Friday, February 8, 2013

Belize Zoo

Ezekiel, our driver from VIP Transport, collected us at the cottage at 10 AM yesterday and we set off to see the Belize Zoo.  We headed south towards Orangewalk and got onto the Northern Highway, a two-lane toll road (75 cents for cars), just after the New River embarkation point for Lamanai river tours.  An hour and a half of easy driving later, after navigating through some traffic circles, a lot of speed bumps in the villages and even some traffic circles with speed bumps, we crossed onto the Western Highway, another excellent, two-lane road heading towards Guatemala.

On the way we passed the country's only prison at Hattieville, sweltering in the 36C heat.  Before going into the zoo, we elected to stop for lunch at a nearby restaurant named Cheers.  Here we enjoyed some excellent butterflyed shrimp with fries and chilled beverages, as well as visiting their gift shop.  The restaurant was quite busy and a pleasant breeze cooled us in the shaded outdoor dining room.  A lot of the customers were Mennonites, taking a break from their labours to socialize.  The restaurant also had a nice gift shop with some excellent crafts and quite a few bowls and carvings made from a lovely local wood know as Ziricote.

Cheers Restaurant

Ziricote wood bowl

Eventually, we escaped the gift shop and motored the short distance to the zoo.

Entrance to Belize Zoo

Set on 29 acres in a natural forest (more of a jungle to our untrained eyes) some 31 miles west of Belize City, the zoo was founded by an American biologist hired to care for animals used in the making of the film "Path of the Raingods" in the 1980s.  When shooting finished, the animals had become rather tame, so she decided to stay on to care for them.  The zoo has grown to provide a home for animals from the region who had been orphaned or otherwise injured and were brought in for rehabilitation.

The enclosures are linked by paths through the jungle, with some elevated walkways to peer down on the tapirs and jaguars.

Path between enclosures

 The zoo itself is enclosed by a simple wire fence and particularly in the evening, neighbouring wild animals come to the fence to visit with their tame cousins.  We came under scrutiny by visiting spider monkeys who apparently found us entertaining since we were also "captive" inside the zoo.

Visiting wild spider  monkey

Deer with horns infected by tourist's sunscreen

Colourful Macaw Parrots


Tapir, also know as Mountain Cow

Spiky tree trunk near the path

Flower overhanging the path

The visit was delightful, if very warm under the rain-forest canopy, with the only disappointment being the jaguars who remained out of sight for our visit.  A charming and lovingly cared-for facility, the Belize Zoo is well worth a visit.

After an uneventful drive back, we collapsed for the evening.

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