Tropical Forest, Belize
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Refuge, formerly called the Jaguar Preserve is a cool way to experience some of Belize's natural beauty. There are miles of trails all over the park, waterfalls, rivers to tube in, and night tours. The chances of seeing a jaguar are pretty slim, but they are around. Lots of birds, insects, and flowers that you are guaranteed to see, with decent possibilities of seeing other small animals.
The accomodations are a bit on the rustic side but worth it for me. You have to bring your own food but there is a kitchen you can use. I wish I could have stayed here more then the one night in order to do some hardcore trekking but time was at a premium and we had to continue on our way. There is a really cool multi day hike you can arrange with a guide that takes you through amazing remote rainforest and up the country's highest mountain.
After finishing our morning Zoo excursion, we and our Canadian friends drove off in our rental for the Hopkins area. However, a half-hour later, we made a stop at the small Guanacaste National Park, located beside the highway where we had to swing off toward Belmopan and the southeast.
This 50-acre remnant of the tropical forests of Belize is managed by the Belize Audubon Society and has a small visitor's centre with information on the Park's trails, flora and fauna (US$2.50 pp entry fee) as well as toilet facilities. We headed off on one of their shorter jungle trails that leads to the park's namesake - a huge Guanacaste tree. Also known as a Tubroos, these trees have a trunk diameter of of more than 6 feet and are usually festooned with vines and epiphytes hanging from the branches high above. These trees were prime targets for loggers but, because this particular 100-year old specimen had a partially broken trunk, it is guessed that it was bypassed for choicer victims. It was quite a sight to behold (check out the 2nd & 3rd photos), as were the many tropical birds that inhabit this little bit of forest where Roaring Creek flows into the larger Belize River.
Continuing our jungle trail walk from the Guanacaste tree, we came to the small Roaring Creek tributary of the Belize River. The forest trail followed high above the very deep ravine through which the creek flowed and along which were located various bird watching platforms. Where the Creek meets the river, a large series of wooden platforms and steps built there provide a great viewing area of where these two bodies of water meet. Just a few weeks before we arrived, torrential rains from the record 2005/06 season had caused flooding - in the 4th photo take a look at the brown high water mark on that tree trunk across the creek!! Even the platform we were standing on had various bits of mud deposited on it! Now I could understand why the other tree trunk had been torn loose!
After leaving Ambergris Cay, we picked up our rental vehicle from the International airport near Belize City, and drove to the Community Baboon Sanctuary located only 13 miles (21 km) away at Bermudian Landing. This area of Belize was set aside by the local population to help preserve the endangered Black Howler Monkey population (locally referred to as 'baboons') while at the same time, providing the villagers with additional income. Shortly after crossing the Belize River and it's protected 60-foot (18-m) wide swath of trees on each bank, as shown here, we arrived in the small village.
As part of the effort to preserve their Howler Monkey population, the over 200 members of the local villages agreed not to cut the types of trees which provide the main food source for the monkeys and also to leave narrow forested strips between their cultivated fields, so the monkeys could continue to use the aerial pathways that they were used to.
We soon found their small museum and office, and the US$5 pp cost of admission provided for a local guide who took us on a tour of the many trails along the banks of the Belize River where the monkeys nest. He took off down the road on his bicycle for a short distance, as we followed in our rental, before we all headed off into the forest on foot (2nd photo).
The Black Howler Monkeys found here are one of six species found in the tropical rain forests of southern South America, Boliva and Central America. Their head and body length of about 2-3 feet (combined with equal tail length dimensions) makes them one of the largest monkey types found in the Americas. The male monkeys have a jaw structure that allows them to make very load echoing calls to stake out their territory. These 'howls' can be heard for about 2 miles (3 km) in a jungle environment . Although I did not get many good camera shots of the moving monkeys in the dense foliage (3rd photo), we were more successful with action shots on the video camera that Sue was using.
river kayak and camp along the Moho River...not a long river but certainly a lot of fun! we joined with an organized eco-tour so all the water gear was provided. all the guides were Ketchi Indians and Mayans...which was great because we learned so much about their culture!
A long, rugged drive up the mountains to the northwest of Placencia is Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve. It's a nice day trip because there are several well-marked and groomed paths through the forest. You'll see monkeys and leafcutter ants, and perhaps even a pecciary or two. You won't see jaguars, but they may well see you!
Bring lots of water because hiking in the rainforest is a physcially taxing activity.
After adorning yourself with safety gear, climb several ladders nailed to the sides of the tree and walk across the suspended walking bridge to the platforms mounted in the tree tops. You'll have an amazing view of Blue Creek below you and a different perspective of the rainforest from being in the canopy. It's a little pricey, but a lot of fun. Plus, the way in/out is a nice easy hike and the locals sell quaint souveniers at the entrance to the park.
When you enter the tropical forest it is easy to get overwhelmed, and just gaze up at the towering trees. But if you don't look at the smaller things you will miss vast amonts of beutiful and interesting thing. You can see nature in motion. Ants that live in a thorn bush, which secretes asuger solution for them to eat, in exchange they attack anything that touches the bush. Thats just one example of the complex systems to see in the forest.
The locals at Blue creek village, for a small fee, will escort you down to a remote part of the creek. Here they send there children into the limbs over the creek to knock the iquanas down into the water. Then you and the guide try to catch the large reptiles. Once youv'e loked at them you let them go. It is a real rush restlnig a 4 foot iguana.
a few hundred black howler monkeys are at peace in this sanctuary where the town of bermudia landing work together and have kept their land the same to keep the monkeys around. If you take a tour, your guide will also describe the various uses of plants and trees.
While most of this page on Belize is dedicated to my time on Caye Caulker, you simply have to spend some time in the rainforest. We stayed in a jungle lodge on the Macal River, called DuPlooy's. This place was straight out of the Swiss Family Robinson movie.
Sits on the edge of the Macal River Valley. Home to many exotic species of birds, lizards, and monkeys. Extremely lush forest with picturesque views from the extremely nice lodge.
In the Orange Walk district is the New River a wildlife preserve for birds and crocodiles. its on the way to the Mayan sight of Lamanai and many tours combine the two
We hiked to a waterfall. We aren't overly active, so it was a bit of a trek for us. In the end, we felt virtuous and we had great pictures.