Visit the Manatee Sanctuary at Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge
Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge is one of the first protected areas within Honduras. It is west of La Ceiba, within the municipalities of El Porvenir, San Francisco and La Masica. Access is through the community of La Union, which is part of the municipality of El Porvenir.
Getting there is relatively easy. You can go to the bus terminal in La Ceiba at the San Jose Market and take a bus to La Union. The trip should take less than an hour. If you are driving your own car, and coming from La Ceiba, then take the CA13 highway towards the west. At approximately km 168 you will see a paved detour to your right, just before you reach the Rio Perla Bridge. Take a right here and continue down the road until you cross some railroad tracks. Park your car there. Then buy your tickets for the train that will take you into the refuge. The earlier you are there, the better. A trip to Cuero y Salado is always a great experience!
The first train departs at 7:00 a.m. and after that is is roughly every hour. The ride, which is about a 30 minute trip, will take you through cattle farms and coconut plantations. You will arrive at visitor’s center at the community of Salado Barra. Here you will pay the entrance fee to the park and arrange for your tour. If you prefer to be picked up at your hotel and have a tour company arrange the visit for you, consider Reservaciones La Ceiba. They are a community owned tour operator. Their tour includes a visit to a Casaba factory. There, you will learn the secrets of how to make this traditional Garifuna food that is one of the main staples to their diet. It is a type of cracker that goes wonderfully well with dips and ceviche!
There are different ways of exploring Cuero y Salado. Most locals like the tour on a motor boat that will take you through the estuaries and mangrove canals. Personally, I much prefer the canoes that allow me to sneak up on the monkeys that thrive in the mangrove forests. There are two species of monkeys that live in the reserve: howler monkeys and capuchin or white faced monkeys. You can usually hear the howler monkeys from afar. They will guide you to where they are! There is a small hostel facility on premises where you can overnight at Cuero y Salado.
In addition to the monkeys, the pride of the refuge is the Antillean manatee. This species is considered endangered and thrives in the park. They are however quite shy and hard to see! Alligators and crocodiles are abundant throughout the estuaries. There is also a large variety of marine birds that make of Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge a birders paradise. As you see, there are many things to do in Cuero y Salado!
Make sure you bring a hat and sun block. You as you will be in the sun and can easily get a serious sunburn! Also, do not forget your camera and a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. Keep in mind that you will need cash to pay for your train ride, park entrance, guide fee, and any food. Don’t forget to bring enough cash with you!