Rio Dulce & Quiriguá Ruins

Mar 02, 2018 - National Geographic Quest

What an incredible day!   We began our day quite early, getting ready for a full day of boatrides, riparian forests, a couple of small riverside villages and inland ruins.  Directly after breakfast we embarked our small riverboats or “pangas” to ride up the Rio Dulce (Sweet River) on the eastern coast of Guatemala.  Bird watchers took the first couple of pangas, followed by the photography-oriented group and those interested in the general knowledge took the last four.  Out we went from our ship to the Atlantic Ocean on a 45-minute ride to reach the mouth of the river, where we got our first taste of local diversity, the town of Livingston.  Incredibly picturesque it depicted the fishing life to perfection.  Up the river we went to see the most amazing tall canyon walls, the Vaca caves and a ride into the Chocon Machacas River basin in search of the always elusive manatee.  As we rode up the waterway, we got incredible sightings of brown pelicans, great egrets, great blue herons, Neotropical cormorants, green iguanas, American coots, purple gallinules, northern jacanas, and many other riverside bird species. 

We finished our boat ride at “Nana Juana’s” restaurant for an early lunch and right after we took small 24-seater vans to reach our destination the Archeological Park and Ruins of Quiriguá.  This city was a subordinate of the City of Copan (in Honduras), and both held a conflict over the domain of the commercial trade through the Motagua River; in 738 the king (emperor) of Quiriguá, captured the Copan’s king, killed him and declared independence for his city and took over the commercial routes.  Discovered in 1840, the ruins were declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1981.  This city belongs to the Mayan classical period (250 -900), and is an icon of the beauty of the Mayan work of art, the stone monuments, or stelae, represented the most important leaders and were made without the use of metal tools. 

After our very interesting visit and photo opportunity in the ruins, we headed back to our trusty buses and headed back home, the National Geographic Quest.  Nevertheless, the most memorable happening of the day, was the Tourism police helping us skip the 3 ½-mile long standing traffic line.  What an incredible day!

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About the Author

Isabel Salas Vindas


Isa Salas is a Costa Rica born biologist, who loves her country and teaching about it.  Known for her professionalism and experience in the field of animal behavior, Isa earned her master's degree in biology from the University of Costa Rica, where she also engaged in research for the chemistry and biology departments. Isa has carried out specialized projects on mantled howler monkeys for Costa Rica’s National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio), and is one of the country’s experts on howler monkey sexual and social behavior. 

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