Hidden Jungle Treasures

Hidden Jungle Treasures

19 August 2023

We were still in the province of Chiapas. For the next few days we would drive through the far east of Mexico and go into the jungle there. We drove toward the border with Guatemala and visited the Laguna de Montebello.

It is a number of little lakes that all vary in color. Some are brown, but when the sun shines on them the water changes to a more pleasant blue color. 

Laguna de Montebello

We spent the night on the shores of Laguna Tziscoa right along the border with Guatemala. It is even possible to briefly visit the neighboring country without customs control. We walked around Lago Internacional, passing through the border and thus were, if briefly, in the fourth country of this trip!

Laguna Tziscoa
Brief visit to Guatemala

The place along the lake was so beautiful that we had trouble getting ready to leave the next morning. Actually, we had planned to drive the 150 kilometers to Las Guacamayas, but soon we realized that this is an unrealistic task. One village follows the other and so do the topes. We hardly made any progress on the road, which was also full of curves. We needed already more than 2 hours for the first 55 kilometers to the waterfalls Las Nubes.

We decided to spend the night here and continue tomorrow. We found a nice place by the river under trees, surrounded only by the villagers, who all used Saturday for bathing, laundry and barbecue. From here it was another 2 kilometers walk to the waterfalls and we wanted to stretch our legs again. We walked along some banana plantations and were in the middle of the jungle.


A suspension bridge connects this side of the river with the tourist facility at the waterfalls. Shortly behind the suspension bridge begins a 1.5 kilometer long circular hiking trail and of course we did not miss it. We got deeper and deeper into the jungle and climbed some viewpoints on the turquoise river and on some waterfalls. The river has made its way through a tunnel here. We passed a labyrinth and again and again signs with wise sayings lined the trail. Here someone has taken a lot of trouble with poetry.

We reached the waterfalls Las Nubes and these are really very impressive. Not very high but in a horseshoe shape the water falls down and you can get very close to the falls. Also here the water is crystal clear and blue. We hiked back to the car, freed ourselves from the sweat of the day in the river and enjoyed a quiet evening after the locals were then all gone around 6 pm.

Las Nubes waterfall

In principle, this is a free place to spend the night and also a very nice one, but the next morning we experienced for the first time in Mexico that the locals are also aware of this and try to take advantage of it. We do not find it a problem at all to “support” the population in any sense, but this should be done in a reasonable and normal way. During our breakfast we saw some men walking around collecting garbage from the bushes. Good thing, we thought, because we had not seen this before that the population cares about the garbage. Merrily the gentlemen made their rounds until they caught sight of our car and knocked on the door.

If it’s going to cost money, sometimes it’s good if you can’t speak Spanish or at least pretend not to understand, because it quickly became clear to us that they wanted money for their cleaning service. 300 pesos it had to be. We tried to make them understand that it is the trash of their countrymen and that 15 euros is really too much. We finally paid them 5 euros and quickly made our way out and headed for Guacamaya in the middle of the jungle.

Guacamaya is a prime spot for wildlife watching and also the only remaining spot in Mexico where the Guacamaya or yellow-winged macaws can still be seen. Along the river we found a perfect spot in the spacious backyard of a local family and watched the jungle life pass us by. It was very hot and since the best time to see wildlife is around sunset, we decided to make a quiet afternoon of it first. The trees around our car were already well visited by a number of tropical colored birds who apparently found the berries in these trees very attractive.

Not much later it was the turn of the spider monkeys to make their appearance. The owner told us that every evening shortly before sunset they all move in one direction and return the next day at sunrise. It was fantastic to watch them swing from branch to branch and from tree to tree. In places where there was actually a tree too few we could separate the youth from the adults. It was interesting to see that some dared to take a perhaps slightly too big jump and others preferred to take a detour. When even a mother with a child on her back had survived all the obstacles, peace returned and we walked further into the forest in search of other beautiful things.

Among other things, this area is also the habitat of howler monkeys and tucans which we would also like to see. First it was the turn of some scarlet macaws. Unfortunately we did not get to see these colorful parrots in the wild, but the ecocenter where you can also stay in beautiful cabanas had about four of them in a large bird cage. This way, of course, it was possible to get a good look at them, but we couldn’t quite agree with the fact of confining these animals. At least this center does ensure that the macaw population is maintained. At the moment there are 110 pairs living here and that has not always been the case.

Scarlet macaws
Scarlet macaw

From the other shore side we already regularly heard the roar of the howler monkeys and fortunately it did not take long until the howler monkeys on our side answered the roar and at the same time revealed their location. Not far from our camper spot we saw several sitting high in the trees and we listened intently to the indescribable sound they give off. It sounds like they have just knocked back three liters of Coke with the excess gas having to leave the body with a big, long burp.

Howler Monkey
Howler Monkey

The next morning, unlike usual, we decided to get up extra early to increase our chances of having a few more animal encounters. Even before the alarm went off, we were awakened by some tapping on the roof of the car. The birds were obviously already eating breakfast, dropping the occasional berry down. A number of iguanas lay quietly on the waterfront waiting for the first sun rays of the day. It was very nice to see the day come to life in the jungle.

This morning we were even rewarded by seeing some toucans! In a clearing not far from the car, we looked up and happily surprised, a number of toucans flew over and used a tree here as a resting point before flying on. These tropical birds with a bill shaped like a machete and the most beautiful colors live roughly from southern Mexico to Colombia. We hiked for about two hours in pleasant temperatures and were dumbfounded when, upon returning, we counted six toucans right above our car. The plumage of these were darker and different from how we pictured the toucans before us. Apparently there are several variants that we didn’t know about yet.

Keel-billed toucan ((Fischertukan)
Collared Aracari (Halsbandarassari)

We ended the day in a swimming pool in the town of Frontera Corozal, from where we were going to visit the Maya ruins of Yaxchilán by boat very early tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM. In our negotiations for the best price for the boat tour, which turned out not to be very cheap, we managed to stay for free on a small lawn next to the hotel. That made a bit of a difference. We found that relaxing by the side of a pool was also a good idea. Lying on a lounger with the increasingly loud howler monkeys in the background and the occasional cooling dip. A large Canadian camper pulled into the parking lot, which is what we had secretly been hoping for. Not that it had to be a Canadian camper, but tourists with whom we could share the boat and expenses tomorrow. So we met Sam and Alex who were also keen on this and with them we would set off early tomorrow. So now, with peace of mind, we could allow ourselves dinner at the restaurant tonight.

The Mayan ruins of Yaxchilán are still a bit off the main tourist route we will now slowly get on. The Yucatan Peninsula is a popular vacation destination for many westerners and we were now close to Yucatan. So we left at 07:00 to get ahead of the tourist groups and the early rise was well worth it in the end.

The complex can only be reached by water and hence one has to rent a boat that will take you across the river Rio Usumacinta to the entrance in 40 minutes. The Usumacinta River here marks the border between Mexico and Guatemala. The fog still hung mysteriously above the water which only added to the excitement of our visit to this ancient Mayan city.

Boat on the Usumacinta River towards Yaxchilán

What we hoped for was finally confirmed when we arrived. We had this whole Mayan kingdom to ourselves! The four of us walked along the ancient stone buildings. In some we were even allowed to take a look inside, although we soon discovered that we were not completely alone after all, as large spiders and flying bats guarded the fortress. It was not just the impressive structures that fascinated us, but certainly the location and the atmosphere that prevailed here in the middle of the jungle. In the background we heard the roaring sound of howler monkeys and a small breath of wind slowly set the also ancient trees in motion. It was a great privilege to be able to visit this place in this way.

Upon our return to Frontera, we said goodbye to Sam and Alex and received a tip from them that we should definitely visit the Roberto Barrios falls, which we could indeed use as a springboard for visiting the ruins of Palenque. It turned out to be an energy-consuming car ride during which we had certainly raised the average ” driving over speed bumps” again, but were richly rewarded for this at the falls.

The Roberto Barrios falls are a series of a total of five waterfalls with again the clear blue water as we have seen already before. With a towel under our arms, we headed to the water and cooled off comfortably in it. It was even possible to climb from one tier to another. What a beautiful place and that almost all to ourselves.


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