The RÍO PLÁTANO BIOSPHERE RESERVE is the most significant nature reserve in Honduras, sheltering an estimated eighty percent of all the country’s animal species. Visitors usually come to experience the rare tropical rainforest, but the reserve’s boundaries – which stretch from the Caribbean in the north to the Montañas de Punta Piedra in the west and the Río Patuca in the south – also encompass huge expanses of coastal wetlands and flat savanna grasslands. Sadly, even its World Heritage status hasn’t prevented extensive destruction at the hands of settlers: up to 60 percent of forest cover on the outer edges of the reserve has disappeared in the last three decades.
To get the most out of the park you should head for the small Pech and Miskito village of Las Marías, where plenty of prospective guides are available to help you explore the river and surrounding jungle for US$10–15 a day. One pleasant, if rather wet, trip you can make is by pipante (pole-propelled canoe), five hours upstream to rock petroglyphs at Walpaulban Sirpi, carved by an unknown people – these are more or less at the heart of the reserve. The journey itself is the main attraction, along channels too shallow for motorized boats to pass; in sections you’ll be required to leave the boat and make your way through the undergrowth. Pipantes require three guides each, but carry only two passengers and cost around US$30 (excluding guides).