Punta Sal National Park
Located one and a half hours from San Pedro Sula, close to the Caribbean town
of Tela is the Janet Kawas National Park (former called Punta Sal). Law
protects some 782km˛ with 500km˛ being the core zone. This park
protects one of Honduras’ most diverse areas. The park has areas
of tropical rainforest that reach right to the sea, mangrove swamps, coastal
wetlands, lagoons, rivers, canals, rocky and sand coast line and a reef
just offshore that is part of the second largest reef in the world.
Law protects some 500 km˛ of core zone surrounded by 280km˛ buffer zone. Some 1500 Garifuna inhabitants live in the scattered traditional villages that lie in the parks boundaries. Most of these people make there living by fishing, small scale fishing is allowed in the park boundaries, but large scale commercial fishing is not. The Garifuna arrived here some 200 years ago as escaped slaves, their villages and vibrant culture is another attraction that adds to the beauty of this park.
The park was first known as Punta Sal. It was changed to Janet Kawas in memory of the former president of PROLANSATE. She was murdered while working in her office in her house in 1995, for her opposition and protests to the development of the Punta Sal area for commercial purposes. Till today the murder remains unsolved.
2 of the most important eco-systems found in the park are the tropical rainforests and the mangroves.
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 presented 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.
Mangroves are plants of different families but with the same typical characteristics, as aerial roots, salt glands. The roots provide the plant with nutrients.The aerial roots or pores serve as respirators; the salt glands are secreting salt. The bark of the mangrove trees is secreting a substance called Tannin, which is responsible for the dark coloration of the lagoon water. The mangroves on the Caribbean coast are often not directly situated on the open sea, but protected by sandy beaches or coral reefs from wind and waves. Lagoons and mangroves are also exposed to the tides. Mangroves and Wetlands serve as an extremely important buffer-protection zone for the surrounding area during storms and floods.
Another important function of the mangroves is that the fauna of the mangroves uses the mangroves` root-system, above and under water for protection. Mangroves play a very important role in the biodiversity of the sea. A lot of fish, crustaceans and other marine species breed there. Juveniles use the area for protection until they reach a size that is big enough to reduce there natural enemies.
All this marine fauna is a perfect source of food for birds. 345 bird species have been recorded in the park. Many mangrove and lagoon species inhabit the area, white and brown pelicans, ibis, herons, gulls, egrets and sandpipers are all found in good numbers. Many migratory birds use the area between April - May and August – September. The tropical forest of Punta Sal is home to many tropical species such as Keel-Billed Tucan, White Fronted Parrot and the Red Lored Parrot just to name a few.
The park is also home to 68 reptile species, 12 amphibian species, 70 freshwater fish and 49 mammals. Howler and White Faced Monkeys, Jaguars, Ocelots, Peccaries, Agoutis, Caymans, Manatees and Marine Turtles are only a small sample of the rich animal life found in the park.
Many rare and endangered species are found in Janet Kawas, 6 species of marine turtles, dolphins, 5 fish species, 5 reptile species and 12 mammal species are all in danger of extinction or very rare. Species such as the Manatee, Hawksbill and Green Ridley Turtles, Jaguar, Ocelot and Caimans are all close to disappearing from this area. The park is helping immensely to protect, stabilize and save the remaining populations of these species.
No facilities are in the park itself but the park can be visited on a day trip from Tela. Boat trips to the park are very popular, and can be organized through PROLANSATE or tour companies. These trips include a visit to the mangroves and wetlands, a chance to snorkel on the reef and usually a visit to one of the communities in the park. A visit to Punta Sal is a true highlight of Honduras.
For tours check out our private tours.