Read this in Spanish

Alvaro Hurtado's personal passion for water gardening
goes BIG at -

 La Reunion
Antigua Country Club, Guatemala
Huge ponds with aquatic plants enhance the
ambience and ecosystem

by Alvaro Hurtado - Click images to enlarge

This story began with the idea of acquiring a small piece of land and of sharing it with five friends. It turned out to be the purchase of 1500 acres (607 hectares), an invitation to five more friends to participate, and the beginning of a residential development of 350 lots, 200 villas and a Pete Dye designed 18-hole golf course.

La Reunion is the name of this former coffee farm located in view of Volcán de Fuego, 15 minutes away from Antigua, Guatemala, the country's first capital, and 45 minutes away from the Pacific Coast. With an altitude varying from 3,600 to 4,200 feet (1,100 to 1,280 meters) above sea level and abundant vegetation, it is considered a subtropical humid forest.  

Volcán de Fuego last erupted August 9, 2007 >

As with many golf courses, ours incorporates two ponds, one that holds 11 million gallons (41.6 million liters) of water and another holding 14 million gallons (53 million liters).

Starting to fill one of the ponds  
These ponds are made with 22.5-foot (6.9-meter) wide by 500-foot (152-meter) long rolls of 1-milimeter (.04-inch) thick polyethylene liner, unrolled parallel to each other and attached together with a heat roller machine. The center of the pond is 18 feet (5.5 meters) deep and the periphery 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep with a mud bottom 4 feet (1.2 meter) thick at the center and 1.5 feet (46 centimeters) at the periphery. This was done to make the ponds as natural as possible and to have a biodiversity of aquatic plants, fish, micro-organisms and algae.   

Since waterlilies were to be the main feature in the ponds, one of our first questions was about the type of fish that should be introduced as we did not want the fish to disturb the waterlilies. Some suggested a variety of Gambusia like afinis or other small native fish specifically to control insect larvae. As a tropical country we have plenty and a large variety of insects.

Preparing to release fish
In our rivers and lakes we have different varieties of Gambusia and Poecilia. We selected Poecilia reticulata (guppy) since is not as aggressive as the Gambusia, reproduces as well, is easy to obtain and feeds upon insect larvae. We also wanted to have a species easy to eradicate in the event it did not work. So far, four thousand guppies have been introduced. They have reproduced very well and numbers rise even during the rainy season, when the ponds overflow and many fish are lost. 
For larger fish we thought of catfish and carp but these fish dig and feed from the bottom of the ponds. We did not want muddy water or plants floating everywhere. Guapote tigre (Cichlasoma managuense), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and black bass (Micropterus salmoides) were also considered. They are fun game fish but too aggressive and would feed on the Poecilia and everything else. Tilapia (Oreochromis aureus) are omnivorous but may affect the waterlilies so we chose comet goldfish (Carassius auratus). We introduced nine hundred of them and they have adapted very well. They are usually seen in large schools and have grown from two inches to four inches (five centimeters to 10 centimeters) with their maximum size six inches (15 centimeters). We haven't seen offspring but they were introduced only a few months ago. We are doing well with the introduction of these two varieties of fish, so we do not plan to introduce others. 


Mature waterlilies were harvested from the plantation of Dr. Eduardo Arathoon --
We have planted 75 mature waterlilies, eight different varieties, arranged by color. Some are day flowering and others are night bloomers, half are tropical and half are hardy. We have identified Nymphaea mexicana and have installed a white-flowered tropical variety endemic to Guatemala near both Pacific and Atlantic coasts. It is our intention to plant Cyperus papyrus, Typha latifolia and varieties of Sagittaria

-- and planted at La Reunion.

At La Reunion there are several virgin ravines. With people in the community, we are working with the public school to train students as guides for birdwatching and butterfly watching. We are planning
to plant more trees endemic to the area in order to create a buffer belt isolating the ravines and forest from the golf course and residences to preserve them as they are.  

The golf course is scheduled for completion in April 2008, together with the clubhouse, luxury golf suites and the delivery of lots sold to date. There are plans for the construction of an eco-hotel, a boutique hotel and rental villas. By that time, our ponds will be well established and a highlight of La Reunion. 

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