We had booked the Celebrity Century Panama Canal Holiday Cruise as a get-a-way for the Holidays. But, considering the awesome ports of call - we made sure that we brought along our binoculars and also contacted several guides to take us out Birding. It was one of our best trips ever! and it was the local guides that really made our trips. Of the 6 ports of call on this trip, 4 of them we dedicated to Birding and it will be those that I review on this post.
Cabo San Lucas
Unfortunately, a short stay at this port of call, I wish I had 2 or 3 more hours to explore! However, our guide - Maria Elena Muriel of "Birding Los Cabos" made the most of our short time (approx. 4 hour tour). She waited patiently as our ship tendered - it was one hour that it took us to get off the ship. Immediately, she pointed out yellow-crowned night herons (2) that were roosting beneath the tender wharf. From that point, I knew we were going to have an excellent trip. From the docks, she took us to a small park somewhere within Cabo in search of the Xantus' Hummingbird. Although the endemic Xantus did not make an appearance, the equally stunning Costa's Hummingbird did
From this park, we went to a small beach area (private to locals) where we scouted for excellent shorebirds. We were looking for the white ibis, who did not make an appearance, but found many other excellent shorebirds, including the Western Sandpiper (migrating from Alaska).
From Cabo San Lucas, she drove us to San Jose to visit the Estuary. A beautiful park-like setting and several birds for us to enjoy. Just outside the Estuary area, we identified the endemic Gray Thrasher who was residing in scrub brush at the side of the road. An excellent sighting! At San Jose Estuary, we heard (song ID) the Belting's Yellowthroat - but unfortunately, he did not come out to say hello for a Visual.
All in all - it was a great experience! and we would highly recommend Maria Elena Muriel as a guide for Birding Los Cabos.
We arrived in the port of call, Puerto Vallarta on Christmas Eve. Many shops/restaurants were closed due to the holiday. However, Alejandro Martinez of "Birding in Mexico" graciously accommodated us on his family holiday to take us on another short excursion (we arrived in PV at 1 pm and it gets dark at 6 pm) to the Sierra Madre Occidentalis. It was an amazing time, so many beautiful birds were seen, including a flock of 4 Military Macaw that few overhead (endangered species). Our highlight was the absolutely gorgeous Citreoline Trogon at very close range.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Berny Sanchez of Manuel Antonio National Park Tours, drove North (quite a ways!) to greet us in Puntarenas. He then took us to Carara National Park to bird the Meandrica Lagoon Trail (a good five hours we spent there) before going to Playa Hermosa for additional birding. This trek was simply put the BEST out of our entire trip. Berny was just amazing and the variety of Terrain and birds we saw was out of this world. We saw close to 80 different species (many others heard) and we fell in love with Costa Rica
Berny shared his knowledge of his country throughout the trip and we so much appreciate the time he took to do this.
We were greeted by Gonzalo Horna (found through Birding Pal web site) as soon as we were able to leave the ship. We immediately went to the Gatun Locks to cross as quickly as possible before all the big tour buses. Unfortunately, the locks were busy with ships in transit. But, in lieu of waiting in a long line, Gonzalo took us immediately birding around the locks area and we saw quite a bit before we were able to cross the locks and head towards Achiote Road. We had excellent birding at Achiote (birding hot spot) and we spotted ~ 85 birds and heard (song ID) another dozen. Panama is gorgeous and don't let the rumours of Colon scare you off from not leaving the ship. Gonzalo is from Colon, knows the area well and is passionate about his hometown city. We felt 100% safe and it was a great adventure.
If you would like to see photos from our trip, I am currently uploading - but some are there to view:
All is all - the birding treks (4 out of 6) ports of call were the highlights of our entire cruise. Everything else paled in comparison - we are so very very thankful we booked private guides in these amazing areas to bird.
Heather & Anthony Baskey
Rockwood, Ontario - Canada