Our alarm was set at 3.30am and by 4.00am we were waiting outside the Jaguar Inn in Tikal. In the cool of the morning and in pitch darkness our guide Alberto arrived. He is a local park guide and does not need a torch light to find his way through the jungle, his home. Alberto was insistent that we meet at 4am, he wanted us to be the first at Temple IV to view the sunrise and to experience the jungle around us waking up before many other groups arrive.
Off We Head To the Tikal Jungle
Alberto arrived promptly at 4.00am and produced a small torch and off we go following in his footsteps sidestepping a poisonous black snake within minutes. It was really eerie, not knowing where you were walking or where you are putting your foot as you took off into the blackness of the jungle. He instructed us to turn our torch lights off as we approached the “Great Pyramid Plaza” or “Lost World” to view the shadows it makes on the surrounding landscape. The shadows were large and creepy and we were so pleased we had Alberto with us guiding us through these ancient monuments.
Suddenly from out of nowhere howling and screeching could be heard in front of us, we jumped. Alberto chuckled as he enlightened us that it is the Howler Monkeys as they are awakening and calling for their mates. Alberto stopped abruptly, moved his head ever so slightly to the right, and put his finger to his mouth signalling us to be quiet, there is a jaguar quietly calling out to his mate in the jungle to our right. What had we let ourselves into!
We arrived at Temple IV and climbed the rickety wooden staircase to the top to take prime position. Alberto did not come with us, he wanted us to experience the waking up of the jungle first before he joined us.
The mist shrouds the other temples in the darkness. There is one other person already seated on the Temple steps setting up his tripod in time for the sunrise. We greeted one another quietly and listened to the sounds evolving around us.
The Howler monkeys continued screeching around us in the darkness and the mist, there seems like hundreds of them from the noise that they were making. Birds started to wake and we heard their many varied calls amongst the trees and bushes close by. The mist started to clear and we could view Temple III in the distance, then the mist enclosed the temple once more and we sat in near darkness.
Now others arrived and their chatter is loud as the Howler monkeys. Alberto appeared silently and with authority says ‘listen, just listen’. There is silence at last.
The sunrise tried to break through the mist, as it does we got the occasional glimpses of the other Tikal temples. It became clear that a stunning sunrise was not going to happen that morning for us.
As we were just about to leave Temple IV, Macaw birds are sighted on the trees below us, their colourful vibrant plumage showing through the trees whilst their loud calls and screams echo through the jungle. It is now that the mist cleared and we were able to get a clearer view of the temples in front of us.
We left Temple IV with Alberto to have a private tour through the Temple grounds, before heading back to the Jaguar Inn for breakfast at 8am.
Sunrise Tour Costs: (as of 2013)
Sunrise tour with a local guide from Tikal National Park with tip GTQ350/AUD44
Entrance Fees to Tikal National Park GTQ300/AUD38
Bus from entrance to Main Square GTQ20/AUD2
To Travel Too Recommendation:
To make the most of your visit to the Tikal National Park and to include a sunrise and sunset tour we recommend leaving Flores around midday, this will get you to the entrance of Tikal National Park. At 3pm (not before) you can purchase a ticket for the next day that allows you to visit the grounds that evening up until 6pm and then have all the next day in the Park before you leave to return to Flores. This saves buying a ticket for two days.
Our other recommendation is to use the services of the local Tikal National Park guides that are located in the square as you arrive. These guides have been brought up in and around the park. Their knowledge of the jungle and the wildlife is second nature to them. Tour companies are bringing their own guides in and doing these guides out of their livelihood.
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