Cloud Nine: The Tzantizotz Nature Reserve, Guatemala

text and photos by Miranda Munro

The swirling mist dusts Volcán San Pedro in a muted dove gray, catching dawn’s sunrays and washing it in an ethereal glow. The steely-mirrored waters of Lake Atitlán are quiet, rippled only by the wake of a distant boat that slides across its surface. The air is still, cool and refreshing. This awe-inspiring view is the reason that Lake Atitlán is undisputedly one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. It is here, in the moment and in the quiet that one can touch the magnificence of God’s creation.

The ringside seat for this spectacle is the lofty mountain that holds Tzantizotz Nature Reserve. Rising 2,100 meters, Tzantizotz is a private, 100-acre reserve lovingly cared for by the owners of Laguna Lodge Eco-Boutique Resort. In the local Kaqchikel language tzantizotz means place of bats.

Stands of high-altitude, tropical dry forest clothe the mountain. Covering the apex of the reserve, enshrouded by clouds, is a pocket of virgin primary forest, some of the last stands in the Santa Cruz area. A series of trails winds through the reserve; some are ancient Mayan paths that lead to sacred ceremonial rocks. High in the rock cliffs, for the adventurous, are facilities for rappelling and cliff-jumping. On the lake, for those who enjoy more sedate activities, there is kayaking, swimming or snorkeling.

The reserve holds a diversity of flora, and many medicinal and useful plants grow within it. A guide is available to explain the use and preparation of the local plants. Of particular interest to bird lovers is the rich variety of birds that flock to the sanctuary and safety of Tzantizotz. There are a recorded 236 bird species, including the elusive belted fly-catcher, that visit the area. Tzantizotz Nature Reserve is reached only by boat; there is no road access, leaving it virtually wild and undisturbed.

Proceeds from the minimal entrance fee into Tzantizotz Nature Reserve are funneled back into the preservation, protection, maintenance and reforestation of the reserve.

Tzantizotz Nature Reserve is a safe haven to hike and appreciate not only the wildlife and plants but also the spectacular views that the climb rewards you with. You are truly on cloud nine.

Tzantizotz Nature Reserve rolls down the mountain and in the sections where re-planting is being carried out organic coffee and fruit trees are grown for use in the internationally acclaimed Zotz restaurant. Zotz is part of Laguna Lodge and offers fine dining as spectacular as the views from its balcony restaurant. Organic local ingredients are blended into a symphony of tastes and textures to satisfy the palette of the most discerning connoisseur. Luxury accommodation is offered at Laguna Lodge, allowing you the time to explore the reserve and capture that special moment where your senses are embraced by the magnificence of nature’s beauty.
The Laguna Lodge Eco-Boutique Resort is a member of the Association of Private Nature Reserves of Guatemala and is located in Santa Cruz La Laguna, Lake Atitlán. For more information visit www.fiveleafresort.com

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