Pico Bonito an eco-travel gem

It is hard to imagine that almost equivalent to the time it takes me to drive from Breakers to George Town then find a parking spot on a typical weekday I can hop aboard a Cayman Airways jet and be white water rafting through the jungled cliffs of Pico Bonito National Park in Honduras. Just recently the enticing US$172 round trip was just too hard to turn down.

The park is one of Central Americas new and coming eco-destinations. A bird watchers paradise that’s home to half of Honduras 700 bird species, including a fantastic biodiversity of other wildlife such as monkeys and jaguars.

My wife was enticed with the jungle trail riding offered by Omega tours. As for myself I am always seeking a new adventure far away from humans and roundabouts. The thought of a few good Honduranian cigars was an extra incentive.

Thirty minutes after leaving Golosón International Airport in La Ceiba we were greeted at the entrance of Las Cascadas Lodge by friendly staff and a generous helping of holas. They opened the huge wooden gate and there before me was Bali, Bora Bora and the Amazon all fused into one breathtaking spectacle. It was beyond expectation – just for a moment I thought I was at the cinema watching Jurassic Park in 3D – minus the dinosaurs.

Amazing waterfalls

The Cascades Lodge is the Ritz of eco-lodges; its huge property is encircled by five amazing waterfalls that cascade down the mountainside. Each fall has its own natural swimming pool where you can float in gin clear, cool mountain water as an assortment of rare birds entertain you with chirps and tweets. Not to be out done, white faced monkeys casually swing among the hanging vines. Watching these mischievous primates is an alluring sight; it takes me back in time to my childhood days when Johnny (Tarzan) Weissmuller was my hero.

Now, here I am a grown man and much like in the dreamy movie sets, I am with my own Jane (better known as my wife) bathing in a lagoon of fresh water as leaves from the rain forest confetti around us. She places a flower in her hair; I drool with mischievous thoughts – no Viagra needed tonight.

During our stay at Cascades Lodge all meals were carefully prepared by Olvin, the lodge’s private chef who specialises in seafood, steaks, curries, and local cuisine of all sorts. During dinner, every corner of the small lounge and dining area is illuminated by candles and colourful spotlights beam through the waterfalls surge. Sleep is easy in the large rooms with canopy beds. With no computer, cell phone or traffic, the sound of the gurgling stream and waterfall are mesmerising, I am hypnotised into an eight hour siesta.

It wasn’t a rooster; it was the song of a toucan that woke us the following morning. After a breakfast of fresh fruit, passion juice and jelly filled tortillas we hiked for 20 minutes to an amazing 40 foot cascade of three falls. The place is magical, a fairy tale one hour from bustling George Town.

The extra mile

General Manager Ryan Thims and his girlfriend, Maggie, go the extra mile that makes La Cascadas Lodge such a special place. From the fresh tropical flowers in your bathroom to the 660 raked, well manicured steps that lead to the upper falls, Ryan and Maggie ensure that you have the next best thing to the Garden of Eden. In fact had this been the Garden of Eden all I can say is that Adam and Eve were foolish to give it all up for an apple.

When full, the lodge caters to no more than eight guests. They have a tiled swimming pool which almost seems superfluous considering there are three natural pools just below the waterfalls. If you need TV the lounge area has a flat screen and large selection of DVD movies. If you need the Internet, bring your laptop or Internet phone – but why in paradise? The well-stocked bar is always open on an honour system, just jot down your selection in the tally book.

At Las Cascadas Lodge personal service is awe-inspiring, for example no meticulous time schedule for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just give Chef Olvin the plan and he’ll have your cuisine ready for you whenever you like. Packed lunches are available for hikes or picnics. Here, hidden in the tropical forest there is never a boring moment, unless you want it that way. Ryan can arrange white water rafting, zip-lining or horseback riding.

Jungle trails

On our second day my wife went riding through jungle trails on a docile young gelding, I chose the rafting experience, which was a first for me. Adorn in helmet, life vest and worry I found my seat on the bow of an inflatable craft ready to defy the river. The two young guides suggested that I extinguish my cigar and take off my shades.

Before I had a chance to consider their advice we cast off. Within moments we hit the first rapids and there went my cigar. The guides thought this rather amusing, even above the noise of the rushing river I could hear them poking fun at me – though I admit the only Spanish word I understood was “Gringo”. This is not a sport for the faint hearted (and it helps if you know how to swim). I was engrossed with the startling beauty of the parks lush rainforest canopy when the guides shouted “left, left, paddle left.”

A douse of white water and a crash against a huge boulder rewarded me with additional barks of “Gringo” – and there went my shades. For an hour, we confronted drops, waterfalls, and narrow passages. Too soon I found myself back on dry land, exhausted, saturated and proud of my accomplishment – I had showed the two friendly guides that I could withstand the river and their jesting. Later, I was informed that my river ride experience was considered a Grade One in white water rafting lingo. Meaning – very small rough areas, might require slight manoeuvring. (Skill Level: Very Basic). Oh well!

Before I trekked back to the lodge I indulged myself to an ice cold Salva Vida (good Honduranian beer) again finding it hard to believe I was but one hour’s CAL flight from Cayman. It had been a long rewarding day, I submerged my over calloused, tired feet into the rivers edge. Small toothless carp fish rewarded me with a free pedicure. They nibble the dead skin off my heel and tickle the toes.

“WOW” this is all too much.

For more information on Las Cascadas Lodge contact Fiona at [email protected] Cayman Airways features regular specials on its weekly flights to Honduras.

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