In April I travelled to Belize with my four year-old son. We drove north and on the outskirts of Sarteneja is Shipstern Nature Reserve where we spent two nights staying in the guesthouse that the reserve built in 2012. The guesthouse is clean and comfortable, the food is great and most importantly it is right next to the forest. Morning bird walks can be conducted straight from the guesthouse front door and the observation tower, that gives views from above the tree canopy, is 50 metres away. Tourism revenue helps finance the reserve and also the co-management of other protected areas in Belize that Shipstern are work in. The relative isolation of Sarteneja limits the numbers of tourists to Shipstern Nature Reserve, a shame for the reserve and also for tourists missing out on a great wildlife experience. The wonderful team of rangers and guides led by Heron Moreno, offer an array of interesting walks and tours and some exciting trips such as the night tour of the lagoon, spotting Morelet’s crocodiles by lamplight from a canoe and climbing into bat caves as the winged mammals zipped past our heads. Both father and son were enthralled.
One of the projects that the team at Shipstern are focussing on is the planting of tree species that are affected by illegal logging. The reserve has a nursery for mahogany and they plant within the reserve and at schools to raise awareness of the issue. My son had the opportunity to plant one of the saplings and a plaque now announces his contribution to the reforestation.
This is a guided tour of the Jaguar reserve by the people who used to live in it and from the beginning helped to track and record the Jaguars. We spent an exciting morning with Julio who at one point took us off the main track trying to catch a glimpse of some very noisy howler monkeys and found the remains of an armadillo (a tasty Jaguar snack). He has amazing eyesight and a feel for the forest which is essential when trying to point out the wild toucans, you would not believe how well camouflaged they are for such a bright bird. The Maya Centre Women's group next door by the entrance to the reserve is also a great place to buy crafts labelled by the crafter. You can also do a wildlife walk at night which is incredibly atmospheric. If bored of Jaguar stalking there is also a butterfly reserve there too! Then sit back with a Belikin beer (or Guinness).
Maya Centre in Belize
Right on one of the main well served bus routes around Belize or they will come to pick you up. (The bus is actually a great way to travel about the country).
Figuring out how to find a budget place to stay on Ambergris Caye in Belize got a lot easier when I stumbled upon Pedro’s Hotel. I had already been checking out the area and was very happy to find a great budget deal that had more of the amenities than other budget rooms yet still kept to my allowance per day.
The rooms are basic but clean and sport two twin beds, air conditioning, a private bathroom and cable TV. The rest of the buildings comprise a swimming pool and sun deck, a bar, a restaurant and of course the owner Peter who is on hand to offer advice on the local area.
All in all a very good deal for those on a budget in Belize, those looking for a cheap vacation or backpackers with a splurge on!
Phone USA: (212) 796.4897
Phone Belize: (011) 501.226.3825
-or- (011) 501.206.2198
(after 4:00 pm)
Take a boat from Belize city, or Chetumal in Mexico. FLy by Tropic air direct to the San Pedro airstrip
This is a lovely small B&B with thatched cabanas right on the river. Perfect mix of jungle, nature, Maya sites, local wildlife and villagers.
Bullet Tree Falls village - three miles out of San Ignacio
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