Discovering new savannas and lagoons west of Lake Yaxha

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We find interesting ecosystems using satellite photographs and aerial photographs. Then we do research to figure out how best to get to these areas. We do all these trips in cooperation and coordination with the administrators of whatever park or nature reserve that we plan to visit. Each trip is with local guides (they like to accompany us since in most cases they themselves have never visited the savannas or wetlands that we find from aerial photos).

Since we prefer not to clear wide trails, the narrow (50-75 centimeter) trails have spine trees and vines along the sides, spaghetti thin creeper vines along the ground (that trip you), and other daunting dangers.

The most amazing of the pitfalls awaiting you on a hike are the deep holes where a palm tree rotted many years ago and the entire area where the trunk used to be is now a hollow pit: a large hole just waiting for you to have your foot fall into it.

The photo and video here show what happens when Dr Nicholas (Hellmuth, “Dr Nicholas” is his logo name) fell flat on his back (fortunately not flat on his face).

It rained the two sequential days that we hiked to accomplish drone photography of never-before-studied areas of the far west part of Parque Nacional Yaxha, Nakum and Naranjo. So the trails were slippery (and in other areas underwater). But we were successful both days to accomplish drone photography of three small lakes and two remarkable biodiverse savannas with the help of experienced drone pilot Haniel Lopez and our registered DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone with its 48 megapixel Hasselblad L1D-20c camera.

We of FLAAR (USA) and FLAAR Mesoamerica (Guatemala) “do what it takes” to accomplish fresh, high-resolution documentation of remote areas that deserve studies of flora, fauna and ecology for conservation programs of the Reserva de la Biosfera Maya, Peten, Guatemala. The current project of cooperation and coordination with CONAP is for five years, 2021-2025, so we have a lot more to find, document, photograph, and publish.

Savannas are the least-often studied ecosystems of Guatemala

During our project of 2018-2019 we documented the biodiverse seasonally inundated Savanna East of Nakum.


The seasonally inundated Savanna East of Nakum has tasiste palm, nance fruit trees, and jicara calabash trees: all three are indicators of a savanna. So far no sandpaper leaf trees, no oak trees, and never any pine within PNYNN.

To our knowledge this savanna had not been pictured, shown on a map, photographed, or published before our exploration in 2019. However, savanna is known and has been visited by archaeologists of the Naranjo area projects. Their focus is on hilltop areas with mounds; no archaeological mounds yet found in this savanna.

Looking for more savannas

I then continued to search for more savanna-like seasonally inundated open areas on satellite photos and found two small savannas far far to the west of the end of Lake Yaxha. We visited these twice in 2019 and now with our new project 2021-2025 we are employing newer digital camera equipment, especially good resolution drone photography.

We now have a ton of gigabytes of drone photos of Laguneta La Guitarra (Laguna El Juleque), Laguneta Lancaja (Lancaha) and Laguneta of 3 Conjoined Cenotes (several kilometers north of Laguneta Lancaja). Plus we now have helpful drone photos of the biodiverse ecosystems of the Savanna of 3 Fern Species and the adjacent Rectangular Savanna. Both of these are south of the Laguneta of 3 Conjoined Cenotes.

We are preparing FLAAR reports on each lagoon and each savanna.

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We are dedicated to continue to be a source of information and education about flora and fauna of Mesoamerica today that is related to Classic Maya civilization 2000 years ago.

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