Chelemhá is a private protected cloud forest reserve in the Yalijux mountains at an elevation between 2,000 and 2,500 m (6,560-8,200ft). The preserve is part of the Yalijux Important Bird Area (IBA GT010), designated by BirdLife International. A high density of Resplendent Quetzals has been found in this mountain range and Chelemhá is one of the best sites in Guatemala to observe Guatemala’s national bird. The Chelemhá cloud forest and adjacent secondary growth support populations of 14 bird species endemic to the northern Central American highland.
Chelemhá Lodge is located at 2,000 m (6,560 ft), surrounded by secondary forest, and close to primary cloud forest. From the observation balconies several highland endemics can be seen easily, such as Bushy-crested Jays, Blue-throated Motmot, Black-capped Swallow, Rufous-collared Robin, and Blue-and-White Mockingbird. Hummingbird feeders attract eight species, including Green-throated Mountain-gem, Garnet-throated and Amethyst-throated Hummingbird. Many fruiting trees around the lodge attract frugivorous birds such as Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, Brown-backed Solitaire, and Common Bush-Tanager. Buff-crowned Wood-Partridge are shy, but with some good luck they can be seen around the lodge.
Several foot trails provide access to the Chelemhá cloud forest. Most common bird species in the forest are Common Bush-Tanager, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Golden-browed Warbler, and Yellowish Flycatcher. Resplendent Quetzals are easy to see during the breeding season from March to May, when their calls are heard throughout the forest. Highland Guans are common in the forest, but shy and not easy to see (best from March to May). Other species living only in the cloud forest are Slate-colored Solitaire, Black-throated Jay, and Tawny-throated Leaftosser. With some good luck, White-faced Quail-Dove may be seen walking along the trail. Some species such as Pink-headed Warbler, Crescent-chested Warbler, and Hutton's Vireo are restricted mainly to the oak-dominated forests along the mountain ridge.
Nocturnal birds: Six owl species occur in Chelemhá. Fulvous Owl is the most obvious owl in Chelemhá. Two or three calling birds can be heard from the lodge and with some good luck one of them can be seen along the forest trail. Northern (Guatemalan) Pygmy-Owl occurs mainly on the forest edge and in open habitat. Mexican Whip-Poor-Wills can be heard throughout the year.
Most common Nearctic migratory birds are the Wilson's and the Townsend's Warbler. During migration, more than 30 migratory bird species can be observed, including Blackburnian, Golden-winged, and Blue-winged Warbler.
Only few raptor species occur regularly in Chelemhá, the most common is Red-tailed Hawk. Sharp-shinned (White-breasted) Hawk is also resident. Hook-billed Kite, Gray and Common Black Hawk are rarely seen.
How to get there and accommodation: Chelemhá is accessible via a dirt road requiring 4-WD vehicle. UPROBON (Unión para Proteger el Bosque Nuboso / Union for the Protection of the Cloud Forest) is a local conservation association and manages the private protected area in Chelemhá in close collaboration with the local indigenous population. Meals are cooked using locally grown vegetables from their own garden. Plenty of pure drinking water is available. The Chelemhá Lodge is just a few minutes walk from the cloud forest. It has four double rooms with private bathroom, hot shower, and candle light. You can spend a great birding time on the observation balconies.
Please note that all visits must be reserved in advance.
For independent travelers: We are happy to organize your trip to Chelemhá. Please fill this reservation form and we will send you information on rates and space availability as soon as possible.
Or you get in contact with UPROBON online at www.chelemha.org
When is the best time for a visit in Chelemhá? For birding, definitely March to June (main breeding season of most bird species, including the Quetzal). March to May is the dry season in this area, and the rainy season begins at end of May, with rainfall mainly occurring in the afternoon. The best season for seeing flowering orchids is between November and February.
How do you support conservation and development in Chelemhá? With your visit to Chelemhá you are supporting conservation efforts for this cloud forest, which is part of an Important Bird Area (IBA). Local indigenous people benefit from alternative income from tourism services.
UPROBON maintains a positive, collaborative relationship with the local villagers in Chelemhá with the aim of greater inclusion of the local population in conservation activities while simultaneously working toward integrated community development. UPROBON maintains model agricultural plots with a variety of alternative crops not traditionally seen in the community. These plots are maintained to demonstrate their feasibility and utility for local farmers, both as marketable products for income generation, and edible crops for consumption or medicinal plants for healthcare purposes.
The PROEVAL RAXMU Bird Monitoring Program studies the bird community and natural history of selected species. Three members from the local Q’eqchi’ community were taught to identify local bird species.