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Pico Bonito National Park

Pico Bonito is the highest peak of the “Nombre de Dios” mountain range, which is found on the Honduran north coast, only a few kilometers behind the Caribbean beaches and the coastal town of La Ceiba. Pico Bonito National Park was founded in 1987 by law 87 – 87 to protect the vegetation in the upper parts of the area which consists of 85% virgin tropical forest. At Pico Bonito, law protects some 1073 km˛ making it the second largest National Park in Honduras after Patuca National Park. More than half of the park is declared as core zone. Naturalists’ want to expand the area proposing some 550 km˛ more as protected area to the Honduran parliament. The highest peak reaches 2436 meters, and is the third highest peak of Honduras. The best time to enjoy the spectacular view of the mountains from La Ceiba is in the early morning hours, normally by late morning clouds have started to hide the mountains.

The slopes of Pico Bonito are very inclined, forming a lot of waterfalls. The vegetation of Pico Bonito begins with tropical rainforests are broad-leaf forests situated in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Tropical rainforests are highly endangered habitats all over the world, due to deforestation and uncontrolled development. Tropical rainforests have the highest biodiversity of all habitats on earth, being home to millions of different and many still undiscovered species. The genetic pool is one of the most important natural resources present on earth, winning more value every day due to the advancing biotechnology. Scientists have found on one hectare of rainforest some 200 different tree and shrub species. On one big rainforest tree biologists counted 54 species of ants, more than in the whole of England.

One of the secrets of the biodiversity of tropical rainforests is the appearance of a vertical organization of species. Up to five different levels of plants, including the forest canopy, are found. Each level is formed by specific species, and is populated by different animals.

Above 1200 mts the vegetation of Pico Bonito begins to change into cloud-forest. Cloud-forests are mountainous broad-leaf forests. The clouds are the product of the high altitude and the resulting cooler temperatures of the mountains, this builds a natural barrier for the hot and humid Caribbean air that is forced to climb the mountains. It cools down and condense. The result is clouds, constant fog and drizzle.

The vegetation has got adapted to these climatic and geographic conditions, for instance epiphytes. Epiphytes are able to take water and sometimes even nutrients from the air. Bromeliads (a typical family of the neotropics) and Orchids (the largest plant family in the world) are examples for typical epiphytes. They should not be confused with parasitic plants. Epiphytes do not take any nutrients or water from their host plants as parasites (for example the mistletoe) do; they are just using them as a seat. Lichens and mosses complete the coverage of trunks and branches. It seems like there is no space in the cloud-forest without plants.

For the local inhabitants of the surroundings of Pico Bonito, the National Park is of outstanding importance, water is the reason. Cloud-forests are water reservoirs. The vegetation is collecting the water from the air. When saturated, the water drips from trunks or leaf tips to the ground. The ground is spongy, protected by the vegetation from soil erosion, and is collected in lower and rocky parts of the ground. Even in the dry season, this water reservoir is guarantying a constant supply of water to the 100,000 inhabitants of La Ceiba, as well as for the whole region.

The vegetation in Pico Bonito also protects the soil from erosion, and avoids the dangerous avalanches of mud, rocks and water. Uncontrolled masses of mud and water in the rivers where one of the main factors in the damage caused by hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Pico Bonito also has some small patches of lowland dry forest on it’s southern side. Dry forests are very rare in Honduras, these areas are home to many endangered endemic species of plants and birds.

Due to the National Parks many habitats and eco-systems. The park is home to a huge range of animal species. Some species that inhabit the park are Bairds Tapir, White tailed deer, Northern Raccoon, Nine banded Armadillo, Naked Tailed Armadillo, Jaguar, Mountain Lion, Kinkajou, Spider Monkey, White Faced Monkey, Howler Monkey, Paca agouti, Peccary - Mountain Hog and the River Otter. Many of these species live in the hard accessible core zone of the park.

A large number of birds also live in the park. Large numbers of hawks, eagles, kites, doves, loros, Hummingbirds, wood-creepers, swallows and loons inhabit the park. Also you will find the Keel Billed Tucan, Highland Guan, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Blue-crowned Motmot, Scarlet Rumped Tanager, White Collared Manakin, Slaty-tailed trogon, the Quetzal and many more.

The visitors’ center, a rustically wooden house, offers all basic facilities for spending the night. With a four-wheel drive the visitors’ center is reached in less then one hour from La Ceiba. Different trails are prepared to satisfy hikers, but only special and well-equipped expeditions have a chance to reach the Pico Bonito peak. The slopes are dangerous, and the time required for that is about seven days. There are no trails, no water, and it is not easy to find a guide for the trip. Once done, the reward is a spectacular view over the forest, the Caribbean coast and La Ceiba.

For tours check out our private tours.