Parque Nacional Jeanette Kawas (Punta Sal)
The Parque Nacional Jeanette Kawas (prolansate.org), commonly known as Punta Sal, is a wonderfully diverse reserve encompassing mangrove swamps, coastal lagoons, wetlands, coral reef and tropical forest, which together provide habitats for an extraordinary range of flora and fauna. Jeanette Kawas, for whom the reserve is named, was instrumental in obtaining protected status for the land, in the face of intense local opposition; her murder, in 1995, has never been solved.
Lying to the west of Tela, curving along the bay to the headland of Punta Sal (176m), the reserve covers three lagoons: Laguna de los Micos, on the park’s eastern side; Laguna Tisnachí, in the centre; and the oceanfront Laguna El Diamante, on the western side of the headland. More than one hundred species of bird are present, including herons and storks, with seasonal migratory visitors bumping up the numbers; animals found in the reserve include howler and white-faced monkeys, wild pigs, jaguars and, in the marine sections, manatees and marine turtles. Boat trips along the Río Ulúa and the canals running through the reserve offer a superb opportunity to view the wildlife at close quarters. Where the headland curves up to the north, the land rises slightly to Punta Sal; a trail over the point leads to small, pristine beaches at either side.
It’s possible to visit parts of Punta Sal independently – you can rent a boat in Miami to explore the Laguna de los Micos and surrounding area – though most people opt to join an organized tour. You could also hike the scenic 8km from Miami to the headland along the beach, though you should check the security situation first and certainly not attempt it alone.
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