This is kind of a long way of describing one of the top birding hotspots in Central America. The Honduran Emerald Hummingbird Wildlife Refuge is out of the regular tourist path. Yet, this is one of the must visit areas in Central America if you are a serious birder. The reason is simple, one little hummingbird. This hummingbird is native to Honduras and can only be seen in Honduras. Best of all, it can always be seen at the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Colibri Esmeralda Hondureño. Many birders embark on quixotic quests to faraway places with the hope of seeing a particular species. Usually there are no guarantees that you will see spot them. Here you will see both the Honduran Emerald Hummingbird and the White Bellied Wren!
Getting to the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Colibri Esmeralda Hondureño
The Refugio de Vida Silvestre Colibri Esmeralda Hondureño is in the Aguan Valley. The closest city and accommodations are in the city of Olanchito, in the department of Yoro. You can reach this city from la Ceiba, by taking the CA13 highway east towards Trujillo. At approximately 100 km. east of La Ceiba you will arrive at the city of Saba. This city is a junction town. Here you can continue east towards Trujillo or turn West and head up the Aguan Valley. This valley is one of the most productive agricultural areas in Central America. The Standard Fruit Company still has a major operation here. They have significant banana plantations where they produce and export under the “Dole” brand. Total travel time between La Ceiba and Olanchito is under 2 ½ hours if you are in a private vehicle.
The unique location of this valley, on the backside of the Nombre de Dios Mountains provides a very dry habitat where a variety of cactus plants thrive. Biologists call it a very dry tropical forest. It is precisely this variety of cactus plants that provide the perfect habitat for the Honduran Emerald Hummingbird. It thrives on the cactus flowers. Its favorite is one called “pie de niño” or “child’s foot” in English.
Hire the Top Professionals to Get you There!
The site has a nice visitors center where you can hire a local guide. As a matter of fact, they have a bunk room where you can spend the night at reasonable prices. The drawback is that you would be in an isolated location and will need to bring all your food with yourself. The visitors center is located just under 2 km. off the main road leading west of Olanchito towards to the towns of Jocon and Yoro. The detour is clearly marked. You must pre-arrange your visit to the site. This because it is within a military facility and you will require a special authorization to enter the site. To arrange this, I suggest you contact one of the specialty birding tour operators in Honduras.
I recommend Go Bird Honduras and Beaks and Peaks as two of your top alternatives. They will help you get the proper authorization, as well as provide the transportation to the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Colibri Esmeralda Hondureño.
If you plan on spending the night in Olanchito, make sure that you book your hotel in advance. The better hotels in town tend to be fill every night. Try the Hotel Olanchito or the Hotel Beverly, which are the two top alternatives in town. For dinner, try El Meson Casablanca. This is one block from Central Park and has an interesting décor, a hodgepodge or old artifacts that date to the early arrival of the banana company to Olanchito. The setting is very pleasant, the food is good. Service can be a bit slow, but then again, sit down and enjoy the ambiance while you wait for your food. A good cold beer will help make the wait less noticeable!