The cloud forests of the western Panama highlands are home to an incredible amount of biodiversity. Mount Totumas Cloud Forest, in particular, has over 250 species of birds, as well as iconic mammals such as jaguars, pumas, tapirs, and other elusive wildlife that call this reserve home. This makes it an exceptional location to engage in mindful birding and ornitherapy. It is a place where we can deeply connect with birds and nature in a beautiful natural setting and take in all of the benefits it provides.
This 7-day mindful birding retreat is set in the lush highlands of western Panama. It is one of the best places in the world to see the extravagantly beautiful Resplendent Quetzal, as well as Black-faced Solitaire, Long-tailed and Black-and-yellow silky-flycatchers, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Talamanca and Fiery-throated hummingbirds among more than a dozen other species of hummers, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Buffy Tuftedcheek, and Collared Trogon are just some of the amazing birds we can see in this region. In addition to birds, we also can revel in the beauty of native orchids, butterflies and other wildlife.
On this retreat, we will be joined by Holly Merker, author of Ornitherapy: For your Mind, Body and Soul. At times we will gather for workshops about mindful birding, and plenty of time will also be available for optional mindful activities, including yoga, meditation, nature sketching, and free time to enjoy in nature.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN PANAMA CITY
Welcome to Panama! Today we will transfer to the hotel nearby the airport where we can begin to take in the beautiful tropical surroundings! Local garden birds include colorful Blue-gray and Crimson-backed tanagers, Tropical Kingbird, Ruddy Ground Dove, Yellow-headed Caracara, Rufous-tailed and Sapphire-throated hummingbirds, and much more. Once everyone has arrived, we will meet for a short orientation and introduction of our Panama mindful birding retreat, and enjoy a relaxing dinner together.
DAY 2: FLIGHT TO CHIRIQUI & TRANSFER TO MOUNT TOTUMAS
This morning we will take a short flight to Chiriqui in western Panama. Upon arrival in David, we will meet our driver and transfer 2.5 hours to the Chiriqui Highlands! Along the way, we can enjoy nice views of the countryside as we head into the lush, cool “Tierras Altas.” The last portion of the trip traverses a rugged mountain road, crossing streams until we reach our paradise for the next 4 days - Mount Totumas Ecolodge, nestled in the cloud forests bordering La Amistad International Park.
We will get settled into our rooms, take in the beautiful scenery around us, and begin exploring the gardens and surroundings for their incredible bird life. Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Rufous-collared Sparrow, and Slate-throated Redstart are just a few of the birds that will delight us around the main lodge and cabanas. This afternoon we will take a slow, introductory bird walk on one of the nearby trails to get acquainted with the birds of the cloud forest and feel the initial benefits of mindful birding.
DAYS 3-5: MOUNT TOTUMAS CLOUD FOREST RESERVE
Awake to the sounds of the cloud forest birdlife! With a hot drink in hand, we can enjoy the morning bird activity from the comfort of our balconies and lodge deck. Several species of hummingbirds flurry around the hummingbird feeders - Violet Sabrewing, Green Hermit, Green-crowned Brilliant, Long-billed Starthroat, and Stripe-tailed Hummingbird are all regular visitors. Over the next three days, we will immerse ourselves in the peacefulness of this unique place, with sweeping mountain vistas, 30 km of trails through old growth cloud forests where jaguars, tapirs and other shy forest mammals roam through the 400 acre private reserve and adjacent international park, shared with Costa Rica.
We can observe Slaty Flowerpiercers utilizing their uniquely shaped beaks to pinch the bases of flowers in the garden, “robbing” the flowers of their nectar; we will watch as flashy Red-headed Barbets adorn the trees with their bright colors; and if lucky, we may be able to observe a majestic Ornate Hawk-Eagle soar gracefully over the forest canopy. To top it off, we will revel in the intense beauty of a male Resplendent Quetzal as it takes sallying flights to pluck its favorite fruits off tree branches; its veil-like tail, three times the length of its body, leaves us astonished. Likewise, the birds concert a natural symphony of song. At dawn, we will listen for the mournful calls of Collared Forest-Falcons; Black-faced Solitaires sing a fluty, sublime song that resonates through the forest; from the forest floor we hear the tinkling thin notes of brushfinches, and of course, delight our ears and souls with the melodic songs of Gray-breasted Wood Wrens and Flame-colored Tanagers.
Intermingled among our time observing birds, we will gather for mindful birding workshops, a great opportunity to learn about all of the benefits birds can bring us and ways to incorporate mindful birding into our lives. Over these three days, there will be optional activities to promote mindfulness, including Yoga sessions, guided meditation, nature sketching, and journaling. Also, feel free to go at your own pace through your own mindful birding journey, and enjoy some time in solitude in nature.
Our days will be enhanced further with delicious home-cooked meals presenting a colorful array of locally grown fruits and vegetables at every meal, treating our palates to a blend of local fare. In the evenings, we can gather to quietly listen to the sounds of the night forest, perhaps picking up the calls of owls and nightjars in the distance.
DAY 6: MOUNT TOTUMAS, & RETURN TO PANAMA CITY
Once again we will enjoy the morning surrounded by the birds and scenery of western Panama. We can take a relaxed pace today, stroll the trails once more, spend time observing the feeders, sketch or journal in the moment, or just listen to the sounds of the forest around us. After lunch, we will say our goodbyes and thanks to our friendly hosts at Mount Totumas and retrace our steps back to David to catch our return flight to Panama City. This evening we will enjoy a final dinner together and reflect on the experience of this time together, sharing our favorite encounters and moments.
DAY 7: DEPARTURE
After breakfast, our Panama mindful birding retreat concludes. We will transfer to Tocumen International Airport to catch your return flights home.