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Maya Biosphere Reserve Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve Cerro Cahui Protected Biotope Chocon Machacas Protected Biotope
Laguna Del Tigre - Rio Escondido Biotope Reserve San Miguel La Palotada "El Zotz" Biotope Mario Dary Rivera Biotope Lachau National Park
Quetzal Biotope Reserve  Cerro San Gil Wildlife Refuge Bocas Del Polochic Semuc Champey Natural Monument

THE MAYA BIOSPHERE RESERVE 

LOCATION:This reserve is located in the municipal districts of Flores, La Libertad, Melchor de Mencos, San Andres and San Jose of the Department of Peten. It covers approximately the northern half of this Department above parallel 17, and has international boundaries with Mexico to the west and north, and with Belize to the east. 

DESCRIPTION: This is the largest protected area in Guatemala (1,844,900 hectares, including the buffer zone). It is divided into five types of zones. 

The site of the Reserve was the settlement of the classical Maya culture and it contains an enormous number of very important archaeological sites, such as El Mirador, El Zotz, Piedras Negras, Tikal and Uaxactun

IMPORTANCE: Its large area allows for the genetic exchange of species requiring much living space. The Maya archaeological sites and zones give it historical-cultural relevance. 

HOW TO GET THERE: From Flores, the capital of the Department of Peten, a paved highway runs to the Tikal National Park  served by minibuses and buses with regular schedules. A dirt road continues to the archaeological site and village of Uaxactun. The road connecting Flores and San Miguel continues to the north to multiple use areas, and to the San Miguel-La Palotada Protected Biotope 

THE SIERRA DE LAS MINAS BIOSPHERE RESERVE 

LOCATION: In the eastern part of Guatemala in the Sierra de las Minas mountain range, in the Departments of El Progreso, Baja Verapaz, Alta Verapaz, Zacapa, and Izabal. 

DESCRIPTION: This is a mountainous region, as indicated by its name, rising from 150 to more than 3,000 meters above sea level. It is the most important cloud forest reserve in Guatemala, but it also includes tropical and conifer forests due to its size and variety in altitudes. 

Among its tree species, the Sierra de las Minas has fir, cedar, oak, liquidambar, and pine. The conservation of its forests has made it into a refuge for major mammals (jaguars, pumas and deer) and threatened birds, such as the quetzal and the horned guan. It is also the only place where the harpy eagle has been found in Guatemala in recent years. 

It contains K'ekchi, Pokomchi and Ladino communities. 

IMPORTANCE: As regards biology, the Sierra de las Minas is of great importance because of its great diversity of ecosystems and species. Recent studies indicate the presence of species which have not yet been or recorded. It is a refuge for many endangered species. 

HOW TO GET THERE: By Highway CA-14 on the way to Coban, after the place known as La Cumbre, there is a turnoff to the village of Chilasco. From there, 12 km on an all-weather road take you to Chilasco. From there, by walking some two hours, you can visit the water fall of the same name. From this village, you can continue by 4-wheel drive vehicle to Finca Miranda and from there on foot (45 minutes) you can get to the Luisiana Cabin. 

A path joins the Luisiana Cabin with the Las Nubes Cabin (a 6-hour trek). 

Another access is to travel on Highway CA-9 to San Augustin Acasaguastlan and from there continue 23 km to the village of Albores, from which a 2-hour walk will get you to the Las Nubes Cabin. 

SERVICES AND FACILITIES: The core zone of the Reserve has two equipped cabins, intended almost exclusively for scientific researchers. In Trinidad, neighboring the Albores Village, there is a small lodge where it is possible to obtain food. 

The plans for the Biosphere Reserve contemplate the implementation, in the near future, of a low-impact tourist program. 

IMPORTANT: It is obligatory to obtain prior authorization from Fundacion Defensores de la Naturaleza, which manages the area. 

THE CERRO CAHUI PROTECTED BIOTOPE

LOCATION: This biotope is located in the Department of Peten, on the eastern shore of Lake Peten Itza, 32 kilometers from the city of Flores. 

DESCRIPTION: This is one of the smallest protected areas in Peten measuring only 650 hectares which contain a hill with altitudes of from 110 to 300 meters above sea level. Because of its location next to Lake Peten Itza it has unique ecological characteristics. This biotope covers the lake shore, ponds and a mature forest, and provides a rich array of plants and animals. As the it was partially exploited in the past and then allowed to recover, one here one can learn about the regeneration process of the regeneration of a tropical forest. 

IMPORTANCE: It is the only forest reserve located on the shores of Lake Peten Itza and is a refuge for the minor mammals and birds of this particular basin. 

HOW TO GET THERE: This is one of the protected areas with the best access in Guatemala. It is only 30 minutes from the Flores International Airport on the paved highway going to Tikal. The turn-off to Cerro Cahui is at kilometer 29.5 at El Remate village and from there it is a little less than 2 kilometers by an all-weather road which is in excellent condition. Minibuses and buses go to El Remate from Flores and from Tikal, but the Biotope can also be reached by water over the lake. 

SERVICES AND FACILITIES: This biotope has two paths leading to the lookout points from which Lake Peten Itza and its eastern basin can be seen. An guidebook will help to identify the local species and to understand the ecology. 

There are toilets, showers, a bathing area next to the lake, camping areas and a first aid post available. A bird-watching program will be implemented soon for which binoculars and local guidebooks can be rented. 

Close to Cerro Cahui the visitor will find hotels of different categories. Starting in July of 1995, a Bed and Breakfast program in the homes of the residents of the El Remate Village will be an interesting and reasonable option. 

CHOCON MACHACAS PROTECTED BIOTOPE

LOCATION: On the northern shore of the Río Dulce, in the area known as El Golfete, in theDepartment of Izabal. 
DESCRIPTION: Its 7,600 hectares include mature forests on dry land, flooded forests, mangroveswamps, canals and lagoons. This biotope has estuarine ecosystems, which are the habitat of many aquatic species of flora and fauna. Red mangroves, the acutus crocodile, the manatee and the nutria are some of its most outstanding species. 

The lagoons between the mangrove swamps are particularly beautiful. 
IMPORTANCE: Chocon Machacas was declared a protected area to conserve the endangered manatee and because its estuarine ecosystems are an important refuge for aquatic fauna. 
HOW TO GET THERE: By water only, either from the Rio Dulce village (Highway CA-13) or from Livingstonor Puerto Barrios (Highway CA-9). This is usually combined with the visit to the Rio Dulce National Park, of which Chocon Machacas is an ecological unit. SERVICES AND FACILITIES: The biotope has a foot path and two scenic waterways, an information center, a camping site, toilets and a bathing area on the Rio Dulce. Nearby, the village of Rio Dulce and the port of Livingston have a variety of hotels and restaurants. 

LAGUNA DEL TIGRE - RIO ESCONDIDO PROTECTED BIOTOPE

LOCATION: In northeastern Peten within the Maya Biosphere Reserve. This is one of the most remote protected areas in Guatemala.
DESCRIPTION: Incovers 46,300 hectares of forests and sweet water wetlands. Its vegetation is varied and includes high and low forests, with the latter predominating. Major mammals abound, particularly white tailed deer. The floodlands are the habitat of various species of reptiles and birds. 

IMPORTANCE: This biotope contains the largest sweet water wetlands of Central America, a refuge for innumerable resident and migratory birds. 
HOW TO GET THERE: Its only access is through the village of El Naranjo, in northwestern Peten, which an be reached from Flores by a good all weather road, as well as from La Palma in the Mexican State of Tabasco. 

The administration office for the area is in El Naranjo, on the other side of the San Pedro river. 
SERVICES AND FACILITIES: There are some boarding houses (Pensiones) and eating places in the village of El Naranjo. At the house of the administration office it is possible to camp, after obtaining permission from the Center for Conservationist Studies - CECON 

As there are no paths as yet for the public, it is recommended to visit the area by water and not by land. Boats can be rented at El Naranjo. 

NOTE: As this area is managed by CECON and is used almost exclusively for conservation and scientific research, your visit requires prior authorization. 

SAN MIGUEL LA PALOTADA "EL ZOTZ" PROTECTED BIOTOPE

LOCATION: In the northeast of Guatemala, in the Department of Izabal, forming a peninsula which separates Amatique Bay from the Gulf of Honduras
DESCRIPTION: This protected area covers 50,000 hectares of both land and sea. Various elements combine here to provide unique features, such as coastal lands, interior lands, floodlands, sweet water, ocean breezes and sea water. 

The region is particularly rich in marine resources, as the ecology of its shores on Amatique Bay is influenced by the Rio Dulce, and on the Gulf of Honduras by the waters of the Caribbean Sea. 

The "confra" (a palm species) swamp is one of the rarest ecosystems in Guatemala and is exclusive to that region. 

The inland area is rich in species of mammals and birds. 
IMPORTANCE: This area has a considerable biological diversity of endangered species such as the Baird's tapir, jaguar, sea turtles and mangroves. 

HOW TO GET THERE:Punta de Manabique can only be reached by sea from Puerto Barrios (Highway CA-9) or from Livingston. Launch services must be contracted at the local municipal docks. The voyage takes about an hour and a half by sea. 
SERVICES AND FACILITIES: There is as yet no infrastructure for food and lodging, but the boat trip along the English Channel and Bahia de la Graciosa, including a dip in the ocean from the each at Manabique village, will guarantee a pleasant outing. There are small stores in this village where beverages can be purchased, and a public telephone. There are hotels and restaurants in Puerto Barrios and Livingston. 

"MARIO DARY RIVERA" BIOTOPE FOR THE CONSERVATION OF THE QUETZAL

LOCATION: This biotope is located next to the Tikal National Park in the north of Peten and is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve
DESCRIPTION: It is almost totally covered by a dense mature forest and has peculiar ecosystems and habitats. The Palmar Lagoon and other swamps are the refuge of many species of birds and reptiles, and Baird's tapir, among others. 

The bat refuge in the caves on the cliffs in the center of the biotope is a spectacular sight at dusk when thousands of bats leave the caves at once to begin their nocturnal activities. This feature gave the area the name "Zotz," which in most Maya languages means bat. 
Two kilometers from the administration house there is one of the most important archaeological sites, El Zotz, from whose Devil's Pyramid, over the tree crowns, one can easily see the crests of the temples of Tikal

IMPORTANCE:El Zotz is part of a biophysical unit with the Tikal National Park, which permits important genetic exchanges. 
HOW TO GET THERE: El Zotz is difficult to reach during the rainy season. In the dry season one can take the dirt road going from Flores to San Andres and then to the village Cruce Dos Aguadas, from where another 16 kilometers take one to the biotope administration. This road continues 44 kilometers to Uaxactun, from where El Zotz can also be reached. 

SERVICES AND FACILITIES: Camping area, latrines, cooking and washing facilities. 
To avoid getting lost in the forest, it is advisable to visit only the areas indicated by the resource wardens. 

THE LACHUA NATIONAL PARK

LOCATION: This park is located in the northwest of the Department of Alta Verapaz in the lowlands of northern Guatemala. 

DESCRIPTION: This area consists of 10,000 hectares of mature forests and is of the few remaining woodlands in the region. Its condition has not been altered much, permitting conservation of many highly valued tree species, such as mahogany and sapodilla, as well as of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Its soils, of karstic origin, are extremely fragile. 

The main attraction of the area is the lagoon of incredible turquoise blue color, with its great variety of fish species. This round lagoon, with an area of only 5 square kilometers, has proven depths of up to 220 meters. 

IMPORTANCE: It is the refuge of mayor mammals, such as Baird's tapir and the jaguar, as well as of migratory and resident birds. It forms an important ecological corridor. 

HOW TO GET THERE: From Coban (Highway CA-14), take the road leading to Chisec and Playa Grande. The entrance to the park is at the village of San Marcos, 414 kilometers from Guatemala City

By charter flight, the closest landing field is at Playa Grande. 

SERVICES AND FACILITIES: The Sierra De Las Minas Biosphere Reserve here is a well-kept path with rest areas. From it you can reach two points on the lagoon, one 3 kilometers and another one 4.5 from the entrance. There are an information center, camping possibilities, latrines and a bathing area at the second site. 

QUETZAL BIOTOPE

San Carlos University, in its interest to preserve the quetzal's natural environment, established the Mario Dary Rivera Nature Reserve (Biotopo del Quetzal), located 160 kilometers from Guatemala City, in the northern highlands. It is easily accessed by paved road. 

Even though sighting a quetzal is a rare event, the area is a paradise not to be missed. Tourists will be transported to a magic world of tumbling waterfalls, babbling brooks, fresh fragrant ferns, and ancient trees which harbor a variety of toucans, owls, hummingbirds, bluejays and hundreds of different varieties of orchids and exotic flowers. 

There are different paths to choose from, depending on how far the visitor wants to go. Information about the Reserve and a detailed guide to the park is available at the entrance. 

The quetzal preservation sanctuary has two trails that one can climb (they are steep, but easy to follow): a short and a long one. In addition to the opportunity of catching a glimpse of a quetzal, the vegetation along these trails is more than spectacular. Birds of paradise and orchids are at home here. 

THE CERRO SAN GIL WILDLIFE REFUGE 

LOCATION: In the Department of Izabal, south of Lake Izabal, it occupies the highest part of the Mico mountains, a continuation of the Sierra Madre. 

DESCRIPTION: The Cerro San Gil is a mountain rampart which cuts off the breezes of the Caribbean Sea, making it an extremely humid region with an annual rainfall of more than 3,000 mm and more than 200 days of rain per year. The humidity varies between 100% in the eastern to 33.8% in the western part. 

The combination of physical factors such as humidity, temperature and elevation have created a unique zone at the Cerro San Gil with tremendous biological value, because of its high endemicity and biodiversity. 

Its forests conserve very important species of trees (mahogany, sapodilla and ramon, among others) and animals. 

IMPORTANCE: This region is highly endemic and its forests are the source of sweet water for the northeast of the Department of Izabal. 

HOW TO GET THERE: Two widely separated sectors are open to visits from the public. One of them, in the western part of the reserve can be reached from entrance to the village of San Marcos, located 16 Kms. to the north of La Ruidosa (Highway CA-13). From that entrance, 12 Kms will take you by dirt road to the village of Carboneras, where the visitors' center is located. 

The other sector is on the lands of a hotel on Amatique Bay, 8 Kms. by dirt road from the port of Santo Tomas de Castilla. 

SERVICES AND FACILITIES: The Carboneras Visitors' Center has a lookout point, toilets, lodging, camping area and cooking facilities, and is the starting point for three marked nature paths. 

The area close to Santo Tomas de Castilla is open only for hotel guests. It has a 900-meter path, with 30 information stops. 

BOCAS DEL POLOCHIC (The Polochic Delta) 

LOCATION: In the western part of the Department of Izabal, on the western shore of Lake Izabal. 

DESCRIPTION: The Polochic River forms a delta where it flows into Lake Izabal and creates a swampy region containing fauna especially adapted to the area. This site is a refuge for manatees and sweet-water sharks. The bird population is particularly varied and abundant, and even more so during bird migration seasons. It is an excellent place for bird watchers. 

IMPORTANCE: This is the second largest sweet water wetlands area in Guatemala. It is of international importance because it is a station for migratory birds and forms an ecological corridor between the Sierra de las Minas, the Sierra de Santa Cruz and the reproduction zone for Lake Izabal's fisheries resources. 

HOW TO GET THERE: It can only be reached by water from the lake ports of El Estor (Highway CA-14 to the San Julian crossing, them by National Road 7E), and from Mariscos (Highway CA- 9) on Lake Izabal. 

SERVICES AND FACILITIES: El Estor and Mariscos have small hotels and restaurants. Boats may be rented there to visit the zone. 

THE SEMUC CHAMPEY NATURAL MONUMENT 

LOCATION: In the Municipal District of Lanquin in the Department of Alta Verapaz, on the Cahabon River. 

DESCRIPTION: This site, surrounded by a rain forest, consists of many pools set in limestone, whose waters cascade down the different levels. The colors of the waters vary from emerald green to turquoise. The scenery is spectacular. Although the forest consists mostly of broadleaf trees, pine of the caribea genus is also abundant. 

IMPORTANCE: This is a uniquely beautiful and marvelous monument of nature. 

HOW TO GET THERE: From Coban, the capital of the Department of Alta Verapaz, Highway CA-14, then take National Road 5 (all- weather dirt road in good condition) to Lanquin and from there 8 Kms to Semuc Champey, either on foot or by 4-wheel drive vehicle. 

SERVICES AND FACILITIES: There are lodging and eating places in Lanquin.

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