We arrived a little bit late into Belize after an exhausting day of flying. Getting three boys up at 2:45AM and traveling from Seattle to Dallas to Belize can test anyone’s patience. However, our three boys have always been great travels and we survived with little trouble.
We got our rental car and took off down the Western highway to find the Belize Zoo. The kids kept saying that Belize reminded them of Costa Rica. It reminds us of CR, but we miss GRINGO 1. Traveling down the highway at night and not quite sure where I was going was a little concerning to me, but I kept my confidence up believing I was heading in the right direction. Imagine driving in the dark, the only Americans within miles, poverty everywhere and garbage fires burning along the roadside. Once we hit Hattiesburg we came across a Sunday night futbol (soccer) game. I tried to talk Amy into stopping, but for some reason she didn’t think it was the best idea.
Eventually we came to the Tropical Educational Center where we are staying the night. Our place is a small treehouse on stilts in the middle of the jungle. They call them ‘tent cabanas’. There is no one else around or staying here. I don’t even think there are any employees here. The house is two rooms with mostly screens as walls. This is fabulous! They have a hammock and I am putting dibs on sleeping in it tonight.
Gloria (cook) made us some dinner of baked chicken and we ate with a fruit bat. The kids loved it. Upstairs from the dining room the kids found the educational center. I thought Alex was going to have a heart attack. It had tons of animal bones including a crocodile and monkey skull.
After dinner we went on a after hours night tour of the Belize Zoo. Incredible! Even being exhausted from a long day of travel it was an amazing experience that finished the day perfectly.
A little about this zoo and how it came to be. It was founded by Sharon Matola and features Belizean animals in their natural habitat. Matola was hired by a film maker that was shooting a movie in Belize and was put in charge of a bunch of animals mainly monkeys and big cats. After filming she was left with a group of semi-tame animals, so instead of putting them to sleep or letting them go in the wild to get killed, she started a zoo. This zoo is much different then any zoo I have visited. It is based on wildlife and habitat conservation, research, and education. None of the animals were captured for exhibition purpose. All the animals were either donated, born in the zoo, injured, transferred, or rescued. Like the story of Junior Buddy. Junior Buddy is a Jaguar that was born at the zoo. His mother had been terrorizing farm stock in the hills of Belize. Instead of killing the animal authorities captured her and brought her to the zoo. Unknown at the time was that she was pregnant. She had Junior Buddy at the zoo and soon after rejected him from her habitat. He was bottle fed and raised by the staff. Our tour guide Raphael said he was one of the caregivers. If you ever visit Belize this is one stop you have to make. You can walk through the 29-acre park in under an hour and see over a 100 animals, 30 plus exhibits and read about the animals on the hand painted signs with local lingo, great poems, and a little humor.
As part of the tour the kids got to feed all kinds of animals including the jaguar named above Junior Buddy. Tyler’s favorite part was talking to the Howler monkeys. I have to say seeing Amy and the boys howling at the Howler monkeys was a true highlight. I think Alex got it on film. Priceless! Boy can they get loud and I mean both of them. How scared would you be if you were in the jungle and didn’t know what they were? You would think it was one of the monsters from Lost.
The day is done. The kids are done. We are reading and going to bed. I’m going to go crawl into the hammock with 360 Degrees Longitude and fall asleep listening to the sounds of the jungle.