Adventure in Bocas del Toro – Tranquilo Bay Reserve

PANAMA RAINFOREST HIKING

Tranquilo Bay’s grounds include over 200 acres with several kilometers of forested trails. Many of Isla Bastimentos favorite birds, monkeys, sloths, iguanas, lizards, insects and frogs live here.

Possible bird sightings may include: multiple raptors, Montezuma Oropendolas, Red-lored Parrots, hummingbirds, five species of kingfishers, Green Ibis, woodpeckers, honeycreepers, tanagers, pigeons, antbirds, manakins, seedeaters, herons, and in-season, Three-wattled Bellbirds. 

Wildlife sightings may include: White-faced Capuchins, three and two-toed sloths, green iguanas, basilisk lizards, butterflies and poison dart frogs

CLIMB UP – LOOK AROUND

The wildlife and views from the tower are incredible, but the natural history lesson alone is worth the climb. All life zones known to the tropics, from the mountains to the coral reefs below the ocean’s surface are visible from the Canopy Tower. This vantage point above the forest’s canopy gives you a bird’s-eye view of the entire archipelago.

KAYAKING THE CARIBBEAN

The kayaking part of the tour departs from Tranquilo Bay’s comfortable facility. Our our staff will handle the preparation, maintenance and portage of the equipment. We provide snorkel gear for the tour so you may explore the underwater garden that includes tropical fish and vibrant coral reefs. All you have to do is paddle and absorb the breath-taking scenery.

For those new to kayaking, we will give you a lesson to familiarize you with the equipment and techniques to prepare you for your adventure.

SNORKELING THE CARIBBEAN BLUE

Your snorkeling adventure covers several ecosystems. Kayak snorkeling from Tranquilo Bay places you within the marine park. You explore different types of coral formations and marine habitat during your time underwater.

This unique adventure is for families, couples and small groups of 8 people maximum. The tour leaves only on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The program includes boat transfer from Bocas del Toro Island, bilingual guide, lunch at the reserve and activities. For reservations: click here

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I love Panama Chocolate!

The Panamanian chocolate is not yet well known, but once  you have tasted it you will love it forever!

Panama is the 31st largest producer of CACAO with a total production of an estimated 900 tones.  This amazing country produces a unique quality of cacao that is getting noticed among the chocolate lovers.

In Panama the Chocolate tourism is just beginning to become popular and EcoCircuitos offer visits to different communities in Bocas del Toro were sustainable local community farms are emerging as producers on international markets.  One successful example is the co-operative growers of Cocabo.   These farms are off the beaten track located close to the Friendship National Park, surrounded by lush forest and exotic beauty.   The network of Sustainable and Rural Tourism also offers long experiences interacting with the cacao farmers to learn more about the organic production of chocolate while discovering the amazing biodiversity with the Nasso people from Bonyic or the beautiful Bri Bri communities of El Guabo de Yorkin.

Chocolate, Si Gracias!

Panamanian chocolate culture has begun to flourish, local companies such as I Love Panama Chocolate and Oro Moreno have taken the lead in the chocolate market. Both companies buy organic chocolate from farmers in the Bocas del Toro Province, where the majority of chocolate is harvested in Panama. Later it is and process it in Panama City and combined with other local favorite foods and flavors such as coconut, sea salt, coffee, passion fruit, rum, cashews, hot pepper and more! Come to Panama, taste some of the world`s best chocolate and learn about the chocolate process with EcoCircuitos!

Chocolate Tour

The Cacao Tour is a unique experience for visitors to witness the process of how chocolate is made and processed. In the indigenous region of Bocas del Toro in the area of Risco Valley the community Rio Oeste Abajo demonstrates to visitors how to make chocolate from a tropical fruit seeds how they have been doing it for years. The tour starts in the field where a naturalist guide will explain how cacao trees are grown and cacao process. Visitors will get to participate in picking, cleaning and roasting the cacao seeds to make chocolate. The visitors will also learn about the community and their way of life. A local lunch is included that is prepared by the local hosts, which consists of boiled roots, vegetables and chicken or fish.

Come to Panama and fall in love with our Chocolate!
For more information of our chocolate tours, contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

Best Diving and Snorkeling Spots in Panama

From: Dive Advisor

Panama was named after an indigenous word meaning, “abundance of fish.” This beautiful Central America paradise is one of the few places in the world where you can dive two oceans in one day. With the warm, tropical waters of the Caribbean on its east and the cooler waters of the Pacific on the west, it’s just a two-hour car ride between them in some places. Panama boasts 1,207km of Caribbean coast and 1,700km of Pacific coast.

On the Caribbean side, divers come for the abundance of colorful reef fish and corals. When rating the best diving in Central American, Bocas del Toro always comes up with its white sand beaches and many calm and the Bastimentos Marine National park. It’s a great place to learn how to dive and the marine life make it a great place to keep diving. Another popular spot on the Caribbean coast is Colon, only two hours from Panama City. Just offshore, the Portobelo National Marine Park has beautiful corals and the area is filled with a history of pirate battles and sunken ships.  Sir Francis Drake died at sea in 1596 and his body, clad in a full suit of armour and in a lead coffin, is thought to be off the coast of Portobello.

On the Pacific side, cooler waters and currents make encounters with pelagic common. Lucky divers can see several species of shark, whale sharks, humpback whales, dolphins, and more. Coiba National Marine Park is often referred to as the Galapagos of Central America and has the second largest coral reef in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Pearl Archipelago also offers great options close to Panama City.

Just nine degrees north of the equator, Panama is hot and humid year round. The rainy season is May- November and the dry season is December-April (with less humidity and almost no rain.) Panama is not in the hurricane belt, but it can get strong winds from nearby storms. Air temperatures throughout the year range form 20-32C, being a bit cooler in the winter/dry season. Water temperatures vary between coasts. The Caribbean side the water can be as cool as 25C in the winter and as warm as 28C in the summer. Coiba can get as cold as 20C during winter and reaches a high of around 24C in the summer.

Best Spots to Dive in Panama

Coiba National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes 38 islands. Lonely Planet says it’s “The best diving to be found along the Pacific Coast from Columbia to Mexico.” Coiba gets the big stuff. Sharks can be seen on almost every dive including white-tip reef sharks, black-tip reef sharks, and occasional hammerheads, bull, and tiger sharks. Whale sharks are common visitors from December to April. Humpback whales are seen July through October and orcas and pilot whales frequent the area. Large schools of mantas and mobula rays sometimes swim by, and most dives have turtles, schools of large fish, angelfish, butterflyfish, and dolphins.

On the Caribbean side of Panama, close to the Costa Rica boarder, is Bocas del Toro. This archipelago of nine large islands includes the protected area of Isla Bastimentos National Marine. Bocas is known for its well-preserved hard and soft corals. Being outside of the official hurricane zone, away from large cities and river mouths, the coral is very healthy. It is estimated that 95% of the coral species found in the Caribbean Sea can be found within the archipelago.

Tiger Rock is rated one of the best dive sites around Bocas del Toro, and is three rock pinnacles that rise up from the sea floor at 40m. It’s an advanced dive and can have strong currents, but is a good place to see sharks, rays, large fish schools, whale sharks and dolphins. Its location requires perfect sea conditions for boats to be able to get there. Dolphin Rock is another offshore rock formation where sharks can be seen and has lots of colorful fish life. The diving is also very good around Zapatillas Cays, another more distant boat ride.

Closer to town, Bouy Line is a poplar shallow site (near a deep water channel buoy) that has sea horses, lionfish, crabs, and lots of morays. Hospital Point is near the north end of Isla Solarte and has healthy cauliflower and brain corals on a sloping wall. The dive usually has a slow current and is 15m deep max. Sashek is another drift dive between Bastimentos and Carenero that has rare long lure frogfish. Airport is a protected site good for training dives, and has lots of coral.

Also on the Caribbean side, but further southeast is Portobelo National Park. This is also a popular diving area with great marine life. Being closer to Panama City, people come directly from the city to dive this area that has great reef dives and several wrecks.

Water temperatures on the Caribbean side are warm year round (23-27C) and a 3mm is usually plenty. On the Pacific side, colder currents bring waters (15-23C), so a 5mm will be comfortable. For those doing deep dives in the winter, thermoclines can be present, so a 7mm might be useful.

If you are looking for good snorkelling one of the best spots is the San Blas Archipelago.  In this Guna land is forbidden to dive with a tank but here you will find one of the most untouched coral reefs by mankind. The reef holds its beauty for decades now since people do not pollute the waters around it.  The Kuna Indians or Guna indians live from the sea and hunt on it. They hunt the reefs and sandbanks by using simple snorkeling gear and do not over fish their own waters because they only take what is needed to stay alive. They are scared that scuba dives will kill the great schools of fish and leave the Kuna without food to survive. They will preserve the coral reef for future generations this way.

The rich sea life and the crystal clear water will give you plenty enough time to drift away from the world above water. One of the easy places to get in touch with this sea life is the shipwreck near Isla Perro. This place is perfect for people not used to snorkeling or scuba diving but also gives people that have done it before a nice challenge to spot all the sea life around the ship. Don’t forget to bring your underwater camera because spotting a wild turtle, shark or octopus isn’t a rare sight in the waters around the San Blas Islands.   The best way to snorkel in San Blas is charter a sailing boat.  EcoCircuitos Panama organize this adventure for you.

Tips for crossing the border from Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama

The border between Costa Rica and Panama, on the Caribbean side of these two countries, is the Sixaola River. The town on the Costa Rican side of the river is called Sixaola, here you will visit customs to check out of the country of Costa Rica and meet your contact from Panama. You will walk across the bridge to enter Panama with your new driver, leaving your Costa Rican driver to return home. The town in Panama, across the Sixaola River, is called Guabito.

The drive in Panama will take you across the low flood plains of the Sixaola and Changinola river valley’s. This area collects the watershed from the massive Talamanca mountain range, which extends through both countries. This is an important wetland for many species of tropical flora and fauna and includes habitats such as rivers, humid lowland forest, mangroves, coastal lagoons and other marine coastal environments.

A wetland reserve taking in the most of the coastal region of this area is called the San San Pond Sak (Humedal de San-San Pond Sak). This sparsely populated area is home to several endangered species such as manatees (sea cows), hawksbill, leatherback, and loggerhead sea turtles.

Next you will come to Changinola, home of United Fruit Co. /Chiquita Brands Intl., this town is older than the country itself and thick on lore of a bygone era when it was simply known as, The Banana Republic.

Crossing the bridge over the Changinola river is like stepping back in time, you might have to stop and wait for the company train to pass over first, it is only a one lane bridge. From here you will be entering the densely forested foothills of the Talamanca Range. Just up in these mountains is La Amistad Bi-national Park, some 2 million acres in size, it is jointly protect on both sides of the border. This represents one of the largest protected tracts of primary forest in Central America, and it is a UNESCO world heritage site. Keep an eye on edge of the canopy, the wildlife is spectacular. You will be passing over several elevated bluffs with spectacular views of Bocas del Toro Archipelago below.

The location of this unique site in Central America, where Quaternary glaciers have left their mark, has allowed the fauna and flora of North and South America to interbreed. Tropical rainforests cover most of the area. Four different Indian tribes inhabit this property, which benefits from close co-operation between Costa Rica and Panama.

After several small pueblos, you will be passing the outskirts of Almirante, another antiquated banana town. About 12-13 miles outside of Almirante, at kilometer marker 48 ½, is a yellow sign and pink gate for La Escapada. This small eco lodge is built on a steep slope near the waters edge, the grounds are beautiful, and the birdlife is outstanding. Here you can take a short break and stretch your legs, or have a cold beverage and watch the marine life from the dock.  The boat will be waiting there to transfer to the hotel of your choice.  Tranquilo Bay is our suggested lodge for coming days.  From here it is a beautiful 45-minute boat ride to your final destination. The ocean leg of your journey will take you across Bahia Almirante passing Sheppard and San Cristobal Islands, and into Dark Land. The glassy calm and emerald green sea, and the long shadows from the steep mountainous terrain, blend to make an intense surrounding. A narrow channel passes into another smaller lagoon named Boca Torito, or little bull’s mouth. It is here where the mother dolphins bring their calves to rear. Leaving the dolphins behind, we will enter Bastimentos National Marine Park, the mangrove islets, sea grass beds and coral flats are stunning. Oceanic birds such as brown boobies, magnificent frigates, and brown pelicans will be feeding on marine wildlife that is fleeing from predators below. As we round the southern peninsula of Isla Bastimentos, we will have our first glimpse of the Zapatilla Keys, and the lodge for the next days:  Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure lodge.

Tranquilo Bay Winter Escape From $2195.00 – Arriving on Friday

Escape the winter to the soothing waters of the Caribbean; discover the ecosystem of Bocas del Toro archipelago through snorkeling, kayaking or hiking the National Park.   The lodge lies within an area of nature reserves on land and in the sea, which is one of the most biologically diverse places in Panama. Encounter tropical birds, different monkey species, iguanas and many more during your stay and feel yourself relax and refresh in the unique natural environment.

Save $635.00 per person when you travel in February 2015. Applied to all February departures.

Day 1 – Welcome to Panama!- Today at the appropriate time an EcoCircuitos representative will meet you at the Tocumen International Airport to assist and transfer you to your hotel located in Panama City. At this time you will also receive an EcoCircuitos information kit that will provide you with all the details for your stay in Panama. Once you arrive to your hotel, please check-in. Marriott Executive.

Day 2 – Fly to Bocas del Toro Archipelago – This morning your Caribbean adventure begins! You will be transferred to the domestic airport in Albrook to catch your flight to Boquete to Bocas del Toro Archipelago. Once you arrive to the island, you’ll board a water taxi that will route through the archipelago’s small canals, passing local communities, mangroves and into the Caribbean Ocean. You will arrive to Tranquilo Bay ecolodge and check in in your private cabin. Enjoy a welcome lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the beautiful surroundings. (B,L,D)

Day 3 – 5 Bocas del Toro Island Adventures – Awake to the sounds of nature and overlooking the Caribbean. After breakfast you will get ready for a day full of adventures. You will discover the tropical beauty that surrounds this magnificent Archipelago and National Park. Included in this adventure package is one daily standard activity each day. Daily actitivies include: snorkeling, kayaking, diving, hiking, fishing, visiting turtle nesting sites, surfing, birding, or exploring nearby beaches. The island’s midsection and surrounding waters are protected in the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, and the entire island offers nature lovers an array of wildlife, both terrestrial and marine. The waters here are filled with brilliant parrot fish, angel fish, red snapper, slender needle fish and many others. Four species of sea turtles come ashore to nest on the beaches and the forests are home to many endemic and endangered species such as neon colored frogs, the red billed tropic bird and two and three toed sloths. (B,L,D)

DAY 6 – Return to Panama City and Visit the Biodiversity Museum or Miraflores Locks – This morning you will return to Bocas del Toro domestic airport for a short flight back to Panama City. You’ll be met at the airport for a visit to the Biodiveristy Museum design by Frank Gehry on the entrance of the Panama Canal or a visit to the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal to observe the “eighth wonder of the world.”  After the short visit, you will be transferred back to your hotel to enjoy your last afternoon in Panama City. (B)

Day 7 – Departure – At the appropriate time you will be transferred to the Tocumen International Airport for your outbound flight. You will arrive at the airport approximately 2 hours before your departure time.

Note: customers will be picked up 3 hours before their flight time.

Price per person in double room: $2195.00

Internal Flights (Panama City – Bocas del Toro – Panama City): $325.00

(Flight cost is subject to change)

The program includes:  Private Transfers from international airport to hotel in and out, 6 nights of lodging and taxes,  All meals in Tranquilo Bay, Government taxes, Tours as mentioned above, bilingual guide during tours and adventures, Breakfast at all mentioned hotels, Information kit, Lodging taxes, Panama kit.

The program does not include:  Optional activities, International and domestic airfare and taxes,  Departure taxes ($40.00 per person for Panama), Meals not specified in the itinerary, Alcoholic beverages, Personal equipment, Extras in hotels (laundry, phone calls, room service, etc.), Gratuities

Rates are valid until October 15th, 2015 and subject to change due increases on fuel prices

  • Prices are net per person.
  • Prices are given in US Dollars.
  • Prices are subject to change without previous notice depending on any significant increase in rates, taxes, fuel or due to availability problems.
  • Prices are based on the minimum of paying participants previously informed.
  • If the minimum number of paying participants changes, the rates would also change
  • Tips for drives and guides not included

Note: This is a quote not a reservation. Please note that all quotations given are subject to availability at the time of reservation and cannot be guaranteed until payment is received. Please note that credit card payments are subject to processing fees.

EcoCircuitos realizes that has important environmental and social responsibilities in and out of the office. We create memorable travel experiences in Panama’s natural history and cultural heritage.   Our office team and suppliers ensure quality service, cultural sensitivity, local knowledge, innovation and social and environmental responsibility. As travelers ourselves we believe giving something back is essential. Therefore we work with our team, suppliers and customers to ensure that benefits will contribute directly to the communities we visit and their environment.

For more information, please visit our Responsible Travel Policy link.

Encourage the channeling of part of our revenues towards supporting the conservation and sustainable use of Panama’s biodiversity. We are committed to the conservation of protected areas, education and local community development.

 

Mindfulness Eco Retreat – Stress Relief Program

Take time to unwind in the tropics, escape the day-to-day hustle and bustle and let yourself be carried away to a place where bird songs and the wind rustling through the trees replaces the sounds of the city. You will stay in lodges that nestled in nature  allow you to disconnect and relax. Discover the boundless wildlife that surrounds you, hike through the forests or enjoy top notch spa facilities to rejuvenate yourself.

Yoga and meditation classes are also offered during this special itineraries in different areas where we sustainable ecologes are home to a myriad of wildlife. The program will include your stay at lodges tucked away from the tourist path. The perfect combination of forest, beach and mountains will allow you to relax and unwind. For a detailed itinerary please contact us today!

Do you Know? Bastimentos Marine National Park

Bastimentos Marine National Park is comprised of a group of islands located in Almirante Bay in the province of Bocas del Toro. The park encompasses a large portion of Bastimentos Island, Zapatilla Cays, in addition to the waters and mangroves that surround the island.

The north eastern side of Bastimentos Island faces the Caribbean Sea. Five beaches are found here along with stretches of cove inlets and coral reef. These beaches are: Wizard Beach, Red Frog Beach, Turtle Beach, North Beach and Playa Larga. The south western side of the island has a mangrove coastline with very calm water year round. The landscape is much more dramatic, with large rock faces, stretches of long beaches, in addition to coves and inlets.

Bastimentos was Panama’s first marine park and covers an extremely diverse 28,600 marine acres.  With a protected corridor no wider than seven miles, its oceanic diversity includes sea fan garden, vibrant coral reef, and over 200 species of tropical fish.  Oceanic formations in the area include walls, freshwater caves, tunnels, pinnacles, coral spires and towers, groove and spur, ocean impact reef, sandy ledges, and protected patch reef.  Bastimentos is one of the few protected areas in Latin America that preserves, simultaneously, the wildlife and habitat of beaches, coral reef and mangroves.