Crooked Tree Sanctuary
This mosaic of lagoons, connected by creeks, savannas and logwood thickets is excellent for birds. As the dry season gets underway, they arrive in huge numbers from the Peten and Yucatan. By April, the Crooked Tree landscape is alive with flocks of different water birds. Huge congregations of Double Crested Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, and different ducks all can be seen.
Crooked Tree also hosts the Peregrine, the world’s fastest falcon.
Other permanent inhabitants include all Belize’s species of kingfishers, and Muscovy and Black-bellied Whistling ducks that nest in the trees around the lagoons. Black Creek or Spanish Creek offer particular good birding, as they meander south to the Belize River. Colonies of Boatbilled Herons can be found. Hard to see but not to hear, they hide away in the darkest recesses of the canopy, but give themselves away with their squawking cackling calls. Along the rivers banks also look out for crocodiles, turtles and iguanas. In the middle of the sanctuary sites Crooked Tree itself Native cashew trees abound. Look out for the bright red Vermilion Flycatcher. It’s hard to miss as it sits on fence posts waiting for passing insects.
Mayan Ruins El Pilar
Well hidden beneath the jungle canopy of the Cayo District, the Maya ruins of El Pilar straddle the belize/Guatemalan border. Encompassing over 25 plazas and approximately 100 acres (38 hectares), it is more than four times the size of nearby sites, indeed, the largest center in the Belize River area. Situated only 12 miles (19 km) northwest of the town of San Ignacio, El Pilar is easily accessible by road through the village of Bullet Tree Falls. Its network of five marked trails makes it easy to spend an entire day exploring the ruins as well as the flora and fauna of the largely undisturbed jungle.
The recent development of this site makes a fine addition to the extensive list of Maya ruins in the area, including Caracol, Cahal Pech, and Xunantunich, making the Cayo District the destination of choice for archaeology buffs.
The Aguacate Lagoon
The Aguacate Lagoon is an herbaceous swamp with permanent water-logged vegetation. There is a diversity of secondary growth sedges around approximately 5 acres of fresh water. It is an attractive habitat for a wide variety of both resident and migrant birds. There is a trail around the lagoon where you can encounter some wild life and spot some medicinal plants.
Blue Hole National Park
Blue Hole steps lead to a 25-foot deep pool, for which the park is named. It’s cool, turquoise waters, surrounded by dense forest, overhung with mosses, vines and ferns are the perfect spot for a cool and relaxing dip. St .Herman’s Cave is located about 500 meters from the Hummingbird Highway. The information center and parking are located just off the highway.
The largest of the three known entrances to St. Herman’s Cave sits in a sinkhole 180 feet wide narrowing to a 60-foot wide entrance. Concrete steps cover stone steps once cut by the Maya. There are a number of other trails to hike within the park. Some of the unusual birds are known to frequent this area include White Hawk, Spotted-Wood Quail, Crested Guans, Lovely Cotinga, Keel-Billed Toucans, Red-Legged Honey Creepers, and Slaty-Tailed Trogons.
Blue Hole National Park is located about 12 miles southeast of Belmopan on the Hummingbird Highway heading to the coast and Dangriga.
The Inland Blue Hole & St Herman’s Cave National Park makes a good stopover for those on a Jungle Ruins & Reef Package and for those coming from Placencia or heading there from San Ignacio.
Cockscomb Jaguar reserve
This unique sanctuary in southern Belize covers an area of about 150 square miles of tropical forest, and is the world’s only Jaguar Preserve. Declared a Forest Preserve in 1984 and finally a Jaguar Preserve in 1986.
The park area is rich in beauty, wildlife and even Maya culture; a well concealed minor Maya ceremonial site known as Chucil Baluum is typical of the Classic Period
Cockscomb is also renowned for its bird populations and boasts up to 300 recorded species. These include Macaw, the Great Curossow and Keel-billed Toucan. Impressive numbers and variety are also found in the herptofauna and in the flora of the basin.
The most important feature about Cockscomb though, is its trail network, the most extensive of any reserve in the country. The River Overlook and Warier Trails are usually the best for wildlife. From the Rubber Tree Trail, there’s also the small chance of seeing the secretive Agami Heron on the banks of the South Stann Creek. The Jaguars use the trails too, as an easy way through the forest, so keep an eye out for footprints.