In 2004 I visited Honduras and Panama. In Honduras I spent time in Copan seeing Mayan ruins, Pico Bonito shivering in the rain while seeing some rainforest wildlife and beautiful rivers, and Roatan enjoying the spectacular coral.
Rainforest report for Honduras - from the late 1990s
Library of Congress: Honduras
Environmental activism takes root in Honduras
Recommended travel guides on Honduras:
Honduras is a independent country in northern Central America, bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the south west El Salvador, to the south east by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean, to the north by the Gulf of Honduras and the Caribbean Sea. Belize (formerly "British Honduras") is 75 km away across the Bay of Honduras.
The Pre-Columbian city of Copán is a locale in extreme western Honduras, in the Copán Department, near to the Guatemalan border. It is the site of a major Maya kingdom of the Classic era. The ancient kingdom, named Xukpi (Corner-Bundle), flourished from the 5th century AD to the early 9th century, with antecedents going back to at least the 2nd century AD. The Maya civilization decayed, and by the time the Spanish came to Honduras, the once great city-state of Copán was overrun by the jungle.
After the Spanish discovery and subsequent conquest, Honduras became part of Spain's vast empire in the New World. The Spanish ruled Honduras for approximately 3 centuries.
Honduras became a state in the United Provinces of Central America in 1821, and an independent republic with the demise of the union in 1840.
The Football War of 1969 was fought with El Salvador.
After two and a half decades of mostly military rule, a freely elected civilian government came to power in 1982. During the 1980s, Honduras was used by anti-Sandinista contras fighting the Nicaraguan government and an ally to Salvadoran government forces fighting against leftist guerrillas.
Hurricane Mitch devastated the country and wrecked its economy in 1998.
Honduras borders the Caribbean Sea on the north coast and the Pacific Ocean on the south through the Gulf of Fonseca. The climate varies from tropical in the lowlands to temperate in the mountains. The central and southern regions are relatively less humid than the northern coast.
Honduran terrain consists mainly of mountains (80%), but there are narrow plains along the coasts, a large undeveloped lowland jungle La Mosquita region in the northeast called "The Mosquito Coast", and the heavily populated lowland San Pedro Sula valley in the northwest.
Natural resources include timber, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, iron ore, antimony, coal, fish, and hydropower.
The population of Honduras is predominantly of Mestizo descent and Roman Catholic faith, but there are also several Evangelical denominations. Along the northern coast are communities of English speakers who have maintained their culture since Honduras was part of the British Empire. Groups of Garifuna live along the north coast. In the 20th century, Garifunas became part of Honduras' identity through theatrical presentations such as Louvavagu. Asians in Honduras are mostly of Chinese and Japanese descent. Citizens of British descent dwell among the Bay Islands, Roatan, and Útila. Hundreds of families can find their roots in Lebanon or Palestine, in Middle Eastern families called "turcos", those Hondurans with economically powerful interests in manufacturing, finance, retail, and food production. Many others have connections to Spanish, the US (especially New Orleans, Florida and California) and the Cayman Islands.
The Mesoamerican region, the landmass that extends from Southern Mexico to Panama, known for its diversity of species, is often called a "biodiversity hotspot". Similar to other countries in the region, Honduras contains diverse biological resources as well as indigenous cultures. For instance, it is believed that approximately 6,000-8,000 species of vascular plants are distributed across the country. The number of reptiles and amphibians species recorded so far is around 245; birds can be between 650-700 species, and mammal species are close to 110.
In the northeastern region of La Mosquita lies the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a lowland rainforest which provides home to a great diversity of life. Sometimes called "The Last Lungs of Central America", this Reserve was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List in 1982.
Honduras is a poor country where tourism is still undeveloped. Good amenities can be found in cities like Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and La Ceiba but elsewhere conditions can be primitive, especially in the rural areas. Nevertheless a visit is worthwhile, especially to the ancient Maya ruins in Copán, the colonial towns of Gracias and Comayagua and the fantastic Caribbean Coast.
Subtropical in lowlands, temperate in mountains. Natural hazards: extremely susceptible to damaging hurricanes and floods along the Caribbean coast. The small Pacific coast region is susceptible to earthquakes.
Mostly mountains in interior, narrow coastal plains. Has only a short Pacific coast but a long Caribbean shoreline, including the virtually uninhabited eastern Mosquito Coast; Natural hazards: Experiences frequent, but generally mild, earthquakes
Major international airports with daily flights to Miami and New York are in San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa (Toncontin) and Roatan. The main international airlines serving the region are Taca, Copa Airlines and American Airlines. For interior flights check Isleña, Atlantic and Aerolinas Sosa.
Train infrastructure hasn't been developed in the whole region
From Guatemala, El Salvador, or Nicaragua. The condition of the roads was seriously damaged by the Hurricane Mitch and still hasn't been fully repaired.
From Guatemala - Tica Bus and Hedmann Alas From Nicaragua - Tica Bus and King Quality From El Salvador - Tica Bus and King Quality
Boats from Belice come in to the Caribbean ports like Puerto Cortes, but schedules are not regular and cannot be checked through the internet. Cruises to (or that make a stop at) the Bay Islands, however, are somewhat common.
Spanish, English (Bay Islands), Amerindian dialects (lenca, miskitu, garifuna, among others)
Handcraft - Honduras is famous by its lenca ceramic
The Honduran "Plato tipico" is the most famous lunch. It consist of rice, beef meat, fried beans (frijolitos) and fried potato (tajaditas). Delicious to taste.
Another choices are tacos, baleadas and enchiladas, inherited from the neighbour countries.
National beers: Salvavida, Port Royal, Imperial and the newest Bahia Taste Central American rum Flor de Caña (from Nicaragua) Great "licuados" -fruit juices and milk shakes- (mango, piña, watermelon, banana, etc.)
There is a great variety of places to sleep in the main cities. Check Honduras Tips (see external links) to get updated telephones and rates.
Take special care at night. It is common for a foreigner to be robbed on the streets of Tegucigalpa at night. Thieves will stake out areas in front of tourist hotels, especially the Hotel Maya, in Tegucigalpa. Crime is getting higher, especially in tourist areas. The best tip is not to risk oneself walking through the poor parts of any towns, taking public transport and collaborate with burglars if one is being robbed. Life is not valuable in Central America, so give what you have and don't try to be brave.
Ask local people about which places are safe and which are not, and follow their advice.
Drink water from bottles or sealed plastic bags. Malaria and dengue can appear at certain locations (poorest places of the country), so ask locals to get informed. Carry a First Aid kit and have contact phone numbers with you. Hepatitis A is very likely unless extreme precautions are taken with regard to water and raw foods. Do not forget ice and brushing your teeth are an easy means of contracting Hepatitis A. It is highly recommended to receive Hepatitis vaccinations prior to travel in Honduras.
Follow the golden rule by do not be duped by the "culture of need". The Hondurans are very friendly but many are poor and uneducated. Demonstrate grace and respect but maintain your awareness.
People from Honduras are friendly. English is hardly spoken when leaving the biggest town, so carrying a Spanish dictionary would be a good tip.
Conservation news from Honduras:
62M ha of Latin American forests cleared for agriculture since 2001
Over 62 million hectares (240,000 square miles) of forest across Latin America — an area roughly the size of Texas or the United Kingdom — were cleared for new croplands and pastureland between 2001 and 2013, find a study published in Environmental Research Letters.
Facing Future Storms: Poor Honduran Communities Unite to Protect Watersheds and Nature
There hasn't been much good news out of Honduras recently. One of the poorest Latin American nations, it has been afflicted by a series of natural and political calamities. There is, however, another Honduras, a place where -- despite adversity -- small, rural communities are getting on with the business of living sustainably and dealing effectively with the vagaries of extreme weather, all on a shoestring budget.
Killings of environmental activists jumped by 20 percent last year
The assassination, murder, and extrajudicial killing of environmental activists rose by 20 percent last year, according to a new grim report by Global Witness. The organization documented 116 killings in 2014 across 17 countries with the highest number in Brazil, which saw 29 environmental and land defenders killed.
Discovery of 'Lost City' spurs conservation pledge
Earlier this month, National Geographic made big news: the discovery of what it called a 'lost city' below the thick jungles of Honduras. While the coverage has led to scientists crying sensationalism, it also resulted this week in a commitment of protection by the Honduras President, Juan Orlando HernÃ¡ndez, for a long-neglected portion of the country.
Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis
Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.
'Exciting implications' for conservation: new technology brings the lab to the field
Times have changed, and technological advancements have scaled down scientific equipment in terms of both size and cost. Among them are the tools and procedures needed to conduct molecular genetic analysis. A study published this week explored the potential applications of this new technology, and found that it allows both researchers and novices alike to analyze DNA in the field easily, cheaply, and effectively.
A new face for palm oil? How a small co-op is changing the industry in Honduras
Expanding oil palm plantations are among the top reasons for deforestation globally, along with cattle ranching, timber, and soy. However, a small palm oil production outfit recently became the first cooperative in the world to achieve Rainforest Alliance certification for sustainable growth of African palms, employing a number of innovations to ensure the prosperity of both forests and local communities.
Cocaine: the new face of deforestation in Central America
In 2006, Mexico intensified its security strategy, forming an inhospitable environment for drug trafficking organizations (also known as DTOs) within the nation. The drug cartels responded by creating new trade routes along the border of Guatemala and Honduras. Soon shipments of cocaine from South America began to flow through the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC). This multi-national swathe of forest, encompassing several national parks and protected areas, was originally created to protect endangered species, such as Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) and jaguar (Panthera onca), as well as the world's second largest coral reef. Today, its future hinges on the world's drug producers and consumers.
Camera-traps reveal surprising mammals at remote site in Honduras (photos)
A camera trap survey along the Sikre River in Honduras has discovered that the region is home to a menagerie of rare mammals, including giant anteaters. The survey, published in mongabay.com's open access journal, Tropical Conservation Science, recorded five cat species in 70 square kilometers.
Mesoamerican Reef needs more local support, says report
From massive hotel development through the agriculture industry, humans are destroying the second largest barrier reef in the world: the Mesoamerican Reef. Although global climate change and its effects on reefs via warming and acidification of coastal waters have made recent headlines, local human activities may destroy certain ecosystems before climate change has a chance to do it. The harmful effects of mining, agriculture, commercial development, and fishing in coastal regions have already damaged more than two-thirds of reefs across the Caribbean, in addition to worsening the negative effects of climate change.
Indigenous people of Honduras granted one million hectares of rainforest
One-hundred and fifty years after a treaty with England granted the Miskito people rights over their land--a treaty which was never fully respected--the government of Honduras has officially handed over nearly a million hectares (970,000 hectares) of tropical forest along the Caribbean Coast to the indigenous people. The Miskito are found along the eastern coast of both Honduras and Nicaragua and number around 200,000.
Photo: Stunning new pit-viper discovered in Honduras
A stunning new species of pit-viper has been discovered in the cloud forest of Honduras. The venomous snake is described in the journal ZooKeys.
First strike: nearly 200 illegal loggers arrested in massive sting across 12 countries
One-hundred-and-ninety-seven illegal loggers across a dozen Central and South American countries have been arrested during INTERPOL's first strike against widespread forestry crime. INTERPOL, or The International Criminal Police Organization, worked with local police forces to take a first crack at illegal logging. In all the effort, known as Operation Lead, resulted in the seizure of 50,000 cubic meters of wood worth around $8 million.
Amphibian, tapir paradise in Honduras being ravaged by illegal deforestation
Located in a mountainous area near the border with Guatemala, Cusuco National Park in Honduras is recognized by researchers as a critical refuge for endangered amphibians in a country that has suffered from widespread deforestation. But while the park largely escaped the devastation that has affected other protected areas in Honduras, the situation seems to be changing: since 2010 there has been a sharp increase in deforestation. Poachers, small farmers, and cattle ranchers are moving into the park using a network of research trails and camps established by Operation Wallacea, a British conservation science NGO.
Dry forests disappearing faster than rainforests in Latin America
Countries across Latin America lost 78,000 square kilometers of subtropical and tropical dry broadleaf forests between 2001 and 2010, according to a new satellite-based assessment published in the journal Biotropica.
Earth systems disruption: Does 2011 indicate the "new normal" of climate chaos and conflict?
The year 2011 has presented the world with a shocking increase in irregular weather and disasters linked to climate change. Just as the 2007 "big melt" of summer arctic sea ice sent scientists and environmentalists scrambling to re-evaluate the severity of climate change, so have recent events forced major revisions and updates in climate science.
Honduras protects sharks in all its waters
Endangered sharks are finding more sanctuaries. Honduras has announced that commercial shark fishing will be banned from its 92,665 square miles (240,000 square kilometers) of national waters. Honduras says the ban, which follows a moratorium on shark fishing, will bring in tourism revenue and preserve the marine environment.
Rainforests in Sumatra, Honduras added to UN's danger list
Rainforests in Honduras and on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have been added to the U.N.'s "danger" list due to illegal logging, encroachment, and road contruction, reports UNESCO.
Inga alley cropping: a sustainable alternative to slash and burn agriculture
It has been estimated that as many as 300 million farmers in tropical countries may take part in slash and burn agriculture. A practice that is environmentally destructive and ultimately unstable. However, research funded by the EEC and carried out in Costa Rica in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Mike Hands offers hope that it is possible to farm more successfully and sustainably in these tropical regions.
Felix Death Toll Washes Up on Coastline
Nicaraguan and Honduran officials have announced that upwards of 100 people are confirmed dead, and another 120 still unaccounted for after Hurricane Felix made landfall earlier this week.
Forest fires burn in Central America
Hundreds of fires are burning across Central America according to NASA satellite images and reports from the ground. Fires have been detected in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Illegal timber from Honduras reaching the United States
U.S. companies are unknowingly importing illegal Honduran wood, contributing to deforestation, corruption and poverty in the Latin American country, according to a yearlong undercover investigation by the Center for International Policy and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
Honduras wins aid pact tied to human rights, anti-corruption efforts
Last month Honduras became to second country to receive aid under the controlversial Millennium Challenge Account program when it signed a five-year $215 million funding deal. The Millennium Challenge Account gives grants to countries committed to respecting the rule of law and reducing corruption.
Honduran priest recognized as environmental hero with $125,000 award
On April 18th, 2005, Father JosÃ© AndrÃ©s Tamayo Cortez was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to preserve and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives an award of $125,000, the largest of its kind.
The Next Costa Rica? Environmental activism takes root in Honduras
With its biodiversity, rich history, beautiful beaches, and stunning reefs, some believe Honduras could be the ecotourism hotspot in Central America. However, between growing gang violence linked to the drug trade in the United States and conflicts between developers and local communities, the country still faces many challenges in becoming the next Costa Rica. Special correspondent Tina Butler takes a look at changing attitudes about the environment in one of Central America's poorest countries.