IHG Pointbreak Deals Released Through 31 Oct – Some Potential For Eco-tourists

Although the IHG Pointsbreaks have been less inspiring in recent years, there are usually a few that can be used for eco-tourism and birding.  At 5000 IHG Rewards per night, these are a great bargain if you can use them.  Use your airline miles to get you to the country and the only thing left to pay is the rental car or taxi hire!


Here’s my picks:

PANAMA  –  Rent a car and visit Soberania National Park

COLOMBIA  – Have your hotel book you a car & driver for the day and go to Chingaza National Park or BioAndina

INDIA  – Jaipur is about 3 hours from Bharatpur and the Keoladeo National Park, you’ll need to spend the night there to go birding at dawn.

AUSTRALIA  – Rent a car and head up to the Blue Mountains.

Cruise Ship Birding Made Simple

A few months ago, I did a series targeted to the budget birder on birding from a cruise ship and how to put together your own birding cruise.  Although this way does save you money and you can choose any ship you prefer, there is also an option for those who prefer an organized group birding cruise.  Carefree Birding offers a variety of itineraries mostly around the Caribbean.  You basically book the cruise component through their travel agency and then book a birding package for those who wish to go on the birding shore excursions (non-birding family members don’t have to book the excursions).  This offers a nice option if you are short of time to do your own legwork in booking private birding shore excursions such as I did.  Since you have to use their travel agency you do lose out on airline miles for booking through a frequent flyer mile portal such as United Cruises or bargaining for the cruise fare on Cruise Compete, but for many people time = money so they prefer to have everything organized for them.

James Currie of Birding Adventures did a cruise on the Celebrity Equinox (ship details here) and you can see what a typical birding cruise is like on his videos.

Costa Rica, Belize & Cozumel – it was nice to see their visit to Crooked Tree in Belize.  I did this as a land trip and had a different experience because I was targeting parrots and didn’t do the water excursion.

Panama, Grand Cayman & Cartegena, Colombia – I wish I had known about the botanical gardens in Grand Cayman as we went to a different place back in 2008.  I like their option better!

Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus)

The Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus), also known as the northern violaceous trogon, is a near passerine bird in the trogon family, Trogonidae. It is found in forests in east-central Mexico, south through Central America, to north-western South America (west or north of the Andes in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela).  It was formerly treated as a subspecies of the otherwise exclusively South American violaceous trogon (T. violaceus).

When I saw this bird during the shore excursion on my cruise in 2011, it was still being called a Violaceous Trogon.  The split came sometime in 2012 and field guides published before then will use the old name.  It gets confusing as I remember my guide calling it a Violaceous Trogon in Selva Verde in 2013!

My photo is blurry so I added shots of a male (1st pic) and female from Wikipedia to show the bird’s beautiful colours to advantage.

g trogon1 g trogon2IMG_5616Their range extends from Mexico through most of Central America to the tip of South America in Colombia.  I have seen them during a shore excursion in Puntarenas and in Selva Verde, Costa Rica.



Birdlife (has not separated the Gartered and Violaceous Trogons)

Cornell Lab

Beauty of Birds




Full Transit Of The Panama Canal

There are 2 ways to do a Panama Canal cruise – full transit from Pacific to Caribbean or vv; or you can do a partial transit where the ship enters one side, usually the Caribbean, goes through a lock or two so you can see what it’s like and possibly stop for shore excursions.

Here’s an idea of what to expect in the way of shore excursions on a Panama Canal cruise.

Full transit 

Stop in Colon (sometimes tagged on to a full transit)

Partial transit with stop in Gatun Lake

Partial or full transit with stop in Panama City (Fuerte Amador)

The day before we were due to go through the canal, I noticed some ADULTS doing crafts with construction paper and cardboard signs.  It turned out they were making signs to wave at the photographer as we went through the canal.  I decided to join in!  Of course I had to feature a bird on my sign.  I’m sure a 5 year old would have done better but I liked my finished product anyways!

IMG_5776 IMG_5777 IMG_5778

The full transit we did in April 2011 went from Pacific to Caribbean with only a 3 hour stop in Colon so no time to go out.  We were told to stay in the shopping centre for our own safety.  We arrived at 5pm so it would have been too late to go anywhere else anyway.  During the transit, our fantastic port lecturer, Dr Thomas Ryan gave a fascinating and detailed commentary as we went through the canal.  We saw a few birds flying overhead but not very good views.  If you have a stop in Panama City, I recommend going to Soberania NP (Rainforest Center).  We did end up going there in August 2013.

We entered the canal at dawn.  In the following pictorial you will see the pilot boats, Bridge of the Americas, banks of the canal, a few odd birds and ships we passed including another Princess ship.  You can see the locks opening and closing with water levels going up and down and the Princess photographer down below aiming his camera at the people like us on the balconies.

IMG_5796 IMG_5798 IMG_5802 IMG_5804 IMG_5805 IMG_5809 IMG_5811 IMG_5812 IMG_5813 IMG_5821 IMG_5824 IMG_5827 IMG_5828 IMG_5830 IMG_5834 IMG_5835 IMG_5836 IMG_5837 IMG_5838 IMG_5839 IMG_5840 IMG_5841 IMG_5843 IMG_5845 IMG_5851 IMG_5862 IMG_5865 IMG_5866 IMG_5867 IMG_5868 IMG_5874 IMG_5879 IMG_5882 IMG_5887 IMG_5889 IMG_5890 IMG_5901 IMG_5907 IMG_5921 IMG_5926 IMG_5934 IMG_5936 IMG_5937 IMG_5941 IMG_5943 IMG_5945 IMG_5949 IMG_5956 IMG_5965 IMG_5968 IMG_5971 IMG_5973 IMG_5975Here we are docking at Colon.  There’s a small shopping centre with various shops selling duty free goods and Panama handicrafts.  You can guess which shops I went into!  Those colourful embroidered goods are called “Molas” and they are hand-made by Kuna Indians.  Quite a few with bird designs came home with us that evening!

IMG_5977 IMG_5979 IMG_5980 IMG_5981 IMG_5982 IMG_5983 IMG_5984 IMG_5985 IMG_5986 IMG_5987 IMG_5991 IMG_5992 IMG_5993 IMG_5994 IMG_5995 IMG_5996 IMG_5998 IMG_5999 IMG_6000 IMG_6003This has become one of my favourite handbags and some of those molas are now decorating our home either on the walls or stitched onto pillows.  Supporting local people at it’s best!

5 Hours Left For Big Savings On Club Carlson Panama & India

The lucrative BOGO award night that comes with the Club Carlson Visa will be gone in 6 hours.  However there is an overlap with a new promo to save 25% on Latin American hotels that you can take advantage of if you are quick.  Two nights at the Radisson Summit for 11,250 points!

Radisson SummitMost Club Carlson hotels in India went down as of 1 June so there is a small window of opportunity for a BOGO award there too!

A Couple Good IHG Pointbreaks For Eco-tourists

The latest IHG Pointbreaks list which offers specified hotels for a bargain 5000 points was less than inspiring.  Oceana & Africa missed out completely.  The complete list can be found here.  The best options are for people doing USA road trips.  This list is valid for bookings through 31 July.

Consider these possibilities if you are headed to South America.  Cuiaba is the gateway to the Pantanal.  The hotel is pretty nice although not the best location if you are going for an early start.  We did this trip in 2012 before I started this blog so I don’t have posts yet but I will be blogging my past trips as soon as I finish the current trips.


Although this hotel is a city property, Panama City’s small size means it’s not such a long drive to Soberania National Park.  Get yourself an award ticket to PTY, a rental car and book a few nights for a long weekend of birding!


Copa & Lan Offer Cheap Fares To Central & South America

Not enough miles?  Want a quick eco-trip to Central or South America?  These hit my email this morning.


Save to South America with Fares starting at $299. Book Now >>


Celebrate the long weekend by booking an amazing trip to South America! Purchase your roundtrip ticket before January 21, 2014 at 11:59pm (EST) to fly to select destinations in South America from the U.S. with fares starting from only $299. Take advantage of this incredible opportunity to save on a romantic Valentines’ weekend or fun Spring Break getaway. BOOK NOW >>


Copa Airlines


Oficinas de ventas Call center



Take advantage of our exclusive offers and enjoy the irresistible destinations that Copa Airlines offers through the Hub of the Americas.
Origin Destination Before Flash sale
Boston Panama $660 $554
Boston Belo Horizonte $1352 $1113
Chicago Panama $570 $481
Las Vegas Panama $520 $441
1Los Angeles Panama $560 $473
1Los Angeles Bogota $603 $510
1Los Angeles Punta Cana $674 $573
2Miami Panama $410 $362
2Miami Cartagena $637 $519
3New York Panama $540 $457
3New York Lima $801 $670
4Orlando Panama $450 $384
4Orlando San Andres $680 $572
Tampa Panama $430 $368
Washington Panama $610 $513
Don’t wait any longer and travel to your favorite destination

My Top Twenty-Five Bird Sightings Of 2013

Following on from last year’s post in which I highlighted only parrot sightings, this year I have expanded to all bird species.  There were just so many birds who made a major impression on me!  I have also increased the number to 25 since we did 3 birding trips this year.  I didn’t always get good shots so I will put my own photo when I got one.  Some of them were pretty quick!  They are being presented in chronological order.

1.  Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus) – seen at Nimbokrang & Waigeo, Indonesia; March 2013

Palm Cockatoo2.  Lesser Bird-of-paradise, (Paradisaea minor) – seen at Nimbokrang, Indonesia; March 2013

I couldn’t get a photo as he stayed in the trees so here’s one taken in Jurong Bird park, Singapore.



3.  Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Goura victoria) – seen at Nimbokrang, Indonesia; March 2013

Victoria Crowned Pigeons, Nimbokrang

Victoria Crowned Pigeons, Nimbokrang

4.  Western or Arfak Parotia (Parotia sefilata) – seen at Siyoubring, Indonesia, March 2013  I’ll never forget this feathered Lord of the Dance trying so hard to woo 3 aloof females!

One female Western Parotia comes in for a closer look while the male shows his best moves.  There were a couple other females higher up in the branches.

One female Western Parotia comes in for a closer look while the male shows his best moves. There were a couple other females higher up in the branches.

5.  Vogelkop Bowerbird (Amblyornis inornata) – seen at Siyoubring, Indonesia, March 2013

OK lady Bowerbirds, come and check out my awesome bower!

OK lady Bowerbirds, come and check out my awesome bower!

6.  Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus) – seen near Nimbokrang and on Waigeo Island, Indonesia, March 2013

IMG_78677.  Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise, (Cicinnurus respublica) – seen on Waigeo Island, Indonesia in March 2013.   This little guy played hard-to-get with the camera.
Wilson's Bird-of-paradise, Cicinnurus respublica

Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise, Cicinnurus respublica

8.  Red Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rubra) – seen on Waigeo Island, Indonesia , March 2013.

Red Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea rubra), Waigeo- dancing in the trees

Red Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea rubra), Waigeo- dancing in the trees

9.  Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis) – seen at Crooked Tree, Belize, Tikal, Laguna del Lagarto, Carara, Soberania, August 2013.  This was the first parrot we saw after arriving in Central America so I chose him to represent all the Amazon species seen all over Central America.

Red-lored Amazon or Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis)

Red-lored Amazon or Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis)

10.  Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) – seen at Crooked Tree, Belize, Tikal, Selva Verde, Laguna del Lagarto, Soberania, August 2013


11.  Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) – seen at Selva Verde & Laguna del Lagarto, Costa Rica, August 2013

IMG_951112. Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) – seen at Laguna del Lagarto, Costa Rica, August 2013.


13.  Brown-hooded Parrot (Pyrilia haematotis)  – seen at Laguna del Lagarto, Costa Rica, August 2013.


14.  Collared Araçari (Pteroglossus torquatus) – seen at Selva Verde, Laguna del Lagarto, Costa Rica, Soberania.  August 2013.

IMG_982415.  Hummingbirds (all of them) – seen at Laguna del Lagarto, Monteverde, Savegre, Soberania.  There is no way I can single out one species, they are all spectacular!


IMG_1486 IMG_1483 IMG_149616.  Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker (Celeus castaneus) – seen at Laguna del Lagarto, Costa Rica, August 2013

IMG_969917.  Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) – seen at Monteverde (Curi Cancha) & Savegre.  I will never forget both sightings of this stunning bird!  The first one because I found him by myself and the 2nd one because there were several of them and they hung around a while so I could watch them.


IMG_1092a18.  Sulphur-winged Parakeet (Pyrrhura hoffmanni) – seen at Savegre, Costa Rica, August 2013


I haven’t started the India & Sri Lanka series yet, we only got back a few weeks ago and I have been playing catch-up.  These birds will be covered first thing in the New Year.  The photos are a sneak-peek!

19. Malabar Parakeet (Psittacula columboides) – seen in Coorg, India; Nov. 2013.  This time there were only fleeting glimpses of a flock flying overhead so the photo is one I took in 2011 in Kerala.

Malabar Parakeet A20.  White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) – seen at Kithulgala, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.


21.  Layard’s Parakeet (Psittacula calthropae) – seen at Kithulgala & Sinharaja, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.  They were swift flyers and refused to perch & pose.


22.  Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot (Loriculus beryllinus) – seen at Kithulgala, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.  At least he posed, albeit with the sun behind him!



23.  Alexandrine Parakeet – (Psittacula eupatria) – seen at Kithulgala & Sinharaja, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.


24.  Malabar Trogon (Harpactes fasciatus) – seen at Sinharaja, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.  He only let me get one shot before turning his back.


25.  Sri Lanka Blue Magpie or Ceylon Magpie (Urocissa ornata) – seen at Sinharaja, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.

I didn’t get a photo of them since they stayed in the trees so here’s one from Wikipedia.




Copa Airlines – Routes For Eco-Tourists

Copa Airlines is a member of Star Alliance and a very good member to know if you are headed to Central or South America for your eco-tourism adventure.  Copa is a member of United’s Mileage Plus program and can be easily booked online using United miles and Avianca-Tava Lifemiles.


Some gateway cities I’d like you to take note of are Las Vegas (LAS), Toronto (YYZ), Mexico City (MEX) and Bogota (BOG).  If you are either originating or transiting the USA to/from Central/South America, Las Vegas’ airport is a much less painful place to go through the formalities.  We were on a full 737 in economy so no special privileges but we were through Customs and out to the car rental shuttles in less than 10 minutes (we didn’t check bags).   People who are originating in Europe and don’t want to bother with a ESTA for the USA might want to fly to Toronto, Mexico City or Bogota to hook up with other Copa flights to their final destination.

This is a list of all their destinations.



Seats in economy are in a 3 x 3 configuration, not my favourite.  When I made the booking, I reserved an A & C seat for us and luckily no one took the middle seat.  Entertainment is the old-fashioned over-head viewers, no AVOD at individual seats so you may want to bring your own entertainment.  Business class seats are like US domestic first class seats.