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Looking for a true birding vacation? Imagine yourself immersed in nature on an island, where your home is a cluster of six luxury cottages in a forest clearing, including a 100’ tower that gives you stunning views of the sea. Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge is perched on a small hill overlooking the Caribbean Sea, a path through the forest leads down to the dock and turquoise colored bay.

The lodge’s central location within the archipelago of Bocas del Toro permits us to explore some of the most biologically diverse areas within Panama and Central America. The lodge is surrounded by a 200-acre private conservation reserve adjacent to Bastimentos National Marine Park, encompassing the convergence of three distinct ecosystems.

Tranquilo Bay is a birding paradise. As the orientation of Panama’s Isthmus connecting two continents is oriented east and west, this trip lets you focus on the northwest corner of this diverse nation—a place where lush mountains meet the sea. Tranquilo Bay’s canopy observation tower soars 100’ above sea level; bringing you to the top of the forest canopy for a panoramic bird’s-eye view of three distinctly different ecosystems within Bastimentos Island National Marine Park.

On-site there are over 250 species of birds. The greater Western Caribbean Slope bird list covering areas we visit on field trips includes over 500 species. Some of the specialty birds include: both Lovely Cotinga and Snowy Cotingas, Three-wattled Bellbird, Green Ibis, and the Nicaraguan Seed-finch. Bird Island visited by boat lets you get up close and personal with stunning Red-billed Tropicbird, Brown Booby and more. On-site specials include: raptor migrations, a Golden-collared Manakin lek, southernmost distribution of the Stub-tailed Spadebill, and intimate sightings of bathing hummingbirds.

The bird watching, wildlife, and photo opportunities from this incredible vantage point are truly sublime. During the day, as thermals start rising off of the Caribbean Sea, raptors will soar for hours. The tower is an excellent place to scan for Black Hawk-Eagle; Mangrove Black-Hawk; Bat, Laughing, and Peregrine falcons; Double-toothed Kite; and White Hawk. The beautiful and regionally endemic Snowy Cotinga can be seen from the tower along with large groups of Montezuma Oropendolas, hordes of parrots, Olive-throated Parakeets, White-crowned and Scaled pigeons, Blue Dacnis, three species of honeycreepers, Tropical Gnatcatchers, Three-wattled Bellbird, Osprey, several species of hummingbirds, Lineated and Black-cheeked woodpeckers, Magnificent Frigate Birds, Brown Pelicans, multiple swifts and swallows, Common and Lesser Nighthawks, tanagers, euphonias, and many flycatchers.

All of nature here is replete with variation. Many species of mammals such as Crab-eating Raccoon, Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth, Central American Wooly Opossum and Panamanian Night Monkey to name a few. Reptiles found at the lodge and on field trips include several species of colorful poison dart frogs. And we find beauty and fascination in tropical plants and a wide array of butterflies, moths and other large insects.

Then, it's off to the cloudforest at Mount Totumas lodge, deep in the heart of old-growth cloud forest. On the lodge's private 400 acre preserve, enjoy hot springs and waterfalls and an incredible diversity of bird life. Some 258 species of birds have been recorded here, along with three species of monkey, Tapir, Jaguar, and more. Remote and pristine, this is the perfect complement to your time at Tranquilo Bay.

Tour Highlights

  • Unpack and relax—this is a true birding vacation
  • Enjoy island cuisine carefully prepared fresh for you each day
  • From the lodge observation tower, gaze out to a maze of islands and a kaleidoscope of species
  • To your birding time add the chance to swim, paddleboard, snorkel or take photographs to your heart’s content
  • Wander the Fortuna Road sampling species at varied elevations in some of Central America’s finest remaining forest
  • Discover a seabird island rookery action packed with life in the spring breeding season
  • Explore the mangroves—bustling with life and colorful wading birds
  • Watch for seabirds, dolphins and sea turtles over the coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea
  • Look for Resplendent Quetzal and Three-wattled Bellbird at Mount Totumas
  • Indulge in farm to table cuisine
  • Buff-throated Saltator, Panama, Tranquilo Bay Birding, Panama Birding Tour, Panama Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Clay-colored Thrush, Panama, Tranquilo Bay Birding, Panama Birding Tour, Panama Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Common Moorhen, Panama, Tranquilo Bay Birding, Panama Birding Tour, Panama Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Crimson-backed Tanager, Panama, Tranquilo Bay Birding, Panama Birding Tour, Panama Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Dusky-faced Tanager, Panama, Tranquilo Bay Birding, Panama Birding Tour, Panama Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Flame-rumped Tanager, Panama, Tranquilo Bay Birding, Panama Birding Tour, Panama Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Green Honeycreeper, Panama, Tranquilo Bay Birding, Panama Birding Tour, Panama Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Red-billed Tropicbird, Panama, Tranquilo Bay Birding, Panama Birding Tour, Panama Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Panama, Tranquilo Bay Birding, Panama Birding Tour, Panama Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Canoe, Panama, Tranquilo Bay Birding, Panama Birding Tour, Panama Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Shining Honeycreeper, Panama, Tranquilo Bay Birding, Panama Birding Tour, Panama Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • James P. Smith

    James brings some twenty five years of guiding experience to Naturalist Journeys. Originally from Sheffield in the United Kingdom, he discovered a love for guiding in Israel in 1995 where he helped establish the Kibbutz Lotan Center for Birdwatching in the Southern Arava Valley. Since then, he’s led hundreds of tours throughout the Northern Hemisphere for a number of UK-based tour companies. His trips to Israel and North America are especially close to his heart but he’s also led or co-led tours to Mexico (Veracruz), The Gambia, Kenya, Iceland, Scottish Highlands, Spanish Pyrenees, Central/Southern France, Greece (Lesvos), and India (Goa). An accomplished illustrator, James placed runner-up in the British Birds “Bird Illustrator of the Year” competition in 1992 and went on to have his work published in numerous birding magazines and journals. He also co-authored the two volume set A Guide to the Birding Hotspots of Israel (Published in 2000 by the Israel Ornithological Center and the S.P.N.I.). He returns to Israel every year to lead trips and remains an active member of the Israel Rarities and Distribution Committee. When not leading tours he can be found at home in Western Massachusetts with his wife Susannah and their young son Matan.

    Other trips with James P. Smith


Photo credits: Canopy Tower view, Joe Tieger; Tranquilo Bay, Maggie Tieger; Mount Totumas Vista with Feeders, courtesy mounttotumas.com; Osprey, Joe Tieger; Cloud Forest with Rainbow, courtesy mounttotumas.com; Green Honeycreeper, Maggie Tieger; Howler Monkey, Joe Tieger; Orange-chinned Parakeet, Joe Tieger; Squirrel Cuckoo, Joe Tieger; American Pygmy Kingfisher, Maggie Tieger; Anteater, Joe Tieger; Blue-chested Hummingbird, Joe Tieger; Canal, Joe Tieger; Yellow-throated Toucan, Joe Tieger; Cabana, courtesy of Tranquilo Bay; Striated Heron, Joe Tieger; View from tower, courtesy of Tranquilo Bay; Blue Dacnis, Joe Tieger; Tranquilo bay dock aerial view, courtesy of Tranquilo Bay; Poison Dart Frog, Joe Tieger; Lovely Cotinga, James Adams; Tranquilo Bay, Maggie Tieger; Keel-billed Toucan, Maggie Tieger; Crowned Woodnymph, Joe Tieger; Tranquilo Bay, Maggie Tieger; Lesser Kiskadee, Maggie Tieger; Slaty-tailed Trogon, Maggie Tieger; Brown Booby, Cristina Heins; Broad-billed Motmot, Maggie Tieger; Orange-bellied Trogon, Joe Tieger; Blue-gray Tanager, Joe Tieger; Osprey, Joe Tieger; Masked Tityra, Joe Tieger; Boat-billed Heron, Maggie Tieger; Sunset, Joe Tieger; Buff-throated Saltator, Joe Tieger; Clay-colored Thrush, Joe Tieger; Common Moorhen, Joe Tieger; Crimson-backed Tanager, Joe Tieger; Dusky-faced Tanager, Maggie Tieger; Flame-rumped Tanager, Joe Tieger; Green Honeycreeper, Joe Tieger; Red-billed Tropicbird, Maggie Tieger; Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Maggie Tieger; Panama local on a canoe, Joe Tieger; Shining Honeycreeper, Maggie Tieger.

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