The "Reserva de la Humanidad y Biosfera del Rio Platano" was declared in 1980 by the Honduran government. The reserve is situated in the North East of Honduras and covers 5251 km². The Reserve is one of the largest areas of forest remaining in Honduras. The reserve has a great bio-diversity of eco-systems, vast mangrove swamps, pine forests, savannas, tropical rain forests, and elffin forest. These areas are dissected by numerous rivers which ultimately flow into the Caribbean Sea. In 1980 UNESCO designated Rio Platano a world heritage site.
Four indigenous groups inhabit the Rio Platano, Garifuna, Miskito, Pech, and Sumo (Tawahka). Garifunas are a mix of African and Carribean Indian, The Miskito are a mix of Garifuna and Mosquita Indians (Pech and Tawanka ) while Pech and Tawahka communities remain living there traditional lifestyles in remote regions with in the Biosphere.
This region has been occupied by humans for a long time. Over 80 archaeological sites are located in the biosphere. This includes mysterious petroglyphs carved into large boulders which are found along many rivers edges. The village Las Crucitas del Río Aner in the reserve's south-east is established over what is believed to be one of the largest and most impressive archaeological sites in the biosphere. Little is known about these archaeological sites and the unknown culture that made them. Local legends tell of the existence of a great ancient city in the area called "Ciudad Blanca". This city may still be waiting to be discovered in the Biosphere. Many archaeologists believe that this unknown culture played an important role between the ancient cultures of North and South America.
25% of the biosphere is a flat coastal plain made up of large areas of mangroves, the largest two areas being found around the large coastal lagoons of Brus (120 km²) and Ibans (63 km²) coastal savannas and wetlands that are found behind numerous long stretchs of beach make up the rest of this region.
About 75% of the Biosphere is mountainous with many steep ridges, Pico Morrañanga reaches 1500 m and Punta de Piedra 1326 m. Amazing geological formations are found in the inland region, such as the exposed El Viejo or Pico de Dama. Cascading waterfalls are found regurarly, the highest (100-150 m) being the Cascada del Mirador in the headwaters of the Cuyamel River. This large area mainly consists of tropical rainforest.
Tropical rainforests are broadleaf forests situated in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Tropical rainforests are highly endangered habitats all over the world, due to deforestation and uncontrolled development. Tropical rainforests have the highest biodiversity of all habitats on earth, being home to millions of different and many still undiscovered species. The genetic pool is one of the most important natural resources present on earth, winning more value every day due to the advancing biotechnology. Scientists have found on one hectare of rainforest some 200 different tree and shrub species. On one big rainforest tree biologists counted 54
species of ants, more than in the whole of England.
One of the secrets of the biodiversity of tropical rainforests is the appearance of a vertical organization of species. Up to five different levels of plants, including the forest canopy, are found. Each level is formed by specific species, and is populated by different animals.
In the higher regions pine and low lying cloudforest can be found, also in some of the high exposed regions small areas of rare elfin forest exist. The vegetation of the elfin forest has adapted to the poor soils and the strong carribean trade winds. Trees with some 100 years of age, that are normally found up to 40 mts tall in the lower parts of the biosphere, here only reach 3 to 5 meters. The trees are covered under a thick layer of mosses and lichens.
Some of the tree species found growing in the reserve include, Balsa, Ceiba, Guayacan, Mahogany, Rosewood, Sapodilla, Santa Maria, Cedar and Pine. It has been proven that the biosphere contains more tree species per square hectare than the Amazon jungle. A quite amazing fact.
The variety of ecosystems in the biosphere provides habitats for many endangered and rare species. The coastal and river areas are home to Manatees, Southern River Otters, Leather Back and Green Sea Turtles and Caiman. The forested areas are home to Baird's tapir; Jaguar, Ocelot, Margay Cat, Jaguarundi, Cougar, Collared and White- lipped Peccaries, White-faced, Howler and Spider Monkeys, White Tailed Deer, Two and Three Toed Sloth and Giant Anteaters just to name a few. The biosphere contains the largest populations in Honduras of most of these endangered species. The protection of the reserve is of great importance to the survival of each of these species.
Over 375 bird species are found in the biosphere. The biosphere is also visited by many migratory species. And is of great importance for them. Many rare species of birds that are found in the region can not be seen in other parts of the country. Species such as the Harpy Eagle, Aplomado Falcon, Great Green and Scarlet Macaws, Green and Rufous Kingfisher, Chestnut-Mandible Toucan, Yellow Eared Toucanet, Jabiru and the Black and White Hawk Eagle. Again the protection of the biosphere is of great importance to the survival of each of these species.
Visiting the Rio Platano Biosphere is an unforgetable experience, It is possible to visit this wonderful area independently but it is very difficult due to the areas remoteness and limited facilities. In a few of the communities Palacios, Las Marias, Playitas and Kuri local guides can be organised as can accommodation. The best obition for visiting the area is with a Tour Operator, the better companies know this area extremely well, and put together a once in a lifetime experience.
The natural resources of the Rio Platano Biosphere are under pressure, from logging of the areas valueable timber, from settlers using slash and burn agriculture and the expansion of cattle farming in the areas surrouding the biospheres core zone. Also as the local populations grow, more and more alternative, sustanible sources of income are needed. Eco Tourism is such an alternative. By visiting the biosphere you are contributing to the local economy, this is very important as the main source of income for these local communities are logging or slash and burn agriculture.
By visiting this area you play an important role, you are helping to protect and save this unique and beatiuful area and all the species that live here.