La Mosquitia Primal Jungle
Imagine yourself in a world that has defied the passage of time. Imagine yourself in the primal jungle. Look over there, where a young Pesch Indian boy is deftly skidding across the waters of rivers and rapids on a rich mahogany pipante (a dugout canoe) surrounded by the cries of wild and wonderful creatures. See the carved petroglyphs, standing tall and mysterious, vestiges of times long past. Welcome to the world of La Mosquitia.
The Land of La Mosquitia
La Mosquitia is a vast and vibrant wilderness that lies along the eastern edge of Honduras and well into the neighboring country of Nicaragua. It is renowned as the largest and most diverse wilderness and jungle of all of Central America. It is home to just about any ecosystem that you can imagine: mangroves, swamps, lagoons, rivers, savannas and tropical rainforest. It is peopled by five unique ethnic groups: the Miskito, Tawahka, Pesch, Garifuna and Ladino and houses over 200 different archeological sites, including the legendary Ciudad Blanca, or “White City” of local myths and legends.
Beneath the canopy and within the waters you’ll find an exuberance of life. There are animals such as the jaguar, the Baird’s Tapir, the white-lipped Peccary, green sea turtles, West Indian manatees and the White Faced Capuchin monkey. Over 750 different kinds of birds soar through the air and roost in the branches; birds like toucans, the great green macaw, the harpy eagle and the great curassow. More than 500 different plant and tree species flourish in the rich soil, from Mahogany, Spanish cedar, the Oak or the Tropical Pine. How in the world can one place hold so much life? Because the La Mosquitia extends over 32,500 square miles!
The Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve
The Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve is the fruit of a conservationist movement that began in the area back in 1972. Faced with the threat of deforestation and the loss of species and natural resources, a concerted effort was made to preserve as much of the area as possible. Great headway was made when UNESCO intervened in 1976 and named the Biosphere Reserve an official World Heritage Site. But the Rio Platano Reserve isn’t simply important for biological and ecological reasons, it offers cultural preservation too. For within the forests and jungles of the Reserve are five different indigenous people who are equally threatened by the world outside of the border. The oldest of these tribes is the Pesch, believed to be the oldest of all of the rain forest tribes. And at last count there were only 350 left, down from over a million before the arrival of the Spaniards. The Pesch secure their existence by subsistence farming, fishing and hunting and try their hardest to avoid being completely dominated and assimilated by another local tribe, the Miskitos. It is a delicate balance, and the slightest faltering or misstep could spell disaster for them all.
What Does the Future Hold for La Mosquitia?
For the most part, La Mosquitia is often overlooked by the typical Honduran tourist. While many people have read about it, or seen pictures of it, very few have actually explored the interior of this primal and exotic wilderness. But, recent trends in tourism predict that this won’t always be the case. Fortunately, most of the people who will decide to visit the jungles of La Mosquitia will do so responsibly. Not just everyone will go through the trouble of taking a flight to a far away island and then navigating their way through the rivers and streams in the traditional dugout canoes. The inaccessibility of La Mosquitia may offer its greatest protection. Indeed, there may come a day when La Mosquitia holds the last remains of the rain forest. Recent reports and studies estimate that by 2020, over 80-90% of all of the worlds’ rainforests will have disappeared. We can only hope that conservation efforts will keep this jungle gem safe from the world outside its borders.