Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve
The scenic beauty of Honduras’ wilderness areas is unmatched. Perhaps the most impressive of its nature-oriented national parks is the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982, the reserve on Honduras’ northeast Caribbean coast protects a rare swath of Central American rainforest, which is home to a jaw-dropping diversity of threatened and endangered animals, including jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, giant anteaters, harpy eagles and king vultures. The reserve also helps protect the way of life of several indigenous groups, including a Garifuna population. These groups have formed La Ruta Moskitia Ecotourism Alliance, which offers guided tours of the reserve’s wild areas, boat rides, hiking and the opportunity to visit their communities. For those who can’t get enough history, the reserve features more than 200 archaeological sites and contains the site where Christopher Columbus first made landfall in the mainland Americas.
STAY, Eat AND Get Around: The reserve is wild, with only a scattering of small villages. The first challenge is getting there: You first must get to La Ceiba, then travel either over land by bus and pickup or by small plane to the airstrip at the village of Brus Laguna. All transport within the reserve is by boat — mostly in dug-out canoes known as pipantes. A package tour, which includes meals and lodging in cabanas or “ecolodges” arranged through La Ruta Moskitia Ecotourism Alliance, is probably the best entry point for the first-time visitor.
Ted B. Kissell is a writer and editor in Southern California. His story “Soul Food,” about culinary star and dedicated father Dee Nguyen, appeared in the July 1, 2012, issue of American Way.