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Introducing Las Guacamayas

In the small village of Reforma Agraria, 49km southwest of Benemérito, the beautiful ecolodge of Las Guacamayas is the heart of an impressive community program to protect the local population of scarlet macaws. This spectacular and endangered member of the parrot family once ranged as far north as Veracruz, but its only Mexican home today is far eastern Chiapas. Numbers at Reforma Agraria have increased to more than 100 pairs since 1991, when the 14.5-sq-km macaw reserve was founded. The birds move in and out of the reserve in seasonal pursuit of food; the best months for observing them are December to June, when they are nesting.

The very friendly and welcoming lodge is right on the bank of the broad Río Lacantún, one of the Usumacinta’s major tributaries, with the Reserva de la Biosfera Montes Azules on the opposite bank. Large, superbly comfortable, thatch-roofed cabañas, with full mosquito screens, verandas and ample bathrooms with hot showers, are spread around the extensive grounds, linked by wooden walkways. Dorms are shared two-bed rooms with common bathrooms. There’s a good restaurant overlooking the river, serving good Mexican meals (mains M$60 to M$130). From March through May, the river level drops and you can swim and take advantage of a sandy beach area.

Two-hour guided macaw-spotting walks cost M$900; they’re best in the early morning or at dusk. Boat trips into the Montes Azules reserve cost M$1744/1944 for two/three hours. You should spot crocodiles and howler monkeys, and with luck toucans and white-tailed deer. Villagers in Reforma Agraria also rent out horses for about M$100 per hour, and charge about M$50 per person to camp. In low season, all prices drop around 20% and include breakfast.