State of the Maya Biosphere Reserve

El Peñón de Buena Vista: macaws and landscapes

El Peñón de Buena Vista and la Laguneta Buena Vista


Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) in a nesting cavity

El Peñón de Buena Vista (literally, the `rock with a great view’) is a formation of karstic cliffs located in the southeastern part of Laguna del Tigre National Park, and marks the point where the San Pedro River floodplain ends and the Paso Caballos-Dos Lagunas ridge begins.  This ridge extends from Paso Caballos to the zone of Dos Lagunas along a length of more than 150km, but at Buena Vista the cliffs are approximately 5km long and reach heights of up to 100m from base to top, forming an abrupt separation between low forest to the south and high forest to the north.  In addition to forming this distinct meeting point between forest types, Peje Lagarto creek and a chain of small bodies of water run along the foot of the cliffs, including Laguna Buena Vista at the eastern end of the formation, and Laguneta Yalá at the western end.  The site is one of the most scenic areas in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, just as its name indicates.

On top of its aesthetic significance, the area is also home to 13 Scarlet Macaw nests, seven of which are artificial and have been occupied intermittently during the species’ last few nesting seasons.  Together with adjacent areas that also house macaw nests, this zone serves as an integral piece of habitat for the last Scarlet Macaw population in Guatemala. 

Threats to this area include those related to illegal settlements (in July, 2008, a land invasion was evicted from Yalá), the illegal extraction of wildlife, timber, and non-timber forest resources, and recurring fires in the area south of the cliffs. 

Highlighting the importance of the area is key for its conservation, and is part of a comprehensive strategy that includes both this and neighboring sites.  Efforts to promote tourism to El Peñon de Buena Vista have been carried out for several years now, almost always as part of a circuit that includes the nearby archaeological site Waka'-El Perú  and the Scarlet Macaw Biological Station.   The participation of the neighboring community of Paso Caballos is key to the success of this approach, and it is imperative that the economic benefits of tourism reach the local population and generate development in order to reinforce local motivation to conserve the area, in the context of progress and improvements in the community.