One of the excursions offered at Pico Bonito was a half-day trip to a nature sanctuary. Although there was plenty of wildlife living on the grounds of our lodge, the prospect of seeing even more animals was appealing, particularly to the boys. Since the excursion included a guide who has spent his entire life in this area, it significantly increased our chances of seeing cool creatures. Guides are amazing at spotting things, something we learned long ago while on a safari in South Africa.
It’s an adventure just to reach the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge. While the refuge is fairly close to La Ceiba, three modes of transportation are required to actually reach it, including a car, open air train, and boat. The diesel powered train, or burra, was a unique experience and provided a glimpse into rural life in Honduras.
Upon arrival, there is a basic welcome center with some information on the wildlife found in the refuge, including the elusive manatee. The park is named for the two rivers within the refuge – the Cuero and Salado Rivers. The only other people that we saw during our visit to the refuge were two local fishermen so it was very peaceful until Finnegan started complaining endlessly. He is down with spiders, lizards and snakes, but the plethora of birds couldn’t hold his attention. Our plan was to spend two hours on the motorized skiff exploring three mangrove canals and Salado River, but we only made it about 90 minutes before I was ready to jump into the croc infested river to escape the whining.
Before we gave up on the river tour, we managed to see howler monkeys, two crocodiles, and long nosed bats that are perfectly camouflaged to blend in with the trees. The boys were not able to see them until the boat pulled so close that the bats finally flew away.
We also saw many different kinds of birds. The red jacana was the most prolific. They use their long ‘fingers’ to walk across the vegetation growing on top of the water.
The most impressive was a very large wood stork that stood about three feet tall. I didn’t bring my telephoto lens on this trip so our pictures are not very good. Here is one from Wikipedia instead.
We also saw many different species of heron and a multitude of birds that I’ve already forgotten. We clearly are not birders. If you are, you will love this place. Even you are not a birder, it’s a gorgeous place to visit and there is plenty of other wildlife. For those without young kids, you also have the option to explore the refuge via kayak or canoe instead.
After we made it back to the dock, we had a snack of fruit and cookies packed by Pico Bonito and went to the beach. The walk to the beach was only a quarter mile down a dirt path. The boys each made a friend along the way. Finnegan named ‘his’ dog Coconut.
The beach was rocky, but the water was calm and, more importantly, the whining stopped completely. There was a small amount of shade under the makeshift hut where our guide relaxed while the boys played.
If you go on this tour, I would strongly recommend bringing bug spray for the walk to the beach. There was enough of a sea breeze to keep the mosquitoes away on the beach, but the walk to and from was brutal, especially for Declan’s chubby arms and legs. Declan seems to be a delicacy to mosquitoes because the poor kid has been mauled on this trip (which has made me have a passing concern about dengue fever). At last count he had over 30 mosquito bites.
Both boys fell asleep on the bumpy train ride back to town, where we met this guy wearing a Syracuse shirt. It’s nice to meet ‘Cuse fans on the road.