Getting up close and personal with wildlife may be the main reason you’re coming to Belize. Unspoiled and ripe for adventurous exploration, Belize provides ample opportunity to get out into lightly discovered areas and engage with creatures big and small.
Though you may not be one of the lucky few to spot one of the jaguars protected by the local preserve, there are a few species from the animal kingdom that’ll be more than happy to make an appearance for your environmental pleasure.
Also called sea cows, these can be found in rivers, lagoons, estuaries and coastal areas. The best thing about manatees, though, is that they prefer shallow water two to six meters deep. All you need to do is get out on a kayak or get out and snorkel to invite an up-close encounter.
The way you’re most likely to spot a manatee, is when it comes up to the surface for air. Be aware, thought, they’re large creatures, make a big ruckus when they break through the water and are apt to startle you.
If you’d like to guarantee a manatee sighting happens on your visit to Belize, you might consider signing up for a manatee adventure with a local guide.
Back in the 1970’s, howler monkeys were completely wiped out in Belize due to disease, hurricanes and hunting. But in the early 90’s 62 howler monkeys were relocated to the Cockscomb Basin from a nearby reserve. Since then the monkeys have thrived and the area they settled in has become a national preserve, The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary is the best place to see these fascinating creatures going about their lives up in the trees.
Another way to catch a glimpse of them is to take a monkey river tour. This half day excursion that begins from the pier in Placencia village, takes you along the river with a guide and into the jungle where your guide will track and then point out the monkeys in their jungle habitat. After your trek you’ll have lunch at the village of Monkey River at the no frills local cafe serving up a generous and tasty helping of Belize’s signature dish of chicken, rice and beans and plantains.
There are over 500 species of birds in Belize making it one of the top destinations for birdwatchers. In fact, it would be pretty difficult not to spot a bird unless you spent your entire vacation staring at your drink.
You don’t need to go far to see a bird; stroll near the mangroves, look up in the palm trees, keep alert near the shore. If you really want to get into it, though, grab a pair of binoculars and head out to one of the many wildlife preserves such as The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. Here you’re likely to spot a Jaibu stork, yellow headed parrot and a variety of herons. Be sure to bring your birding book to help you make identifications.
Brett Renee Stone is a managing partner and director of communications for Palm Reef Resort.