Guest Blogger Returns – On the Hunt for the Elusive Quetzal!

An amazing day on the Quetzal Trail!!!

Yesterday was our last day in Boquete, up in the mountains of central Panama, so we spent the day hiking up to a remote waterfall and exploring the flora and fauna on the way. What an incredible day it was….like a walk through Eden.

We woke up early to meet our guide, named John, who picked us and another couple up at our hotel. Off we went up the mountain in their truck, to a parking spot that Marty and I had used two days earlier when we were trying to FIND the Quetzal Trail! On that day we walked up a bunch of trails, including the one we were now on, but never found the right one because we kept running into “Privado Propiedad” signs. This time we headed right through the gate and up the trail.

Starting our adventure up the Quetzal Trail

The first five minutes we spotted a woodpecker, a gazillion hummingbirds and then a pair of blue hoodeds!!! We had never heard of blue hoodeds, but boy are they cute! They look like they have little helmets on!


Blue Hoodeds!!

We kept walking up the trail and the canyon narrowed, the trees got thicker and the sounds were more intense. The sun was touching the mountain tops, while we were still in the shadows. John said that it’s good to get started early because the birds stay hidden until the sun reaches them. If they moved during the night they would be perfect prey for the night predators, so they don’t start moving around until it gets light…thus the early morning start for our adventure!

We were paralleling the river as we climbed, so we crossed many bridges and heard lots of waterfalls nearby. The bridges on this trail were the best we’ve seen in our travels; made out of steel beams filled with cement!

Did I mention lots of bridges??

Bridges, lots of bridges!

The forest seemed to get deeper and older the farther up the trail we went. Tons of vines and bromeliads in the trees, with flowers everywhere, and some howler monkeys way up high. We saw the footprint of a large jaguar, that was a little too fresh for my taste, since they say if you see a jaguar you’ll never live to tell about it! At one point we ventured off the trail a ways to see a HUGE cedar, that was 1400 years old. The trunk and roots were huge, as big or bigger than any sequoia I’ve seen, though maybe not as tall. This particular one had to have survived a bunch of volcanoes too.

Tarzan Vines everywhere


Being dwarfed by the roots of a 1400 year old cedar tree

As we got deeper into the forest we saw a bunch of new and colorful birds that I can’t remember the names of. I’ll have to go back through my photos and research their names so that I can pretend to have a teensy bit of birding knowledge! All I can say is, I’m hooked! It is just so incredible to see these amazing birds in their environment. And John was something else – he could see movement way off in the distance in the shadows, and all of a sudden he would stop and point. He could call many of the birds and once he and a bird seemed to be having a conversation for about 5 was so cool!

As you can tell by the name of the trail, the goal of our day was to try to find the elusive Quetzal. Well, it was absolutely amazing…because we DID! We saw two males, and a female…just gorgeous. It really was a moment that will stick in my memory forever. Hearing the calls between the birds, and seeing how the two males were keeping an eye on the female. They were deep in the shadows, but their colors were so bright, and the long tail feather of the male just arched so beautifully. Fantastic.


Resplendent Quetzal - absolutely stunning!!

I wish I could convey how great this entire adventure was. The forest, the birds, seeing the waterfall, the sounds and smells, all made for a sensory feast. Just another day in paradise!

But wait (says Marty man)… there’s more! Butterflies, too!! We saw the 2nd rarest butterfly, a butterfly with transparent wings which obviously makes it very difficult to see. But there it was, hanging on a leaf right at the side of the trail! Pretty cool! “So John, what is the most rare butterfly?” says I. “That would be the Blue Morph” he says… “and there’s one right there!”. “Are you kidding me?” says Sue. But sure enough, there was a Blue Morph butterfly. One of 75 different varieties just in Panama! By this time we were all laughing so much that we lost sight of the Blue Morph…but it is rather appropriate that we should see it, I mean we DO have a blue goose too! 🙂

Glasswing Butterfly

2 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Returns – On the Hunt for the Elusive Quetzal!

  1. What an amazing adventure. It’s like you’ve been living in an episode of ‘Animal Planet’ and I am in your backback watching it all unfold! I’ve seen so much through your eyes. The birds, especially the star of the show, are so beautiful and a good reminder that we do live in a beautiful world even if we don’t see it at times. In our adventures at Mayan ruins we’ve heard the Quetzal referenced countless times but had never seen one – until now! I can see why they were so revered. Stunning.

    Being a Giant Sequoia lover myself I was intrigued by that Cedar – wow, that is huge. Does something that big have an intense smell? You must have smelled many new things in all your recent environments. Any super memorable? Good or bad?

    Here’s hoping the convoluted travel plans you have today get you to Maui without problems and that we find you rested and ready for still more great adventures.
    You’ve had a splendid journey and I have enjoyed it at every turn. Thanks for bringing Costa Rica and Panama to my desktop.

    Aloha and see you soon!


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