Reaching a height of 2,435 meters above sea level and covering an area of 1,703 km2, Pico Bonito, which became a protected area in January 1987, covers the departments of Atlántida and Yoro, which are home to 500 of the 738 species of birds found in Honduras. (More about Honduras Birds – In depth study)
Among the birds that can be seen are quetzals, black-headed orioles, keel-billed toucans, brown pygmy owls, red-rumped parrots, jacamars, lovely cotingas, and hummingbirds, according to Enrique Graugnard, the assistant manager of The Lodge at Pico Bonito, an eco-hotel responsible for managing the area with the Pico Bonito National Park Foundation (FUPNAPIB).
Additionally, Pico Bonito features more than 100 species of mammals, including pumas, ocelots, collared peccaries, tapirs, armadillos, gray-bellied night monkeys, capuchin monkeys, Central American agoutis, deer and rodents such as pacas, among others.
Eighty types of amphibians, including red-eyed tree frogs, can also be found, as well as 115 types of snakes, of which only 10 are venomous, including the yellow beard pit viper, coral snake and eyelash viper.
Pico Bonito has a tropical rainforest climate from its base up to 1,800 meters above sea level, where conditions change to a cloud forest climate reaching to the top of the mountain.
Honduras received 992,000 visitors in 2013, with revenue totaling US$675 million, while in 2012, a total of 844,000 tourists, representing US$650 million in revenue, visited the country, according to the Tourism Secretariat.
In the region, visitors can kayak the rapids of the Cangrejal River, fish or hike to waterfalls.
“For tourists who are interested in birdwatching in Pico Bonito, we offer guided mountain tours [which last three to five hours],” said Graugnard.
The tour begins at 6 a.m. local time, which is when the birds are most active, according to Joel Mejía, one of the park’s tour guides.
“The birds go out to eat early in the morning when there are fewer predators in the area, such as hawks or owls,” he added.
Mejía recommends tourists carry insect repellent, binoculars or a camera with a 200 to 500-mm lens, a notebook for sketching and water. Visitors also should wear dark clothing to blend in with the environment.
“During the tour it is also necessary for tourists to walk slowly in silence and, when possible, near hedges and bushes to go unnoticed because birds have infallible vision,” he said.
Despite these recommendations, the objective isn’t always easily achieved.
“Luck also plays a role in birdwatching because this isn’t a zoo,” Mejía added. “It’s a park where the birds are free to fly where they wish.”
Guides have developed a technique to help tourists.
“When they want to see migratory species or birds that are hard to find, we use recordings of their birdsong to facilitate observation,” he said.
The tour is not limited to birdwatching, as visitors can also see mammals and reptiles.
“As tour guides, we receive ongoing training to prevent any incidents from taking place,” Mejía said. “The risks in the forest are not limited to the diverse wildlife that we have because the climate can also be a factor that affects tourists.”
The spectacular scenery makes visitors want to return, as was the case with Dr. Pablo Bedrossian, who moved to Honduras from Argentina in 2009 and took up birdwatching a year later.
“Originally, I wasn’t drawn to watching birds at all,” he said. “But that year I went with a group of friends on an expedition in Patuca National Park [in eastern Honduras, in the department of Olancho] and from that initial contact with God’s creation, I was sucked into this new world that continues to fascinate me.”
As of December 2013, he had recorded 450 bird species, 210 of which he had seen at Pico Bonito.
“Honduras is home to an extraordinary variety of birds, and there are areas that are almost untouched by human contact, which makes it worthwhile to explore the various parks and appreciate the country’s natural beauty,” Bedrossian said. “Come and see for yourself.”
How to get there?
Tourists can fly to the Golosón International Airport in La Ceiba, or take buses to that city from Tegucigalpa, at about US$40 a person. Hotel rooms are available from US$25 to US$40 a night. La Ceiba is 400 kilometers north of Tegucigalpa.
More about La Ceiba
More about Pico Bonito National Park
More about Honduras National Parks
More about the Cangrejal River
More about Honduras