Monday, January 28, 2008

Belize Zoo (Days 12-15)

We had a fantastic 3 night stay at The Belize Zoo. Actually, we stayed at the Tropical Education Center (and research center) located across the street. They have dorms and a number of single cabins. Our cabin was spacious with a fridge and microwave, bathroom with shower, and a huge screened-in porch. We were in the midst of woods. It was a great place to sit and watch birds with our binoculars or just read.

The lodging included breakfast and dinner in a dining hall. We really enjoyed eating and talking with a number of people staying there. We also met Stephen Lamaute, a college intern from SUNY Cortland. He had just started the previous week. He started doing odds and ends at the zoo but when we left was starting to work on the marketing for the zoo. He was very personable and articulate. Here he is getting the boa out of its cage to show everyone and Sandy with the boa.

The Belize Zoo was started when, in the 1980's, the people who had captured and used Belize wild animals in a documentary didn't know what to do with them. The person they had hired to care for them during the filming agreed to provide a sanctuary for them. This led to The Belize Zoo. She only takes injured animals or wild animals that people have found to be too much to handle. This basically includes all the animals native to Belize. Instead of cold factual signs each enclosure has a poem written about the animal(s).

We loved all the animals. We could get very close to them and they've provided lots of room for them. Here are the toucan, scarlet macaw, harpy eagle (with funny head feathers that are sticking up), and jabiru stork (the one we only saw from afar in Crooked Tree).

The cats were especially cool to watch: ocelet, cougar (in the woods), 11 month old jaguar, and a sleeping jaguar.

One night we took a Night Tour of the zoo with a few other people. That was really interesting. The guide brought food for all the nocturnal animals so we got to see them eat too. Here are the black spotted jaguar and margay cat.

One day we took the bus once again to the Guanacaste National Park down the road about 20 minutes away. It was like a botanical garden and was bordered by the Belize River . They even had swept the path! It was especially refreshing since it was quite warm that day and it was much cooler among the tall trees. Here's the cohune palm from which everyone makes their thatched roofs and some pictures from the park.

We needed to get something for lunch so walked across the street to a wholesale produce "swap" for small farmers. There was a family there offering rice and beans and chicken and also something (that starts with a "p") made with corn meal. All were really tasty. In fact, we've started to really like spicier foods. And every table has a bottle of hot sauce on it, either Marie Sharp's or Hot Mama's. We sat down to eat and had a nice conversation with the manager who had come to Belize from Guatemala during the revolution of the 1970's.

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