The colourfully adorned King Vulture looks almost like some Mayan god, and appropriately it is a bird we should see on the Lacandon tour. 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.
Note that our sister company WINGS run several tours to different parts of Mexico not listed on our website. Many are led by Steve Howell, author of the definitive guide to the birds of Mexico. You can find full details by visiting the WINGS website.
Day 1: The tour begins in Villahermosa, where we’ll spend the night before setting off on our adventure.
Days 2-3: This morning we’ll head into the Lacandon region, birding along the way, and reach the delightful Guacamayas lodge in late afternoon. We’ll have a full day and a half to bird areas around and near the lodge, set at the edge of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. A highlight of our visit is the boat ride up a beautiful limestone tributary of the Lacantún river, with its travertine waterfalls and limpid blue waters. Here, 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. Nights at Guacamayas Lodge.
Days 4-5: From Las Guacamayas we’ll head to the small town of Frontera Corozal, overlooking the mighty Usumacinta River, still an artery of local travel and commerce. Based in Corozal we’ll visit the renowned Maya archaeological sites of Yaxchilán and Bonampak, reminders of a civilization that melted into the forest. To reach Yaxchilán we’ll take a boat down the Usumacinta, 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. Mixed-species forest flocks here will 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. Nights in Frontera Corozal.
Days 6-7: We’ll end our Lacandon tour with a visit to the time-honored favorite site of Palenque. Amid the ruins and forest edges we’ll see “the usual” toucans and parrots, and also look for regional endemics such as Rufous-breasted Spinetail and Green-backed Sparrow, along with a host of wintering migrants from North America, including thrushes, vireos, and some 20 species of warblers. 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. Nights in Palenque.
Day 8: We’ll head back to Villahermosa by way of some extensive wetlands packed with waterbirds - we soon lose count of Northern Jacanas and Limpkins 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.
This tour is arranged by our American partner WINGS
Updated: 23 December 2016