Parque Nacional Cerro Azul/Meámbar
Looming over the eastern side of Lago de Yojoa, and frequently shrouded in clouds, is a sheer-walled massif of mountain peaks cloaked in lush green forests, protected as Parque Nacional Cerro Azul/Meámbar, or PANACAM. The park covers just over 400 square kilometers, ranging between 415 and 2,080 meters, supporting (from lower to upper elevations) coffee plantations, lowland humid forests, pine forest, and cloud forest. On one of the highest peaks in the center of the park is a rare elfin forest, similar to the one in Sierra de Agalta, Olancho, a bizarre ecosystem of stunted oak and pine trees, covered with moss and lichen.
Because of its location at the transition from the hot northern lowlands to the cooler, more arid mountain country of central Honduras, Cerro Azul/Meámbar supports an unusually diverse animal population, though the wildlife faces severe pressure from its human neighbors, who usually view animals either as pests or potential meals. But even in the coffee plantations on the lower stretches of the mountains, many of the park’s 200 or so bird species can be seen screeching noisily and flitting about in the trees. And in the park’s upper sections, reachable only by a multiday hike, at least 50 (and possibly more) species of mammals make their homes.
Cerro Azul/Meámbar plays a vital role in Honduras’s electric power generation, supplying some 80 percent of the water used by the huge El Cajón dam to the east, and 20 percent of the water to Lago de Yojoa, which in turn supplies the smaller hydroelectric plant at Cañaveral.
Recognizing the importance of the mountain’s ecosystem to the national economy, the Honduran government has turned over administration of Parque Nacional Cerro Azul/Meámbar, temporarily at least, to Proyecto Aldea Global (Project Global Village), a nonprofit organization linked to the Mercy Corps, a U.S.-based relief agency. Aldea Global began working in the area in 1984. A highly-respected NGO, Aldea Global funds a host of socially oriented projects in the 42 communities located within the park limits, in an effort to increase environmental awareness and protect the park, as well as to improve the standard of living of the local residents.
While a good portion of the forest around the cabins is secondary growth, it is in good condition and thriving with birds and other animal life; 134 species of birds have been spotted in the park, as well as ocelots, deer, armadillos, agoutis, white-nosed coatis, and 28 types of snakes. The upper sections of forest along the trails go through primary cloud forest, vibrant and beautiful. The area is often socked in with clouds and rain, so be prepared to get wet.
Pulpería La Guama, just at the highway, is a good spot to stock up on food and drink and ask about transportation to the park.
Information on Parque Nacional Cerro Azul/Meámbar
The best source of information on Parque Nacional Cerro Azul/Meámbar is the caretaker who lives on-site (tel. 504/9865-9082, panacam [at] paghonduras [dot] org), although Aldea Global’s central office in Tegucigalpa (tel. 504/239-8311) and website (www.paghonduras.org) also have some information.
Topographical maps covering the park are 1:50,000 Taulabé 2660 III and Santa Cruz de Yojoa 2660 IV.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition