Las Guacamayas Biological Research Station (tel. 7867-5048 or 5699-3669) is owned by ProPetén and welcomes visitors. The biological station sits amid verdant jungle on the shores of the Río San Pedro, a 20-minute boat ride from the village of Paso Caballos. It is one of the best places in Petén to combine wildlife-viewing and rainforest trekking while staying in relative comfort, offering easy access to the ruins of Waka’ and the surrounding forests. The current facility is the second incarnation of the biological station; the first was burned to the ground by angry villagers from Paso Caballos in the 1990s. ProPetén has since worked on strengthening ties to local communities and educating them about conservation.
The best time to visit for a glimpse at nesting macaws is during February and March.There are basic dorm rooms with somewhat stiff mattresses, shared bath, mosquito netting, and screened-in rooms accommodating up to 20 people. For extended stays, try packing a sleeping pad for extra cushioning. Nice views of the river and a series of nature trails round out the list of amenities. The shortest trail leads to an observation tower, where you have a sweeping view of the Río San Pedro and the wetlands of Laguna del Tigre National Park west to the foothills of the Sierra del Lacandón. There is a six-kilometer-long network of trails.
In the evening, you can go out on the river in search of crocodiles with the station’s staff. Bird-watching is available in the mornings. There are observation platforms inside the site of Waka’ where the scarlet macaw project operates. The staff may offer photo safaris whereby you can watch and photograph macaws from a platform sometime in the near future. The best time to visit for a glimpse at nesting macaws is during February and March, though the macaws can usually be seen between November and April.
A two-day, three-night package including meals, accommodation, round-trip transport from Flores, bird-watching, and a tour of El Perú costs about $300 each for two people. There are different itineraries, all with a certain amount of flexibility, which can be tailored to particular interests such as archaeology or bird-watching, for example. Some travelers extend their stay to include a hike to the impressive cliffs of Buena Vista, which stand out from the surrounding jungle and afford wonderful views from the top.
Volunteers are also welcome at the biological station. During one of my last visits, two Spanish women were busy on a two-week tour of duty recollecting animal droppings for scientific investigation as to the health of local populations of certain species. Volunteers provide their own food and pay an average of $10 per day. The station prefers a two-week minimum commitment. Other activities you may be asked to assist with include wildlife monitoring and trail building and maintenance.
Access to the park and, more specifically, Waka’, is via a dirt road heading northwest from Flores to the village of Paso Caballos (two hours). From there, it’s a 20-minute motorboat ride up the Río Sacluc to the biological station and another five minutes to the entrance to Waka’.
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Guatemala.