|arriving to theJEANETTE KAWASnational park|
|amazingCOLORcontrasts, your camera's best friend|
|fantasticINSECTSroam all around|
|rock formations in mid ocean akaFARALLONESin Spanish|
Fortunately for my crew and I, those negative elements which are so detrimental to the health of this park went pretty much unseen when we went on our guided tour with Garifuna Tours during July 2010. However, we did come across a relatively large gathering which had formed at the end point of the tour, on a beautiful half moon beach (they save the best for last) which we sadly found littered by garbage most of which was not put there on purpose; this was mostly garbage carried away by the wind as a result of not having enough trash bins and/or them being filled to capacity - underlying the need for the local conservation authorities to implement adequate sustainable tourism practices.
As far as Garifuna Tours is concerned, this is probably the first tour operator which comes to mind when you think of Tela and the surrounding areas. so with that in mind, we knew exactly where we were headed - straight towards their office which is located in downtown Tela, next to the main square. I could certainly go ahead and recommend this outfit given that they have been operating since the mid 1990s, and thus they possess all the experience, logistics, and personnel necessary to offer good quality service. Proof of this was properly displayed by a decent sized motorized boat which could probably fit 12-15 people comfortably, and a guide who you could tell knew his way around the place, but more importantly, had useful information to share about the park and the fauna we saw on our way. They did have a small glitch in their service, when we were told we could go snorkeling right in front of the half moon beach mentioned earlier, only to provide us with just masks and snorkels for our swim. Apparently they had forgotten that vital piece of equipment - the highly reliable fins. Take this as careful advice... NEVER ever go snorkeling without them, unless the water only goes up to your waist, or you happen to have mutant-like webbed feet. If you do decide to venture out into the deep, you most likely will end up gasping for air while returning to shore faster than you can say the word fin. Bare feet are ok if you are just gonna hang close to shore, but if you really want to see the good stuff, you will need the fins to swim for a while, through the waves and through the currents. After nearly avoiding death and becoming splattered fish feed against the rocks we were satisfied to have seen some nice coral heads and other marine life hanging out in Punta Sal. Although waves do form in the area, these are not large in size so the visibility was pretty decent, all things considered.
Prior to that snorkeling snafu, the trip went very smoothly as we arrived to the PNJK via boat from the port of Tela (bout 30-35mins) and then we began our march, Indian style, through some of the park's winding trails. It's good to have a solid pair of walking shoes at this point, as the terrain gets rough, muddy, and slippery as you make your way into the jungle. You can find an abundance of insects along the way including butterflies, spiders of all sizes, and blue colored dragonflies creating that perfect color contrast amongst the vast greenish hues. One of the trip's highlights has got to be the Howler Monkeys pacing in the trees in front of us, and us waiting from the boat for their formidable calls to make way onto the wide open sea.
Still, one of the park's greatest spectacles has got to be its amazing views, in particular when the trails meet the ocean. Parts of the jungle open up to sandy stretches of land while others rise up against the edge of the rocky cliffs which come in direct contact with the crashing waves as if these extraordinary formations had been pushed upwards from the depths below. Very nice indeed!