Sunday, December 7th ~ Lake Izabal and Finca Paraiso
“If we get up early, I’ll almost guarantee that we will see manatees”, our guide Hugo promised.
Taking him at his word, we endured an early alarm, left our hotel in Rio Dulce at 5:30 in the morning and drove to El Estor, at the west end of Lake Izabal. To try to take the edge off of the early departure and another soaking rain, he offered up delicious steaming hot coffee and banana bread.
This map will also show where we stayed in Rio Dulce and the path down the river that we took the previous day to get to Livingston.
“Lake Izabal, also known as the Golfo Dulce, is the largest lake in Guatemala with a surface area of 589.6 km² (145,693 acres or 227.6 sq mi) and a maximum depth is 18 m (59 ft).” ~ Wikipedia
The area is recognized for their wildlife, including both spider and howler monkeys, manatee, jaguar, as well as an excellent place for bird watching.
Here we are in our open boat with our brand new rain parkas…
I’m sad to report that in the area where the manatees (also known as a sea cow), are normally found, the water was just too rough. Combined with the on-and-off rain, they remained hidden from our view.
The highlight for me was sitting quietly in the boat with the motor off, just listening to the howler monkeys. According to the Smithsonian, they are the loudest animal in the New World and their sounds can be heard three miles away through the thick jungle. It is normal for the males to stake their claim on a particular territory with loud howls to warn off possible intruders.
“Male howler monkeys use their big voices to defend their turf. Howls by one troop are answered by other males within earshot. Every-one starts and ends the day by checking out where their nearest competitors are. In this way, they protect the food in their territory. It’s an important job because their diet is made up mostly of leaves—not a particularly nutritious food.” ~ Smithsonian National Zoological Park
We spotted several different family groupings in the nearby tree tops. The hoots and howls were both haunting and authoritarian and I was thrilled that we got to simply sit and observe and listen.
Click here for a short clip to hear the sound for yourself. User rapaceros recorded this in Mexico and posted it to YouTube back in 2007.
After returning to our hotel for a late breakfast, we loaded our luggage up and moved on toward Tikal. Along the way we had another surprise experience when we stopped at Finca Paraiso (Paradise Farm). This is a unique opportunity to see and feel a HOT waterfall cascading into a fresh cool stream below.
You can’t miss me – I’m the only blonde in the water! There is a slight current pulling you down stream, but I am a strong swimmer and it was easy for me to get in place where the hot water cascades down off the cliff and mixes with the cool stream water. I was glad to have worn my swimsuit under my clothes and had the chance to experience this unusual phenomenon for myself.
After working up an appetite, we stopped in the town of El Estor for lunch. The locals call these tacos, but they reminded me of what I call a taquito. They were filled with chicken, rolled, deep-fried and then served with a salad topping (similar to cold slaw), fresh salsa and finely grated cheese.
We are researching a source for reasonably priced, heavy grained, colorful hardwoods for the woodworking shops at the vocational school in Santa Cruz and made a quick stop to check out some samples after lunch.
A long afternoon of driving brought us to our evening stop in the town of El Remate, located on the north shore of Lake Peten Itza, just outside of Tikal National Park. I’ll be writing about Tikal in my next post.
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for more firsts – hearing howler monkeys in the wild, swimming under a hot waterfall, and having a Guatemalan taco! I’m also thankful that we purchased our rain parkas and have a potential new place to get beautiful hardwoods for the carpentry shop. I hope this lead will pan out.