Nicely presented too. We all ate at a single long table headed by Henry. Lots of good conversation about travels, the area, the lodge, etc. Henry was born in Peru but mostly grew up in States in A. His wife Maggie is originally from UK. They live at lodge full time with their 9 year old son.
glover is offline  
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