In addition to boasting the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, the small country of Belize has protected more than a third of its land, providing safe havens for a range of incredible wildlife. From sea turtles, sharks, and schools of fish to jaguars, kinkajous and howler monkeys, there’s a diversity of life thriving in the region’s rainforests, rivers, and reefs.
Mayflower-Bocawina National Park: A Safe Haven for Jaguars
Mayflower-Bocawina National Park is a spectacular part of the nation's protected area. Connecting the Maya Mountains to the coast, Mayflower-Bocawina spans more than 7,000 acres of highlands and lowlands, rivers and waterfalls. Within these lush surroundings, more than 230 species of birds, like motmots and toucans, mingle among an array of unusual mammals (many endangered like Geoffroy’s spider monkey).
It is also a critical habitat for the mystical jaguar, a symbolic icon of Belize and a flagship species for the nation’s conservation work. Supporting the efforts of local preservationists, the international organization Panthera researches the behavior of jaguars and works to mitigate human-jaguar conflict. Although you won’t see any jaguars during our visit—these elusive animals are crepuscular, meaning they are mainly active at dawn and dusk—their presence is well-documented with Panthera’s strategically placed motion-activated camera "traps." As we explore the park, we’ll view fascinating camera footage of these jaguars and hear more about Panthera's conservation efforts alongside our naturalists and local experts.
Encounter Jungle Denizens on the Monkey River
But that isn’t the only extraordinary wildlife locale we’ll explore on our Belize expeditions. After leaving Mayflower-Bocawina, we’ll board Zodiacs and head into the jungle for a Monkey River safari. On the Caribbean Sea at the mouth of a river of the same name, the small village of Monkey River is a gateway to a stellar mix of jungle denizens. It should be no surprise that howler monkeys are found in abundance here, but many other creatures may be observed on land, in the air, and in the water as well. A guest aboard a recent voyage reinforced the incredible abundance of life in Monkey River saying, “With the help of our keen-eyed naturalists, our group spotted crocodiles, green iguanas, black howler monkeys, and a diverse mix of birds adorning the Belizean sky.”
Some of Belize’s mammals may not be household names for many North Americans, yet. Scroll through below to familiarize yourself: