Finca Tatin, Guatemala; Nature’s Wonderland

Having wrote my most recent post, together with the weather in Singapore so comfy these few days, it reminded me of a jungle stay that I did in Guatemala, Central America.

Tucked away on the side of Rio Dulce sits an eco-lodge, the Finca Tatin, that is being surrounded by lush green forest. We decided to make a stop there after visiting Livingston where we celebrated the Garifuna Day, as recommended by a friend since we were nearby.

Taking a boat from Livingston and travelling approx. 30mins down Rio Dulce towards Lake Izabal, we were rewarded with a view of high walls of dense canopy lining both sides of the river.

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Leaving Livingston by boat
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Heading towards the gorge as seen ahead.
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Colours of Livingston, like a lego piece.
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Closer and into the gorge.

For those who have not heard, a trip through Rio Dulce Gorge is one of the popular and recommended to-do things in Guatemala. And prior to this trip, we were told by other travellers how impressive the cascading vines along the river is, especially when water is trickling off them. Though we were met with gloomy weather and the view was not at its best, I was still not disappointed with the trip through the Gorge.

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Closer and into the gorge.
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Despite the weather (and my expression in this picture) I was not at the slightest bit disappointed with the trip through the Gorge.

Since accommodations to me are just places where I could spend the night resting and recharge, I usually don’t look much into them especially when backpacking as long as the beds and bathrooms are clean, let alone travelling specially for an accommodation. However, arriving at Finca Tatin and finding out what it has to offer, I was glad that I made the trip there.

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Our good-looking & friendly staff at Finca Tatin (yeah, the parrot as well maybe)

We were received by a good-looking and friendly staff, whom I have sadly forgotten his name, but I think it is David(?). Since we did not make any reservations, we were shown around the types of accommodations to choose from. Luckily for us, a group of friends wanted to occupy the entire dormitory and since they were not expecting any other guests besides the group, we were offered 2 private rooms with 2 single beds each for the same cost, at Q50pp/night. | They have a wide range of accommodations to cater to travellers on different budgets; from Q50 to Q300pp/night

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Taking a tour around Finca Tatin

The beds were comfortable and besides being in the forest, it was pretty cold due to the rainy days that I actually had to ask for additional blanket. It was so nice to sleep in anyways.

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Our small but comfortable room.

As it was already late in the afternoon and drizzling, we decided to stay in the area and spent the afternoon swinging off the deck into the river. So much fun laughing at our own slapstick comedy and swimming in the cold river.

By the time we exited the river, it was already in the evening but dinner wasn’t going to be serve until around 7pm. David then recommended us to hike through the woods to a tree house where we could stargaze, and so we did! Hiking through the woods in the dark, especially when it was our first time there, was definitely thrilling but kinda insane to do. Thinking about it, it is amazing how we even made it back to our accommodation, to the delicious meal waiting for us, even though we did not find the tree house.

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Main dish
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With the usual starter; tortilla with delicious chimichurri spread (a green sauce originally from Argentina, where Finca Tatin’s owner is from)

At Finca Tatin, they do not have kitchen access for the guests. Communal dinner prepared by the locals is being offered instead. I love these family-style dinners as they are great to meet with other travellers when we come to eat together. Can’t remember what we had on one of those nights, but they were all delicious. Thumbs up for that!

Vegetarian need not worry as you can request for vegetarian food. We did not know that guests were not allowed to use the kitchen and prepared a lot, like pastas etc., to be cook since we assumed there would not be any shops in the middle of the jungle. The food that we prepared did not go to waste however, using the tomatoes, onions and such to make salad for breakfast with the necessary utensils that they generously lent us.

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Finca Tatin’s dining area

Tips for travellers on a budget: get some dry food for breakfast/lunch, such as cereals, at your nearest town before arriving at Finca Tatin. You can get milk as well, asking for permission to store in their fridge. Note: the meals are still reasonably price, ranging from Q30~65, which I can say is totally worth it having tried their dinner.

Travellers might be worried that there would be nothing to do or nowhere to go after dark since they are in the middle of the jungle. But fret not as Finca Tatin has a lot of facilities – gym, table-tennis, or go skinny-dipping in the dark in the river if you wish! But my favourite has to be the sauna experience!

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Temazcal; the Mayan Sauna // source
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The Mayan Sauna // source

Temazcal, the Mayan Sauna, is a type of sweat lodge which originated with pre-Hispanic Indigenous people, and the wood-fired modern temazcal at Finca Tatin allows us to enjoy and experience a tradition of the Mayan Culture. From time-to-time, water has to be splashed on the “iron oven” for steam to be produced. For a good sauna session, it is better to take a break every 15mins, and it could not be better that the sauna was right next to the river which we would jump right in after each sesh. Even if you do not want to swim in the river, it is nice standing outside in the cool breeze before heading back for the next steam bath. A pleasant experience all in all.

Given that there is no lack of things-to-do, it is also good to do nothing as the common room at Finca Tatin is a great area to just unwind, swinging in one of the many hammocks that they have with a cup of hot tea or good read in hand.

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The spacious common room at Finca Tatin

 

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Few rounds of table tennis and some drinks to wrap the day.

There is a lot of activities to choose from during the day. Kayak to a hot spring spot or hike one of the many trails available – to a stream, a waterfall, a tiger caver, and Livingston even(!). We took the trail leading to the stream, which is easily accessible from the back of our lodge.

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Into the woods we go~
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How do we look in our makeshift poncho?

Though the stream is supposed to be 20mins away, it definitely felt longer than that on our way there. I even hiked in flip-flops despite the rain which made the trail extra muddy. Zai leh!!? The water level is not very high, but comfortable enough for a refreshing dip.

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Swimming in the wilderness – the tranquillity that I desire.

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My attempt at taking an ad-quality picture of Havaianas :p

I like that this place is not at all touristic, vaguely remembering that there was only a group of guided tour who passed this place besides us.

Walking further down, across the stream, we reached a community development project which we left shortly after as the staffs were already leaving. We then hiked back to Finca Tatin, which felt very short compared to our way here, where we swung right into the river as soon as we arrived.

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Opposite the stream; route to a local community

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Doing the tarzan swing which we could not quite get enough of. Even specially woke up early for a last swing on the morning we left.

Interestingly, The New Adventures of Tarzan was filmed in Guatemala.

Swing, Swim, Hike, Swing, Swim, Sauna, Dinner, Table Tennis, Sleep and Repeat. I definitely could have stayed longer.

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The guardian of Finca Tatin
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Common Area// Just look at the surroundings!
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Standing behind me is Finca Tatin’s lovely dog; Papa Negro & his son standing behind my friend.

On Finca Tatin’s website, it has this exact sentence “If you look for a simple, relaxed time, good food, excellent company, wonderful places to explore, “FINCA TATIN IS YOUR DESTINATION”!” – and I can definitely attest to the truth of this statement.

As said earlier in this post, accommodations are to me just places to rest most of the time, and would hardly spend any time at. Therefore, it is unlikely of me wanting to specially go to an accommodation unless I need lodging . Don’t get me wrong. Of course I am satisfied with other stays, and am elated to find a swimming pool in the US$5 hostel that I am staying at. But being a nature lover, the location of Finca Tatin itself in addition to activities available in its vicinity, especially the hot springs that I missed, has definitely won my heart and I very much look forward to my next trip there


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