The final stages of planning include booking accommodations, transportation, and tour guide, as well as ensuring that our travel shots and medications are up-to-date. For the latter, Joanna had to get her Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A and B, Dukoral, and co-ciprofloxacin; I only had to get a booster of Dukoral. Joanna got her Yellow Fever shot in January, after receiving her Typhoid and first dose of Hep A and B in December. On January 21, 2009 we learned that we were expecting our first child, and while this was great news, we were both concerned about the injections, especially Yellow Fever which is not recommended during pregnancy. Fortunately, as the following months and consultation with doctors would tell, there were no complications. Unfortunately, however, Joanna was quick to show signs of regular morning sickness, which meant that this would likely factor in to how Joanna would feel in the tropical heat in a strange location. At this stage, with our trip less than a month away, all we could do was move forward and play it by ear.
We booked our accommodation in Panama City at the Albrook Inn, a reasonably-priced hotel that is used by several of the guiding companies and recommended by other birders. For our two-night stay in Boquette we stayed at the Coffee Estate Inn, a shade-grown coffee plantation with private bungalows facing Volcan Baru. The Estate owners are from New Westminster, British Columbia and although they cater to a variety of guests, they are particularly fond of birders, and offer a wealth of information on where to go birding, and what to see. As a treat, we were looking forward to their advertised "date night" dinner, a home-cooked meal prepared by the owners.
For transportation we arranged to rent a Toyota Yaris from National Car Rentals upon arrival at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama. This turned out to be the best deal as it allowed us to return the car at the Marcos Gelabert domestic airport, for only $7 extra, where we would depart for David. We flew to David on Aeroperlas, one of two major domestic air carriers in Panama. Once in David we rented a Toyota RAV4 as we had read that not only was the road to the Coffee Estate Inn a bit rough, but that many of the roads in the Chiriqui highlands were either rutted, unpaved, steep, or slippery when wet. The price for renting the RAV4 for two days was more than the cost of renting the Yaris for eight days, but we didn't want to take any chances. When we returned to Panama City we again rented a Toyota Yaris from Marcos Gelebert Airport and returned it to Tocumen International Airport.
Booking a guided bird tour was relatively simple. Initially I tried booking with Advantage Panama Tours, the same company I used in 2008. However, they were fully booked and so the next most highly-recommended tour company was Birding Panama. Birding Panama's website has a wealth of information which helped considerably in planning where to go, and once I contacted the owner, Carlos, communication and booking went very well.
So that's it. Our trip was fully booked and all we had to do was go. The only thing that remains is to wait and pack, and while the details of the contents of our suitcases are probably uninteresting to most, I thought for the sake of fellow birders, I would list the standard equipment I carry in the field when birding in Panama.
1) Small backpack with water bottle holder.
2) Field Guide to Birds of Panama, by Ridgely.
3) Bausch and Lomb Elite 8-42 binoculars
4) Waterproof pocket notepad with minimum of 3 pencils
5) Bug spray (I use OFF in a pump bottle for air travel)
6) 2 water bottles (0.75 litres each)
7) Camera - Nikon D70s with 70-300mm VR lens