After a few relaxing days in Lanquin and our adventurous trip to the nature pools of Semuc Champey our next destination was the biotopo del Quetzal. Located directly on main highway 14 between Cobán and Guatemala City the nature preserve is famous for providing the chance to see Guatemala’s very shy national bird.
El Biotopo del Quetzal
The Biotopo del Quetzal or Quetzal Reserve is officially named after his founder Mario Dary Rivera. Established in 1977 the reserve covers about 2.600 acres of old cloud forest and it is meant to protect this rapidly shrinking habitat and its inhabitants. Under the administration of the San Carlos University the Biotopo del Quetzal has developed to one of Guatemala’s favorite spots for bird watchers and nature lovers.
Not only the Quetzal – Guatemala’s famous and unfortunately very shy national bird – can be seen at the reserve. Many other species of birds can be seen as well as butterflies, orchids, ferns, ancient trees and some nice waterfalls.
Camping at the Biotopo del Quetzal
After a short reststop at the gas station in the town of Purulhá we started climbing on highway 14 towards the Quetzal Reserve. We entered through a gate that gets locked at 4 pm in the afternoon every day, so make sure you are there early! We paid the entry fee of 40 Quetzales (5,45 US$) and another 20 Quetzales (2,70 US$) each for one night of camping. Getting to the campsite was a bit tricky becuse we had to push the bikes uphill on a very small trail (made for wheelchairs) and get the bicycles down again over some stairs. The reward was a nice little campsite with a Palapa (palmleaves-covered area) and private bathrooms as there was noone else camping.
There are no showers but a little bit down a small trail there was a natural swimming pool with a small waterfall. Unfortunately the water was very cold at this elevation (1600m) and so we skipped swimming.
Hiking through the cloud forest
Two well-maintained hiking trails lead the visitors through the Biotopo del Quetzal. One is about 2 kilometers and the other one 4 kilometers long. They are both linked together and we hiked a combination of both. The longer trail climbs for 300 meters up the mountain through dense cloud forest towards a viewpoint.
The hike itself was wonderful through all these old trees, different ferns and all sorts of plants I can’t even name. The view from the top was nice as well and gave an idea about the size of the Quetzal Reserve.
Along both trails are shelters that provide some shade and make for a good reststop.
And where is the Quetzal?
The good news is that we saw some Quetzals. Four in total. Unfortunately the light was so bad, that every photo I took is not worth showing.
We don’t saw the Quetzals on the hike. Surprisingly they show up in the late afternoon just before the sun sets in a very unusual place. The car park at the entrance, right next to a very busy highway, seemed to be their favorite spot. And so we stood there and watched a couple of female Quetzals flying from tree to tree. They seemed to like a very old looking tree growing at the fenceline.
The Quetzal is a fairly big, shiny green bird with some kind of hairstyle and a red belly. The male ones have a very long green-feathered tail. If you want to see it, definitely visit the Quetzal Reserve! It is very likely that you see a Quetzal and if not, just enjoy a wonderful hike through the amazing cloud forest!
Brad and I stayed two nights because we liked the campsite and from here we will cycle on towards Guatemala City and a well-earned rest in Antigua where we want to climb some of Guatemala’s volcanos. Stay tuned!
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