Travel Guide, Winter 1995-1996
Quetzals, Kayaks, and Cays, Oh My!
The latest in Central American adventuring
By Richard Harris
La Ruts Sierra
Quetzals as big as hens! That's the word on rare birds from one of the first backpackers to venture into the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve, 143,000 acres of roadless wilderness capping Guatemala's highest mountain range. An estimated 60 percent of the country's remaining cloud forest--a high, cool land of pines, orchids, and giant ferns--is protected in the reserve, as are
more than two-thirds of Guatemala's vertebrates. The new 20-mile trail runs north between the villages of San Agustín Acasaguastlán (about two hours from Guatemala City) and Chelascó. There are no campgrounds and only minimal water, so BYO everything. For information, contact LightHawk at 505-982-9656.
Casting in Contra Country
Inaccessible by road for most of its 118-mile length, the wide, slow Río San Juan meanders along Nicaragua's border with Costa Rica through rainforest that used to be a Contra rebel stronghold. Politics may have changed, but the sportfishing is as good as ever: Expect to catch snook, tarpon, and rainbow bass on one of the new seven-day, six-night river fishing expeditions
offered by Transmarine Special Interest Tours, 305-447-1917. Cost is $1,925 per person (minimum of four), including airfare from Miami.
Mingle with biologists and bottlenose dolphins at the Blackbird Caye Dolphin Research Facility, 25 miles east of Belize City on Turneffe Atoll. A new sea-kayaking program will have you poking through mangroves in search of peregrine falcons, snorkeling on the barrier reef among schools of imperial angelfish, and beach camping on a remote cay. The eight-day trips run weekly after
February 1, 1996; cost is $1,190 per person, including all meals, equipment, cabaña accommodations, and transportation from Belize City. Contact Oceanic Society Expeditions, 800-326-7491.
Sea kayaks are thrown in free when you rent your own island--Northeast Caye on Glover's Atoll, a marine preserve 85 miles southeast of Belize City. The island has three thatch-roofed, open-air cabañas plus a main cabaña with a solar-powered kitchen, a library, and a radio for shore contact. The island can accommodate 12 people and rents for $3,500 per week
whenever tours aren't scheduled. Contact Slickrock Adventures, 801-259-6996.
Ek' Tun, Baby