Guatemala ~ Hunting for manatees, howler monkeys and HOT waterfalls

Sunday, December 7th ~ Lake Izabal and Finca Paraiso

Lake Isabel

Lake Izabal (my favorite picture of the day) when the sun came out for a few minutes

“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. 

Map of Lake Isabal area

Map of Lake Izabal area

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…

Tim and Joanne snuggled up in our warm, dry rain parkas

Tim and Joanne snuggled up in our warm, dry 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

Three howler monkeys in this tree - Can you spot them?

Three howler monkeys in this central tree grouping – Can you find them?

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.

Lone tree

Lone tree

Sun trying to break through the clouds in the early morning

Sun trying to break through the clouds in the early morning while we looked for Manatees

These tree branches made excellent bird perches. Mainly Cormorant shown here.

These tree branches made excellent bird perches. Mainly cormorant shown here.

Dreary morning on Lake Isabel

Dreary morning on Lake Izabal

Moving day?

Moving day?

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.

Finca Paraiso

Finca Paraiso

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.

I was the only "blond" in swimming

I was the only “blond” in swimming

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.

Taco - Guatemalan style

Taco – Guatemalan style

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.

Taken from the hallway right outside of our hotel room on Lake Peten Itza

Taken from the hallway right outside of our hotel room on Lake Peten Itza

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.

About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
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5 Responses to Guatemala ~ Hunting for manatees, howler monkeys and HOT waterfalls

  1. roamingpursuits says:

    Great photos!


  2. Hey guys
    Sounds like a great day. We love howler monkeys and remember them from Costa Rica. Your picture in the boat looks exactly like us sitting in the boat at Totruguero Costa Rica, minus the drenching rain. Glad you’re having fun. We’re off to Canada next weekend for some cold. Brrrrr


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