Thursday, March 1, 2018

2018 Panama Journal - Day 1

Friday 2/9/18

The day before our flight to Panama City we left the house around 3:30 pm.  It takes about 1 1/2 hours to get to San Antonio from Medina.  Traffic in San Antonio was typical Friday afternoon madness.

We stayed the night at the La Quinta close to the airport.  We paid the extra $20 to leave our car in their parking lot for 2 weeks - what a bargain!  Not only do we save the expense of airport parking, La Quinta has a free shuttle to the airport. 

Our room was very nice and large.

Our room at La Quinta.

Saturday 2/10/18

We got up at 3:30 am to catch the early shuttle to the airport.  It left about 4:15 and only took a few minutes to get to the airport.  Even though our flight from San Antonio to Houston didn’t leave until 5:55, we always arrive early.  There are too many things that can go wrong.

Our flight from San Antonio to Houston was only 29 minutes but the pilot informed us there would be a lot of turbulence and that the flight attendants would be staying in their seats.  I didn’t find the flight at all uncomfortable.

We had a 2 hour layover in Houston so we had bagels at Einstein Bagels for breakfast.  They were very good.

We boarded on time but had a 30 minute delay while a lavatory door was fixed.  We were both pretty tired from getting up so early and were able to doze on and off in our big first class seats.  It wasn’t long before brunch was served.  We had a choice of meals and we both close the cheese blintz, sausage, croissant and fruit cup.

Mark in our very comfortable first-class seats.

Our flight was a little rough but the Captain did a great job of moving us into smoother air.

As we approached Panama City we saw dozens of ships out in the Caribbean waiting to enter the Panama Canal.

We landed on time and moved through customs and immigration without any problems. 

It was hot!  92 degrees when we landed in Panama City.  

This was the first time in all our international travels that we haven’t had a driver waiting for us at the airport.  We had about a 40 minute wait for our hotel shuttle.  When the shuttle arrived there were a lot of people waiting.  We were crammed into the van.  I didn’t even get a seat!  I knelt down on the floor next to Mark.  There wasn’t a lot of thought toward safety but the ride was only about 5 minutes and we were not going to wait for another shuttle.

Our first night was spent at the Riande Aeropuerto Hotel and Resort in Panama City.

 Entrance to Hotel Riande.
Hand crafted lamps by Indian artisans.  Each piece is unique.

Okay - just let it be known that “we are not stupid” but for a few minutes we could not get any of the lights in the room to work.  Mark finally discovered that he had to put the room key in a slot by the door in order for the lights and air conditioner to work.  We have never seen this feature before.

Insert room key card for lights and air conditioner.

Our room was large and comfortable.  We dropped off our luggage, found our binoculars and headed outside to look for birds.

Our room at Hotel Riande.

The hotel grounds were not really dedicated to wildlife or birding, but we did see a few things. The Tropical Kingbird is one of the most common birds throughout Central America, and we saw several at the hotel. They are so common that most folks just call them "TK". 


This trip is different from any other trip we’ve taken.  We will be picked up tomorrow morning at 6:30 am.  Our destination is Canopy Camp in the Darien.  

Everyone staying at Canopy Camp this coming week is also staying at Hotel Riande tonight.  We had fun picking out people we thought would be on the trip with us.  Binoculars are a pretty good indication of a birder.

We will all be in vans birding our way to Canopy Camp tomorrow.  Everyone arrives at the Camp on Sunday and leaves the next Saturday.

Remember the contest Mark and I always have when we travel?  We each pick what we think will be the first bird we see when we land.  The winner gets treated to a DQ Blizzard.  This time I picked a house sparrow and Mark picked some kind of dove.  We were both wrong!  It was a Great-tailed Grackle.  Doesn’t matter, we’ll still get Blizzards when we get home.

A Texas stop sign in Panama City, Panama - Fantastico!

Birds seen around Hotel Riande today:

Great-tailed Grackle
Thick-billed Euphonia (Male, Female, and Juvenile)
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Blue-gray Tanager
Clay-colored Thrush
Crimson-backed Tanager
Pale-vented Pigeon
Tropical Kingbird
Ruddy Ground Dove
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Tennessee Warbler
Palm Tanager
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Orchard Oriole

Next time:  Our first full day of birding.


  1. So glad to see you back blogging and getting to see/hear about your trip! Had to chuckle at a couple things. The key card thing is at a resort we go to often in Mexico. We like it best when they just give us a third card to leave one in there. That prompted a memory where we couldn't figure out how to turn off a light in the Bellagio Hotel. Excuse me, that is in Las Vegas, Nevada, US of A! Technology!

    Looking forward to more!

    1. I guess it keeps you from leaving the lights on when you leave but we had an extra card and was able to keep the room cool till we returned.

  2. Sounds like a fun start. And yum, you both get to visit DQ when you get back. What a great win-win.

  3. What a wonderful adventure. First class no less. But I always thought you were very classy. Looking forward to further blogs.

    1. Thank you! I'm afraid we are spoiled for first class now. Working on more blogs.