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Sunday, 11 February 2007

Surviving the Mayan Ruins of Tikal - Page 2

Written by Thomas Lera and Sandy Fitzgerald
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We had our first glimpse of Tikal on the TV reality show, Survivor – Guatemala. Seeing it in real life is so much more amazing! It is Guatemala’s most famous cultural and nature preserve. Many call it one of the most spiritually powerful spots on earth. Its towering temples loom out of the thick jungle canopy and are reminiscent of stoic sentinels. Like all unexplained mysteries, it is fascinating and so irresistible

Tikal National Park

Nestled in 222 square miles of surrounding jungle, this majestic archaeological gem fans out from a ceremonial plaza located at its center. Established by the Guatemalan Government in May 1955 as the first National Park in Central America, Tikal National Park became a National Monument in 1970. Excavations, which began in 1877, continue today, but nearly 80% of the ruins are yet to be exposed. Out of the sites that have been excavated, only 30 percent have actually been “mapped” within the park.

The park is a sanctuary for hundreds of wild orchid species and more than 30 hardwood species. It is one of the best bird watching areas of Central America, with over 410 exotic species, including scarlet macaws, parrots and toucans (yes, the character on the Fruit Loops cereal boxes). Howler and spider monkeys, white-lipped peccary, brocket deer, coatimundi, ocelots, and even, rarely, the jaguar can also be spotted, particularly when you have an eagle-eyed guide to point them out deep in the bush.


Ceiba Trees

When first approaching the temples of Tikal, you notice a slight rise in elevation as the path meanders through the sub-tropical jungle. Howler monkeys roar in the trees, adding a strange sense of intrigue as you near the Great Plaza. The day we visited, the heat was stifling and the thundering clouds above warned of the torrential afternoon downpours that constantly douse the region during the rainy season. Cockatoos and other birds with bright plumage create their music in homage to the wonders that hide in the jungle.

ceibaWe soon came to a clearing dotted with giant, interestingly designed, trees standing like sentries who had carefully staked out their territory. Although their heads are 100 feet above in the clouds, the massive roots of Ceiba trees are firmly anchored in the ground. Sacred to the Maya, their roots reach out purposefully in the direction of the four cardinal compass points, supporting trunks that may reach a diameter of 10 feet.

Pausing for this photo opportunity, we were lucky enough to be greeted by a touring troupe of coatimundis, tails held high as they paraded in front of us. These seemingly friendly little fellows appear to be a slimmer, longer-legged relative of the raccoon. We picked up the trail on the opposite side of the clearing and continued up the incline to where the trail ends at the edge of the Great Plaza, with little hint of the magnificence to come.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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