Chestnut-backed Antbird

Birding Panama

One of the common resident birds here at Tranquilo Bay is the Chesnut-backed Antbird (Myrmeciza exsul). It is one of the most common ant-bird of the tropical zone forest, which lives from sea level up to 2000 feet (600-700 meters). Its range is good size, reaching from the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, both coasts of Costa Rica and south to Western Ecuador and Northern Colombia.

In Panama, this species has some color variation throughout the isthmus and four subspecies are recognized. The subspecies found at Tranquilo Bay (Bocas del Toro and eastward through northern Veraguas to eastern Colon) is Myrmeciza exsul exsul.

They are almost always found close to the ground, generally in pairs moving relatively close together, on the undergrowth of the forest floor.

While hiking Tranquilo Bay’s trails you will often hear a double note whistle followed by the same call but in a slightly different tone. The first one is the male calling and the “changed tone” call is the female answering.  These calls and the movement on the forest floor are the best way to find them due to the lack of light in the places they like to inhabit and their own dark coloration.

The Chestnut-backed Antbird can show up anywhere in the forest, but the best close-up views, are usually obtained on the path that joins the cabanas to the main building of the lodge. It surprises you, if they are not calling and you walk on this path, because the male will make a purring sound while he moves away from you. An amazing forest bird found on a comfortable cement path.

Bocas del Toro Orchids

In Panama extraordinary biodiversity is not a secret. It´s a privileged location on the Earth. It is in a tropical area, joining two formidable masses of land (North and South America) and separating the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the same time.

But these facts are not the only reason, its topography, result of the dramatic geological events that lead to its formation, created so many micro-habitats.

From the Pacific and Atlantic shore to the summit of Volcan Baru at 11,398 feet above sea level (3374 meters) many micro-climates occur.   They all hold many different forms of life for such a small area of the world.

So, what do you think it happens to the most numerous family in the Plantae Kingdom … the orchids? Well, of the more than 20,000 species that exist in the world, Panama hosts 1,200 of them.   Bocas del Toro as a province holds it´s share!

Here are some pictures of common orchids that surround us:

Bocas del Toro Orchid

Orchid Panama

Orchid Plant Panama

La Bomba Recipe

Afro Caribbean SpiceYears ago, I began experimenting with Habanero peppers and came up with a nice and fresh hot sauce.  Around here they named it “La Bomba.”  This name is not because it is really hot, but because it adds a lot of flavor to anything you eat it with.

To continue with the chile saga (months ago, I wrote some blog posts about the chile, if you have not read them, and want to know a bit more about one of the most important spices in the world) here are the links:

A bit of history:

A bit if science:

La bomba: 

Today I´m going to tell you how to make this salsa, but I must say, I do not have an exact recipe I follow every time.  I always make little changes.  Some times I use more of one of the ingredients or it varies a bit based on vegetable availability.  But I think after you make it the first time, you can start playing with the amounts and the ingredients to make it the way you like it. It is important that everything needs to be fresh.

Home-made Hot Sauce

2 carrots
3 tomatoes
2 onions,
Cilantro (as much as you want, some people love it, some people…)
Any kind of hot peppers
1 bell pepper
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Vinegar (If you used jarred jalapeños: you do not have to add vinegar to the preparation)
Lime juice
Dijon mustard

Clean, peel and cut into medium size pieces all the big vegetables, then add all the ingredients to the food processor, and process until smooth.  Keep it refrigerated and enjoy it when you want!

Reality Fishing from Italy

Tranquilo Bay Aerial PhotoWe were blessed with a group of anglers from Italy and France who stayed with us earlier this month.  This crew is different from others in that everyone in the group was both an avid angler and an accomplished photographer.  They used their knowledge of both genres to capture a fishing trip in a way we hadn’t seen to date.  Drone photography has granted photographers access to life in a way that wasn’t possible five years ago.

Antonio, Sebastiano, Dario and Yoann all played and worked hard.  It was a lot of fun to have therm around even if we didn’t all speak the same language.  At dinner each night we heard English, Spanish and Italian.  Each time we have an experience such as this one it reaffirms our decision to come and do this thing called Tranquilo Bay.  It has enriched our lives in so many ways.

Please check out the group’s quick blog post of thanks to the different groups within Panama that helped to make their expedition possible.  You will need to scroll down the page to find either English or Spanish as the blog is written primarily for Italian speakers.

Scott’s Thoughts on Learning the Yard Birds


Bananaquit by Scott Viola

Last week, we heard from Tres about the kids’ science class for the school year 2015/2016.  This week we hear from Scott:


Blackburnian Warbler by Scott Viola

We started the bird class at the beginning of this school year because a family was planning to come in the summer, and we (the kids) were to be the guides. We have sketched and studied every bird on site, except for the most recent additions to our list.


Yellow-crowned Night-Heron by Scott Viola

Every week, bird flashcards were created to tell us which birds to look into. Usually, five were assigned every week, but once it varied to seven! We designate common names, Latin names description, size, food, habitat, and location for each bird. We may draw or insert a picture of the bird. I’ve always drawn them.


Black Skimmer by Scott Viola

As I went through the school year, I began to notice the bird life surrounding me. I never saw the thrushes, hummingbirds, warblers, flycatchers, seedeaters, and more before we studied them. I picked up many calls and songs, which are as helpful as sight, too.


Magnolia Warbler by Scott Viola

Today, I recognize many of our birds by sight and sound. I locate some birds, especially flycatchers, by sound. I’ve acquired a pair of binoculars (Mr. Jeri says “a binocular”) of my own. I use them whenever I go birding, or even just walking or playing outdoors. I never know what will appear.


Stripe-throated Hermit by Scott Viola

Tres’ thoughts on learning our Yard Birds

Birding Journal Panama

Yellow-throated Vireo by Tres Kimball

The children’s science class for the past school year was to learn the yard birds at Tranquilo Bay.  I have asked Tres and Scott to tell us what they feel they learned, how they felt about the process and to give us a few examples of the birds they drew.  First up – Tres.

Citizen Science Panama

Blue Gray Tanager by Tres Kimball

This year, our science class was to learn all the birds listed on-site at Tranquilo Bay. We researched their size, food, habitat, and range. Also, we drew a picture of every bird. Now, it is enjoyable to look out of a window, see a bird, and know what species it is.

Panama Birdwatching

Bay Wren by Tres Kimball

Due to the fact that I drew a bird almost every day, my drawing skills have improved immensely. Now, I draw mostly in pen, after sketching in pencil.

Drawing at Tranquilo Bay

Golden-collared Manakin by Tres Kimball

I think the greatest thing, while learning our birds, is that I learned the general appearance of the different families, therefore if I don’t know what species it is, I normally recognize the genus, and can look it up.

Birding Panama

Red-eyed Vireo by Tres Kimball

Now, I draw better and can identify most of our birds. What I need to learn this summer is the sounds. I lack severely in that department.

Homeschooling Science

Red-capped Manakin by Tres Kimball

Mobile Friendly Website

Panama Eco Lodge Website

We quietly released a new mobile friendly website last week.  We are still working out a few kinks, but all in all it is an improvement.  Regardless of the size screen one uses to look for an upcoming vacation spot in Panama, we have you covered.  The site has been fine tuned to make sure you get the content you need to make your vacation decision.  Come check us out and send your friends!


Bocas del Toro Documentary

We participated in a project with UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism students last month entitled Undercurrent.  The students divided up into five different pairs to work on the primary part of the video for each documentary.  Other students participated by taking 360 degree video, as reporters, graphic designers, etc.  All in all they spent a little over a week in and around the province of Bocas del Toro along with their coaches and professors.

Tranquilo Bay Documentary

The project launched last night.  The stories proceed in chapters which are five separate yet interrelated stories about Bocas del Toro.  Tranquilo Bay is Chapter Three, “Raising Up Wild.”  It was fun to be a part of this project and to have some good friends along for the ride.

The 360 degree footage they captured at Tranquilo Bay is pretty sweet.  It is best viewed on a mobile device that can be moved around to get to different parts of the video.

We are grateful to be a part of this process.  We are fortunate to have crossed paths with Claire Fieseler when she was at STRI in Bocas working with corals.  Anne Marie, Paris and Tegan along with the rest of the students and coaches did an amazing job.  I look forward to whatever they all continue to create.  Thanks guys!


Goldilocks and the new logo

Tranquilo Bay Logo So, all of this began some time ago. I got the itch to change the logo. Our original logo was a great one to begin our business many years ago, but we have changed and grown over the years so I believed it was time to show that growth in the form of the logo.

I looked for logo templates across the Internet. I tried a few on for size. I felt like Goldilocks except that I couldn’t find one that was just right. So I enlisted a professional for help. This was a big deal. We try to do everything in-house so stepping out was nerve-wracking yet I knew I couldn’t do it.

I reached out to a woman, Erin Napier, whose blog I have read for many years now. She has a lovely stationary and graphic design business out of Laurel, Mississippi and is in the process of filming a television show with her husband for HGTV.  I gave her a list of my requirements and she came up with a several options. She did a hand-lettered logo that was beautiful, but Jim and Jay found it a bit hard to read. She also created a beautiful hand-drawn pineapple that we worked with as we continued to develop the logo. She and I went through many iterations and I felt like I was pushing the number of iterations she was willing to complete. She has the patience of a saint and was kind and helpful throughout the process. We ended with a version that was lovely. I tried it out at New Year’s to see what people would think. It received rave reviews from the public. Not so much from Jim and Jay.

Jim and Jay were largely okay with the meat of the logo, but each had different issues. Jim didn’t want a pineapple as our main icon in the logo. He knew I was using it as the international symbol of welcome, but as an eco lodge a pineapple isn’t the friendliest crop to the planet so the pineapple had to go. Jay wanted to make sure that people knew our offerings included both land and sea. We used what Erin had developed for us as our base as we progressed to what fit us just right.

So, what to use as an icon when you offer a number of excursions and do not want to exclude any one group in particular? One of the majestic trees of the rainforest is what we decided upon. The tree we ended up with is an interpretation of our favorite “broccoli” tree. That tree has been a favorite of ours from the beginning here at Tranquilo Bay so it is fitting that it ended up in our logo.

To me, a rainforest giant has strong roots, has grown for many years (and should have many more to go), and has had to make many compromises with the environment over its tenure to reach its spectacular height. This represents the relationship between the Kimball and Viola families. The tree in our logo has two main branches that have grown off of its strong base. Both of our families are united under Tranquilo Bay yet remain separate, which is exactly what I see in this tree.

Our original logo listed only Panama as the location. With this new logo we made it more specific with Isla Bastimentos, Panama to bring in the information about the sea or that we are located on an island.

Will this logo last for close to 11 years? Only time will tell. Eleven years from now I may not be the person in charge of moving these types of things along – at that point, even Patrick will be voting age.

PS.  The photo is one that MaryKathryn Briggs took when she visited us last year.  She brought the broccoli tree in as the focus in many of her photos without even knowing the importance of it.  Thanks MK.