Dates & Prices
Dates: 9th – 18th January 2024
Price: £3,345 Places available
Single Room Supplement: £295
Deposit: £400 per person
Price Includes: Accommodation, all meals, ground transport, services of guides & holiday report
Not Included: International travel, travel insurance, drinks & other personal items
Leader(s): Robert Gallardo & second guide for larger group
Group Size: Minimum 2 & maximum 8 guests + 1-2 leaders
Grade: Generally easy walking at a gentle pace.
- Visit Emerald Valley, home to over 700 species from a country list of 1,270
- Visit sites within the species-rich Lake Yojoa basin, which harbours the highest biodiversity in the country.
- Chance to see & photograph approximately 300 species, often at close range in specially prepared butterfly gardens rich in nectar plants
- Enjoy the company of numerous neotropical butterfly experts
- Take part in a fun ‘butterfly count’ competition as part of the Butterfly Festival event
- Attend informative evening presentations
- Support ongoing conservation & education work
- Slow-paced one centre tour, allowing you the time to really enjoy & experience the area
An exciting, fun, and totally unique Butterfly Festival & Tour in Honduras!
Join our exclusive and fun butterfly tour of Honduras!
We’re delighted to be launching an exclusive butterfly focused tour to Honduras in January 2024!
The butterflies of Honduras shine bright in this event, where typically around 300 species are recorded. The country list includes over 1,270 species. Robert and Olivia began working on the recently published photographic butterfly guide in 2016, and although published, they continue to undergo field work to this very day. Robert has also previously published the Guide to the Birds of Honduras in 2015.
Robert & Olivia have been instrumental in bringing the country list up to 1,270 species, including discovering the country’s first three endemics. Their mid-elevation forest of Emerald Valley harbours a very special one of these endemics, Eleanor’s Emesis (Emesis eleanorae) named after Robert’s mother), which will be placed on the IUCN Red List in 2022.
As an integral part of this tour we will be taking part in the butterfly festival event. This will consist of six teams, each led by an expert on Neotropical butterflies. It will be run as a ‘fun’ competition to see which group records the most species. Proceeds from the event will be go towards publishing the butterfly book.
Numerous sites will be visited around the species-rich Lake Yojoa basin, which harbours the highest indices of biodiversity in the country. A memorable experience will include visiting the flower-filled gardens at Emerald Valley, a property that alone has an amazing 726 species recorded to date. That figure is even more incredible when you consider Emerald Valley is not a vast area, being approximately 50 acres.
The event is timed to take place during the blooming cycle of the Blue Mistflower, when the Pro Nature Honduras Foundation (Pro-HN) typically runs its annual Emerald Valley Butterfly Festival. Emerald Valley and Bio Parque Paradise have several gardens filled with these ‘magical’ plants whose aroma brings butterflies down from the surrounding canopy and species that typically inhabit the forest interior. During past events, participants generally have recorded nearly 300 species and always include those considered ‘rare.’
Who knows what might turn up during our visit – a new site record? new country record? Or maybe the ultimate dream of a new species!
Day 1, 9th January: Arrival & travel to Lake Yojoa
Everyone will arrive at the San Pedro Sula airport. Depending on the number of participants and arrival times, we may have multiple buses departing to Lake Yojoa. The drive is approximately 1 ½ hours, and the scenery will change from an agricultural setting to the green hillsides as Lake Yojoa is approached.
The Hotel Agua Azul sits on a knoll overlooking the Lake along the north shore. Cerro Azul Meambar National Park lies to the east and Santa Barbara National Park looms along the western flank. The accommodations are basic, but comfortable, with most rooms having A.C. After everyone arrives we will have a welcome cocktail then dinner.
Day 2, 10th January: PANACAM or Bio Parque Paradise
Today the adventure begins. After breakfast everyone will depart for the days’ destination. Depending on the size of the entire group, the teams may be sent to two sites: Cerro Azul Meambar and Bio Parque Paradise. This is to ensure that there is ample space for everyone in which to look for and photograph butterflies.
Meambar N.P. harbors a lush mid-elevation rainforest. There are numerous trails to explore and a canopy tower near the parking lot. During the past two butterfly festivals rare species of metalmarks, hairstreaks and some brushfoots were observed from the tower including a country record Euselasia metalmark. There are also ample Porterweed gardens where various skippers, sulphurs and swallowtails can be found. One species which does not occur at the other sites visited during this event is the lovely Rusted Clearwing-Satyr (Cithaerias pireta) which readily occurs along most trails inside the forest. Lunch will be at PANACAM.
Everyone will reunite at H. Agua Azul for dinner at the end of the day. Those who are interested can meet and go over the day’s sightings.
Day 3, 11th January: Bio Parque Paradise or PANACAM
After breakfast all groups will depart for the day’s activities. If the entire group was split up between two sites yesterday, then each group will visit the other site today.
Bio Parque consists of a sizeable shade-grown coffee plantation, gardens and natural forest covering nearly 300 acres. It has been surveyed intensely for several years and has revealed an incredibly rich suite of species. One group in particular, the hairstreaks, stands out above them all. Eighty species (nearly ½ of all lycaenids recorded in Honduras) have been documented there, including many that represent country records.
Robert and Olivia have been working with the owner of Bio Parque by providing Mistflower plants which have proven to bring in a large variety of butterflies, some of which have not been documented elsewhere around Lake Yojoa. The action from the 2021 festival centered around several large blooming plants and was phenomenal. However, multiple trails can be explored, and the shade coffee plantation harbors many species not observed on the mistflowers.
At the end of the day everyone returns to the hotel for dinner and do the checklist.
Day 4, 12th January: Emerald Valley
Today, everyone will go to Emerald Valley, which should be a significant highlight for the trip. The property consists of 50 acres of lush mid-elevation rainforest where the cries of the birds and the fluttering of butterfly’s wings resound as the predominant ‘white noise.’
Robert and Olivia have been building and expanding the flower gardens for many years and the results have paid off. The ‘discovery’ of the mistflower plant itself on the property was entirely accidental, but after realizing its true potential they began an active campaign on transplanting and even propagating them. The multiple mistflower gardens, and Lantana, Zinnia, Porterweed and other native flowering plants, have produced a butterfly phenomenon that may be unmatched anywhere. Clouds of butterflies descend upon the gardens from the canopy and exit the forest interior to dine in the gardens.
Several years ago Robert found a metalmark that looked different than anything he was familiar with from the genus Emesis. He was able to obtain a female and a male. DNA and genitalia work was carried out and sure enough, it was an undescribed species. It was published in the June 2021 issue of Tropical Lepidoptera and was named Eleanor’s Emesis (Emesis eleanorae) in honor of his mother.
So many colorful and common species can be observed there that it is impossible to list them here. Literally, with each passing minute the composition of species changes in the gardens and after having completed one ‘loop’ many different species will have shown up. We will see many species of longwings, sulphurs and a bewildering array of skippers. One of the favorites is the Phanus, commonly called a ‘Ghost Skipper,’ replete with transparent windows. We spend three days at Emerald Valley seeing a wide variety of the colorful, more common species, but we also hope to see some of the country’s rarities.
And if all the action on the flowers was not enough, a whole other set of species are attracted to the raised fruit feeders that are scattered along trails.
At the end of the day we return to the hotel, have dinner, and do the checklist.
Day 5, 13th January: Emerald Valley
Everyone returns to Emerald Valley for a second day. We will undoubtedly see many familiar species that were observed yesterday, but we will also see some new ‘faces.’
The Porterweed flowers attract numerous sulphurs, many of which do not stop to nectar on the mistflowers. Rotting bananas placed at different spots along the trails also attract beauties such as the stunning Blue Morpho, Crackers, satyrs, Owl’s-eyes, and Tiger Beauty. Participants often fill up entire memory cards so be sure to bring an extra one or two. One can easily spend the remainder of winter days going through the photos taken during the event.
At the end of the day we return to the hotel.
Day 6, 14th January: Emerald Valley
On the final day of the event, we return once again to Emerald Valley. Three days may seem like a lot of time to spend at a single location, but when taking into consideration that new species arrive all day, each day, three days may actually seem like too few!
We scan the gardens, trails, and surrounding forests for rare or uncommon species. Each year participants find anywhere from one to four species representing property records which is always an exciting occurrence. Around noon the air is warm enough, and hairstreaks often descend into the mistflower gardens. The Silver-banded Hairstreak is always a favorite to see. If we’re lucky, Bitter Vine and Boraginaceae shrubs blooming which attract a whole different suite of species.
We finish the event with a delicious BBQ and closing words. For some, we say ‘goodbye’ to Emerald Valley and return to the hotel.
Days 7 – 10, 15th – 18th January: Bio Parque and Emerald Valley
The post-tour was designed to allow participants the chance to find and photograph even more species at Lake Yojoa. We will spend the three full days between Bio Parque and Emerald Valley as we continue to scour the mistflower gardens and fruit feeders. During the 2022-2023 mistflower blooming season, Robert and Olivia recorded 300 species on the mistflowers alone in their gardens. Each year at least one country record is found during the festival and many rare to uncommon species show up.
Jan 18-International Departures
This morning we pack our bags early and make the return trip to San Pedro Sula for international departures.
Robert Gallardo arrived in Honduras as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1993 and has resided there even since. After having set up numerous butterfly rearing facilities he dove head-first into birds and eventually became the country’s leading expert on its avifauna. He eventually produced a CD on bird song, two lengthy volumes on its birds (English & Spanish), taught Honduran nationals on how to become professional bird watching guides in five formal courses and essentially pioneered avitourism in this little known country. After more than twenty years of undertaking bird related work he has now returned to his childhood passion of butterflies. He is the current President of the Pro-HN Foundation. He and Olivia reside at Emerald Valley where they hope to install the country’s first Nature Center and a small eco-lodge.
New holiday so reports to follow later