With a commendable conservation program in place, over forty per cent of Belize is protected in the form of nature reserves, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, making it a nature enthusiast’s paradise, up high, on the ground or under the water.
With over six hundred species of birds, enthusiasts flock to Belize to witness a fantastic range of species. These include the scarlet macaw, the keel-billed toucan, and the jabiru stork, which is the largest bird in the western hemisphere. Also look out for the harpy eagle, with its seven foot wingspan, and over 20 species of hummingbird.
You’ll see fascinating birds almost everywhere – in the wetlands, lagoons, forests and coastline. Watch the flocks of pelicans surrounding the local fisherman cleaning their catch on the beaches of San Pedro, whilst the graceful frigate birds glide by. Look out for osprey nests atop telephone poles and houses, as well as other birds of prey including peregrine falcons, kestrels and hawks, plus turkey, king and black vultures.
On the ground
The diversity of animal life in Belize will keep animal lovers absorbed for days. Felines are present in healthy numbers, including jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi, puma and margay. To get up close and personal, head to Belize Zoo, which an admirable and well cared for centre, which acts as more of a rehabilitation center for rescued jungle animals than a zoo.
You’ll also find monkeys such as the black howler monkey and the smaller spider monkey. The Community Baboon Sanctuary is home to around 3,000 monkeys and is the best place to spot them.
In terms of reptiles, the green iguana is prevalent everywhere and can grown up to 6 feet in length. The American crocodile lives in both salt and fresh water, (they are however rare and do not propose any threat!)
Despite its small size, Belize is home to an estimated 4,000 species of flowering plants. For these reasons, Belize has been called a “Garden of Eden,” and it is one of the few countries where thousands of acres of forest are still in semi-pristine condition.
Belizean waters are home to nearly every species of fish, coral and sponge in the Caribbean. Amongst the hundreds of offshore cayes and atolls lies an amazing underwater safari to experience. Off the south coast, near Placencia, whale sharks arrive with the full moon between March and June. You can snorkel or dive with the whale sharks, which are the world’s largest fish and grow up to a whopping 60 feet in length. The waters are also home to nurse, reef and hammerhead sharks, stingrays, spotted eagle rays, barracuda, spot moray eels and even octopus, together with a vast kaleidoscope of reef fish including snapper, jack, angel fish, blue tang with some big old groupers hanging out in the mix.
The rather sedate West Indian manatees hang out in river mouths, around the cayes and in coastal lagoons. They are typically 10 feet in length and are the only vegetarian sea mammals in existence. Hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles are common spots in the waters of Belize.