Next generation in the backyard – Striped Basilisk

One of the things I love of living surrounded by forest is that you often get unexpected neighbors; the last one was a pretty female of Striped Basilisk (Basiliscus vittatus). A while back I had a pretty male of the same species sunbathing in front of my bedroom window every day for weeks.   Now we have a nesting female right in front of our bedroom door.   We were able to see her digging the nest, near our habanero pepper plants and covering the eggs afterwords.  She laid six eggs which is an impressive number for this small animal.

I leave you with some pictures of the pretty mama and her clutch of eggs.

Panama Wildlife Lizard Nesting Bocas del Toro

Chili 3 – La bomba!

Afro Caribbean Spice At present, there are a lot of hot peppers around the world to choose from.   Many of us  at Tranquilo Bay are big lovers of spicy things, so Ramon and I have been trying through the years to grow different varieties of hot peppers.  The one, so far, to give us the best results is the habanero pepper (Capsicum chinense).  This pepper also has a bunch of varieties.

Bocas Hot SauceThe reason for the name of this blog post is that La Bomba is the name we all gave to the first batch of my home-made hot sauce.  This hot sauce includes the hot peppers and culantro (the native version on the cilantro or coriander) that we grow in front of our apartment. Many of our guests have tried this hot sauce during their stay at Tranquilo Bay and often the fall in love with La bomba.   For spice lovers, many enjoy the hot sauce and my regular experiments with the chiles!

Home-made Hot SauceWe have a new group of beautiful plants growing that is a new variety of chile.  In my experience eating chilies it is one of the spiciest I have ever tried, so, we will see how it gets incorporated into La Bomba.

Chili 2 – A bit of science

All the peppers, from the sweet bell peppers to the hottest chili, now the Nāga chilli, belong to the Solanaceae family.  This family includes potatoes, eggplants, tobacco and another common plant from the New World, the tomato. The spice of the chilies comes from a chemical, capsaicin, which produces the burning sensation in our mouth.  The Scoville Heat Unit Scale (SHU) is a way to measure the level of hotness of the chilies, or  the concentration of capsaicin in the chili. The scale is divided into multiples of 100, and goes up to 16,000,000,000.  To put it into something meaningful, jalapenoes are in a range between 2,500-5,000  SHU.

Capsaicin does not dissolve in water.  So because it doesn’t dissolve in water, you cannot eliminate the burning sensation of the chili by drinking water, but drinking something rich in fat, such as milk, does help with this situation.

Chilies are also an extraordinary condiment.  They have a high nutritive value, rich in vitamins (specially C and A), and are the vegetable with the highest concentration of ascorbic acid.

Panamanian Food

Chili 1 – A bit of history

This week I am doing a series of three blog posts about one of the most widely dispersed spices of the world: the chili pepper, hot pepper, or chile (as we call it in Spanish in many countries of Latin America), to mention just a few of the common names of this spice.

The chilies have been an important part in the life of many cultures. The chilies are original from the Americas, the archaeological research led by Linda Perry, of the Smithsonian Institute reveals that harvesting of chilies began approximately 8,000 years ago.  People have been cultivating and trading them for over 6,000 years.  Yes, 6,000 years!!!

This spice traveled from the New World to the Old World between 1498 and 1549, and was spread eastwards over the silk route in about 50-year period.  At that point, the chili was known as far away from the New World as Japan.

Flora Panama

Camoflaged 2

The animal that was on the picture I posted two days ago, in the bottom of the water, was a very well camouflaged Sand Diver (Synodius intermedius).  This species really blends into its environment.  It has a behavior that helps with its strategy to remain unseen: it stays at the bottom of the water, in a specific spot, that looks very much like its coloration and does not move at all.

Snorkeling Panama

Snorkeling Panama


Edited to change photo 12/13/15.

Camoflaged 1

A very common strategy in nature used by wildlife is camouflage, basically: “if you don`t see me, you cant´ eat me”.  Well, based on that premise I have a picture to share with you all. This picture is a small area of the bottom of the sea, near the dock, where there isn’t much coral and it is mostly sea grass on a sand bed with a lot of sea urchins.  Do you see something else, besides what I just describe?

Wildlife Panama

Rough week that ends well

Birding PanamaI had a rough week last week – this Blue Dacnis and I were on the same page. Between rain, migraines and emergency dental work for our eight year old daughter (which included a quick day trip to Panama City), I also had amazing conversations, saw friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, got to know some new and very interesting people, see my daughter on a horse for the first time (not the reason for the emergency dental work), and watch both the children and our business grow. Steve Ingraham was here to check us out and take photographs. His photographs are a wonderful reminder of why we have chosen to make Bocas del Toro, Panama our home. God has been very kind to Bocas. The natural resources that exist here are beyond compare.   The fact that we have the gift and opportunity to do what we can to steward this small piece of the earth we call Tranquilo Bay is such a blessing.

I ended the week with a sore throat I caught somewhere along the way during a bumpy and exhausting ride. However, I have a new set of wall-to-wall bookshelves in our new classroom to store our very large collection of books and the kids’ schoolwork. Tranquilo Bay received four new excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, the promise of a future trip with Steve Ingraham, lots of laughs with our guests this week, and a reminder of just how lucky we are to call this piece of paradise home.

Bocas del Toro HotelPlease click-through to check out Steve’s photos from his time here in Bocas del Toro.   They are amazing in their own right, but they also give you a very good idea of the colors you might see here in Bocas – rain or shine.

More frogs

Frog Bocas del ToroA few months ago I wrote a blog post about the visit to Bastimentos town with some of the participants with the December 2014 Wildside Nature Tour Photo Workshop where our target species was the colorful Poison Dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio).

Well, I said I would post some more pictures of the different morphs we found that morning, so here are some more of those beautiful and unique colorations found near the town of Bastimentos.

Panama Wildlife

Caught in Motion

Wildlife Panama

Months ago, while we were birding with a group on the mainland, I “caught” this Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) walking down a tree in mainland.  It was a nice find, because this hairy creature does not spend much time active during the day.

Two-toed Sloth are nocturnal, but of course that does not mean that if they want to move around or feel like is time for a snack they are not going to do it.  Actually this furry, friendly guy, moved for us and ate in front of us.  He was absolutely not concerned about our presence which made it a great moment to get some pictures.

The reason I chose this picture in particular, is because it shows the way the species moves.  Two-toed Sloths move in a different way, when they are going down the tree, they always go with their head first (head down), where their close relative, the three-toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus), always goes up and down the tree with its head up.

Wildlife magnet: Verbena

Birding Bocas del ToroOne of the most beautiful plants that we enjoy at Tranquilo Bay´s gardens is the Verbena plant. If you ask a botanist, he will define the “verbena”as an organism belonging to the Plantae Kingdom. Angiosperm, Eudicot, Asterid from the genus Stachytarpheta in the Verbenaceae family of the Order Lamiales.

Panama WildlifeBut if you ask us, at Tranquilo Bay, we will define it as “one of the most valuable ornament” in the tropical gardens that surround us. It is not one of the most precious specie just because of her beauty, but because the magnetic powers it has to attract many other flying gems that inhabit or visit this land.

Bocas del Toro BirdingIf you ask Natalia, the magnetic full-grown verbena plants are now a reward from work well done.  After planting and taking care of them, the results are wildlife actively visiting the plant.  This allows us to take great action shoots of feeding behavior of butterflies and bees, the playful Bananaquit or of many striking hummingbirds that visit it.   If you ask the different species of wildlife what the verbena plant is to them, they would surely tell you that it is paradise on Earth, an endless source of nectar in its countless flowers, they will probably refer to it as the great “provider” it is.

Bird Watching PanamaImagine you could ask the rare migrant in the Caribbean coast of Panama, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird that has been hosted by Tranquilo Bay´s verbena plants for some weeks ( 2 years in a row always at the end of February) what the Verbena flower nectar means to it, after an exhausting migration from the United States. Or for the Blue-chested Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird or the Stripe-throated Hermit that are extremely common visitors and spend their days feeding on it, or to the Green-breasted Mango, …

Bananaquit Bocas del Toro

Crowned Woodnymph FemaleThe verbena plant is a wildlife magnet, which makes it a great attraction for us who enjoy being able to see and capture a gorgeous wild animal “living its life”.

Wildlife Panama