November 3, 2003
But toucans did. A chestnut mandibled toucan landed on a cercropia branch not far from me, his mate close behind. He grabbed a fruit off the tree, threw his head back and swallowed it whole. A keel-billed toucan flew in next. I stared at the strange zigzag on his rainbow-colored beak wondering if this was the Fruit-Loops guy.
My travel companion, Donna, nudged me. "Look, he''s moving," she whispered, diverting my attention to a sloth who''d been balled up in a tree since yesterday. His racoonish face emerged from his cuddled embrace. He stared at us as he slowly uncurled his arm and scratched his face. Slowly he began to move. The long curved nails of his toes were visible as he inched downward, clearly identifying him as the three-toed variety.
The forest was coming alive!
Sunlight broke through the clouds, lifting the misty fog over the Panama Canal in the distance. A massive cargo ship was drifting along the thin blue ribbon weaving through the trees, its name readable with binoculars.
I was staying at Canopy Tower, a magical, special place that lingers in your mind long after you''ve left. Rated as one of the Top 25 Eco-lodges in the World (Travel + Leisure July 2003) this former US Radar Tower just thirty minutes from Panama City offers an intimate experience for nature lovers.
Owner Raul Arias de Para has beautifully transformed this geotangent-domed tower into a cozy treehouse retreat. On the 3rd level six en-suite bedrooms decked with teak furnishings and picture windows blend into the natural environment. But the warm and inviting communal room on the 4th level was my favorite. Panoramic windows encircling a large open space filled with hammocks, couches, stocked bookshelves and scopes encourage relaxed socialization and birding both. It''s easy to watch birds right from the comfort of your hammock chair or dining room table where all-inclusive meals are served.
The gracious soft-spoken owner, Raul, joined us for coffee after a scrumptious lunch and accompanied us to the rooftop. He pointed out features of the Canal and informed us about the emergent level of the rainforest while we enjoyed 360-degree views of Soberania National Park. This is the place to be early morning for the best birding. If the howling doesn''t wake you, there''s always espresso.
The prettiest sighting of our trip was a brilliant blue cotinga. The bird landed near the observation deck moments before our departure, flitting flirtatiously as if tantalizing us to stay . . .
From journal Panama's Rainforest: not just for the birds!