Belize: Mother Nature’s best kept secret
or so says the tourist board of Belize. If you visit these five natural wonders (and choosing just five was tough), you’ll understand their claim.
Belize Barrier Reef
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system – 300 km of which are along the coast of Belize, is the second largest barrier reef in the world. Here you can find 247 different types of marine plants and over 500 different fish species. There are also sponges, turtles, and what is, according to UNESCO, probably the world’s largest manatee population. And, of course, there is lots of coral (65 – 100 types, depending on who you ask). Whether walking the beach, snorkeling, or diving, don’t miss this hidden part of Belize.
Barton Creek Cave
As you paddle along the 4.5 miles of river that wind through Barton Creek Cave, you’ll encounter cathedral chambers, pools, and rock flows. With a knowledgeable guide, you’ll see evidence of the ancient Maya. For them this cave was Xibalba – the underworld.
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve
This tropical forest is home to the world’s first jaguar preserve. Follow the trail a kilometer into the tropical forest, and you’ll be rewarded with the Tiger Fern waterfall. While seeing a jaguar is unlikely (they’re masters of watching others while hiding themselves), you’ll see evidence of them. As you hike, keep an eye out for their tracks. But it’s not jut jaguars that make Cockscomb Basin worth visiting. Other mammals, including puma, otters, and coatimundi; and birds, including macaw, keelbilled toucan, and the great curassow, all make their home here.
Take a kayak or canoe down the Swasey branch of the Monkey River, or go on guided boat tour. Stop along the way to hike through the rainforest, enjoying cedar, mangrove, and mahogany. All along the river are troops of black howler monkeys. You may also see crocodiles, herons, Hawksbill turtles, and armadillos, among other animals.
Thousand Foot or Hidden Valley Falls
Deep inside the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest you’ll find Hidden Valley Falls, more commonly known as the Thousand Foot Falls. While there’s a little dispute about how tall this massive waterfall is, everyone agrees 1,000 feet sells it short. It’s said to be the tallest waterfall in Central America. The roads in are dotted with orange groves and orchids. The best vantage points take committed hiking, but there is a view point that will give you a view of the falls from quite a distance.