Guatemala Travel Planner - (Page 9)

Left: The Pacific Coast. Below: Los Amates Waterfalls. Call of the Wild Many exciting Guatemala adventures are played out in the country's national parks and protected areas: flora and fauna for the nature lover; ancient monuments for the history buff; great treks for the active adventurer; and stunning scenery for the camera bug. But certainly, Guatemala, with its 44 biological reserves called biotopos and wildlife refuges, is a natural choice for those who covet a walk on the wild side. Among the most accessible nature reserves are: Tikal National Park, part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, has welldeveloped trails leading beyond the temple pyramids into a natural wonderland of mahogany, cedar, ceiba and palm trees. The forest canopy is home to parrots, scarlet macaws and parakeets, just a few of the more than 200 species of birds in residence year-round. While howler and spider monkeys swing through the trees, armadillos, kinkajous, coati, raccoons and white-tailed deer wander at ground level. Maya Biosphere Reserve covers approximately half of the northern El Peten department, and offers an exciting mix of wildlife viewing and archaeological discovery. Because of its size (3.5 million sq. acres of mainly jungle wilderness), as well as different altitudes and vegetation, the reserve has its own bird count of 400 species and is an important refuge for large mammals such as the peccary, tapir, jaguar and puma. At the same time, the reserve rests on a once-major center of the Classic period of the Maya culture and embraces such monumental sites as Tikal, El Mirador, El Zotz, Piedras Negras and Uaxactun. Mario Dary Rivera Reserve, located south of Coban in the Baja Verapaz department, was created to protect the resplendent quetzal, Guatemala's national bird. This gorgeous creature-most easily spotted in the early morning hours-makes itself at home amidst conifers and wideleafed trees, as well as mosses, ferns, orchids and bromeliads. One of the bestpreserved cloud forests in the country, the reserve's trails include a short hike with an easy 10-hour ascent or a half-day trek with some steep climbing required. Monterrico-Hawaii Reserve occupies many miles of pristine coastland along the Pacific Ocean. There, two reserves form a nature zone of great beauty and well-preserved mangrove forests. The Chiquimulilla Channel crosses both areas, joining a wetland that shelters herons, kingfishers and migratory ducks, as well as the green iguana, caimans and two species of turtles whose maintenance and survival is the concern of the parklands' reproduction program. In fact, turtle nesting and egg laying time is from June to February, and the best place to observe those thousands of turtles coming ashore is Monterrico. Also along the Pacific coast, humpback and sperm whales are on view migrating from mid-December until the end of May. Chocon-Machacas Reserve, located in the Caribbean coastal region, lies along the Rio Dulce, a beautiful river that flows 25 miles-from flat rainforest through sheer cliff walls of a 300-ft. river gorge- from Guatemala's largest lake, Izabal, to the Amatique Bay on the Caribbean coast to Livingston. The 12,791-acre reserve lies within the Rio Dulce National Park, an area embracing Lake Izabal, valuable mangrove swamps rich in birdlife, and waterways inhabited by the walrus-like manatee (a.k.a sea cow). The best way to explore the reserve is by boat, threading along the watery trails of lagoons and small winding rivers. Nature Notes Guatemala has 44 natural parks and protected areas. The resplendent quetzal is the national bird. The national flower is the white nun orchid, one of the 600 species of orchids, 200 of them unique to Guatemala. At last count, there were 738 bird species (including about 200 migrant species); 214 species of reptiles; 112 species of amphibians; 220 species of freshwater fish; and 700 different varieties of trees. 9

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Guatemala Travel Planner

A Colonial Heritage
The Living Maya of the Highlands
El Mundo Maya
Call of the Wild
An Appetite for the Arts
Land of Active Adventures
Tasting Guatemala
Festivals Galore
Marvelous Markets
Marvelous Markets

Guatemala Travel Planner