Tuesday was our second day of exploring the mainland. The
Hubby, Dave and I took the water taxi in to Belize City and then met up
with Jason again to go to the Belize Zoo and cave tubing. The zoo was
our first stop.
The Belize Zoo is unique in that all of the animals are native to
Belize, and are not fit to live in the wild – they’ve either been
injured or abandoned or raised in captivity. For example, some
people think that ocelet kitties are cute and fun pets…and then the
kitties turn into big cats and become more than they can handle. So
it’s part refuge/part educational facility. The signs for the animals
are all hand-painted and deliver messages to the public about the
animals. They work to dispel myths (such as harpy eagles do NOT eat
human babies) and raise awareness about the environment and
The cages provided a photography challenge: the mesh was very
large, so unless the animals were farther away I couldn’t do that
cool depth of field trick to blur out the cage. The animal environments
were also very much geared to the animals – lot of hidey places out the
gaze of prying tourist eyes and their annoying cameras. But we managed
to find a few of them.
The paths between animal enclosures
were either fine gravel or concrete. All of the enclosures were
separated by forest brush and trees.
One of the three harpy eagles in this massive enclosure. The sign next to the harpy eagles reads:
It would NEVER happen /
Never not maybe! / A harpy eagle would never steal away a baby! /
These mighty birds eat coatis with glee / A [unreadable - Kinkslou?],
too, is on the harpy menu / But never ever the human species! (Harpies
eagles are very rare. Respect them! Protect them!) UPDATE: Thanks to help in the comments from psweet and Noelle, the previously unreadable word is “Kinkajou”.
…We crocs have a cerebellum! /
That’s the part of the brain / Where emotions do reign! / We crocs
feel and have fears… / And cry real crocodile tears! / So treat us kind
/ in the wild! And in the zoo! / ‘Cause just like yourself… /
Belize is our home too!
Crocodile with mouth open.
Jabiru Stork (Jabiru mycteria)
This darling is a Margay, or tiger cat (Tigrillo in Spanish) – Leopardus weidi
I’m a white-lipped pecarry! & don’t pet me! / ’Cause can bite off your hand… / so easily!
A peccary foraging in the forest floor debris.
Collared Aracari Toucan. Its sign read:
I’m a Collared Aracari Toucan / And beloved in Belize / I can be yours forever… / If you don’t take away my trees!
These two keel-billed toucans were staring intently at a group of school children.
Look – I found a jaguar!
A large iguana enjoys a lunch of fruits. I
don’t know what kind of bird this is; it was a wild volunteer in
an open-top cage designated for the tapir. But it was lovely! UPDATE:Thanks to psweet for identifying this bird as a Plain Chachalaca.
A tapir! This large enclosure housed many tapir and was called “Tapir Town”.
Another tapir happily and messily munches on sliced fruits.
Red Brocket Deer (Mazama americana)
A very friendly parakeet.
That was our zoo visit. We bought some water and a few trinkets from
the gift shop, and then we met Jason in the parking lot.
He drove us to a nearby outfitter that sends visitors out into
the jungle with guides to one of the many cave entrances. Our
guide led us on a hot 20-minute, sweat and sunscreen in your eyes
while you haul a heavy tube along hike, but we did get to cross a few
rivers along the way, and the clear, cool, freshwater pool that we had a
chance to swim in when we arrived made it all worth it.
The Hubby hiking across a river on the way to the cave.
The clear blue pool that we swam
in before the start of tubing. I’m in the background about to dive into
a 15-foot deep area of the river.
Past the tubes in the center of the photo is the opening of the cave.
The mouth of the cave from inside of the cave.
Here’s a short video of our entrance into the cave. The
guide explains a bit of Mayan lore and I dorkily fiddle with my
headlight at the end.
A waterfall inside a cavernous opening within the cave.Me
in my tube in front of a magical-feeling opening in the cave. The photo
doesn’t do it justice. Brilliant sunlight streamed into the cave and
the lush forest puntuated by earthen columns was visible beyond.
Leaving the cave – we ventured into Xibalba and left in one piece (well, three of us, so three pieces)! Me, happy to be out of the tube and swimming free in the water!
Our host, Dave, floating down the river.
Thoughts on the cave tubing: We tubed at a time of the year when the
water is very low and calm. It was so calm, in fact, that for
the majority off the journey there was no current, which meant we had to
awkwardly paddle ourselves through the cave with our arms. It was
awe-inspiring to be in the massive, black cave but it was a bit sedate
of an experience for me. I wasn’t expecting white water rapids or
anything, but for my part I enjoyed the swimming much more than the
After tubing Jason drove us to a nearby restaurant called Amigos in
La Democracia, where I had nachos and a purple gin and tonic. We got
back to Belize City in time for a 4:30pm water taxi to Caye Caulker.
Noelle, our other host, was waiting for us with yummy slow-cooked black
beans, corn tortillas, sour cream, cheese, salsa and chips. It was so
delicious! Unfortunately, the beans ended up giving us all food
poisoning, but that’s a story for another blog.