Dates & Prices
Dates: 4th – 17th January 2023
Single Room Supplement: £495
Deposit: £450 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 (TBC)
Group Size: Minimum 5 & maximum 12 guests + 1-2 leaders
Grade: Generally easy walking at a gentle pace.
- Visit Emerald Valley, home to nearly 700 species from a country list of 1,250
- 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 and the publication of the Honduran butterfly guide
- Slow-paced two centre tour, including a stay at the Pico Bonito Lodge
An exciting, fun, and totally unique Butterfly Festival & Tour in Honduras!
Join our exclusive and exciting butterfly tour of Honduras!
We’re delighted to be launching an exclusive butterfly focused tour to Honduras in January 2023!
This exciting and totally unique tour will help towards the goal to publish the future Guide to the Butterflies of Honduras which is being authored by Robert Gallardo & Olivia Diaz. Robert has already published the Guide to the Birds of Honduras in 2015.
Robert and Olivia have been working diligently on this photographic guide since 2016. They have been instrumental in bringing the country list up to 1,250 species, including discovering the country’s first three endemics. Their fifty acre 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 nearly 700 species.
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, 4th January: Arrival & travel to Lake Yojoa (7 nights)
Upon arrival we will travel to Lake Yojoa. The drive is approximately 1 ½ hour, and the scenery will change from an agricultural setting to the green hillsides as Lake Yojoa is approached.
The Hotel Brisas del Lago 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. Each room has a view facing this beautiful backdrop and the accommodations are basic, but comfortable.
Day 2, 5th January: Bio Parque Paradise
Today, the group will travel to a private reserve called Bio Parque where everyone can start to get familiar with some of the tropical butterflies (see Jan. 7 for description of the property). This will be a good day to practice photographing butterflies. Lunch will be at Bio Parque.
After the remainder of the participants arrives we will have a welcome cocktail and then dinner. After dinner the event organizers will give a trip orientation and announce the groups of teams.
Day 3, 6th 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. harbours 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. Las Brisas for dinner at the end of the day. Teams can meet and go over the day’s sightings. There will be presentation on the Butterflies of Honduras by Robert Gallardo in the evening.
Day 4, 7th 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 harbours many species not observed on the mistflowers.
At the end of the day everyone returns to the hotel for dinner, review photos and enjoy another presentation.
Day 5, 8th January: Emerald Valley
Today all teams 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 realising 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 colourful 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 favourites 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 colourful, more common species, but we also hope to see some of the country’s rarities.
At the end of the day we return to the hotel, have dinner and see another presentation.
Day 6, 9th 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 7, 10th January: Emerald Valley
On the final day of the event and competition, 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 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 favourite 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. We say ‘goodbye’ to Emerald Valley and return to the hotel.
Day 8, 11th January: Departures-Lodge at Pico Bonito
This morning we pack and drive back to San Pedro Sula for international departures. Those continuing on for the extension will be taking a different route. The group continuing to Pico Bonito will consist of Greenwings clients and those that will visit the Lodge for only three additional days.
The post-tour was designed to highlight a completely different part of the country in a a more luxurious setting. Stretching for more than 100 miles along the north coast of Honduras is an impressive mountain range called ‘Nombre de Dios.’ The north face is the only place in Central America with contiguous rainforest from sea level to 8,000ft. The sheer steepness of the mountain has rendered it virtually impossible to face severe threats of deforestation, but also makes it difficult to study its biodiversity. However, we know that the lower slopes are rich in wildlife and will enjoy some of its natural splendor.
We will indulge ourselves by staying at the Lodge at Pico Bonito during the extension. The property is nestled at the base of Pico Bonito N.P. and between two rushing, crystalline rivers. We will search the grounds for many species of butterflies that do not occur at Lake Yojoa and may even get to see a Lovely Cotinga from its canopy tower.
Day 9, 11th January-Pico Bonito Lodge (3 nights)
After leaving Lake Yojoa, we will arrive at the Lodge in time for lunch. After getting settled in, we can begin walking the grounds searching for butterflies. Paper lures will be set out in the hopes of attracting numerous species of skippers, including those that are crepuscular.
Day 10, 12th January: Pico Bonito Lodge
We will spend the entire day at the Lodge. For those wishing, we will rise early to do some bird watching. Atop the canopy tower we have an excellent chance at seeing the neon blue Lovely Cotinga. Males often utilize specific perches in the early a.m. before disappearing into the subcanopy for the remainder of the day.
After breakfast we will begin searching for butterflies. As with the case of Lake Yojoa, there are far too many species to mention, but we will see different swallowtails, glasswing, skippers, some hairstreaks and metalmarks. One notable species we will look for behind the cabins is a lovely peacock-skipper. This former endemic to Costa Rica was discovered there by Robert in February 2021, and we will make a concerted effort to locate one.
Day 11, 13th January: Rio Cangrejal day trip
Today we venture out of the Lodge and travel to the eastern side of the city of La Ceiba. We will be visiting the watershed called Rio Cangrejal, a vast river pouring out of the mountains. We will visit one or two sites there, searching for colourful metalmarks, hairstreaks, glasswings and more skippers. We will have lunch at a small eco-lodge, allowing us to spend the entire day in that area before returning to our lodging facility.
We will be on the lookout for one particularly snazzy species: the Brilliant Anastrus. It is often found along one particular trail we will walk.
Days 12 – 14, 14th – 16th January
This morning the remainder of the post-tour participants will pack their bags and make the return trip to San Pedro Sula for international departures.
Greenwings participants will remain at the Lodge for three more full days. We may return to the Rio Cangrejal drainage, visit a new area and/or spend another full day at the Lodge.
Day 15, 17th January: International departures
Today we return to San Pedro Sula for international flights.
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