Nature Travel Specialists
nature tours & travel, wildlife tours, adventure travel and general travel to Australia, Southeast Asia, South America and Alaska
Guatemala is our newest destination, but one we have been wanting to feature for quite a while. While many of our guests have traveled there with us, it's invariably been just to Tikal, during a stay in Belize. But there's too much in Guatemala to limit your visit to a single day, and after looking at the conditions, readiness and safety of the country, we have decided it's time to make it one of our standard destinations.
For most people their knowledge of Guatemala extends to Tikal, maybe knowing it is one of the largest and perhaps best preserved Mayan archeological sites, and then revolutionaries and bandits making the country unsafe, and that's about it. And, not necessarily in that order. While they are still correct about Tikal, the rest of the image no longer applies. Overall Guatemala is as safe as most other destinations visited by tourists in Central and South America. While, like any country, there are places it's best not to be, or times that one should avoid other places, there's no US state or Canadian province, or city, that the same couldn't be applied to. Like Colombia, Guatemala has emerged from a long period of disturbance, to emerge increasingly successfully as a place to vist.
Guatemala offers a mix of experiences waiting to be discovered. Naturally the Maya archeological sites - Tikal, Iximche, Aguateca, the huge but less recovered and developed La Mirador, and many others are uppermost in visitors minds. But there's also the beautiful church-filled and cobbled street colonial city of Antigua Guatemala, often considered the most authentic and best preserved colonial city in all of Central and South America (and while the city of Cartegena and villages such as Barichara in Colombia give it a run for its money, there's no arguing with the beauty and ambience of Antigua) where despite teh influx of Spanish language school students and permanent expats, much traditional Guatemalan life continues. And that's one of the most obvious features of much of Guatemala, especially the mid to highland areas; the obvious and continued presence of Maya people. Not a lost civilization as in Belize and Mexico, but still here and vibrantly so. K'iche is taught in schools, and heard in the streets of even the biggest cities and towns. Colorful traditional clothes are de rigeur for most women, and despite the movement between villages of recent times, women and girls can be identified to village by their blouses. Guatemala has both Caribbean and Pacific coasts, and highlands rise to over 13,000ft in between. There's plenty of rainforest, as well as coastal plains, lakes and other waterways, meaning that wildlife, especially birds (over 750 species), are well-represented. And, like most of our customs tours, the natue and wildlife of Guatemala will be our major focus. That's what we know best, and what would you expect in a country where the Quetzal is the national bird, the name of the currency, and the second largest city's name translates as "the place of the Quetzal"? But we won't be ignoring the archeological and cultural aspects of the country - after all, Tikal is a great birding site, as well as a famed archeological one. Our tours will be crafted to take in the best Guatemala has to offer, including its wildlife and private and national parks, Maya villages and colonial cities, markets both traditional and artisanal. And, we'll be doing so in a way that is sustainable and benefits the people of Guatemala.
We're also looking at including a truly unique private tour, especially useful for those just starting their birding and wildlife forays into Central and South America - and it's a rare birder or wildlife fan that doesn't end up making numerous trips to these regions. This will be a five day Spanish language immersion course, with one on one teaching by highly qualified teachers, and staying with a local family to continue the immersion - the best way to learn a language quickly. Classes will be in the afternoon, leaving the mornings to go birding in nearby areas with your guide. Even if you already know some Spanish, we'll offer intermediate and advanced classes as well. We think this is a great way to improve your ability to communicate and learn while birding on future trips, and being one on one you can steer some of the learning towards aspects of the language that affect birders. All those local Spanish names used by local guides, often leading to wasted time searching in the book, will now mean something to you, and you'll be able to ask questions back. (You'll also be able to pick up all the gringo insults.) After the study program we'll add days to get to other wildlife and birding areas, such as Tikal, and practice your new-found skills.
As with our other destinations, we don't believe in importing guides and escorts from the US, using US-based operators, and US-based hotel chains. We use local operators, local guides and suppliers, and wherever possible local or regional hotels and lodges, especially those certified by one of the reputable sustainable or ecotourism organizations. Our aim is to leave as much money in the country visited as possible, which benefits both the natural resources of the destination, and its people.
Keep checking back here as we develop our tours, and if you're interested in visiting Guatemala, send us an email, or call on our toll-free number.
1 877 285 1170.