For the third installment of the Guatemala Series, anyone who knows me at all, knew this topic was coming. How did I wait so long? Yes, there is much to love about the natural side of Guatemala. The country is beautiful and diverse — from the jungle that comes right down to the Rio Dulce to volcanoes surrounding Lake Atitlan to the cloud forests that the national bird, the quetzal, calls home to the wildlife-rich Mayan city of Tikal and everything in-between. Grab your binoculars and put on your hiking shoes, because there is no shortage of amazing sights to see.
This video don’t even scratch the surface. I am really kicking myself for not getting into video sooner. But it is still a fun look at some scenery and wildlife.
Our first exploration was with Paul, Jayne, and Lily from Delphinus. They tied up at Hacienda Tijax, which has a nature preserve behind the marina with a gorgeous nature walk.
Our friends Steve from Slow Flight and Chizuru joined us. What better group photo opportunity than on a hanging bridge?
Tijax has dragonflies everywhere of all colors and sizes. I love dragonflies. They are so cute.
Okay, maybe not so cute when you look up close. They look rather like aliens, especially when they move and turn their heads to look right at you. This one hitched a ride on Slow Flight when Steve took us to Lake Izabal.
I can’t say enough about the sunsets on the Rio, but the sunrises are nearly as beautiful. When the water is still like glass and it reflects all the colors in the sky, it is simply breath-taking.
You know there is a lot of wildlife around when you start seeing all the warning signs. These are on the way to Tikal. Panther crossing…
Coatimundi crossing… Don’t know what a coatimundi is? That was one at the top of the page. Don’t worry, they are coming again.
And yes, turkey crossing. But these are no ordinary turkeys.
These are oscillated turkeys with feathers so colorful and shiny, they look metallic.
They have funny orange pompoms on their heads and mini ostrich-looking feet.
The neck and head are blue and featherless, but the tail makes up for what the head lacks. Those feathers look almost as dramatic as a peacock’s. I wish he had spread them for me — assuming this was a he. I can’t imagine males getting much more resplendant.
The aracari, two of which were fighting in the video above, are medium-size toucans. They aren’t as large or colorful as the turkeys, but they are still very cool to see.
The keel-billed toucan is a larger and more colorful toucan and I couldn’t get enough of seeing them. We didn’t have to look hard. They were all around the parking lot in Tikal in the wild oak trees.
The zebra butterflies are so eye catching and just one of many species that we saw.
Even the guides in Guatemala are awesome. Miguel took us on a birding/architectural/history tour of Tikal. Incedible! If you ever come this way, you have to get in touch with Miguel. He even turned Dave into a birder for a day! That’s really saying something. It was so cute to see Jayne share his excitement over the dozens and dozens of species we spotted. Jayne’s birding list grew a lot that day!
This little guy is an agouti. He looks like a long-legged guinea pig. They are pretty shy and it is hard to get a closer shot of one.
The oropendola has a very unique call. Once you hear it, you’ll always recognize it. And once you know it is this bird, you’ll always be looking for them with that sound.
You have to watch carefully where you walk. This fuzzy little guy was dangling way down from a tree over the trail. If Jayne hadn’t spotted him, one of us would probably have been wearing him for a while. At least it’s cute.
Not so cute, but EVERYWHERE, these huge orb spiders haunt my waking hours. I have enough spider nightmares without these guys freaking me out during the day. Again, you really have to watch where you are walking. Another example is a little black and white speckled snake. I don’t have a picture, but I almost stepped on one on a trail and I shared the bathroom with one when I showered at Catamaran Island. I googled Guatemalan snakes to try and find a picture, but none of the pictures matched. I’ll try to have a camera at the ready next summer.
Coatimundis are related to raccoons. They usually travel in families or small groups, but we’ve never seen such a huge group of them before. There must have been 50 or so. Of course that is when my camera decided to act up, so I didn’t get a good group photo.
But this not-so-shy guy walked right up to me. He stopped right at my feet and didn’t even seem to take note that I was human or a possible threat.
Then he posed for me. Awesome! Dave!!! A new boat pet!!! Please? Can I keep him?
Either a liana that grew into the tree or a strangler fig that is not acting normal, but it made for a cool-looking tree. Somehow it reminded me of Kaa in Jungle Book.
Not the best shot of this spider monkey, but it was all he was giving me. Rude for him not to pose politely on demand.
We visited a quetzal reserve in the cloud forest and Jayne and I sat in this bird blind watching all the birds come and go. And yes, we did see a quetzal near it, but it was flying and I didn’t get it.
Here is a quetzal I captured later. Still not a great shot but it was raining that day and they were hiding in the shelter of the trees.
Mushroom, moss, and an anole on a tree trunk.
The violet sabrewing is a huge hummingbird brilliantly colored shimmering purple. It looks like it dipped its tail in white paint, a distinct identifying feature.
Big Bird, my great egret friend at Catamaran Island. I saw him every day, morning and afternoon. Sometimes he hung out on the dock over by Viva Bob, another catamaran next to us.
I love that when people build houses here they build them, for the most part, in harmony with the jungle. They do not cut down every tree and clear the land. This land is their home and they have evolved together to coexist.
Flowers grow to epic proportions in Guatemala. This one is bigger than a magnolia and would fill both my hands and then some. I tried to find out what it is, but failed. Does anyone know?
Our friend, Dana from Vida Libre, had a special dinner guest at her table at Casa Perico. The buildings are built wide open with thatched roofs, so there’s bound to be critter visitors. That’s what makes it fun.
Playing tourist with Slow Flight and Delphinus, we took a canoe ride into a canyon. The sheer rock walls and jungle growth were impressive. So was the one guy paddling our whole group up and down the river. It was all fun and games until the howler monkeys started throwing things at us. Fortunately their aim wasn’t very good. Or it was just their way of saying, “Hey, look up. We’re up here.”
I mentioned Agua Caliente before, but it was worth adding a mention here since it is 100% natural and a very unique feature that you may never see anywhere else in the world. A hot springs waterfall? Oh yes!
These toads live in caves next to the waterfall along with some little bats. You just have to look, wildlife is everywhere. Turn over stones or leaves, you never know what you’ll find.