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Honduras: Birding Adventure (8 days)

HondurasKeelBilled

This Honduran birding adventure focuses on three areas; Zamarano, Lake Yojoa and the famous Pico Bonito Lodge near the North Coast.

We begin in the area of the nations capital with an opportunity to overnight at Zamorano University campus. Our second stop is to investiage the areas around Lake Yojoa, the largest natural lake in Honduras located in the valley with Santa Barbara National Park rising to the north, and Cerro Azul Meambar National Park towering above the south.

On the North Coast, we visit Pico Bonito National Park where a continuous forest encompasses over 250,000 acres that rises from sea level to nearly 8,000 feet. The range of vegetation and habitat types include broad-leaf rainforest, deciduous forest, pine forest, mangrove, sandy beaches, cloud forests, and so many other ecological zones. That diversity in ecosystems also explains the huge variety of birds – over 500 species in this area to date. This exquisite backdrop is complimented by a stay at The Lodge at Pico Bonito, a small boutique luxury eco-lodge with its own 400 private acres. This lodge combines the adventure of the outdoors, the beauty of the rainforest, and the personal service of a boutique hotel. Birding on the grounds and along the extensive trail system can yield species counts of up to 350.  The ideal birding months are February to May and again in November. 


2018 Departure (8 days)

Dates: April 6 - 13, 2018, November 6 - 13, 2018

Tour cost per person from Tegucigalpa (out San Pedro Sula): $ 2,525 USD / $ 3,195 CAD 

Pre trip to Copan (archaeology and birding): $ 1,355 USD / $ 1,735 CAD
Post trip extensions are available to the island of Guanaha (birding, snorkeling and relaxing): tba 


Itinerary

April 6 Arrive Tegucigalpa  
We will be met on arrival at the Tegucigalpa airport and transfered to the University Campus of Zamorano, about an hour east of Honduras’ capital. Zamorano University’s biodiversity professor will be our host & guide. He is vice president of the Honduran Ornithological Association, reviewer of eBird.org, and researcher at the Zamorano Biodiversity Center. He is also the co-author of Peterson's Field Guide to Birds of North Central AmericaThe campus’ variety of habitat types makes it an excellent birding site. Depending on the arrival time, we will start exploring as soon as we have all settled into our on-campus hotel. (1 night)

April 7 Birding around Zamorano / Lake Yojoa (B,L,D)
This morning, we wake up early to investigate more areas on and around the Zamorano campus. We will be looking out for White-throated Magpie-Jays, Tropical Mockingbirds, Graycrowned Yellowthroats, several types of Sparrows, Tanagers, Seedeaters, Buntings, Grosbeaks etc. 
In the afternoon we will drive to Lake Yojoa, making a lunch stop along the way. As soon as we reach the lake, we enjoy an afternoon birding in La Ensenada. We walk along a wide dirt road boarded by tall trees and squeezed between fields and wetlands. An interesting combination for spotting warblers, tanagers, herons, ducks, seedeaters, orioles etc. Shortly before dark, we head to our hotel, where we enjoy a well-deserved dinner after a long day, and a good night’s sleep. 3 nights accommodation.

April 8 Birding in Santa Bárbara NP (B,L)
Early this morning, we drive up into the mountains of Santa Bárbara National Park. Upon arrival we enjoy breakfast with one of the local families and learn a bit their efforts to protect the land and natural environment amid coffee producing land-use demands. After breakfast, we will discover why this area is one of the most rewarding birding hotspot in Honduras. We start looking for birds such as the Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow, Resplendent Quetzal, Emerald-chinned Hummingbird, White-breasted Hawk, Green-throated Mountaingem, Slatecolored Solitaire, Rusty Sparrow, Collared Trogon, Spotted Woodcreeper, Foliage-Gleaners, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, White-naped Brush-Finch, Spot-breasted Wren etc. After a delicious local lunch, we head back down and take a quiet afternoon.

April 9 Birding in Honduran Emerald Reserve (B,L)
Few know that there is very dry forest and shrub close to Lake Yojoa too, and that it harbours a steady population of Honduras’ one endemic — the Honduran Emerald. We leave early this morning to avoid the heat of the day, and look not only for this beautifully colored hummer, but also for other interesting species such as Elegant Trogon, Green Jay, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Scrub Euphonia and others. After lunch, we go to the opposite side of the lake, where local fishermen take us out on the canal in their rowing boats — by far the best way to explore the wetlands in search for crakes, rails, herons, ducks etc.

April 10 Pico Bonito Lodge (B,L,D)
Early morning birding and then transfer to Pico Bonito Lodge, near the town of La Ceiba.  Afternoon to enjoy the grounds of the lodge. 3 nights accommodation.

April 11 Pico Bonito - Cuero y Salado mangroves (B,L,D)
A morning guided visit the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, and getting there is half the fun. We have a unique experience of boarding the only still-functioning train in Honduras – the oldest railroad in Honduras dating to 1910. It dates to the times of the ‘Banana republic’ and was indeed used to transport bananas. What remains now is are two rickety little wagons racing over crooked rails with excellent birding opportunities along the way. Explore this extraordinary wetland reserve by motorboat. Mangrove-lined lagoons, tropical hardwoods, and small canals wind through the refuge providing incredible sightings of caiman, white-faced capuchin, howler monkeys, and with any luck manatee as well as numerous species of birds. Return to Pico Bonito for lunch. Afternoon on own. Note: if you wish to explore the trails surround the property, you should be in reasonable physical condition since there are some steep inclines and uneven surfaces. There is a good lookout platform for those wanting a shorter walk. After dinner, you may wish to join in a guided night hike of the lodge.

April 12 Pico Bonito - Rio Santiago Nature Resort (B,L,D)
Morning birding on the lodge premises on lower and upper slope trails including several birding towers that overlook forest and river habitats.   In the afternoon visit Rio Santiago known as the “Hummingbird Capital of Honduras'. Up to 22 different species of hummingbirds have been recorded here.  

April 13 Pico Bonito - San Pedro Sula (or La Cieba if post tour to Bay Islands) (B)
Early morning birding and breakfast before your transfer to the airport for your onward journey.

Pre and post trip extensions are available to the nearby Bay Islands (birding, snorkeling and relaxing) or Copan (archaeology and birding).


Copán Pre-trip

This 3-night trip was created as a pre-tour to the 8-day trip that will take you to Zamorano, Lake Yojoa, and to Pico Bonito Lodge. It will bring you to the stunning Maya sites of Copán, a must-see for every visitor to Honduras who is interested in history, archaeology, or culture in general. Besides that, the historical sites in Copán also offer good birding, with some toppers such as Red-throated Parakeets, Elegant Trogons, Scarlet Macaws, etc.

April 3 Pickup at San Pedro Sula airport Transfer to Copán (4.5h)
We will be waiting for you at the international airport of San Pedro Sula. In about 4.5 hours, we drive to Copán, a small town in west Honduras, close to the Guatemalan border. If there is still some daylight left when we arrive, we can bring a short visit to the Copán River and look for kingfishers, seedeaters. 3 nights Hacienda El Jaral or similar. Alternatively bird on the property.

April 4 Visit to the Mayan archaeological sites of Copán
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Copán Ruínas offers a grand combination of Mayan history and a beautiful natural setting including easily viewed Scarlet Macaws. Although not the largest Mayan city, Copán was the principal Mayan cultural center during the 400 years when the city was at the peak of its development. It was far ahead of other larger Mayan cities in its development of sculpture, astronomy, and hieroglyphic writing. We will have a guided tour through the ruins by a knowledgeable local specialist. The Mayan city of Copán as it exists today is composed of a main complex of ruins with several secondary complexes encircling it. The main complex consists of the Acropolis and important plazas. Among the five plazas are the Ceremonial Plaza, with an impressive stadium opening onto a mound with numerous richly sculptured monoliths and altars; the Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza, with a monumental stairway at its eastern end that is one of the outstanding structures of Mayan culture. On the risers of this 100m wide stairway are more than 1,800 individual glyphs which constitute the longest known Mayan inscription. The Eastern Plaza rises a considerable height above the valley floor. On its western side is a stairway sculptured with figures of jaguars originally inlaid with black obsidian.

The world’s largest archaeological cut runs through the Acropolis. In the walls of the cut, it is possible to distinguish floor levels of previous plazas and covered water outlets. The construction of the Great Plaza and the Acropolis reflects a prodigious amount of effort because of the size of its levelled and originally paved expanse of three hectares and the latter because of the enormous volume of its elevated mass, which rises some 30 meters from the ground (http://whc.unesco.org/).

Copán lies in a fertile valley traversed by the Copán river, boarded by hills covered in dry pine and mixed forests. After a delicious lunch in Hacienda San Lucas, we are ready for our afternoon nature walk. We may see White-fronted Parrots, Green Kingfishers, Rufousnaped Wrens, Lesser Ground-Cuckoos, the lovely White-throated MagpieJays, Elegant Trogons and more. After a full day of archaeology and nature, we will enjoy excellent Honduran cuisine of Copán’s many cozy restaurants!

April 5 Malacote Nature Preserve (B,L)
This morning we will depart to the private Malcote Nature Preserve nature reserve (1 hour). This reserve was formed in 2001 by a local landowner and coffee grower who wanted to promote ecotourism locally. Today it is one of the nicest mid-elevation forests in the area. A three hour bird and nature walk will reveal a bounty of local birds, butterflies and orchids. Some of the species we will be looking for includes Barred Parakeet, Violet Sabrewing, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Collared Trogon, Mountain Elaenia, Tawnythroated and Scaly-throated leaftossers, Spectacled Foliage-gleaner, Northern Nightingale and Rufous-browed wrens, Slate-colored SolitaireLunch. In the afternoon we return to our lodge. Optional birding and second visit to a new area of Copán archaeological park.

April 6 Transfer to Tegucigalpa (8h)
Today there will be a long drive, with an early start, to join the rest of the group that will be arriving at Tegucigalpa international airport for the main tour.


Bay Islands Extension:  Island of Guanaha

April 13: Arrival
Flight from La Ceiba to Guanaja. You will be greeted at the islands’ airport and step onboard a small craft for a short boat ride to your guesthouse. Enjoy the remainder of the day becoming acquainted with your hosts and surroundings. On Guanaja you will encounter a completely different birding environment from the mainland. This will give you the chance to see several Caribbean species like White-crowned Pigeon, Yucatan Vireo, Smooth-billed Ani, Yellow-naped Parrot, Yucatan Woodpecker, Canivet Emerald, and a large array of migratory and resident Warblers like the Mangrove Warbler. (From March to October the Gray Kingbird is a sure sight).

April 14: Waterfall hike & beach retreat (B, L, D)
A full day guided tour to discover one of Guanaja’s most unique micro climate zones. Enjoy the views of the turquoise Caribbean waters and hike to a waterfall for a refreshing shower or to sit in natural whirlpools enjoying the sounds of nature. Finish off the day with a swim in the crystal clear ocean at one of the famous beaches of the North Shore. Meal at Bo’s Green Flash Bar included.

April 15: Snorkeling (B,L)
A full day guided day snorkeling and exploring the beautiful reefs off the local cays. We´ll take a 35 minute boat-ride to an uninhabited island. Relax under the palm trees or swim amongst Eagle Rays and Queen Ange
l fish in the azure blue waters of the tropical reefs where sea and bird life is plentiful. Southwest Cay is one of the best places to see the resident Mangrove Warbler (Yellow). Picnic lunch included.

Apriil 16: Return to La Ceiba (B)
Enjoy one last breakfast and then be transferred to the island airport for your return flight to La Ceiba. (Transfer to San Pedro Sula airport is additional)