This past week I was in Marcovia, Choluteca, on the Pacific or Southern Coast of Honduras. I was there on an invitation from Swisscontact, with a contribution of Global Affairs Canada. They are assisting local communities so that they can join the tourism value chain. The truth is that most people think there is not much to do in or around the cities of Choluteca and San Lorenzo. They are so wrong! There are many lovely colonial towns to visit. Best of all, some of the best-preserved mangrove forests in Central America´s Pacific Coast are right here, in the departments of Choluteca and Valle.
I was specifically on a mission to visit the community of Playa El Venado. It is on the coast of Marcovia, one of the municipalities in the department of Choluteca. This is a small community of only 37 families. So, you will ask, what was I doing visiting this small community? I was there to live the experience of releasing baby turtles in Honduras! This community has a Center for the investigation and conservation of turtles. They run a project which protects and releases over 10,000 turtle hatchlings per year!
They are about 50 minutes from downtown Choluteca. Access was very easy, most of the route was on an asphalt highway. The last quarter of the trip was on a dirt road that was in very good shape. Even though most of the area suffered the inclemency of weather with floods only three weeks earlier, there were no real signs of it throughout the route. We arrived at the Community Center at Playa El Venado and were greeted by Don Jorge Hernandez, a community leader at Playa El Venado. He was in the company of Ruben Maldonado, who is a volunteer at the center.
It was in the late afternoon, and we had to depart by 5 pm to the turtle nursery for the experience. What a great experience it was! A spectacular sunset enhanced the activity and made it a day to cherish forever! Although we were close enough to go back to Choluteca for the night, we knew that the community had some limited facilities for tourists. Thus, we decided to spend the night at Playa El Venado and live the full experience. We started with a great dinner, with fresh fish, fried plantains and tortillas. I must say that the food was excellent and service good. Perhaps my only complaint was the lack of proper silverware. Plastic forks just don´t cut it for me! After dinner, we had a chance to enjoy a lovely full moon.
After dinner, we got back in the car and were led to the rooms. To be honest, we all were somewhat doubtful of the accommodations. What can you expect in a remote village with only 37 families living in it? We had been told that there was air-conditioning in the rooms. But were more concerned that they would be clean, private, and bugless!
It turned out to be a nice, cozy setting with clean rooms and a private bath. The air conditioning was indeed there and worked well! The beds were comfortable and the linen clean. Towels were brand new large bath towels that were sparkling white! Of course, there was no hot water, but heck, who needs hot water in the hot dry climate you experience in Southern Honduras? Cold water is fresh but not cold at all! The facility is owned by several individuals from the community of Playa El Venado.
I slept like a baby throughout the night. I confess that I could have stayed in bed for a couple of more hours. But we had scheduled a tour of the mangroves, and departure time had to fit the hours of high tide. In the Pacific Coast of Central America, the difference between high and low tides can be as much as 4 or 5 feet. That makes navigating mangrove canals difficult to impossible during low tides. Departure time was set at 5 am, which meant getting up before then. But then, that is another story all together!
But back to the facilities at Playa El Venado. It turns out they have a total of 4 rooms with two queen beds, private bathroom, TV and air conditioning. In addition, they have a dorm facility without air conditioning, but with fans. The lodge goes by the name of Cabañas Mar del Pacifico. The shared bathroom facilities at the dorm could use some upgrading, but they have both toilets and showers. They also have a meeting room with a capacity of 40 persons. The meeting room has air conditioning but lacks internet connectivity. The community is committed to providing good service and the facilities are kept clean all of time. I had a chance to tour all the facility and found it way above my expectations.
Telephone service is available if you are connected to the Tigo cell phone network in Honduras. They do not yet have a web page to promote their services, but they do have a Facebook page that has good information. There you can even find the local numbers to call and make a reservation. As you can expect, the weekends during the turtle hatching season are very busy. But they seldom have guests during the week. I thoroughly recommend a visit to Playa Venado. You will love the tours, the food and the facilities there. But above all, you will appreciate the friendly, humble heart of rural Hondurans. You will also want to help with their conservation efforts.
Are you looking for a place to volunteer work and make a difference protecting nature? The community at Playa El Venado is a great alternative. There is much work to be done. It is also a very safe location. You are only a two and half hours from Tegucigalpa, and three from San Salvador in El Salvador. Managua, Nicaragua is about 3 ½ hours away. You can easily combine your volunteer efforts with the explorer within you! I fully recommend a visit to Playa El Venado. You will love the community, the conservation efforts and the interaction with baby turtles if you are lucky to be there during the hatching season.
The double rooms with A/C are worth less that $35 US dollars. A true bargain. Food is available at very good rates. You will enjoy the fresh seafood. Oh, I almost forgot! Cashews, or Marañones as they are called in Spanish are native to this area. If you happen to love cashews, just like I do, you will feel you are in paradise during the months of March and April, when the main cashew season is in full swing!