BugCamps are week-long immersion trips to experience firsthand the rainforests and cloud forests of Central Panama and discover the amazing diversity of tropical insects and other small animals. I will organise the first BugCamp from 27 August to 3 September 2017 in Cocobolo Nature Reserve, Central Panama. It will be a 8-day nature discovery trip for up to 15 participants. You'll find all there is to know about BugCamps on this page, but if you have more questions, drop me a message using the Contact Form in the menu!
What are BugCamps?
BugCamps are week-long immersion trips to experience firsthand the rainforests and cloud forests of Central Panama and discover the amazing diversity of tropical insects and other small animals. They're designed primarily for people who are interested in nature, insects and tropical biodiversity but didn't get a chance to experience it yet, either because it was daunting to organise such a trip or simply because they haven't found yet an easy, fun and educational way to discover the tropics.
Who is organising it and who is this for?
Both excellent questions! This is a personal project of mine, Stéphane De Greef, to share my experience, knowledge and passion about tropical bugs and macrophotography. I'm a Belgian environmental engineer, photographer, cartographer, tour guide and explorer, and I've been travelling all over the world for the last 17 years, acquiring a wealth of experience on arthropods diversity, nature photography and tropical ecology. You can read more about me on the About page and on the Media page (both on top of the menu on the left). For this project, I'll be working with the US-registered nonprofit CREA, which owns and runs a biological research station in Panama.
I'm organising these BugCamps for several reasons:
• A lot of people who see my Facebook posts have asked for jungle tours
• I love sharing my passion for bugs and tropics with like-minded people
• the participation fees go towards our field station and conservation efforts!
So, who is it for? That's an easy one: YOU! If you've read this page until now, there's a big chance you're intrigued by the concept and interested in insects, tropical ecosystems and out-of-the-beaten-path jungle adventures! But don't worry, you don't have to be a hardcore trailblazer to join, I'll make it easy for everyone! See it as an easy outdoorsy week out, camping with a small group of likeminded nature lovers, sharing our stories and hanging out in the middle of a beautiful rainforest surrounded by amazing bugs.
As it's the first edition, the number of places will be limited to 15 participants only and the participation fee will be kept as low as possible. Considering it's a first, there might be tiny glitches, there might be place for improvement (we'll ask for your feedback all the time!), but you can be sure that me and my team will do our best to make it a life-changing experience.
Where will BugCamps take place?
If you've arrived here because you were following my Facebook page or my posts in the Entomology Group, you already know all about the place: Cocobolo Nature Reserve is a small preserve located in a mountainous area about 30 miles northeast of Panama City, the capital of the eponym Central American country, Panama.
Covering over 410 hectares (1,100 acres) of cloud forests and lowland rainforests, this vital yet fragile piece of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor harbors endangered wildlife such as jaguars, pumas, ocelots, margays, crested curassows and harlequin toads as well as thousands of species of amazing invertebrates. Cocobolo is a key location at the narrowest part of the land bridge and therefore a crossroad for Central America, South America, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
We will be based in Cocobolo's Biological Field Station, with a capacity of up to 20 people. There's a large hall for meals, meeting, research and lectures, with LED projector, high-speed Wi-Fi and 110V electricity! For accommodation, we will sleep on inflatable mattresses in individual tents, and there are modern toilets, showers and kitchen. We provide tents and individual inflatable mattresses, but guests have to bring their own pillow, bed sheets or silk liner, sleeping bag, bath towel and toiletries. We'll have three meals a day and a cook to prepare them!
When will BugCamps happen?
I will organise the first BugCamp in Panama from 27 August to 3 September 2017. It will be a 8-day nature discovery trip, including 6 days in the rainforests:
27 Aug 2017 - Arrival at Panama City International Airport (PTY), pickup, one night in a hotel in the city
28 Aug 2017 - Travel to CNR by 4WD (half-day), camp setup, safety briefing
29 Aug 2017 - Bug Discovery day 1 (content to be defined)
30 Aug 2017 - Bug Discovery day 2 (content to be defined)
31 Aug 2017 - Bug Discovery day 3 (content to be defined)
1 Sept 2017 - Bug Discovery day 4 (content to be defined)
2 Sept 2017 - Travel to Panama City by 4WD (half-day), farewell dinner in town, one night in a hotel in the city
3 Sept 2017 - Departure from Panama City International Airport (PTY)
These dates are far enough in the future to allow you to get a good price on flights from your hometown to Panama City, and 4 Sept 2017 is a National Holiday so you can recover from your international flight, daydream about all the amazing stuff you’ve seen in Panama and scrape the dry mud from your boots!
What will happen during BugCamp?
Well, I’m happy you ask! It’s going to be a mix of the following activities (if we can squeeze them all in 6 days and if the weather gods are with us):
- talks on entomology, taxonomy, biodiversity, tropical ecology
- rainy-days lectures on arthropods taxonomy & identification tips
- field collection, trapping techniques and specimen storage
- field notes, data collection and data management
- bugwatching in rainforests, riparian forests and cloud forests
- night-time trekking to collect and identify nocturnal species
- light-trapping around the field station
- collecting around Rio Mamoni River and chilling in the river!
- conducting intense sampling of a small area (bioblitz)
- macrophotography techniques and pictures management
- social networking, science communication and citizen science
Don’t you worry, it won’t be a boring, serious academic course - we’re there to have fun and enjoy some nice bugs! It’ll be an outdoorsy week of easy camping in a field station with like-minded people, surrounded by pristine jungles and amazing biodiversity, chatting about bugs, catching and identifying them, learning about them. We’re here to enjoy ourselves and be close to what we love the most: bugs!
And that's only the first step! You'll notice the title mentions BugCampS. My mid-term objective is to have BugCamps running every month, all year long, in 2018. So if you can't join the first BugCamp, don't despair: there will likely be more in the future!
Participation fees & logistics
Alright, let's start with a confession: as it's the first BugCamp ever, I'm keeping the cost to the bare minimum, I'm essentially running it voluntarily, without personal profit. Panama is not the cheapest country around and pretty much all the money you pay goes towards paying for transport, lodging, food, my colleagues' salaries and field station fees.
The participation fee for this first BugCamp is 950 USD per person.
Included: airport pickup in Panama City, accommodation in double-occupancy local guesthouse in Panama City, transport to and from Cocobolo, all meals and lodging in the field station. And of course, my unconditional and complete dedication to your daily entertainment and education!
Not included: international airfare to Panama City, travel and health insurance, lunch and dinner in Panama City on day 1, 7 and 8, and online transaction fees (2.2%) if you pay through PayPal.
If you're wondering about how to get to Panama, vaccinations and what to pack, we have three great resources on our CREA/Cocobolo website: Travel Tips, Health and Safety and Packing List. And if you have any question, contact me using the Contact form on the left-side menu!
If you think you're ready for BugCamp, here is how to register:
- Go to CREA's BugCamp registration page
- Download, complete and sign the Application Form and send it back to us by mail or email
- Pay a non-refundable deposit of 250 USD by cheque or online via PayPal (250$ + 2.2% transfer fee) before 15 May 2017
See you soon!
Stéphane De Greef
Cocobolo Nature Reserve, Panama