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 human-wildlife-environment interactions.
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.
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.
I’m a white-lipped pecarry! & don’t pet me! / ‘Cause can bite off your hand… / so easily!
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!
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.
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 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.
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 tubing.
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.