The Lamanai Mayan site is located northwest of Belize City. It was inhabited until well after 1492, making it the longest-occupied Maya site in Belize. The site consists of more than 50 structures spread over what is now the 950 acre Archaeological Reserve. The most impressive of these is the largest Pre-Classic structure in Belize. It is a massive, stepped temple built into the hillside overlooking the New River Lagoon. Ruins of numerous dwellings, a ball court, and several other temples also remain. One of Belize’s finest stelea is found here, which depicts an elaborate carving of the ruler Smoking Shell. Lamanai also has an archaeological museum of findings from the site.
The tour visits this site by a scenic boat trip on the New River. Some of the birds we may encounter on this trip include Black-Collared Hawk, Northern Jacana, Mangrove Swallow, Olive-Throated Parakeet, American Pygmy Kingfisher, and occasionally a Purple Gallinule. Other types of wildlife such as the endangered Morelete’s Crocodile and Green Iguana are also a common sighting on the way to Lamanai.
After arriving at Lamanai, we will have the chance to explore the ruins and have the opportunity to view birds such as Red-Lored Parrot, Blue-Crowned Mot-mot, Collared Aracari Toucan, Lineated and Pale-Billed Woodpeckers, and Black-Headed and Violaceous Togons. In addition, Yucatan Black Howler Monkeys are usually seen or heard here.
Cooked Tree Village is one of the oldest inland villages in the country. This village of about 900 people offers incredible wildlife viewing as well as a very friendly atmosphere.
The Crooked tree Sanctuary was founded in 1984 by the Belize Audubon Society. It is a 16,000 acre reserve comprised of inland waterways, swamps and lagoons. It provides a good resting area for thousands of migrating birds.
The wetland is approximately a mile wide and more than 20 miles long. The reserve features a number of trails. The pine-oak area of the sanctuary can be explored on foot. Acorn Woodpeckers abound here and we will search for species such as Canivet’s Emerald, Red-Vented Woodpecker, Yellow-Lored Parrot, and Yucatan Jay.
The sanctuary provides a home and feeding ground for many of Belize’s wildlife species and protects critical habitats for both migratory and resident birds. As a wetland, it is a haven for waterbirds and during the dry season (Feb-May) the area becomes especially important for feeding birds.
A pleasant way to explore the sanctuary is by boat. Many water birds congregate along the lakeshore and the banks are lined with interesting plants. Some of the birds we may expect to find here include the Black-Collared Hawk, several species of herons, limpkins and the unique Snail Kite. In addition, the elusive Sungrebe, and the even more elusive Agami Herons, Northern Jacanas, Boat Billed Herons, Least Grebes, Pygmy Kingfishers, Rufus-tailed Jacamars, and several species of parrots can all be found here and are frequently photographed at close range.
Water-birds are the main attraction for visitors, in particular the mighty Jabiru Stork. The Jabiru is one of the most spectacular birds. It reaches a height of 5 ft and a wing-span of 10 to 12 feet, making it the largest flying bird in the New World. These storks frequent Crooked Tree during periods of low water. Black Howler Monkeys, Spiny-tailed and Green Iguanas are some examples of other wildlife that frequents the area.
The Baboon Sanctuary is located 35 miles northwest of Belize City. The sanctuary consists of approximately 20 square miles along the Belize River and embodies a combination of dense jungle, pasture, farmland, and small village life.
The sanctuary was established in 1985 in collaboration between primate biologist Rob Horwich and a group of local farmers, with the help of World Wildlife Fund for Nature. It represents a unique conservation effort that brought together eight villages to protect the population and habitats of Belize’s Black Howler Monkey. These animals are locally called “baboons” or “saraguate” in Spanish
In addition to providing sanctuary for the monkeys, the conservation program here includes protecting the trees that provide food for the monkeys, preserving the forest along the riverbanks to prevent erosion, and maintaining corridors of habitats around farms and pastures. The visitor Center is very educational, a jungle exhibit type museum that demonstrates the interesting facts and features of the area. The success of this program has led to the relocation of troops of the howlers (usually up to 8 monkeys), into other areas of Belize where previous populations have been diminished normally by hunting or diseases.
Some 200 species of birds have been recorded here. Among these are Squirrel cuckoos, Black-throated Bobwhite, Quails, Plumbeous kites, Hook-billed kites, Gray Hawks, Acorn Woodpecker and common Black Hawks.
Howler population in the sanctuary now stands at around 1,500, roughly equal to that of the people in the surrounding villages. The Black Howler Monkey is the largest monkey in the Americas, and found only in small sections of Central America. A variety of other mammals are found in the reserve area, including Coati, Gibnut, Jaguarundi, and the Baird’s Tapir. Reptiles include Morelet’s Crocodile, Iguana and the Central American River Turtle. Occasionally white tailed deer can be seen in the pine oak forests.