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Punta Izopo National Park

Located at the Honduran north coast next to the coastal town of Tela, Punta Izopo National Park was declared Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention in 1996. Since that time it has been protected and has gained more and more attention. The area is composed of mangrove forests, lagoons and coastal canals, tropical rainforest, swampy grasslands, and rivers. Due to this variety of ecosystems, the national park is home to a great number of animals. Various reptile species which are in danger of extinction in Honduras live in the park, among them the American crocodile and four species of ocean turtles: the loggerhead sea turtle, the green sea turtle, the hawksbill sea turtle and the leatherback sea turtle. A tour to Punta Izopo includes kayaking through the maze of mangrove creeks and rivers. In this way you can silently sneak up on waterbirds and other animals without disturbing the natural beauty.


Location

Punta Izopo National Park is located at the Honduran north coast, on the eastern end of the bay of Tela. Its name derives from a small mountain, which dominates the area – Mount Izopo. Punta Izopo has similar ecosystems and wildlife to Punta Sal, yet it is far less visited. In a maze of canals and lagoons sheltered by mangroves, the rivers Plátano and Hicaque empty into the Caribbean Sea. The swamps and waterways are great for bird watching.


 

Size and Foundation

Punta Izopo is the second largest protected area in Tela Bay, covering 112 km², of which about half is a buffer zone and half is supposedly untouchable nuclear zone. In 1996, Punta Izopo was declared Wetland of International Importance No. 812 by the Ramsar Convention. Since that time it has been protected and has gained more and more attention.


 

Natural environment and Importance

The area is composed of various types of ecosystems. Mangrove forests, formed by three species of mangroves: red mangrove, white mangrove and black mangrove, reside on the banks of the stream mouths. There are lagoons and coastal canals with saltwater from the Caribbean, and also with fresh water. Besides, tropical rainforest, swampy grasslands with grasses, palms and bushes, as well as rivers can be found here.

Punta Izopo is one out of ten prior-ranking protected areas for the conservation of biodiversity in Honduras. Due to its proximity to other, also prior-ranking protected areas, such as Lancetilla Botanical Gardens, Jeanette Kawas National Park, Pico Bonito National Park and Cuero & Salado Wildlife Reserve it is vitally important in the region. Great importance is also attached to Punta Izopo for the conservation of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System and the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. The Foundation for the protection of Lancetilla, Punta Sal and Texiguat (PROLANSATE) with its head office in Tela, manages the national park

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.

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 their natural enemies.


 

Wildlife

Due to its variety of ecosystems, the Punta Izopo National Park is home to a great number of animals. There are about 550 species of vertebrates and nearly 400 species of invertebrates. Approximately 70 freshwater fish species inhabit the Tela Bay, among them Allis Shad, Snook, and various types of catfish. Populations of these fish species depend on mangrove areas, such as the Hicaque and the Plátano Lagoons, for their reproduction and alimentation. Various reptile species which are in danger of extinction in Honduras live in the park, among them the American crocodile, the green iguana, the black iguana, the boa constrictor, the Loxocemus bicolor and four species of ocean turtles: the loggerhead sea turtle, the green sea turtle, the hawksbill sea turtle and the leatherback sea turtle. Along the northern coast of Honduras exists a great population of manatees, spreading to the Cuero & Salado Wildlife Reserve next to La Ceiba and including the Punta Izopo National Park. Other mammals, that inhabit the area, are the howler monkey and the white-headed capuchin. The group of birds is the most conspicuous and numerically the largest in Punta Izopo. Among the 345 species stick out the Jabiru, the Roseate spoonbill, the White Ibis, the mallard, the black tern, the pelican, the toucan and various species of herons, hummingbirds, parrots and parakeets.


 

Activities

The national park is accessible by land and by the sea. As the park is located just a few kilometres from the coastal town of Tela, it can be visited on a day trip. Various tour operators organize excursions including kayaking through the maze of mangrove creeks and rivers that make up the Río Plátano and the Río Hicaque Lagoon, located in the core zone of the Park. The kayak is the perfect means of transport, because it offers a great chance to silently sneak up on waterbirds and other animals without disturbing the natural beauty. It’s an amazing experience of this incredible atmosphere, the sights and sounds of the tropics. Afterwards you can visit the Garifuna beach of Triunfo de la Cruz, where the Spanish Conquistador Cristobal de Olid first disembarked on his quest to conquer Honduras, following orders of Hernan Cortes. At this beautiful beach you can enjoy the delicious Garifuna food, swim and relax.


 

Accommodation / Visiting times

There aren’t any facilities in the park itself, but it can be visited on a day-trip from Tela. Tours are possible year-round, if weather conditions permit. During March and April you can observe many birds in courtship, copulation and nest building.


 

Private tours

Private tours to Punta Izopo National Park:

Multisport
Best of mainland Honduras