The Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve is one of the great refuges for the Earth’s endangered species. Opening itself to visitors from the outside, this tranquil tropical sanctuary exposes people to the beauty of nature and promotes the preservation of our planet’s delicate ecosystem.
Running along the Platano River for which it was named, the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve is located in La Mosquitia, the northeastern district on the Caribbean coast of the Republic of Honduras. Travel to the reserve isn’t very easy; in fact, it is rather arduous. If traveling by boat, one may catch a ride on the cargo barges departing from the port cities of La Ceiba and Trujillo. If traveling from La Ceiba by land, go to the local bus station early in the morning and take a chicken bus departing for the municipality of Tocoa. Once there, there are many pickup trucks offering rides for around 300 to 500 lempiras, depending on how good one is at haggling for prices. The truck departs at about 9:00 AM, and the rather bumpy trip takes 5 to 6 hours. Travelers are advised to take caution, as the route taken is prone to car robberies. The pickup stops at Batalla, and from there, take a collectivo-boat to Belen, paying no more than 200 lempiras. Upon arriving at Belen, look for the next boat bound for Las Marias, where one can find guides to the reserve. There is a chance, though, that one may have to wait for around 4 days, but there is normally a motorized canoe leaving 3 to 4 times a week at the least. The rates could go from 500 to 800 lempiras, and the trip back could cost 300 to 500 lempiras. One may also hire a private boat to Las Marias, which would cost from 3,000 to 4,500 lempiras, and may include 2 to 3 overnight stays which the driver may have to do. These boats can usually accommodate 4 people. Perhaps the easiest way to get to the reserve is via small aircraft from La Ceiba to Palacios, and from there, one can enter the reserve either on foot or by boat.
What to See There
Within its rainforest environment, the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve hosts several species of animals like monkeys, toucans and sea turtles, as well as rare and endangered species such as jaguars, ocelots, the Central American tapir and the Caribbean West Indian manatee. The reserve also boasts of more than 200 archaeological sites, which includes Mayan ruins, as well as the very spot of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to mainland America. Tourists can also get to witness the way of life of the over 2,000 indigenous people which inhabit the reserve. Visitors may also engage in various activities like hiking, swimming and kayaking.
The land upon which the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve now stands was set aside reserved as an archaeological national park in 1969. The Department of Natural Renewable Resources began development in 1980, implementing it in 1987. In 1982, UNESCO named the reserve as the first of more than 700 World Heritage Sites.
There is no admission fee into Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve, although the head guide in Las Marias may ask for voluntary donations.
Covering 5,250 square kilometers of land, the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve holds more than 2,000 vascular plant species, 39 mammal species, 377 bird species, and 126 reptile and amphibian species.