Belize’s forests are nature’s call of the wild, offering visitors a window into a world of jagged mountain peaks that paint the sky, thick forested jungle with exotic wildlife and immense Mayan temples shrouded in mystery. Sensational topography, with spectacular vistas, makes these forests a cure for wanderlust. It’s a nature lover’s dream. Belize has the most accessible tropical wilderness in the Western Hemisphere that lures travelers from around the world with its immense diversity of habitats and wildlife. Thanks to its complex geological history, Belize’s landscape mixes mountains, savannahs and coastal lagoons. The resulting environmental mix creates an astonishing variety of animal and plant habitats: although only the size of New Hampshire in the United States, Belize has 4,000 flowering plant species, including 250 orchids and over 700 species of trees.
There are over 70 kinds of forests catalogued, grouped into three basic types: pine forests, mangroves, and the most abundant type, broadleaf rainforests. The ground is etched with complex cave systems traversed by rivers and strewn with Mayan artifacts. Waterfalls cascade thousands of feet down cliffs deep into a valley below. Picturesque pools under more gentle waterfalls are lined with orchids and ferns glistening in the mist. Tucked away deep in the jungle, many early explorers were oblivious to the dozens of Mayan temples in Belize. The legacy of this ounce great civilization, as you quickly feel upon visiting them, permeates through the artifacts and temples they left behind. The forests are creased by emerald-green rivers abundant with wildlife like howler monkeys, exotic birds and iguanas hanging from the trees. They range from calm streams great for kayaking to exhilarating white-water rapids.
But it is the wildlife that makes Belize’s forests magical: from manatees basking in the shallows of coastal mangroves to the elusive jaguar lurking deep in the rainforest, it is the endless barrage of sounds and colors that brings the jungle to life. Nature trails (traversed on foot, horseback or mountain bikes) reveal a mélange of exotic vegetation and towering trees. This is a world unseen by most people. In southern Belize, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is the only Jaguar reserve in the world. Considered by the Maya as living symbols of the gods and their power, its name itself is derived from the Amerindian word yaguar, meaning “he who kills with one leap”, a testament to the animal’s great hunting skills. Belize’s jungle canopy has over 540 species of tropical birds; even if you are not a birder, you can’t help but be captivated by their brilliant colors.