Burbayar Lodge, Panama

March 14, 2022. When Pierre and I sailed around the world on BioTrek 1, a Catana 474, we visited the Panama tropical rain forest at Burbayar Lodge. Burbayar is a rustic eco-lodge nestled in the hills of the San Blas region of Panama adjacent to the remote Darien region that extend towards Colombia. It is near where the Pan-American road ends, leaving Panama and Columbia unconnected by land travel.

As before, we were picked up at Flamenco marina  for the 2 hour drive to the reserve.  This time our  naturalist guide was Roberto of Ancon Tours who has been doing eco-tourism tours for 15 years. Unlike last time, there was torrential rain when we arrived. We waited until the shield of rain turned into a simple downpour before unloading our bags to trudge up the slippery path to the main lodge.

Our friends from POM3, Mapie and Dominque, joined us on this trip after I gave them an enthusiastic review. As we walked up the muddy hill I looked at their sparkling white running shoes and worried that things may have changed.  Already winded by the time we reached the main cabin, I wondered if our friends understood what rustic meant – they speak French and sometimes misunderstandings happen in translation. There was a wooden serpent hanging from the ceiling and Mapie informed us that the only thing she was absolutely terrified of were snakes.

 We were the only guests. Roberto introduced us to Marie-Lina and Antonio, the family team who were the cook, and custodian. Covid, they told us, had impacted the eco-tourism business.

Roberto looked at my feet in flip flops and said, no flipflops at night. There are too many snakes and scorpions. Umm, said Mapie, slowly.

The rain had abated somewhat and we were shown to our cabins. Rugged wood cabins with limited lighting, but electric plugs by the bed.  That was new since we had been here. There were screens on the windows, another improvement from our trip before. Still the space at the bottom of the door could allow crawly things inside, and we were told to check our shoes for scorpions before putting them on.

Sloth just outside the main cabin
Burbayar Lodge – Main cabin. Dinner is outside.

Dinner was outside on a covered veranda to the loud sound of forest frogs. We ate a simple meal of fried sea bass, white rice and salad, with pineapple for dessert.

After dinner Roberto took us for a nature walk to the stream to look for frogs. We were instructed to remove our hiking boats and put on the taller rubber boats on account of the snakes. Ummm, said Mapie, with a brave look in her eyes. Robert and Antonio succeed in showing us a one species of glass frogs, named for their transparent belly that reveals all their organs. The other species were hiding, on account of all the rain. I waded along the shallow stream looking for frogs and hoping to see a caymen. Mapie stayed on the bridge.

Glass Frog seen by flashlight
Glass Frogs are semi-transparent on the dorsal surface, and transparent on the ventral surface

The next day we had a fabulous Panamanian breakfast of thick corn cakes and scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions and headed out. Sun just started to peak between the clouds.  We walked through secondary rain forest and then primary rain forest with two guides, Antonio in the lead looking for interesting things, and Robert explaining natural history of the plants and animals. After lunch I announced I wanted to go on a snake hunting expedition to see one of the 126 species of snakes. After all, only one is truly very dangerous, the Fer de Lance, and I had already observed one in the wild on a previous trip to Panama. Mapie bravely said she would join. Alas, no snakes but another wonderful walk.

Another guided walk the next day, and more fabulous food. We had a wonderful time and all learned to speak another language! The resort custodians speak Spanish. Dominique and Mapie speak French and Spanish. Pierre and I speak English and French.  Our guide Roberto spoke English and Spanish. There was lots of translation and learning!!! How many people reading this bog know the word or frog in English, French (grenouille) and Spanish (rana)???  

 For a full reportage, wait for the Youtube to come! We are poised to leave Panama for French Polynesia and if seas are calm, maybe time to edit videos along the way.

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