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EL CIELO BIOSPHERE RESERVE: Handy Guide for Ecotourists

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Guía práctica para aquellos que desean visitar la Reserva de la Biosfera El Cielo, Tamaulipas, México
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AHR
EL CIELO
BIOSPHERE RESERVE
Handy Guide for Ecotourists ©
by
Sergio Medellín-Morales
and John Miller
Cd. Victoria, Tamaulipas, México June 2005
Medellín-Morales y Miller, 2005 El Cielo Biosphere Reserve: Handy Guide for Ecotourists
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John Miller & Wife Sergio Medellín-Morales
El Cielo: Handy Guide for Ecotourist
Sergio Medellín Morales y John Miller
sgmede@prodigy.net.mx
www.elcielotours.com
First edition in english, 2005
D.R. © TERRA NOSTRA A.C. y GUARDIANES DE EL CIELO S. de S.S.
Tlacopan #2213; Fraccionamiento ITACE
Cd. Victoria, Tamaulipas, México 87025
E-mail: smedellin@elcielotours.com; sgmede@yahoo.com
Web: www.elcielotours.com
Medellín-Morales y Miller, 2005 El Cielo Biosphere Reserve: Handy Guide for Ecotourists
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INDEX
GENERAL INFORMATION
Access/Transportation
Permits
Telephone
Fax
Pets
4-Wheel Drive
Other Transportation Options
First Aid Kit
Poisonous Animals and Plants
AREAS OPEN TO TOURISM
Gómez Farías
Alta Cimas
San José
El Tigre
Lázaro Cárdenas
Joya de Salas or Veinte de Abril
El Tigre
GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS
Planning
Garbage/Trash
Access Roads and Trails
Guides
Camping
Fires
Souvenirs
Swimming
Backpacking
Caves
ADVICE/TIPS
Food
Gasoline
Insect Repellents
Drinking Water
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El Cielo Biosphere Reserve Localization (PNE)
Medellín-Morales y Miller, 2005 El Cielo Biosphere Reserve: Handy Guide for Ecotourists
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Ecotourism Route in El Cielo Biosphere Reserve (PNE)
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GENERAL INFORMATION
The El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, with its 58,490 acres (144,530 hectares), is the largest and most important protected
area in Northeast Mexico. In it is found the greatest biodiversity of the region, for example: 21 reported species of
amphibians, 60 reptiles, 40 bats, 255 resident birds and 175 migratory birds. It is a place where a large number of biotic
species listed in the Red Book (Libro Rojo1) as rare or in danger of extinction prosper. The topography (relief) and the
combination of climate and types of vegetation in a relatively small area, as well its geologic history and geographic
location have produced a good number of endemic species (endemismos2), both plants and animals. For example the
magnolia (Magnolia tamaulipana), the Mexican maple - álamo (Acer skutchii) or the very endangered chamalillo
(Ceratozamia kuesteriana), to name three biotic species. Some species of trees that have a limited distribution in Mexico
can be found in the area, for example: the Mexican beech - haya (Fagus mexicana), the vejar fir - oyamel (Abies vejarii)
and the Mexican yew - cedrillo or moquito (Taxus globosa).
It is one of the protected areas in Mexico where it is possible to find important populations of animals such as the black
bear or black bear - oso negro (Ursus americanus eremicus). Here are represented all of the felines found in Mexico,
such as the jaguar (Felis onca veracrusis), the ocelot or ocelote (Felis pardalis albenscens) and the puma (Felis
concolor stanleyana). Other interesting animals are the crested guan - ajol (Penelope purpurascens), the great
curassow or hocofaisán or faisán (Crax ruba rubra), the red brocket deer - venado cabrito or temazate (Mazama
americana temama) and the brown tinamu- tinamú canelo (Cryptopturellus cinnamommeus).
SMM EPS
The reserve is the northernmost limit of the cloud forest in Latin America. It constitutes a scenic attraction as well as a rest
area for the monarch butterfly or mariposa monarca (Danaus plexippus) in its peregrination toward the center of
Mexico, west of Morelia.
Nevertheless, perhaps the most important environmental function provided by El Cielo is the production of fresh water
that supplies the most prosperous region of the State of Tamaulipas, the Huasteca. It recharges the most important
aquifer systems in the area, such as the Río Támesis basin, the Tampico-Madero zone (important wetlands in the
northeast), and the Río Guayalejo. This aspect is best observed in the lower part of the Reserve, before arriving at
Gómez Farías, in El Nacimiento; or in the Río Guayalejo through the El Peñón portion, passing through the Poblado de El
Encino.
1. De la Unión Internacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza: of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
2. “Endemismo”: plant, animal or fungus that can only be found in a specific place, which is to say, it has a restricted distribution.
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The Government of the State of Tamaulipas formally decreed the area to be a reserve in 1985. It forms part of the
network Man and the Environment - Red El Hombre y la Biosfera del MAB-UNESCO.
We have tried to maintain this reserve intact and, for that reason you won’t find all of the amenities of other national parks.
But, instead, you will find a better-preserved environmental setting and a cooperative and friendly local citizenry available
to help you.
- ACCESS/TRANSPORTATION. The closest cities to the Reserve are Ciudad Mante (30 minutes), Tampico (2 hours)
and Ciudad Victoria (1-½ hours). Victoria and Tampico have airports with flights to Mexico City, Matamoros and
Houston, with international connections. The closest airports in the USA are in McAllen and Brownsville, Texas, only
5½ hours from the Reserve3.
Only the lower part of the Reserve has good roads, with an asphalt surface. The rest are packed dirt roads (caminos
de terracería) or old lumbering roads.
Buses carry you to the village of Gómez Farías, the most important population center in the Reserve. If you come
from the south you can catch a bus from Mante ($52) or from Tampico ($120). If you come from Victoria you can
travel to the “Y” (junction) to Gómez Farías ($54) and from there are “peseras” or small buses that come from Mante
and Xicoténcatl, and these can transport you to Gómez Farías ($10). Prices are in Mexican ($) Pesos.
SMM FC
With respect to the upper part of the Reserve (La Sierra) you can get there in regular cars4 from Gómez Farías as far as
the “Ejido” (commonly-owned community) of Alta Cima. Although the road is packed dirt, it can be driven for the greater
part of the year. Driving time is 40 minutes.
Access in the upper part of the Reserve is by means of old lumbering roads to which there has been no maintenance
since the Decree forming the Reserve in 1985. If you wish to travel by vehicle, you can contract a 4 X 4 pickup or an all-
terrain vehicle (todo-terreno) which will transport you from the village of Gómez Farías to Alta Cimas (approximately
$600 to $800) or to San José (approximately $1,000 a $1,800)5. Or better, rent a mule or burro for a load of approximately
110-132 lbs. [50 a 60 Kg] ($100 -$120).
- PERMITS. No special permit is required to enter the El Cielo Biosphere Reserve. However, be sure to have you
identification papers in order and carry them with you for any eventuality. It is also important that you register your arrival
in the entrance/exit book that the is located in the “Caseta” located in front of the Presidencia Municipal de Gómez Farías
or that found at the entrance to the Ejido Alta Cima. This is important in case of illness, accident or disappearance.
3. Ciudad Mante since 2001 has direct flights from Monterrey.
4. Includes compact autos of the Volkswagen or Nissan type.
5. Prices are variable now that they are no longer regulated. If you want to know prices, contact Adelfio Serrano, of the Guardianes de El Cielo (El
Cielo Keepers) Cooperative at (01)(831) 183-72-28. ALL PRICES ARE IN MEXICAN PESOS ($) Pesos.
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- TELEPHONE. With the exception of the village of Gómez Farías and the Ejido Alta Cima, there is no telephone service
in the Reserve. Gómez Farías has a telephone office and the Hotel El Pino in Alta Cima has a cellular telephone. The
telephone number for the office in Gómez Farías is (01)(831) 123-243-89, generally in operation from 9:00 AM to 5:00
PM. That of the Hotel El Pino is (01)(831) 123-690-14, from 8:00 to 11:00 AM and from 3:00 to 6:00 PM.
- FAX. At the telephone office in Gómez Farías you can send or receive faxes. The cost is $20 per page to numbers in
Mexico, and $40 per page for international calls. The charge for receiving faxes is $10 per page.
- PETS. No pets are permitted in the Reserve, especially those that might cause hard to the local wildlife such as cats,
Australian parakeets, and dogs. Please, don’t abandon dogs, cats and other animals in the Reserve. Feral cats and dogs
cause great harm to the native fauna, especially to the birds, and even to tourists6.
- 4-WHEEL DRIVE. From Altas Cimas to San José, the place where the Canindo Cabins is located, the road is very
difficult and only 4-wheel drive vehicles can go up. If you don’t have sufficient driving experience for this type of road
or if the vehicle is not in good condition, we recommend walking or check the following options. The trip by foot at a
good pace is 2 hours from Altas Cimas to San José. Prices for these services by organized groups in the Reserve can be
found at the end of this section
FC SMM
- OPTIONS: In case you bring heavy luggage or don’t want to walk a burro or mule can be rented in Alta Cimas (ask at
the Hotel El Pino of the Ejido Alta Cimas, a (01)(831) 123-243-89. Transportation of one person or the baggage that a
beast of burden can carry costs around $100 or $30 per backpack -- this varying with the weight of the baggage and
distance. However, if you are in a group, it might be better to rent a pickup to transport the cargo or luggage to your
destination ask at (01)(831) 183-72-28, for Adelfio Serrano.
- FIRST AID KIT. Carry a small medicine chest for first aid. It should contain at least: a snake bite kit, antiseptics (alcohol
or Isodine spray), analgesics (Aspirin), antihistamines (Dimetapp), anti-diarrhea medicines (Kaopectate, Lomotil),
antibiotics (Ampicillin, Penicillin), and elastic bandages and adhesive tape (Micropor).
- POISONOUS PLANTS AND ANIMALS. In natural areas like this some poisonous plants and animals may be
encountered. Among the plants to be careful of is the nettle-like - mala mujer (Cnidoscolus multilobus), which is
generally found along the side of the roads. It has leaves similar to those of the papaya, with white flowers and leaves and
stems covered with numerous irritating/stinging hairs. Another plant found in the Reserve that you should watch out for is
the so-called cow-itch plant or sea/beach bean or horse-eye bean - pica-pica (Mucuna urens), a leguminous vine that
is very abundant in the Huasteca. It produces attractive pods covered with fuzz composed of thousands of small spines
that are released by the wind or upon contact with the plant. Don’t enter dense woods because you can encounter a wide
variety of plants that have large numbers of spines as a defense mechanism they can cause serious skin damage.
6. Please, don’t feed the feral dogs that follow the tourists. They are responsible for great damage to the belongings of campers at unattended
campsites in the Reserve.
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The animals that one should be most cautious of are snakes. The most common and most dangerous in the area are the
neotropical rattlesnake or cascabel (Crotalus durissus), distinguished by shaking its rattle when it feels threatened, and
the lancehead - cuatro-narices or nauyaca (Bothrops asper) that has a flattened head and two protuberances above
the nasal openings. Due to its coloration it is easily confused with the foliage of the forest, and for that reason a person
has to carefully watch one’s steps upon leaving the road. Other potentially dangerous animals are the coral snake or
coralillo (Mycrurus fulvus) and the scorpion or alacrán. However there have not been reports in recent years of coral
snake bites and scorpion venom is not very potent, only causing painful swellings that soon disappear.
SMM SMM
AREAS OPEN TO TOURISM
GOMEZ FARIAS
La Villa de Gómez Farías is the municipal administrative center for the municipality of the same name. It is at 1,270 ft
above sea level (370 meters above sea level [msnm]), at 28.5 miles (46 Km) from Mante and 68 miles (109 Km) from
Victoria. The characteristic vegetation tropical deciduous forest - bosque tropical caducifolio or semi-deciduous jungle -
selva mediana subcaducifolia, that prospers between 650 and 2,600 ft (200 y 800 msnm). The most common plant
species are the torchwood or gumbo-limbo - chaca (Bursera simaruba), copalche bark - rabo de puerco (Croton niveus),
quebracho (Mirandaceltis monoica), breadnut/snakewood - ramón (Brosimun alicastrum), raintree - aquiche (Guazuma
ulmifolia), earpod tree - orejón (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), fig -higuerón (Ficus spp,) and juanjilón (Pseudobombax
ellipyicum), among others. Animals characteristic of the area are the jaguar (Felis onca), tagra - cabeza de viejo (Eira
barbara) and red brocket deer - venado cabrito or temazate (Mazama americana). The climate is semi-warm sub-
humid. The principal economic activities are the production of mangos, nopales and ornamental plants Lodging options
are the Hostal Casa de Piedra (reservations at (01)(832) 236-21-96.
Places of Interest:
Sierra Chiquita: Situated in front of the village of Gómez Farías, this small range of hills dominates the view of the
area. It is a very interesting place for birders and for botanists in search of plants in danger of extinction.
Mango Plantations (Huertas): Gómez Farías is famous for its old mango (Mangifera indica) plantations. These are
found on the foothills of the mountain range and are a great place for walking and enjoying the quiet and observing
birds.
La Bocatoma: This is a swimming area located 20 minutes from the village of Gómez Farías. You can enjoy a fine
swim among tall Montezuma bald cypress ahuehuetes (Taxodium mucronatum) and also enjoy a good meal of small
“lobsters” or crayfish - langostinos or acamayas, in the Restaurant La Bocatoma.
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El Mirador: It is located on the road to Alta Cimas, at 2,200-ft (670 msnm). From this place you can gaze
appreciatively at the enormous valley of El Mante and Xicoténcatl, with its vast fields of sugar cane, corn, soy and
oranges.
AHR CGR
ALTA CIMA
This community is located at 2,805 ft (855 msnm) and 3 miles (5 Km) from the village of Gómez Farías. The
characteristic vegetation is mesophilic mountain forest - bosque mesófilo de montaña or cloud forest that prospers
between 2,600 and 4,600 ft (800 y 1,400 msnm). Characteristic plant species are the sweet gum -alamillo (Liquidambar
styracflua), different species of oaks (Quercus sartorii, Q. germana), Mexican summersweet - pomarrosa (Clethra
pringlei), Podocarpus - moquito (Podocarpus rechei), leguminous redbud - pata de vaca (Celtis canadensis), Mexican
maple - álamo (Acer skutchii), mora (Morus celtidifolia) and Tamaulipan magnolia (Magnolia tamaulipana).
Characteristic animals are the jaguar (Felis onca), red brocket deer - venado temazate (Mazama americana), black bear
(Ursus americanus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), opossum tlacuache (Didelphis marsupialis), hooded skunk - zorrillo
(Mephitis macroura) and a great quantity of birds such as the Trogon (Trogon mexicanus) and the great curassow
hocofaisán (Crax rubra). The climate is semi-warm humid. The most important economic activities in the community are
the harvesting of fronds of the Chamaedora palm, palma camedor or tepee (Chamaedora radicalis), the cultivation of
peaches (Prunus persica), guava (Psidium guajava), corn (Zea mays) and common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), all for
self-consumption, as well as ecotourism.
Alta Cimas is in the heart of the El Cielo Biosphere Reserve. The Hotel El Pino (reservations at (01)(831) 123-243-89
has comfortable and clean rooms with an ecotourism concept, besides campesino guides, burro/mule and horse
transportation, as well as artisan products and food (in coordination with the Restaurant y Ecotienda “La Fé”).
Places of Interest:
Casa de Piedra: Natural rocky formation and valley with pine trees, at 4,430 ft above sea level (1,350 msnm). There
are river pools with very cold water all year, ideal for swimming. During the rainy season there are spectacular
waterfalls. It is an ideal location for birding and hiking.
Rancho Viejo: This is a location of great scenic interest. It is a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains. It is ideal for
camping and hiking.
El Salto: A waterfall with waters the majority of the year. It is a nesting location for military macaws military
macaws (Ara militaris).
Cañón del Diablo: Located near the ejido, it is a well-preserved pine forest with a reforested area of Chamaedora
palm.
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Cerro de la Cruz Interpretive Trail: From here you can look over the entire Valle de Alta Cimas. It has an interpretive
trail developed by the local campesinos. It ends at the aviary of birds in danger of extinction. The members of the
Cooperativa La Fe administer it.
Cerro de Las Chachalacas Interpretive Trail: An attractive hike through an area where one can admire not only
beautiful views, but which is also ideal for birding and observing butterflies.
Valle de El Pino: A site of great beauty also located near the ejido, at 2,920 ft above sea level (890 msnm). A large
pine tree, of more than 100 feet (30 m) height, dominates the small valley. In this area the installations of the Hotel
Campestre El Pino were constructed. The members of a campesino cooperative of that location manage this facility.
It has a rustic trail maintained by the hotel.
AHR SMM
SAN JOSE
This community is situated at 4,600 ft above sea level (1,400 msnm) and at 2.4 miles (4 Km) from Alta Cimas. The
characteristic vegetation of the area is the mixed oak-pine forest and the mesophilic mountain forest - bosque mesófilo de
montaña or cloud forest, which is developed between 4,600 and 5,900 ft above sea level (1,400 to 1,800 msnm). Some
characteristic vegetative species are the different species of oaks (Quercus sororia, Q. glaucenses), pines (Pinus
montezumae y Pinus teocote), Mexican maple - álamo (Acer skutchii), basswood/linden tila blanca (Tilia houghii),
Podocarpus - moquito (Podocarpus reichei) and magnolia (Magnolia tamaulipana). Characteristic animals are the
jaguar (Felis onca), puma (Felis concolor), black bear (Ursus americanus), armadillo (Dasypus novemcictus) and a
great number of birds. The climate is temperate humid. The community dedicates itself to the cutting of the palmilla,
cultivation of peaches, apples and pears, as well as corn and beans. The pears are delicious.
In San José facilities for food and lodging are the Restaurant El Oso and the Hotel El Oso (contact Francisco Marín, in
the community, by telephone (01)(831) 123-6-92-79. Lodging is much more modest than other hotels. Also, local guides
and transport animals can be hired.
Places of Interest:
Cueva del Agua: A natural cave situated in the middle of a pine forest of great beauty. It is arrived at by means
of an interpretive trail made by local campesinos with the backing of Terra Nostra A.C.
Joya Verde: One of the forest areas untouched by the hand of Man, preserving trees of great size and a rich
native fauna.
El Vivero: This is one of the favorite walks of visitors to San José. There is a beautiful esplanade covered with
grasses and protected by mountains, ideal for camping. Further, on the flank of the hills, a waterfall surges and
springs that contain water year-round flow.
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Cerro de La Campana: This is a peculiar rocky formation dominating the valley where the Estación Biológica de
Canindo is located, administered by the Secretaría de Desarrollo Urbano y Ecología (SEDUE) of the State of
Tamaulipas7.
El Oso Interpretive Trail: This is a beautiful walk of two hours duration, passing through some of the most
beautiful sites in the area.
SMM SMM
EMILIO PORTES GIL or LA GLORIA
This community is situated at 5,300 ft above seal level (1,620 msnm) and 3.6 miles (6 Km) from San José. It is a beautiful
valley surrounded by mountains with pine cabins with oyamel-tiled roofs. Stone fences and fields of agave pulquero. The
characteristic vegetation in the area is mixed oak-pine forest, developed between 4,600 and 5,500 feet above sea level
(1,400 to 1,800 msnm). Some characteristic vegetative species are oaks (Quercus sororia, Q. glaucenses), pines (Pinus
montezumae and Pinus teocote), vejar fir - oyamel (Abies vejari) and Podocarpus - moquito ó cedrillo (Podocarpus
reichei). Characteristic animals are the jaguar (Felis onca), the black bear (Ursus americanus), armadillo (Dasypus
novemcictus) and a great quantity of birds. The climate is temperate humid.
In La Gloria there are facilities for food, lodging, campesino guides and animal transport at the Hotel La Huella del
Jaguar. For more information contact Efrén Guerrero (at telephone (01)(831) 898-20-02).
Places of Interest:
La Huella del Jaguar Trail: This is a beautiful interpretive trail constructed by the local campesinos showing part
of the community forests and leads to a pretty waterfall.
El Elefante: A natural rock monument/formation located 30 minutes from La Gloria, at 5,400 ft above sea level
(1,640 msnm).
SMM SMM
7. Actually the installations are in litigation by the ejido of the area.
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EL TIGRE
This community is situated at 1,150 ft above seal level (350 msnm) and 2.4 miles (4 Km) from the Villa de Ocampo. The
characteristic vegetation consists of sub-deciduous jungle - selva mediana subcaducifolia (tropical forest).
The ejido has good agricultural lands, which are tilled with agricultural machinery. The soils are red, although black soils
also occur. Good quality Mango orchards (Mangifera indica) and limes - lemons (Citrus limmomus) occur in large areas.
Places of Interest:
Hacienda de El Tigre: This old hacienda is situated at a distance of a bit more than ½-mile from the ejido center.
All that remains of the Hacienda is an old shell of two floors and stables
El Refugio: This is an old sawmill located in the Sierra. The access road is in very poor condition and is only
passable using a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
La Cueva del Agua: A very large and extensive cave. It has water all year, thus its name.
La Cueva del Padre Eterno: This cave is located in the uppermost part of the ejido. It is said that at this location
a religious image can be found. Its entrance is quite large. In March there is a procession to visit the cave,
especially for the Fiesta de San Isidro Labrador.
Joya del Tigre: 4-wheel drive is needed. There are abandoned orchards with fruit, slowly returning to a forested
state.
SMM SMM
LAZARO CARDENAS
This community is located at 3,775 ft (1,150 msnm) and 8.4 miles (14 Km) from the Poblado El Encino. The characteristic
vegetation is mesophilic mountain forest - bosque mesófilo de montaña, with an abundance of black bear (Ursus
americanus), puma (Felis concolor), red brocket deer - temazate (Mazama americana), gray fox (Urocyon
cinereoargenteus), crested guan - ajol (Penelope purpurascens), and great curassow - pheasant (Crax rubra). Bats
abound in the caves. There is a wide variety of trees such as oaks (Quercus spp.), pines (Pinus spp.), Mexican
summersweet -pomarrosa (Clethra pringlei), Podocarpus - jarrilla or moquito (Podocarpus recheii), vejar fir - oyamel
(Abies vejarii), sweet gum - alamillo (Liquidambar styraciflua) and others.
The ejido is found in the Zona Núcleo 1, and contains in its interior three small human settlements: El Malacate and
Rancho del Cielo at 3,940 ft above sea level (1,200 msnm), San Pablo at 3,775 ft (1,150 msnm) and El Julilo at 4,900 ft
(1,500 msnm).
NOTE: Given that it is located in the Zona Núcleo (Central Core) it can only be visited with special permission on
the part of the Secretaría de Desarrollo Urbano y Ecología del Gobierno del Estado de Tamaulipas.
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Places of Interest:
Cerro de la Cruz: At this location there is an overlook for observing the valley. Various types of animals such as
the jaguarundi (Felis yagouaroundi), the flying squirrel (Sciurus spp.) and others can be noted.
El Porvenir (La Perra): This is an old sawmill, located at 6,560 ft above sea level (2,000 msnm). One can still see
the remains of the facility and the cabins of the loggers. The site has regenerated and is actually a young pine
forest.
Las Lomas: A zone bordering the ejido Alta Cima. There are two low hills covered by an abundance of sweet gum
- alamillo (Liquidambar styraciflua) and oak (Quercus spp.) with very tall, large trunks.
Rancho del Cielo:The Biological Station of Texas Southmost College, of the University of Texas. A private
preservation site. Entrance is restricted. Site of experimentation and conservation.
CGR SMM
JOYA DE SALAS or VEINTE DE ABRIL
This community is situated at 5,100 ft above sea level (1,550 msnm) and 12 miles (20 Km) from the Poblado El Encino.
The climate is temperate subhumid and the temperature, especially during the autumn and winter stays between 32º and
39º F (0 y 4º C). Frosts are frequent starting in the month of September. The characteristic vegetation is pine-oak and
oak-pine forest. The inhabitants dedicate themselves mainly to cattle and the planting of corn and beans.
If one particularly wants to know this area, contact Humberto Osorio Cruz, in the Poblado El Encino (telephone
(01)(831) 238-81-50 who can provide transport services in 4-wheel drive vehicles, guided tours, food and rustic lodging.
Places of Interest:
Laguna de la Joya de Salas: A naturally occurring body of fresh water. There are two lagoons located in the
middle of the property. One is more than 650 ft (200 m) long and the other, smaller, of approximately 165 ft
(50 m). It is a resting area for migratory birds, especially ducks.
Sótano de Joya de Salas: A vertical cavern of more than 4,750-ft (1,450-m) depth. This is one of the most
important features of this type in Mexico and in the world. It is not totally explored.
Cañón de Las Guacamayas: A beautiful, cool ravine, bathed in a innumerable quantity of lush plants,
frequented by a large population of military macaws military macaws(Ara militaris).
Antiguo Aserradero: Lumbering and sawmill site until 1985. No structures remain and the level of forest
recovery is good.
Joya de Los Otates: A small mesa near a populated area. Well-preserved forests of oak (Quercus spp.)
characterize it. It is a good location for day trips in the countryside or looking for forest animal tracks.
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Casco de La Hacienda: A hacienda from the end of the 1800s, dedicated to agricultural production. Private
property.
Cueva de La Chamacuera: A cave very near to a populated area. It is located on a hill of the same name. it is
a preferred location for local inhabitants to spend leisure time.
Cueva de Los Leones: A hollow in the earth, of great size, in which farming sometimes occurs. The vegetation
is of particular interest.
FC SMM
GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS
1. PLAN your stay in advance. There are various lodging options in the Reserve.
ALTA CIMAS: a good possibility is the Hotel El Pino” in Alta Cimas, having 30 beds in a friendly and comfortable
atmosphere (for information telephone (01)(831) 123-243-89 from 8:00 to 11:00 AM and from 3:00 to 6:00 PM). The
rooms cost $200, single or double ($250).
GOMEZ FARIAS: In the Villa de Gómez Farías two hotels offer good quality services. One is the Hostal Casa de Piedra.
It is a large house with big gardens and a precious view of the Sierra de Guatemala. It offers five separate rooms. Its
prices oscillate between $400 to $500 per person in a double room.
AHR SMM
HIGH TOURIST SEASONS: Weekends and December-January, Holy Week, and July-August are the periods when
there is the greatest influx of visitors.
Medellín-Morales y Miller, 2005 El Cielo Biosphere Reserve: Handy Guide for Ecotourists
16
2. GARBAGE/TRASH is a very big problem in the Reserve, affecting the forest animals and is a potential source of
contamination for the aquifers (water-bearing rocks). Promise to bring it in upon your return and deposit it where you
bought it. If you don’t want to take it home, at the Caseta de Alta Cimas they will help you get rid of it. Support them in
their work through a small tip.
3. ACCESS. There is a series of old roads and trails in the Reserve, on which it is easy to get lost. For your own safety
don’t risk exploring trails or roads that you don’t know, at the risk of getting lost in the forest. Remember: There are more
than 356,000 (144,000 hectáreas) of virgin forest!
4. GUIDES. If you want to be safer or to better enjoy the views and sites of interest, hire a guide. The Guías de Aves de El
Cielo (Group) has the best guides in the area. Contact them at the following telephones: (01)(831) 183-72-28 de Alta
Cima, with Adelfio Serrano; at (01)(831) 123-6-92-79 in San José, for Francisco Marín or at (01)(831) 898-20-02 in La
Gloria, for Efrén Guerrero; or at (01)(831) 238-81-50 in El Encino, for Humberto Osorio. Discuss with the guide what you
would like to see, what are the options, and how much you want to or are able to walk, etc. Certainly he will give you
some good ideas with respect to your desires.
SMM FC
Generally the cost for a guided tour of 4 to 6 hours is $200. For more information check the present list of prices. The
adult and youth guides of Alta Cima have received special training in serving groups of birders.
5. CAMPING. For your safety do not camp in unpopulated areas8. Camp in designated areas in Alta Cimas or in San
José. The shelters of Canindo (San José) and Hotel El Pino (in Alta Cimas) have adequate areas and facilities for
camping. Frequently wild forest animals appear around human settlements. Don’t take the risk!
The cost of camping at Hotel El Pino is $25 per person, per day, with rights to sanitary services and hot showers.
AHR SMM
6. FIRES. Take special care with campfires and cigarette butts. In reserves like El Cielo there is a high probability of fire
due to the large quantity of dead wood and brush contained in the forests. It is better to not have a fire.
8. The greatest danger is from feral dogs, that on many occasions have left campers without food and destroyed tents and equipment.
Medellín-Morales y Miller, 2005 El Cielo Biosphere Reserve: Handy Guide for Ecotourists
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7. SOUVENIRS. When we visit somewhere we always try to bring back something of remembrance. Many times these
are plants and sometimes forest animals. This is a protected area and that organism that you are taking not only won’t
adapt to a different environment but you would be interrupting the natural biologic cycle. Obviously law prohibits it, and
removing such will result in penalties. Better to take them back as photographs or to observe them in their natural
environment.
At the Eco-Store La Fé in Altas Cima you can find publications about the Reserve, including plant guides and quality
artisan objects, many from other reserves and from indigenous groups or conservationist campesinos. If you like fresh
fruit or vegetables you can get them fresh from the tree or garden. Depending on the season: peaches, plantains, pears,
nopales and much more can be found in the grocery stores of the communities.
In La Gloria, a picturesque community 2 hours from Alta Cima you can try good quality pulque. Ask for Don Plácido
Guerrero. It is also a place known for its quality native pears, chilacayote, papita Cambray and chile manzano (a variety
of chile habanero).
If you like homemade fruit liquors, try those of the Cooperativa La Fé in Alta Cima; there is a great variety. We highly
recommend the port-like mountain grape wild grape (Vitis cinerea), aromatic herbs, wild blackberry wild blackberry
(Rubus sapidus), peach (Prunus persica), hogplum/yellow mombin - jobito (a type of forest plum) (Spondias mombin),
and pineapple (Anans sativus) (from $10 to $15 per bottle of 250 ml.).
SMM AHR SMM
Besides these, there are organic preserves of fruit and local vegetable. Particularly delicious are the pickled (vinaigrette)
nopales with green vegetables, chile manzano (Capsicum frutescens), compote of pear (Pyrus malus), marmalade of
kumquat - naranjita japonesa (Fortunella margarita), marmalade of mango (Mangifera indica) and marmalade of wild
blackberry - zarzamora silvestre (Rubus sapidus)(from $20 to $35). They also have a large assortment of crafts and other
handiwork, such as scarves and mantillas hand embroidered with themes from the ($40 a $80), wooden handicrafts (from
$40 to $100).
If you like very particular natural or medicinal items, try virgin honey or virgin honey with pollen. These come from native
stingless bees xunan kab (Melipona beecheii), mosco prieto (Scaptotrigona mexicana) and the blue bee abeja zarca
(Nannotrigona cesticeicornis) ($40). These are articles for collectors and, with proven success, ideal for facepacks, and
paño (face spotting and treatment of cataracts and fleshiness around the eyes).
Other articles worthy of mention are the products of the Carpintería El Esfuerzo, of the Poblado El Encino. The member
campesinos of this cooperative produce carvings and other objects from dead wood from the natural forests protected by
the community. They produce jewelry boxes of alligator juniper or Chinese cedar Cedro chino (Juniperus deppeana)
($40 a $80), necklaces of strips of wood ($30), dice sets of wild walnut -nogal silvestre (Juglans regia) and tecatón pine
pino tecatón (Pinus teocote) ($60 a $120) and wooden plates ($45 a $70).
Trees. Don’t cut forest trees. In Alta Cimas or in Gómez Farías, you will find ornamental plants and native trees
guaranteed to have been commercially grown, Not removed from the natural forest! In Alta Cimas the women of the
Cooperativa La Fe produce native trees and ornamental plants for reforestation and sale to the public. There you will find
Medellín-Morales y Miller, 2005 El Cielo Biosphere Reserve: Handy Guide for Ecotourists
18
plants such as the Chamaedora palm tepee palm (Chamaedorea radicalis), Tamaulipan magnolia (Magnolia
tamaulipana), tecatón pine (Pinus teocote), sweet gum - alamillo or liquidambar (Liquidambar styraciflua), Podocarpus
- moquito (Podocarpus rechei), zantedeschia - alcatraz (Zantedeschia spp.), hydrangea - hortensia (Hydrangea spp.),
amaryllis- lirio (Hippeastrum spp.), gladiolus (Gladiolus spp.), and dianthus - clavel (Dianthus spp.). For its part, Gómez
Farías is particularly famous for its mangos of excellent quality, above all the varieties Manila, Tommy and Ataulfo, and
its ornamental plants. You can find quality plants at agreeable prices. Particularly interesting are the dwarf impatiens
belenes enanos (Impatiens balsamina) and the crotons - crotos of a thousand forms and colors, the fragrant gardenias
(Gardenia spp.), portulacas (Portulacca oleracea), figs (Ficus Benjamin) y Bougainvillea (Bouganvillea glabra).
8. SWIMMING. If you are interested in swimming and want to enjoy the flow of water we recommend the lower portion of
the preserve. Particularly interesting are the swimming areas of El Nacimiento and the Río Guayalejo, at the elevation of
the ejido El Peñón. In El Nacimiento you will find a lovely location for enjoying the water, in the midst of a forested area
where the Montezuma bald cypress - sabinos (Taxodium mucronatum) and ear pod trees - orejones (Enterolobium
cyclocarpum) are abundant and impressive. There are barbecue sites. During holidays there are vendors who offer food
and refreshments. It is best to come by car, as this is a little off the road.
SMM SMM
Above the Río Guayalejo, at the elevation of the ejido El Peñón, you will find nice places to rest. There are not
buildings/shelters as such, but this is compensated by the quiet and tranquility offered. Carry your basket of fruit and
vegetables, a bit of whole bread and grilled meats and you can enjoy the shade that the ancient Montezuma bald cypress
- sabinos (Taxodium mucronatum) that grow in the area offer. The elephant ears - mafafas or orejas de elefante
(Xanthosoma spp.) grow on all sides and from the branches of the trees hang many plants such as the Spanish moss
spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides), and the bromeliads - bromelias (Bromelia spp.) conferring a fabulous atmosphere.
In the Sierra, in the cloud forest zone and the pine forest, generally there are running streams and springs all year, but
they have very cold water. They flow less during the dry season or decline to temporary flows due to the nature of the
land. For that reason, if you have scheduled a trip to the Sierra, don’t bother bringing a bathing suit.
If you travel during the rainy season you will enjoy the beauty of numerous cascades and waterfalls, particularly near the
Estación de Canindo, in Casa de Piedra or in El Salto.
9. BACKPACKING. If your interest is in backpacking or nature walks, you will really want to better know the cloud forests
and pine forests. There are those who think and we agree with them that the most exciting thing about the Reserva
de la Biosfera El Cielo is to go walking along these winding roads and trails, covered by thousands of mosses -- to go
observing and feeling as if the landscape and climate was continuously changing.
Medellín-Morales y Miller, 2005 El Cielo Biosphere Reserve: Handy Guide for Ecotourists
19
Bring along some good binoculars and plant and animal guides9,10. You are going to need them! But above all, keep
your ears and eyes ready; don’t bring music or other things that might bother the animals. It will be a much better
adventure!
For your safety, don’t climb on the hills. Due to the nature of the rock they are many cavities and vertical caverns, most of
them covered and hidden by heavy brush.
10. CAVES. Due to the nature of the terrain there are many caves vertical and horizontal. The most spectacular,
without doubt, is the Sótano de Joya de Salas, in the community of the same name. Nevertheless, you will also find others
in Alta Cimas (Cueva del Campo y Cueva de La Guillosa), in San José (Cueva del Agua y Cueva del Infiernillo) and in El
Tigre (Cueva del Agua y Las Cuevecillas).
SMM SMM
ADDITIONAL ADVICE
- FOOD. Don’t bring food. Upon your arrival at the Reserve you will find many simple restaurants, clean and of good
quality. In the lower part of the tropical jungle, toward the Villa de Gómez Farías there are a variety of restaurants
specializing in regional food, although modest. The prices are agreeable. In LA BOCATOMA, is found the swimming area
of the Balneario El Nacimiento. There you can, besides enjoying a refreshing swim, savor a succulent dish of small
“lobsters” (crawfish) langostinos (camarones or river acamayas), prepared quickly by the Restaurante “La Florida” (the
price of the meals ranges from $60 to $80). In GÓMEZ FARÍAS in the Restaurante “La Cabaña” the specialty is roast
pork, the pork in a salsa verde with flautas (flutes) of flour tortillas and other dishes at a good price (from $40 to $50).
Higher up, in the cloud forest, in the sierra in ALTA CIMAS is the Restaurante “La Fé.” They can prepare, at moderate
prices and with good flavor, quite a variety of dishes. Here you can enjoy dishes quickly prepared from local ingredients.
We recommend you try the Nopales in the Alta Cimas style tender nopalitos in pipián sauce11- ($30), the gorditas de
mano12 ($30), quick “torteadas”, tortitas de chayote13 ($25) or the regional mole with chicken pollo14 ($40). You will be
overwhelmed by the excellent taste!
9. PLANT AND ANIMAL GUIDES. We recommend the Guía de Arboles y Arbustos de la Reserva de la Biosfera El Cielo, by Henry Puig (Instituto de
Ecología A.C.) and the Guía de Aves de México, by Roger Peterson y Edward Chalif (WWF, Editorial Diana).
10. Pronatura Noreste, located in Monterrey, has excellent guides for birds, butterflies and trees of the Sierra Madre Oriental.
11. PIPIÁN is a sauce, not hot, prepared from the seeds of the squash - calabaza (Cucurbita pepo).
12. GORDITAS DE MANO. This is a regional dish. It consists of a type of large corn tortilla filled with different types of thick fillings of your choice:
nopalitos a la mexicana, fresh (white) cheese, refried beans or machacado with egg.
13. TORTITAS DE CHAYOTE. One of the house specialties. It is prepared with slices of chayote pulp (Sechium edule) with a portion of fresh (white)
cheese, covered with egg white and then fried in vegetable oil.
14. MOLE REGIONAL. Is a dish prepared with a mixture of various mild chiles, chocolate, spices and other ingredients.
Medellín-Morales y Miller, 2005 El Cielo Biosphere Reserve: Handy Guide for Ecotourists
20
AHR SMM
If you wish to prepare your own food, you will find small grocery stores in the Sierra. They have a good assortment of the
basics needed: canned goods, condensed milk, fresh (white) cheese, sausage (chorizo), eggs, fruit and fresh vegetables,
bottled refreshments and purified water. They also have personal items: bath soap, toothpaste and brushes, combs, toilet
paper, etc. There are two grocery stores in Alta Cima, one in San José, and the other in La Gloria.
In San Jose, you can visit the Restaurant “El Oso”, operated by the Marín family. In a rustic, friendly and clean
atmosphere they prepare regional cooking at low cost. There are also families in San José that can prepare home
cooking at a good price (prices of $25 to $30 per plate).
In La Gloria you won’t find anyone who offers meals. However ask for Efrén Guerrero; in his house they can prepare a
rich homestyle meal.
NOTE!
If you are considering meals with fresh meat or sausages, it is best that you bring them with you. This type of food cannot
be found in the small grocery shops of the Sierra, although you can find them in Gómez Farías. Thus, bring a good cooler
and supply it with sufficient ice
- CLOTHING. Generally the weather in El Cielo is cool the greater part of the year. Bring comfortable clothing for the day,
for example cotton denim and long sleeve shirts or blouses, and at least a jacket for the night, a bedspread/coverlet,
sleeping bag just in case and a flashlight.
It’s not important that in the lower part of the Reserve that the weather can be hot. It’s better not to wear shorts,
especially if you are not accustomed to this type of environment. It will be difficult to walk in the forest and mosquitoes
and horseflies will more easily attack you. Consider comfortable shoes suitable for walking. No tennis shoes, nor rubber-
soled shoes. Also, above all during the rainy season, a simple raincoat.
IMPORTANT: Don’t bring any electrical apparatus. There will be no likelihood of using them as there is only enough
power for local uses form electrical energy provided by solar cells.
- GASOLINE. Prepare yourself in advance. In Gómez Farías there are no gasoline service stations, the nearest ones are
in Loma Alta or in Villa de Llera, some 40 minutes to an hour from Gómez Farías. To prepare for unseen events, set
aside an extra supply of gasoline and be certain to fill the gas tank.
Also, check the motor oil, the power steering fluid, and the brake fluid.
Additionally, have a good tool kit handy and a simple jack. This last one is particularly important given the condition of the
roads from Alta Cima to San José. You won’t regret taking along an extra supply of water in a container; it could become
needed.
Medellín-Morales y Miller, 2005 El Cielo Biosphere Reserve: Handy Guide for Ecotourists
21
- INSECT REPELLENTS. During certain periods (June through September), especially before the rains, the mosquitoes -
zancudos (Anopheles) are abundant. Bring some type of repellent, above all those that are labeled that they don’t
contaminate the environment. Some people prepare a mixture of tobacco with alcohol to repel the mosquitoes, or better
there are on the market natural repellents ($150), such as the Swiss brand “Just” or those prepared with citronella as the
base, such as the Bayer brand (approximately $50).
For nighttime use there are insecticide spirals (ignitable) that you might want to include. One brand is Raidolitos ($10),
which you can buy in just about any supermarket or small store. Other insects that can bother you during the months April
through July are fleas and the polvillo, a type of mosquito occurring during the dry season (March to May). In your bag
put a container of dusting insecticide that you can apply to your bedding. We recommend Bayer’s Bolfo ($40), which can
be found in veterinary pharmacies.
- DRINKING WATER. One of the advantages of living in the Reserve is that, due to the low population density, water
supplies are not contaminated and the water is of good quality.
Nevertheless, if you want to be safer with the water you drink, you can buy it in the grocery stores or in the Eco-Tienda La
in Alta Cimas. Or bring it from the city. You can find drinking water in containers of 1½ liter ($7.50 a $10) to 1 gallon
($10 a $15). The best brands Bonafont, Sierra Fría or the regional brand, Cotorro.
More information and actualized price list is available in: www.elcielotours.com
Photos by :
- Antonio Hidalgo Rea (AHR).
- Claudia González Romo (CGR).
- Eduardo Padrón Serrano (EPS).
- Fernando Cerra (FC).
- Pronatura Noreste (PNE).
- Sergio Medellín-Morales (SMM).
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
One of the advantages of living in the Reserve is that, due to the low population density, water supplies are not contaminated and the water is of good quality
  • Drinking Water
DRINKING WATER. One of the advantages of living in the Reserve is that, due to the low population density, water supplies are not contaminated and the water is of good quality.
We recommend the Guía de Arboles y Arbustos de la Reserva de la Biosfera El Cielo, by Henry Puig (Instituto de Ecología A.C.) and the Guía de Aves de México
  • Plant
  • Guides
PLANT AND ANIMAL GUIDES. We recommend the Guía de Arboles y Arbustos de la Reserva de la Biosfera El Cielo, by Henry Puig (Instituto de Ecología A.C.) and the Guía de Aves de México, by Roger Peterson y Edward Chalif (WWF, Editorial Diana).
It consists of a type of large corn tortilla filled with different types of thick fillings of your choice: nopalitos a la mexicana, fresh (white) cheese, refried beans or machacado with egg
  • Gorditas De
  • Mano
GORDITAS DE MANO. This is a regional dish. It consists of a type of large corn tortilla filled with different types of thick fillings of your choice: nopalitos a la mexicana, fresh (white) cheese, refried beans or machacado with egg.
It is prepared with slices of chayote pulp (Sechium edule) with a portion of fresh (white) cheese, covered with egg white and then fried in vegetable oil
  • Tortitas De Chayote
TORTITAS DE CHAYOTE. One of the house specialties. It is prepared with slices of chayote pulp (Sechium edule) with a portion of fresh (white) cheese, covered with egg white and then fried in vegetable oil.
you can buy it in the grocery stores or in the Eco-Tienda La Fé in Alta Cimas. Or bring it from the city. You can find drinking water in containers of 1½ liter ($7.50 a $10) to 1 gallon ($10 a $15). The best brands Bonafont, Sierra Fría or the regional brand
  • Nevertheless
Nevertheless, if you want to be safer with the water you drink, you can buy it in the grocery stores or in the Eco-Tienda La Fé in Alta Cimas. Or bring it from the city. You can find drinking water in containers of 1½ liter ($7.50 a $10) to 1 gallon ($10 a $15). The best brands Bonafont, Sierra Fría or the regional brand, Cotorro. More information and actualized price list is available in: www.elcielotours.com