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Resplendent Quetzales and Maya Temples In 9 Days

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Trip Dossier

DAYS 1-4.
The dry lands correspond to the biome called Mesoamerica Xerophytic Province and Thorny Chaparral, which is a discontinuous dry corridor beginning in the Chiapas Depression of the Balsas river (Mexico) and continuing in Guatemala along the Selegua, Negro and Motagua rivers. In general, these are hot and dry places with 600 mm of annual precipitation. The Motagua Valley is the driest place in Central America and lies south of the Sierra de la Minas Biosphere Reserve (east of the country). Some of the flora common to this dry place is Amphipterygium adstringens, Apoplanesia paniculata and the genuses Megastigma, Myrtillocactus and Plocosperma. The birds of this area comprise less than one quarter of the national bird diversity, but, as a whole, they share an outstanding peculiarity in their relative abundance. 93 resident species live here, and most of them occur in these areas in a higher density than in other parts of the country. Lesser Roadrunner, Streak-backed Oriole, Turquoise-browed & Russet-crowned Motmots, White Throated Magpie-Jay, Elegant Trogon, Plain-capped Starthroat and Varied Bunting are some of the species that can be found in this dry and hot place. We will dedicate the first half day to this area.

North of the Motagua Valley lies the Biosphere Reserve Sierra de Las Minas. This is an enormous mountain range declared Biosphere Reserve in 1991, and managed by the Foundation for the Preservation of Natural Resources "Defensores de la Naturaleza". Eight plant communities in this area have been defined. More than 70% of all species of Flora & Fauna of Guatemala and Belize can be found here. Our spotting scenery is one of the world's most impressive forests (Cloud Forest), lying on the high part of the mountain chain and offering exuberant and very diverse vegetation. Lots of orchids, ferns and bromeliads adorn the canopy. Clouds constantly moisten the tree trunks, which are covered with moss. Oaks, pines, maples and elders are mixed with many species from the Lauraceae family (wild avocados). In this place filled with mystery, a unique mix of Neotropical and Neartic bird species offer the birdwatcher an unforgettable experience.

Species like Brown Creeper, Spotted Woodcreeper, Resplendent Quetzal, Collared Trogon, Horned Guan, Barred Parakeet and Hooded Grosbeak call this mystic land home. Spectacular greenery of the Cloud Forest provides the backdrop for some master singers of the bird world, like Spotted Nightingale Thrush, Slate-coloured Solitaire and Brown-backed Solitaire. Our point of exploration during two nights will be the Mario Dary Biotope adn surrounding areas, a peace of land dedicated to the protection of the Resplendent Quetzal, our national bird.

DAYS 5-8
We will then fly to the north of the country. Imagine Birdwatching in one of the five most important jungles in the world, where the Maya culture reached its cultural, social, political, architectural and financial peak: Tikal National Park, a place inhabited by more than 300 bird species will be our birding spot for three nights.

The biome is a Tropical Humid Forest. Mostly plain and karstic, the land has very poor soil but sustains an exuberant closed forest with good stratification and biodiversity. This area, which represents the meridian extreme of the Campeche Province of Neotropics, has the most abundant fauna of the country. There is a great homogeneity in the physiognomy and structure of this formation. Typical plant associations are Ramonal (Brosinum alicastrum), Escobal (palms of Crysophyla argentea), Sabal (morrisiana) Tintal (Haematoxylum campechanum) and Corozal (palms of Orbygnia cohune).

An endemic group of birds are found here: Ocellated Turkey (a close relative of the Wild Turkey), Yucatan Bobwhite, Yucatan Poorwill, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Yucatan Flycatcher, Yucatan Jay, Northern Cardinal and White-bellied Wren; as well as Parrots, Toucans, Trogons, Antbirds, Tinamous, Raptors and more.

TIKAL NATIONAL PARK

Besides the fact that Tikal is one of the most exciting places for Birdwatching, we will see fine examples of monumental Maya construction, including the Great Plaza. At Temple I, Classic Maya construction is viewed in the heavily terraced pyramidal substructure. Another magnificent example is the Temple of the Two-Headed Snake, which rises some 69 meters from its base. It is the highest pre-Colombian structure in America.
YAXHA ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE, LAGOON AND CROCODILE WATCH

As an addition to Tikal, we will dedicate two days to the exploration of Yaxh archaeological site, located southeast of Tikal. The Yaxh Lagoon will add many aquatic species to our list. After dinner we will have the great experience of spotting Crocodiles with our flash lights, while we navigate the shores of the Yaxh lagoon on our boat!

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