Chiquibul National Park


Belize’s largest national park, 416 square miles (1,080 km2) of south Vaca Plateau and eastern slopes of the Maya Mountains, with forest unbroken since Mayans abandoned it centuries ago. It harbors rare, bright green, long-tailed keel-billed motmots, plus kinkajous, spider monkeys, Baird’s tapirs, Belize’s largest breeding population of scarlet macaws, and the Chiquibul cavern system, probably largest in Central America. Its full size is unknown but three caverns explored so far total 19 miles (32 km) long, and one chamber is largest ever found in western hemisphere. New insect and crustacean species have been discovered, along with many Mayan ceremonial artifacts. Chiquibul is accessible via the Augustine–Caracol road. There were, at least until recently, no public facilities, but local resorts run trips from area base camps.

ALSO OF INTEREST

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, home to vast numbers of native and migrant waterbirds,especially in dry February–May, including jabiru storks with large black bills and 12-foot (4-m) wingspreads, western hemisphere’s biggest flying birds. Flocks of hundreds of Everglade kites may be present along with Yucatan woodpeckers, white-collared manakins, northern royal flycatchers, and sungrebes. Some 1,000 limpkins nest.

Community Baboon Sanctuary at Bermudian Landing, established by local cooperating landowners, protects a thriving population of black howler monkeys (called baboons here).

Panti Medicine Trail, named for a Mayan medicine man, has herbal plants reputed to do everything from repel insects to treat dysentery.

Monkey Bay Sanctuary and Reserve, west of Belize City along Sibun River, privately owned, protects many indigenous species.

Rio Bravo Conservation Area, 323 square miles (840 km2), established by Programme for Belize.

Shipstern Nature Preserve and Butterfly Breeding Center, with nearly 200 butterfly species, also tapirs and deer in its savannahs and a shallow lagoon which is major wading bird habitat.

Belize Zoo, though not a wildlife reserve, is worth a visit. It was established to care for animals abandoned by a financially strapped nature film company and adopted by a company employee who has made this an admirable center for Central American fauna, all kept in native surroundings. Nearby is a natural lagoon favored by manatees.

Belize also has hundreds of Mayan ruins, including Caracol, possibly largest Mayan complex ever found.

 

 Margays are known for exceptional climbing abilities. Aided by flexible rotating hind feet and, for balance, furry tails up to two-thirds their up-to-31-inch (79-cm) length, they can run straight down trees head-first or somersault to hang from branches or lianas by hind feet alone or, if advantageous, just one hind foot. They’re threatened by destruction of forest habitat in central South America.

Margays are known for exceptional climbing abilities. Aided by flexible rotating hind feet and, for balance, furry tails up to two-thirds their up-to-31-inch (79-cm) length, they can run straight down trees head-first or somersault to hang from branches or lianas by hind feet alone or, if advantageous, just one hind foot. They’re threatened by destruction of forest habitat in central South America.

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CHIQUIBUL NATIONAL PARK as well as...

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Community Baboon Sanctuary

Panti Medicine Trail

Monkey Bay Sanctuary and Reserve

Rio Bravo Conservation Area

Shipstern Nature Preserve and Butterfly Breeding Center

Belize Zoo

Caracol

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