Scarlet Macaws splash the rainforest with color at Lacandon. Photo: Steve Howell
Not so many years ago, a visit to Mexico’s Lacandon rainforest and the Maya ruins of Bonampak and Yaxchilan was a major undertaking. Today, with new paved roads and new lodges, the Lacandon is surprisingly easy to visit. Scarlet Macaws, Great Curassows, howler monkeys, hawk-eagles, and perhaps even a tapir or jaguar can be seen amid spectacular rain forest, home to the lowland Maya civilization.
The region lies in the watershed of the Usumacinta (“sacred monkey”) River, which served the Maya as a network of water highways for commerce, war, and cultural exchange; sites such as Yaxchilan lie along the Usumacinta itself, while Bonampak (unknown to westerners until 1946) lies along the Lacanja River, a tributary of the Usumacinta.
Mexico’s Lacandon rainforest represents the northernmost extension of truly Amazonian fauna: puffbirds, toucans, jacamars, antbirds, leaftossers, manakins, cotingas, and woodcreepers all occur here—but in manageable doses. One local community is working to protect the endangered Scarlet Macaw, and from their comfortable lodge we’ll take a boat trip up beautiful limestone tributaries into the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve.
Day 1: The tour begins in Villahermosa, where we’ll spend the night before setting off on our adventure.
Days 2-7: We’ll head into the Lacandon region, visiting the forested Maya sites of Yaxchilán, Bonampak, and Palenque, as well as the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve and community-based forest reserves. The ruins are spectacular reminders of a civilization that melted into the forest. To reach Yaxchilán we’ll take a boat down the Usumacinta River, with Mexico on our left bank, Guatemala on the right, and handsome King Vultures sailing overhead - unconcerned by human boundaries, past or present. Birds such as White Hawk and Lovely Cotinga may distract us from the ruins at Bonampak, home to the famous painted figures, remarkably well preserved in a spectacular temple surrounded by luxuriant forest. Birds at the northern edge of their range in the Lacandon region include Great Potoo, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, and Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, along with regional endemics such as Rufous-breasted Spinetail and Green-backed Sparrow, and a host of wintering migrants from North America, including thrushes, vireos, and some 20 species of warblers. A highlight of our visit is a boat ride up a beautiful limestone tributary of the Lacantún river, where Sungrebes swim stealthily under shady banks, Scarlet Macaws splash the trees with color, Central America Pygmy-Owls toot from the forest canopy, and rarities include the poorly known Blue Seedeater. Mixed-species forest flocks entertain with antvireos, antwrens, woodcreepers, flycatchers, tanagers, and migrant warblers. And almost everywhere we go, the sound of howler monkeys is a constant background (at times foreground!) companion. We’ll also visit some nearby savannas, home to a suite of different species, including Aplomado Falcon, Double-striped Thick-knee, White-fronted Parrot, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Grassland Yellow-Finch, and the ever-popular Vermilion Flycatcher.
Day 8: We’ll head back to Villahermosa by way of some extensive wetlands packed with waterbirds - we soon lose count of Northern Jacanas (thousands!) and Limpkins (often in hundreds!), and before long even Bare-throated Tiger-Herons and Pinnated Bitterns fall into the realm of “guesstimates” amid thousands of other herons, egrets, ibis, spoonbills, and storks. The marshes also host a good variety of other species including handsome Black-collared Hawks and numerous Snail Kites, while woodland patches mark the western range limit of species such as Yucatan Jay and can hold impressive numbers of migrant warblers.
Day 9: The tour concludes this morning in Villahermosa.
Updated: 09 April 2012
- 2014 Tour Price Not Yet Available
- (2013 Tour Price $2,900)
* Tour invoices paid by check carry a modest discount. Details here.
This tour is limited to seven participants with one leader, 12 with two leaders.