Atlantida was the headquarters for the large banana companies that helped develop Atlantida and Honduras. As such, there are several botanical gardens in Atlantida that were established by them. Without doubt, the largest and most famous is the Lancetilla Experimental Botanical garden in Tela. This experimental garden was developed under the supervision of Dr. Wilson Popenoe, who spent most of his life in Central America working for Samuel Zemurray, the president of the Tela Railroad Company and United Fruit Company.
Their goal was to see which exotic tropical fruit species could grow well in Honduras. The fruit company already had the US market under control. In addition, they had the shipping facilities and the land in Honduras where they could produce them. Thanks to those efforts, today we find different exotic fruits from southeast Asia that are only found in Honduras. Examples are Rambutan, Mangosteen and Durian among many others!
The Lancetilla Botanical Garden in Tela is by far the most visited of the different Botanical Gardens in Atlantida. This protected area in Atlantida is under the management of the ESNACIFOR. This is the National Forestry University that has its headquarters in Siguatepeque, central Honduras. By far, the most recognizable image of the Lancetilla Botanical gardens is its famous bamboo tunnel. This tunnel is formed by huge bamboo trees that grow on both sides of a road and meet on the top, forming a natural tunnel! The Lancetilla botanical garden offers a visitors’ center and a plant nursery where you can purchase a variety of fruit trees and ornamental flowers. You can visit Lancetilla on your own, however, there are also some local tour operators that offer tours from Tela. The most reputable are Garifuna Tours and Eco di Mare Tours.
In addition to Lancetilla Botanical Gardens in Tela, you will find two different botanical gardens in La Ceiba. One of them is the old Standard Fruit Company botanical garden in La Ceiba. This garden, together with the Swinford park in La Ceiba are two of the most visible legacies of this banana company in the city. The La Ceiba botanical garden is in the Naranjal district in town and is home to the CREDIA. There is a short trail on premises, and even though it is tiny in comparison with Lancetilla, it is a lovely green area within the city.
The third of the botanical gardens in Atlantida is at the CURLA. This is the local campus for the National Autonomous University of Honduras in La Ceiba. It is officially known as the “Banco de Germoplasma” which would be something like a genetic bank of plants from around the world. This includes fruit, hardwood, ornamental and other types of plants. It is part of the scientific effort by the university to study and protect different plant species that grow in our local environment. The University has 2000 hectares of land for this purpose that are located between the Goloson Airport in La Ceiba and Pico Bonito National Park.
You can visit the Banco de Germoplasma del Curla on weekdays between 8 am and 1 pm. In addition to different trails, you will probably see university students working in the diverse plantations. One of the disciplines taught in this university is Agricultural Engineering, and a hands-on experience is very valuable! You can visit the site on your own, or you can hire a local tour operator for the experience. We recommend Tourist Options as your best option in La Ceiba.
All three of the botanical gardens in Atlantida offer ideal conditions for bird watching. This of course, makes a lot of sense, as the diversity of fruits and seeds attract many bird species. In addition to the number of birds to be seen in these gardens, you will be surprised by the number of insects. If you have an interest in insects and butterflies, you will be thrilled to note that there is an insect and butterfly museum that is open to the public at the CURLA university campus. This means that you can visit both, the botanical garden and the butterfly museum! Talk about a perfect match!