BugCamps™ - Stephane De Greef

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. Following the success of BugCamps 2017, I've decided to organise the next session from 14 to 21 January 2018 in Cocobolo Nature Reserve, Central PanamaIt will be a 8-day nature discovery trip for up to 12 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 18 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. For this project, I'm 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!

If you want to read more about me, my work and my love for bugs, check this amazing article on Maptia written and illustrated in June 2017 by a team of conservation photographers

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.

For this second session, the number of places will be limited to 12 participants only, with me and an amazing experienced American co-host. We learned a lot during the first BugCamp and have since worked hard on the schedule, contents and logistics to make it even better than the previous edition!

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 25 people. There's a large hall for meals, meeting, research and lectures, with LED projector, high-speed Wi-Fi and 110V electricity (US plugs). 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 professional cook!

Click here for a 360° tour of our field station!

When will BugCamps happen?

I will organise the second BugCamp in Panama from 14 to 21 January 2018. It will be a 8-day nature discovery trip, including 6 days in the rainforests:

14 Jan 2017 - Arrival at Panama City International Airport (PTY), one night in a hotel in the city

15 Jan 2017 - Travel to CNR by 4WD (half-day), camp setup, safety briefing

16 Jan 2017 - Bug Discovery day 1

17 Jan 2017 - Bug Discovery day 2

18 Jan 2017 - Bug Discovery day 3

19 Jan 2017 - Bug Discovery day 4 

20 Jan 2017 - Travel to Panama City by 4WD (half-day), farewell dinner in town, one night in a hotel in the city

21 Jan 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 (PTY), find a good health insurance, buy plenty of cool field gear and mentally prepare to move from a cold wet miserable winter weather to the heat of a lush tropical rainforest!

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

- mounting specimens for museum collections

- 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 BugCamp in 2018! You'll notice the title mentions BugCampS. My mid-term objective is to have BugCamps running four times this year, then maybe even more regularly in 2019. So if you can't join this BugCamp, don't despair: there will likely be more in the future!

Check out the photos of the First BugCamp by Damian Magista, BugCamp participant and photographer extraordinaire. Here's a sample of his album:

BugCamp 2017 by Damian Magista

Participation fees & logistics

Alright, so for this second BugCamp, the participation fee will be increased to allow the field station to acquire much needed funds for their conservation work, as well as a minimum income for myself and my co-host. 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 cost for BugCamp #2 (Jan 2018) is 1600 USD per person.

Included: airport welcome team in Panama City, accommodation in double-occupancy hotel 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, airport commute (~20$ one way), 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 TipsHealth 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, go to CREA's BugCamp registration page and:

- Download, complete and sign the Application Form and send it back to us by email; and

- Pay a non-refundable deposit of 250 USD by cheque or online via PayPal (250$ + 2.2% transfer fee)

Your inscription will only be valid after you complete these two steps. Do these ASAP!

It'll be on a 'first registered, first served' basis, so don't miss your chance!

See you soon!

Stéphane De Greef

Resident Scientist

Cocobolo Nature Reserve, Panama

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