Belize: Jewel of the Caribbean
February 17 - 27, 2018
With its largely undisturbed tropical forests, abundance of rivers, tremendous diversity of flora and fauna, outstanding birding, and rich human history, Belize is one of the world's finest natural destinations. Within the borders of this sparsely populated Central American country lie a great variety of habitats, including extensive tracts of rainforest, pristine lowland savanna, tropical rivers and lagoons, mountain pine and oak forest, mangroves, beaches, and coral reefs.
Our birding and natural history adventure includes stays in some of Belize's finest accommodations - Bird's Eye View Lodge, Pook's Hill Lodge, Hidden Valley Inn, and Lamanai Outpost Lodge. From the spoiled comfort of these homes away from home, we'll cruise on Crooked tree Lagoon, tour the Mayan ruins of Lamanai and Caracol, see spectacular waterfalls, visit Green Hills Butterfly Ranch with its amazing hummingbird feeders, take night safari and sunset lagoon trips, and enjoy excellent wildlife right outside our doors.
We begin at Birds Eye View Lodge which lies on the banks of Crooked Tree Lagoon, one of the best spots for wildlife in the country. Here, between time on the grounds and a beautiful boat trip, we often find common tody-flycatcher, greenish and yellow-bellied elaenias, black-collared and great black hawks, rufous-breasted spinetail, many parrots including the endangered yellow-headed, gray-necked wood-rail, Yucatan woodpecker, mangrove swallow, gray-breasted martin, jabiru and wood stork, and also many kingfishers, waders, and ibis. Though rare, we sometimes have luck with two waterside skulkers, agami heron and American pygmy kingfisher.
Next is Pook's Hill Lodge, simply one of my favorite places on Earth. The warm hospitality, great food, and gorgeous forest are as good as the birds which include white hawk, stub-tailed spadebill, rufous-tailed jacamar, slaty-tailed and black-headed trogons, white-collared and red-capped manakins, long-billed hermit, purple-crowned fairy, dusky antbird, black-faced antthrush, crimson-collared, Passerini's, and yellow-winged tanagers, white-whiskered puffbird, royal flycatcher, scaly-throated leaftosser, keel-billed toucan, white-crowned and mealy parrots, and hundreds of others. A resident pair of spectacled owls is seen on almost every trip, and over the years we've found northern tamandua, red-brocket deer, collared peccary, white-nosed coati, kinkajou, and other mammals on the lodge grounds.
From Pook's Hill we head into the mountains to Hidden Valley Inn, a luxurious spot with superb service and accommodations and great birds on the grounds - yellow-tailed and yellow-backed orioles, rusty sparrow, azure-crowned hummingbird, golden-hooded tanager, golden-olive woodpecker, ferruginous pygmy-owl, and more. Two gorgeous waterfalls, King Vulture and Thousand-Foot Falls, are just a few minutes away and are good spots to look for Stygian owl, king vulture, black-headed siskin, plain wren, rufous-capped warbler, the rare orange-breasted falcon, and white-collared swifts. Hidden Valley provides easy access to the impressive ruins at Caracol where we spend a day enjoying some of the best forest in the country and great wildlife. While much of the wildlife at Caracol is similar to that at Pook's Hill, there are a few uncommon species that we've had good luck with in the area - ocellated turkey, great curassow, black and ornate hawk-eagles, and bicolored hawk.
Finally we head north to Lamanai Outpost Lodge, on the banks of the New River Lagoon. This is another gem with impressive ruins, beautiful waterways, and pristine savanna. Black howler and Central American spider monkeys, Morelet's crocodile, white-lined, long-nosed, and greater fishing bats, and many birds are possible here. In the forest we'll look for chestnut-colored woodpecker, yellow-billed cacique, northern bentbill, golden and blue-winged warblers, keel-billed toucan, red-throated ant-tanager, and many wintering migrants. In the savanna, amidst the palmetto palms, Caribbean pine, calabash, and craboo trees, we sometimes find Yucatan jay, yellow-headed parrot, aplomado falcon, plain-breasted ground-dove, Botteri's sparrow, rufous-browed peppershrike, and more. With luck we may find an ant swarm attended by ruddy, tawny-winged and northern barred woodcreepers, gray-headed tanager, and red-throated and red-crowned ant-tanagers.
While seeing and learning about many of Belize's 570+ species of birds, we’ll also spend time learning about the general ecology and natural history of the area with stories about plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
Belize is an easily reached destination with superb infrastructure, easy access to many habitats, and many warm, talented people who help put together a memorable trip.
Detailed itinerary and references available upon request.
Blue-crowned Motmot Dwight Long
Red-capped Manakin by Misty Vaughn
Agami Heron by Steve Zarate