After a wonderful relaxing week we headed off into the interior of Belize. Margaret and Else were joining us for 3 days to see some more of the country before we were dropping them at the airport. First up we headed to the Cockscumb Jaguar Reserve. This was the first reserve in the world created to protect the elusive Jaguar. To get there we had to drive down a muddy road, made worse by the rains. It was one of the few times we have used 4WD on the truck. We were able to camp at the reserve and Margaret and Else were able to rent a rustic cabin, with an emphasis on the rustic. The reserve had lots of lovely walks in the jungle. The ranger said we would be alright doing them by ourselves, even at night. When we asked about the presence of Jaguars and Pumas he said yes they were there but we would be very "lucky" to bump into one on the walk and they would just run away. The first walk we took was through the jungle to a lovely waterfall. After the hot walk we all decided to take a swim in the pool beneath the falls.
That evening we took a walk in the dark with flashlights to see if we could see some of the nocturnal animals. It was very dark. With no artificial light or moon it gets really dark. And what is that rustling in the bushes? We did manage to see a Gibnut and a possum but nothing bigger.
The following morning we took a longer walk. In the wet ground we were able to see the footprints from the animals that had been out during the night. Lots of deer, a tapir (they can weigh up to 600lbs) and these:
Yes that is a Jaguar footprint. And there was a lot of prints going both ways along the path, so there may have been more than one cat.
From the reserve we drove up the lovely Hummingbird Highway until we reached the Blue Hole National Park. Here we explored St Herman's cave and swam in the Blue Hole swimming hole. The cave stretched about a mile underground and you can walk in the first 400 yards. Once inside, without your torch it was total blackness. We could see the small underground river and some stalactites.
The Blue Hole is a collapsed cenote and the pool is formed from water coming from underground which then flows into the cave.
As we could not find any where suitable to stay nearby we drove on to the Tropical Education Centre just opposite the Belize Zoo. We were able to camp here and Margaret and Else stayed in a cabin on stilts. It was in a very nice setting with some great bird life around. We could hear and see lots of woodpeckers and even saw grey foxes and gibnuts in the grounds.
The next morning we headed to the Belize Zoo which we had heard so much about. The zoo is all set in very natural surroundings as all the animals are native to Belize and effectively it is just fences around their natural habitat. We saw monkeys, tapirs, deer, all 5 cat species as well as a lot of birds including the magnificent Harpy Eagle.
We went back to do the evening tour with a guide which was really informative as the guide was able to explain a lot more. The cats were also a lot more active and the kids got to feed some of the animals such as the tapirs and the deer.
Whilst the zoo is still a zoo all the animals are either rescued or there because otherwise they would have been destroyed. Since it is not possible to return them to the wild the zoo provides a great educational tool and is very active in promoting conservation across Belize.
That evening the Tropical Education Centre was full so all 6 of us had to sleep in the truck. This meant one person on the sofa and me sleeping in the cab on a camping mat. Cosy!
The next day we dropped Margaret and Else off at the airport. We then headed towards the border with Guatemala. Just before the border we stopped at a beautiful spot called Clarissa Falls which had been recommended to us. Here we camped on a farm by a swollen river. It was very peaceful camping with the geese, ducks, turkeys, dogs and cats and made for a very relaxing day and a half. As it was New Years Eve we went to the onsite restaurant for a final meal of Chicken, Rice and Beans (the national dish) before retiring back to the truck to watch a movie. We did not make it to New Year as we were all asleep in bed by 10pm.