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Belize Ecosystems, Parks, Preserves and Reserves

Belize Zoo

Learn what the indigenous birds and animals of Belize look like, and how to spot them in their natural habitat. The Belize Zoo was originally founded as a retirement home for old "movie stars." Today, however, the Zoo has become a refuge and rehabilitation center for injured wildlife and home for abused and abandoned wild and domesticated pets. Wildlife that can be rehabilitated and considered able to survive naturally are reintroduced to the environment. Animals which cannot be reintroduced to their environment are maintained in a natural setting at the zoo.

The Zoo is located 291/2 miles west of Belize City on the Western Highway, and is open daily from 9:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

Admission for non-Belizeans BZ $16.00.  Belizeans pay significantly less.

Blue Hole National Park

The Blue Hole National Park is a popular recreational spot, where water on its way from a tributary to the Sibun River, emerges from a collapsed karst sinkhole. The pool, from which the park receives its name, is a beautiful sapphire blue that is about twenty-five feet deep. After a short run through a natural jungle setting, the stream disappears into a large underwater cavern.

The Blue Hole National Park contains 575 acres of primary and secondary forest. Located twelve miles southeast of Belmopan on the Hummingbird Highway.

St. Herman's Cave is within the boundaries of the Blue Hole National Park. This cave has archaeological importance because the Maya used the cave during the Classic Period. Pottery vessels, spears, and torches are among some of the artifacts that have been recovered by the Department of Archaeology.

The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and “Jaguar Preserve”

The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and “Jaguar Preserve” is situated within the shadows of the Maya Mountains, the sanctuary encompasses some 100,000 acres of tropical moist forest that rises from 300 feet above sea level to approximately 3675 feet at the summit of Victoria Peak. Established to protect a large jaguar population, the sanctuary is home to numerous members of the cat family, as well as a large population of mammals and birds

Located at Maya Centre, at Mile 15 of the Southern Highway in the Stann Creek District. The Cockscomb Basin Headquarters is located some 6 1/2 miles west of the visitors' entrance to the sanctuary. BZ$10.00

Community Baboon Sanctuary

The Community Baboon Sanctuary, on the banks of the Belize River, consists of some eighteen square miles of subsistence farms. The sanctuary exhibits the spirit of coexistence that Belizeans have with nature. Through a grassroots effort, the villagers and landowners are committed to preserving the habitat necessary to insure a healthy population of Black Howler Monkeys.

With assistance from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of Milwaukee County, a small natural history museum and visitor's center has been erected in Bermudian Landing, the most central location in the sanctuary. Since all lands in the sanctuary are privately owned, it is necessary to check with the Sanctuary Manager at the visitor's center and to use a guide before following any of the trails.

The Community Baboon Sanctuary is located some thirty miles west of Belize City off of the Northern Highway in

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Established for the protection of resident and migrant birds, the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary consists of a large network of inland lagoons, swamps, and waterways. The sanctuary provides both the abundant food sources and the safe resting area that is necessary to support a large and diverse population of birds.

The most notable migratory resident is the Jabiru Stork. With a wingspan of 10-12 feet, it is the largest flying bird in North America. Luckily, Belize has the largest nesting population of Jabirus in Central America. They begin arriving in November to nest in the lowland pine savannahs. After the young fledge and during the months of April and May, the birds from northern and central Belize congregate at Crooked Tree and Mexico Lagoons. When the rains come, the birds leave to return again in November.

Besides birds, Black Creek on the eastern boundary of the sanctuary provides a home for Black Howler Monkeys, Morelet's Crocodiles, Coatimundis and several species of turtles and iguanas.

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is located thirty-miles northwest of Belize City off of the Northern Highway in the Belize District. BZ$8.00

Five blues Lake National Park

Five blues Lake National Park is located in a most impressive setting in the forest-covered foothills of the Maya Mountains. It is a pristine tract of karst terrain, honeycombed with unexplored cave systems and teeming with spectacular wildlife. The park was established in 1992 as a showcase for the region's amazing biological diversity and rich cultural heritage. It encompasses over 4,000 acres of prime tropical forest and preserves a wealth of natural and archaeological features.

Five Blues is a single lake, but it displays a variety of vibrant blue hues. The lake is a cenote, a collapsed cave system also known as a blue hole. It's cool waters run 200 feet deep and cover approximately 10 acres.

Five blues Lake National Park is located in the forest-covered foothills of the Maya Mountains.

Guanacaste National Park

Guanacaste National Park is a fifty acre parcel of tropical forest. The park is named for the giant guanacaste(tubroos). In addition to the guanacaste tree, there are numerous other species of trees throughout the park.

Although the mammal population is small, over one hundred species of birds have been identified within the park. Guanacaste Park offers a relaxing introduction to the tropical forests of Belize because it is easily traversed, it has well marked and maintained trails, and many of the trees and plants have been identified with their own name tag.

Guanacaste National Park is located on the north side of the Western Highway at the junction of the Hummingbird Highway in the Cayo District. BZ$5.00

Mountain Pine Ridge

  The Mountain Pine Ridge is 300 square miles of forest reserve. Access to the reserve is via the Chiquibul Road from Georgeville or via the Cristo Rey Road from Santa Elena Town, just east of San Ignacio Town.

The Mountain Pine Ridge is home to the Hidden Valley Falls (1,000 Foot-Falls), the Rio On River, the Rio Pools, and the Rio Frio Cave and Nature Trail, as well as numerous small streams and waterfalls. Besides offering magnificent vistas, the cooler temperatures, along with a refreshing swim, can provide a welcome respite to the travel weary tourist. The Mountain Pine Ridge is located south of the Western Highway in the Cayo District.  

Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area

The Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area consists of some 202,000 acres. The area is managed for conservation, scientific research, sustainable yield timber harvesting, non-timber forest product extraction, eco-tourism, and educational purposes by the Programme for Belize, a private nonprofit Belizean organization.

The area consists of broadleaf forest, swamp forest, palm forest, savannah, and marsh. Due to its remote location and the elimination of hunting, many endangered species - Black Howler Monkeys, Central American Spider Monkeys, Jaguars, Pumas, Ocelots, Margays, Jaguarundis, Tapirs, Peccarys, Ocellated Turkeys and Brocket Deer- have found refuge within its borders. A bird watcher's paradise, ornithologists have recorded over 355 species of birds. Over forty Maya Ruins have been discovered within the area. The largest center is La Milpa ranking only below Caracol and Lamanai in size.

The Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area is located in the northwest corner of Belize in the Orange Walk District.

Off the coast

Blue Hole National Park

The "Blue Hole" is located in the center of Lighthouse Reef Atoll. Originally a cave, the roof fell in some 10,000 years ago, as the land receded into the sea. Almost a perfectly circular hole, it is 1,000 feet in diameter, and it is 412 feet deep.

Popularized by a Jacques Cousteau television special, this has become the most famous dive site in Belize. Many dive operators provide day and overnight dive trips from Ambergris Caye, Belize City or other offshore Cayes and Atolls.

The "Blue Hole" is located approximately 50 miles due east of Belize City. BZ$8.00

Half Moon Caye

Half Moon Caye, located at the southeast corner of Lighthouse Reef Atoll, was the first reserve to be established by the Natural Parks System Act of 1981. One of the main reasons that the natural monument was created was to protect the Red-footed Booby bird and its rookery. The Magnificent Frigatebird shares the rookery with the Red-footed Booby, and both species coexist in apparent harmony. Some ninety-eight species of birds have been recorded on the Caye, of which some seventy-seven are migrants. Regular winter migrants include Ospreys, Mangrove Warblers, and White-crowned Pigeons.

The Iguana, the Wish Willy, and the Lizard are permanent residents on the island, while the Loggerhead Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle come ashore annually to lay their eggs.

The waters surrounding Half Moon Caye are abundant with life, and snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities are excellent.

Half Moon Caye, is located approximately 50 miles due east of Belize City. BZ$10.00

Hol Chan Marine Reserve

The Hol Chan Marine Reserve focuses on the Hol Chan (Mayan for "little channel") Cut on the barrier reef, some four miles southeast of San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. Established in 1987, the reserve, the first of its kind in Central America, includes a five square mile area of three distinctive zones.

Zone A includes the reef, both inside and outside, Zone B includes the seagrass beds inside the reef, and Zone C includes the mangroves of southern Ambergris Caye. All three zones are closely linked, and they are interdependent.

Buoys have been installed to mark the boundaries of the Reserve and to provide anchoring points for dive operators' boats. Since it is illegal to fish and/or collect coral within the reserve, the marine life is flourishing once again.

Laughing Bird Caye

Laughing Bird Caye was named for the original large number of laughing gulls, the birds have virtually abandoned their rookery because human encroachment. In an effort to assist the birds in reestablishing their presence, the government is taking steps to minimize the disruption of the caye.

Since, Laughing Bird caye is a shelf atoll with deep channels, the scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities are outstanding. Fortunately, these activities can be enjoyed without bothering the bird life on the caye. Meanwhile, the concerned eco-tourist has the opportunity to observe the bird life from offshore, during and after diving.

Laughing Bird Caye is located thirteen miles southeast of Placencia Village in the Stann Creek District.

Shark/Ray Alley

Located to the south and to the inside of Hol Chan Marine Reserve, this dive site is becoming one of the hottest marine attractions in the Caribbean. Here, dive parties can witness dozens of Southern Stingrays and Nurse Sharks swirl and dance gracefully while being orchestrated by a dive -master's bag of snacks. While resting on a sandy bottom in about ten-feet of water, divers can take advantage of this unique opportunity to watch and photograph an awesome display of grace and beauty as only mother nature can provide.

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