If there’s two things we’re known for in Belize they’re one: our reef and two: our fauna. Gratefully, travelers can experience both of these in (careful) abundance. With our preservation efforts doubling over the last couple of years, there is an urgency to practice sustainable tourism, especially following our National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan. Below you will find the most extraordinary animal encounters in Belize, and remember to follow all sustainable guidelines when interacting with all wildlife.
- Animal Encounters at the Zoo. The Belize Zoo, dubbed the ‘World’s Best Little Zoo,’ offers a special program where tourists can get up close and personal to the rehabilitated residents of the zoo. Snap a selfie with Runt the Toucan, feed the friendly Tapir and watch the neighborhood jaguar take a snooze (at a safe distance, of course!)
- Community Baboon Sanctuary. A misnomer, this sanctuary actually is known for the black howler monkeys, despite it being called the baboon sanctuary. The sanctuary is not an enclosed space, but the complete opposite – howler monkeys roam free in over 20 square miles, with visitors being able to visit in the wild without the monkeys being caged up. The sanctuary has risen to over 2,000 monkeys and the visitor’s center can be found in the village of Bermudian Landing.
- Shark Ray Alley. Swimming with sharks is rarely met with enthusiasm yet that’s exactly what visitors feel when they venture into Shark Ray Alley and Marine Reserve. The reserve, about 15 minutes away from Ambergris Caye, is well-known for the brown-gray creatures residing there. The tour is a popular one as tourists are able to swim alongside friendly nurse sharks. Sting rays often join the fun! The experience is otherworldly as the nurse sharks swim lazily beside you, their gills puffing out sand every now and then.
- Manatee Tour. Belize is known to have the highest population of manatees in the region, with the gentle sea creatures residing in nearby rivers. Since manatees are close to being endangered, many tour operators are now practicing safer ways for visitors to get a glimpse of the sea cows. Boats are the highest hazard for manatees, hence No Wake Zones are implemented to make sure boats are not speeding where the manatees feed. Though the tour is mostly a waiting game, it is totally worth it when you see a brown, sleek head pop out of the water for some air before diving back in. Some come super close to the boat if you’re really quiet and it’s breathtaking to see the manatees in their element.
- Scarlet Macaws. There’s no shortage of colorful plumage in Belize and the Scarlet Macaws add to this wondrous experience – even if you’re not a birder. Scarlet Macaws are rare to spot, but when you do make sure you are strapped with your best long-lens camera to capture that Nat Geo-worthy shot. The best place to spot them is in Red Bank, a small village south of Placencia. You can either opt to arrange a tour guide or go in search on your own (keep in mind some camping out may be involved! Good things come to those who wait.)
- Whale Sharks. Known as the biggest fish in the world, these creatures are mostly observed from the months of March to June. Many tourists plan their vacation around these times to visit Gladden Spit Marine Reserve, where the Whale Sharks are often spotted. Though they might be giant, they are gentle and coming face to face with one will be less daunting than it is heart-stirring.
- Jaguar Reserve. Belize boats many “first-evers” and the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary only adds to that list. Known as the only jaguar reserve in the world, this experience is a highly-coveted one. Many visit the reserve hoping to spot many of Belize’s cats (some are successful!) but stay for the waterfalls and the verdant rainforest engulfing the trails.
- Croc Safari. Yes, Belize even has crocodiles. In the northern district of Orange Walk, there is a croc night safari tour you can embark on to witness crocodiles on the banks of the rivers and help tag them for research (don’t worry, you only tag the baby ones!) San Pedro also has the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary where people can donate to help protect and conserve the crocs.
These are just some of the wonderful animal experiences here in Belize and if you’d like to learn more feel free to email us at [email protected] or call us toll-free at 1-800-624-0686.