South America Natural Adventures

Nature travel, wildlife tours, adventure travel and general travel to Peru, Colombia, Galapagos, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Belize, and Antarctica




white-necked jacobin on Strelitzia, Pico Bonito


Honduras is a surprise. While not as well known to most travelers as Belize, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua or Guatemala, other than a fleeting glimpse by Caribbean cruisers who may have stopped at Roatan, it offers much in a small space, and is less than three hours from the gate cities of Houston, Atlanta and Miami. Like the surrounding Central American countries it has a wide suite of birds and mammals, but also excellent Maya ruins, second only to Tikal. And like Tikal, a visit to Copán can combine intriguing and spectacular archeology with excellent tropical birding. For our Honduras tour we’ve chosen just two central locations for 10 day/9 night tour, so there is only one change of hotel. Experienced travelers understand just what an unusual pleasure that is. Yet we’ll be spending time at Copán, birding and looking for wildlife in habitats including dry thorn scrub, low open forests and fields, lowland rainforest, upland pine/oak forest and rainforest, mangroves and even a coral cay and reef. There are few places where this variety can be included in a tour that uses just six business days.

In the small colonial town of Copán Ruinas we stay on the outskirts of town, where there are beautiful sunrises over the valley and hills, and walking trails through forest on the grounds. We’re only minutes to the ruins, but also just minutes from the town center, well preserved and pleasant for walking about. Our other hotel is The Lodge at Pico Bonito, surrounded by rainforest and set on 400 acres of extensive grounds and rainforest, with miles of walking trails through varied habitats. It also has three elevated observation towers, and one trail leads into the adjacent Pico Bonito National Park. It is a designated Small Luxury Hotel of the World, and Audubon Magazine called it a birder’s paradise. With a bird list of 250 species and growing, large, comfortable cabins complete with robes, slippers and other luxuries (including air conditioning), excellent food and a low key ambience, we’d have to agree with both labels.

We’ve chosen early March for our second tour with this itinerary, as the cool weather has a greater variety of wildlife – many birds move to higher elevations during summer to avoid the heat - and various fruiting trees around the lodge attract many birds including the well-named Lovely Cotinga. Avoiding the heat also makes our own traveling more comfortable. In addition to the local species, in March many of our own neotropical migrants are part of the avian scene, and are often far more common than the few opportunities most US birders have to see these jewels. It’s a great opportunity to practice IDing them, especially as some are in their more difficult non-breeding plumage. But birding is not all we’ll be doing; we’ll be looking for mammals and reptiles as well, including at night, the only time some mammals can be seen. We’ve also structured the tour and the pace in consideration of our photographing travelers, so there is plenty of time – and usually repeat opportunities – to wait for those special photo opportunities. Though we’ll be seeing plenty of birds, including specialties and Honduras’ only endemic, this is not an ever-moving tick-it-off-and-move-on tour, but one designed to see, get to know and enjoy the fauna, flora and Maya history of Honduras.

All the photos except the daytime veranda image were taken by Andrew Haffenden, James Adams at The Lodge at Pico Bonito and Alexander Alvarado, our guide at Copán. All three are non-professional photographers getting photos along the way, so they represent what participants can expect to see. Thanks James and Alexander. The veranda was taken by Roy Toft.




Day 1 – Monday March 9: US/San Pedro Sula/ Copán Ruinas
Fly from Atlanta on Delta or Houston on United Airlines to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, arriving between fountain at clarion hotel copan ruinas11.30am and noon after an approximately three hour flight. Those departing on other airlines may need to fly to San Pedro Sula a day earlier and overnight in the city (or take a private transfer to Copán Ruinas to overnight there); we can arrange a safe and comfortable hotel for you. After passing through immigration and customs you are met by our guide and transferred to Copán Ruinas, about three hours away, and very close to the Guatemalan border. Our hotel is located on the outskirts of the town, with its own walking trails and extensive grounds. After checking in, cleaning up and relaxing there is an optional birding walk on the grounds late afternoon, or you can explore the trails on your own.       (D)


Day 2 – Tuesday, March 10: Las Sepulturas and Copán
We start the day moderately early (as all days do in the tropics) with a light, quick breakfast then visit Las
Sepulturas, close to the main Copán ruins but far less visited. Both are only a few minutes from our hotel. We’ll be combining some excellent birding with exploring the ruins under the knowledgeable direction of our guide, whose expertise includes both archeology and birds. After a couple of hours here we move the short distance to tstele at copanhe main ruins, where we refresh ourselves with coffee or other drinks and snacks before tackling the superb ruins here. Fortunately the ruins, though of the highest quality, and withstatue at copan a considerable variety of buildings, are somewhat compact, so we can take our time as there is no significant distance to walk. Once again we’ll be looking for birds and other wildlife – the resident agoutis tend to stay on the edges of the open areas, closer to the shade – while taking in the extensive carvings on both stelae and buildings that Copán features. (In fact a stele from Copán is used to illustrate the Wikipedia entry for the term stele.) Even for those familiar with other well-known Maya ruins such as Tikal, Caracol and others this ornamentation makes Copán unique. While the typical ball field and pyramid type structures are here, there is also an extensive royal residence on one side, and other smaller structures – including the very well-preserved stelae and alters. Even without the birding two
to three hours passes by very quickly here, with very little repetition. The layout is such turquoise-browed motmot copanthat we can look across, down into and up to most of the features, as the general way to explore is both on thealtar at copan ground and the structures themselves. There are several nice shady places to sit at elevation, for both contemplation of the ruins and for direct views into trees popular with birds, including Turquoise-browed and Whooping Motmots, Masked Tityra and Streak-backed Oriole. After the ruins, and a refreshing drink, we’ll return to the hotel for lunch. After lunch we visit the impressive Sculpture Museum, adjacent to the grounds, featuring both original carvings, stelae and sculptures, and also casts which show some of the features seen already in their original form, such as the main altar, with more original detail. Also here is a replica of a smaller building, still in place, within one of the larger pyramids. Normally these were destroyed when the new Ruler built his own temple, but in this case was preserved and built over. Archeological tunnels found this inner building, in perfect condition and still with the original paint due to protection from the elements. We then return to the hotel, and again our guide leads a birding tour for those who wish to participate.        (B,S,L,D)


the itinerary continues >>>