On our trencito we were joined by a group of families with small children, and two heavily armed members of the Honduran navy. It turns out Cuero y Salado is not just a national wildlife refuge, but also a small military outpost.
A guy in Las Mangas had called ahead for us to confirm that the refuge had a place to stay, and they said yes. We didn't think to ask what the accommodations were: our guidebook described a small guesthouse with several rooms. When we got there, the guesthouse consisted of, "we'll lend you a tent and pitch it for you right between the visitor's center and the building where all the military guys are staying." We chalked this up as an opportunity to hear the howler monkeys better at dawn.
Our man in Las Mangas was an enthusiastic birder and had recommended a specific guide at Cuero y Salado. Once we were moved into our tent, we headed out with him for a two-hour canoe tour of the mangrove canals, just before dusk.Then we went back out with him at dawn. We saw lots of birds, and both howler and white-faced monkeys.
After a couple of guided tours we were itching to get out in our own canoe. Apparently this is unheard of and completely against official policy at Cuero y Salado. (Our guidebook had said you could rent a canoe...we came to dislike Lonely Planet on this trip.) Matt harangued an ecotourism intern at the park until he talked his boss into letting us go out on our own. We probably didn't see as many birds on our own as we did with the professional, but we messed around seeing how close we could get to bats without spooking them...
Although it was beautiful, barking dogs and noisy military guys woke us up in the middle of the night enough that it wasn't quite tropical paradise. And there were still more things to see. So after a couple of nights we hopped back on the trencito and headed west to Tela.