In Belize, you won’t find any shopping malls, fast food outlets, or even a Starbucks coffee shop. But what you will find is an amazing cornucopia of exotic plants and animals that thrive in Belize’s magnificent ecosystem. As one measure of the abundance of nature in Belize, more than 600 species of birds have been recorded in the country, including rare avians such as Jabiru storks and ocellated turkeys.
Animals and birds often get the most attention, but the flora of Belize is simply not to be missed. Indeed, there are thousands of different kinds of flowering plants in Belize, including more than 312 varieties of orchids. Other plants found in Belize include breadfruit trees, cashew trees, hibiscuses, bromeliads, aroids, and epiphytes. And the country is home to vast forests of both tropical and broadleaf trees, including the mighty mahogany tree that provided the economic incentive for the first English loggers to settle in Belize.
Not to be outdone, the animals of Belize are almost as colorful and eclectic as the birds and flowers. There are five big cat species indigenous to Belize, including ocelots, margays, jaguarundis, pumas, and the legendary jaguar that was worshipped by the enigmatic Maya civilization. Other interesting animals in Belize include Baird’s tapir, the national animal known locally as a “mountain cow” because it can grow up to six feet (two meters) in length and weigh as much as 500 pounds (225 kilograms).
But the easiest wild animals to spot in the jungles of Belize are black howler monkeys, known locally as baboons. The shriek of an adult black howler monkey can be heard for several miles. And while black howler populations are shrinking in the rest of Central America, their numbers are making an impressive comeback in Belize.
If you’d like to experience the natural splendor of Belize, be sure to book your stay in one of Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Jungle Lodge tree houses. Each commanding a magnificent view of the surrounding jungle and river valley, these tree houses are modern, two-story accommodations complete with a private bathroom with hot/cold water, electricity, and a spacious screened-in porch.
The construction of these tree houses was done entirely by hand in order to protect the integrity of the flora and fauna of the jungle. Caves Branch Jungle Lodge is the country’s leading adventure center and regularly conducts outdoor activities in the surrounding jungle like bird watching, hiking, cave tubing, and nighttime safaris.