Quetzal & Cloud Forest
In 1989, a team of German biologists discovered that the
Sierras of Guaxac, Caquipec, and Yalijux in Alta Verapaz
contain the largest population of Quetzals per square kilometer
in all of Guatemala and the world. Based on this study,
German Biologist David Unger and a group of Guatemalan environmentalists
founded Proyecto Ecológico Quetzal (PEQ) in 1990.
PEQ is a Guatemalan not-for-profit private organization
dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the cloud
forest habitat of the Quetzal.
Proyecto Ecológico Quetzal
is under the executive direction of Asociación
Biósfera y Desarrollo Agricola Sostenible (BIDAS),
a Guatemalan environmental nonprofit organization.
Asociación BIDAS was established under Guatemalan
law in November 1994 (Acuerdo Ministerial N0. 388).
Major financial support for the Project comes from GEO
tropical Rainforest of Hamburg, Germany. However, through
ecotourism new and creative sources of funding for the project
are being considered.
The Sierra de las Minas is the largest cloud forest reserve
in Central America and the second largest biosphere reserve
in Guatemala (143,000-acres), after the Maya Biosphere Reserve
in the Peten region. It is currently managed by a non-governmental
organization, Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza
(Nature’s Defenders Foundation) with the support of
the National Council for Protected Areas . (CONAP).
Created in 1990, this reserve has
also benefited from support of organizations such
as Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund,
Swedish Children's Rainforest, and several other
Their projects include biological research, biodiversity
conservation, and community work with different
ethnic groups living within the reserve, as well
as ecotourism development.
Both the Caquipiec Mountain and the Sierra de las Minas
projects involve work with the region’s residents
in order to promote the sustainable use of natural resources,
to identify sources of non-agricultural income and to raise
awareness of the cloud forest’s value through environmental
education programs in the village schools in the Sierras.
What is the Cloud Forest
The cloud forest is a type of forest located on the slopes
of the highest mountains and has an annual precipitation
between 2000 and 6000 mm. It serves as a large "sponge,"
in that it retains the water that later is distributed slowly
to the surrounding areas by means of evaporation or in small
streams. The Sierra de las Minas alone holds 63 natural
Cloud forests serve as the habitat for many species
of plants and animals, many of which are in danger
of extinction. Of those, one may find: Bromeliads,
orchids, tree ferns, quetzal birds, howler monkeys,
wild boars, and jaguars. The existence of the forest
protects the survival of these species.
Exploring Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve
ABOUT THE FLORA AND THE FAUNA...
View from Peña del Angel look-out point
Here is a short list of some of the animals you
will see in these Sierras... Resplendent Quetzal
(Pharomachrus mocinno) between January
and September, Mountain trogon (Trogon mexicanus),
highland Guan (Penelopina nigra)...
...Pink-headed warbler (Ergaticus versicolor),
Garnet-throated hummingbird (Lamprolaima rhami),
Emerald toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus). We
will hear the awesome call of howler monkeys (Alouatta
palliata) and the sweet song of the Slate-colored solitaire
We will have the privilege of being able to see the Resplendent
Quetzal birds in their nests during the nesting season with
the project's members. We will be very close, on top of
camouflaged observation platforms... or at the foot of their
The Community of Los Albores
& Low Impact Ecological Tourism
Our company’s involvement for
many years with these projects led to our NOT TAKING
people there intentionally until very recently, in
spite of the demand to take tours there…
Now, the communities and organizations are ready to welcome
a limited number of visitors every year & count with
the required infrastructure to assure the safeguarding of
this beautiful & pristine habitat. The community of
Los Albores is located on the South Eastern side of the
Sierra de las Minas mountain range, at an altitude of approximately
2500 meters. About 70 families currently live in Los Albores.
Traditionally, the people have been farmers for many years:
coffee, cardamom, vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini…)
and fruits. With the support of Fundación Defensores
de la Naturaleza (a Guatemalan NGO), they recently started
an ecotourism project where the women offers tourism services
to visitors. You will experience a exquisite and typical
lunch in a local family’s home.
They are starting to promote their pine crafts as well.
As you climb up the mountain to Las Cabanas, where the Biological
Research Station is located, you will go through different
ecosystems: dry scrub, pine forest, pine-oak forest, and
finally cloud forest. Each ecosystem is rich in biodiversity,
especially in the transition zones. Hardier travelers may
walk up from Los Albores to Las Cabanas, but most people
will prefer to go by pick up or 4x4, which is quite an adventure…
During your visit you will sleep in comfortable cabins close
to the Biological Station. Women from Los Albores will cook
for you, and you will be able to go on guided trips to see
the cloud forest and its wildlife with a host from the project
and your professional guide. There are outings every day
to see quetzal birds, water falls, and to a magnificent
lookout point named the Peña del Angel… from
which you may see several volcanoes and the Sierra Madre
mountain range on a clear day. Perhaps you will get to see
a jaguar, too!
If you are interested in knowing more about Proyecto Ecologico
Quetzal and the Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza
and our cloudforest adventures please contact us at: