Casa Cayuco: A Panama Eco-Adventure Lodge

IMG_0593 2I’m here! Wow, it’s officially been about three weeks since I first arrived to this Caribbean island paradise and I’m just blown away by this beautiful locale, the wonderful owners, their lovely daughter and an array of sweet and hard working employees. I’ll be working as the resident naturalist guide and helping in guest services here at Casa Cayuco.

Since I’ve arrived, in addition to getting to know my way around the lodge, I’ve enjoyed taking guests on rainforest excursions, sharing my knowledge of the birds, trees and plantlife of this extraordinary island.

Welcome to Casa Cayuco, Eco-adventure Lodge!


To give you an idea of where I’ve touched down this time around, I made a handy little graphic:

Casa Cayuco Map

IMG_0599I’ve already had many memorable experiences as I get to know this lush, off-the-grid wonderland that also happens to be a marine national park with protected reef and rainforest. The coral reefs here are magical and I’ve found myself entranced on multiple occasions with the diversity supported by these underwater worlds. Parrotfish, sergeant majors, snapper, butterfly & angelfish, colorful wrasses and triggerfish swim among colorful forests of elkhorn coral, seafans, brain coral, sea anenomes, zooanthid mats, featherduster worms and blade coral. Dave and Suzanne also have a secret mangrove reef that boasts color combinations that dazzle, with the added delight of seastars, brittle stars, seaslugs and sea cucumbers. I see an underwater camera coming in handy here..


Oh and I even “swam” with my first shark! Well, it was asleep, out cold. It was a small nurse shark..docile and harmless to humans, but it’ll happily chomp down on some fish scraps that Jose, our boat captain and hombre of all trades, tosses off the dock when filleting some fresh fish for dinner.

IMG_0837Above the surface, I’ve enjoyed taking guests on excursions into the rainforest here on the island. Often, one of the main objectives of our walks tends to be to spot a sloth, which thrive here on Bastimentos. Read about these fascinating creatures in my previous blogpost. I’m still honing my skills on finding these elusive critters, but with the help of my hawkeyed local indigenous N’gobe guide, Belamer, we’re guaranteed at least two (if not five!) along the two hour hike. I supply the natural history and ecology of the forest, answering questions and identifying plants and birds along the way. We make a good team.



Another highlight along the trail is the strawberry poison dart-frogs which, while red on our island, sport unique color morphs on the different islands along the archipelago, as a result of divergent evolution. They are tiny little critters and harder to find than you’d think. But their loud daytime trill clues you into where they’re hidden. The bright coloration is a warning to predators: I’m poisonous!

Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 10.05.55 AM.pngThe bellbirds are here too, bonking high in the treetops! Three-wattled Bellbirds are a threatened species that migrates altitudinally, meaning the species moves between montane moist forest where it nests before descending to the lowlands to spend the neotropical winter, which is what we would call summer up in the states. I’m hearing less of them lately, so I think they might have started heading back up into the mountains..

IMG_0598Since I’ve arrived, our guests have ranged from France, Australia, the Netherlands and the states. They’ve enjoyed swimming in these clear Caribbean waters, kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing, snorkeling..we’ve had families, newlyweds on their honeymoon, friends groups and even some friends of Dave and Suzanne’s. Aside from taking folks on forest excursions, I’ve been expanding my bartending experience. I’ve already mastered my painkiller, messed up on two caipirinhas, made some killer piña coladas, a caribbean sunrise that didn’t so much look like a sunrise and perfected my margarita. Dave and Suzanne have been very patient with me.

On our free time, we’ve managed to get over to Salt Creek, the indigenous N’gobe village where all the employees of Casa Cayuco live. They play a mean game of volleyball, we’ve had quite the blast mixing up the gringos vs. N’gobe since we have no chance when it’s us against them. On Mina’s birthday, we had a big group over to the dock to share in the festivities and Dave had a net set up in the water and played for hours. They’re huge into baseball, too and it was really fun to go into town on the day of their school’s anniversary celebration and watch them play. These folks are really good at sports.


For somewhat regular exercise I’ve enjoyed getting out and swimming. It’s partially snorkeling since I wear the mask and snorkel, but while keeping a steady forward pace. I’d like to think I can do a mile in a half hour, but I can’t really measure how far I’ve really gone at the 15 minute mark. Plus I tend to meander. Yesterday I had a start when I found myself face to face with an enormous, four foot barracuda flashing it’s mouth full of razor sharp teeth at me. It circled closer as I slowly moved off, wondering if I was in for it and suddenly it headed slowly straight for me before veering off several feet away. It was very curious. I turned to swim away just waiting to feel those teeth ravage my legs. I was a 12 minute swim from shore. Jose told me, when I hit the dock that they won’t bother you unless you’re wearing something sparkly. Luckily it didn’t hone in on my silver ring or metal and crystal embedded ankle bracelet. I’ll be definitely leaving those behind on my next foray out..

So there you have it! Casa Cayuco! I will be here for awhile yet, no set end date in mind so far unless that barracuda decides to have the last word. We shall see!


About Stacey M. Hollis

Tropical guide and naturalist at Tranquilo Bay Eco-Adventure Lodge on Isla Bastimentos set within Panama's Caribbean Bocas del Toro archipelago. My aim is to share my passion for birds and the awesome biodiversity of the tropics while spreading the word about the importance of environmental conservation.
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1 Response to Casa Cayuco: A Panama Eco-Adventure Lodge

  1. Pingback: A Fond Farewell! | feathersawry

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