Around El Estor

REFUGIO BOCAS DEL POLOCHIC & RESERVA DE BIOSFERA SIERRA DE LAS MINAS

The Refugio Bocas del Polochic (Bocas del Polochic Wildlife Reserve) covers the delta of the Río Polochic, which provides most of Lago de Izabal's water. A visit here provides great bird-watching and howler monkey observation. The reserve supports more than 300 species of birds - the migration seasons, September to October and April to May, are reportedly fantastic - and many varieties of butterflies and fish. You may well see alligators and, if you're very lucky, glimpse a manatee. Café Portal (p255) can set up early-morning trips with local boatman Benjamín Castillo costing US$60 for two people plus US$13 for each extra person for hours. The reserve is managed by the Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza (% 7949 7130; www.defensores.org.gt in Spanish; cnr 5a Av & 2a Calle, El Estor), whose research station, the Estación Científica Selempim, just south of the Bocas del Polochic reserve, in the Reserva de Biosfera Sierra de las Minas, is open for eco-touristic visits. Contact Defensores' El Estor office for bookings and further information: ask for Luis Pérez, who speaks English. You can get to the station on a local lancha service leaving El Estor at 11am Monday, Wednesday and Saturday (US$7 round-trip, hours each way) or by special hire (US$65 to US$90 for a boatload of up to 12 people), and stay in attractive wood-and-thatch cabanas (per person US$7) or camp (US$4 per person). Meals are available for US$3.50 each or you can use the Estación Científica's kitchen. To explore the reserves you can use canoes free of charge, take boat trips (US$20 to US$32) or walk any of the three well-established trails.

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