Ponant and Honduras’ local communities co-design the country’s newest exploration journey

Ponant and Honduras’ local communities co-design the country’s newest exploration journey

As PONANT continues to focus its efforts on sustainability and set the foundation for better cruising practices across the globe, the company has collaborated with Honduras’ local communities to co-design the newest exploration journey in the mostly under-the-radar country, with minimised distances to reduce its environmental footprint.

In true ‘Explore to Inspire’ fashion, PONANT’s expedition team led a scouting trip to meet the local communities in Honduras and co-designed the newest exploration journey in one of Central America’s least travelled countries. Honduras features fewer tourism infrastructures than its neighbouring countries but no less wonders for travellers to discover, which PONANT aims at highlighting through its pioneering work with local communities.

PONANT is the first company to head to Cayos Cochinos, La Ceiba and Cuero y Salado, where no hosted cruise ship has ever sailed.

Directed by José Sarica, PONANT’s Expedition Experience Director, the exploration team co-built a programme of activities with local stakeholders while keeping the sailed distances as minimal as possible to reduce its environmental footprint. In doing so, PONANT paves the way to a more conscious way of travelling in the region, aiming to inspire other industry actors to follow.

“In just eight days, this itinerary offers an incredibly rich range of experiences and is without doubt the most varied one we offer in the tropics,” José Sarica said. The programme involves several encounters with local communities who are “proud of their culture and eager to share it” like the Caracoles people in Bonacca, also known as the Cay, on Guanaja Island, and the Garifuna people from Chachahuate island in the Cayos Cochinos archipelago.

Go where no cruise ship has gone before.

After reaching Guanaja and the small island of Bonacca in the Islas de la Bahía archipelago, PONANT met with the young generation championing the Caracoles culture and designed a bespoke training programme for volunteers to become official expedition guides.

Also referred to as the Cay or “Venice of the Caribbean”, the island is right at the heart of the world’s second-largest coral reef.

Further to its efforts to develop the tourism industry, the PONANT Foundation is also working at a local level to tackle the issues of drinking water in Cayo Chachahuate island and under-developed schools in Cuero y Salado which are in a dilapidated state and sorely lacking in equipment.

“Guests will experience what we did when location scouting. They will be blown away by the seabed and nature in general; I don’t think they will be expecting it to be such a beautiful and moving voyage and to feel so enriched by their meetings with locals,” José Sarica said.

Describing the new journey as “one of the most all-embracing itineraries that PONANT offers and undoubtedly the most varied one in the tropics,” José said “there are the seabeds of protected coral, crystal clear water, sandy beaches and incredible mangroves which make you think you’re in the Amazon with parrots, toucans, howler monkeys and alligators.”

The new exploration will start sailing from mid-November 2023 with five sailings by the end of the year. PONANT’s guests will be amongst the first to discover this side of the Caribbean Sea through an itinerary featuring several encounters with local communities.

Belize and Honduras: unexpected encounters and nature:

Guests onboard Le Dumont-d’Urville will set off on an all-new expedition cruise into the heart of the lush landscapes and hypnotic shores of Honduras and Belize.

Sailing past dense tropical forests and the burgeoning mangrove, travellers will explore the Jeannette Kawas National Park before heading to the undiscovered island of Guanaja, previously known as the green island for its verdant vegetation.

A little further on, the Bay Islands and the Cayos Cochinos will display their immense coral reef, after which guests will explore the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve onboard a PONANT dinghy, seeking exotic birds, howler monkeys and small caimans.

The sailing will go on to reveal the Mopan and Kekchi Mayan civilisations in the small town of Placencia, before arriving in Half Moon Caye – the picture postcard view of Belize, also known for its UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Great Blue Hole cenote.

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