Belize has designated nearly half of its land as protected areas, and wildlife enthusiasts will be amazed by the unique and rare tropical creatures that live here: puma, jaguar, ocelot, gray fox, howler monkey, Central American spider monkey, tapir, peccary, red brocket and white-tailed deer, agouti, paca, Mexican porcupine, scarlet macaw, jabiru stork, toucan, ocellated turkey, harpey eagle and many others. In addition to animals, Belize is home to over 4,000 species of plants, including over 250 types of orchids.
Cotton Tree Lodge is located in the Toledo District, the most sparsely settled region of Belize, boasting miles of unspoiled coastal mangroves, tropical broadleaf forests, wetlands, and river ecosystems. Protected areas in Toledo include the Sarstoon-Temash National Park, the Columbia Forest Reserve, Bladen River Nature Reserve and The Rio Blanco Waterfall Park.The Temash, Sarstoon, Moho, and Rio Grande rivers all flow through this district and to the Caribbean.
The trips in this section will introduce you to some of the unique flora and fauna of the Toledo District and surrounding areas.Learn about medicinal plants, walk the boardwalk at Aguacaliente, or travel to Red Bank to see endangered Scarlet Macaws, all with local guides who enjoy sharing their knowledge with you. Right at the lodge there are plenty of wild creatures living in the old growth rainforest. Using a field guide and your senses, you will see a wide variety of birds around the property, iguanas along the river bank, and maybe spot our howler monkeys.You will hear them for sure.
The endangered Scarlet Macaw is a magnificent bird identifiable by its white face, red body, and bright blue, green, and yellow details on its wings and tail. Macaws can grow up to 35 inches long, fly at speeds of up to 35 mph, live up to 75 years old, and mate for life. These macaws usually raise only one or two young each season, and just like humans not all pairs reproduce every year, so the population grows very slowly.
Scarlet Macaws used to live all over Central America and into southern Mexico, but now they are gone from El Salvador, and Guatemala and Belize both have very low numbers. They are abundant in Amazonian South America, but as in Central America, they too may become endangered due to habitat loss and the pet trade. Current estimates of the population in Belize are around 250 individuals, a very small number, but it was previously thought that only a very few Scarlet Macaws remained until a few years ago when the Belize Audubon Society heard rumors that the inhabitants of Red Bank Village were hunting them for food.
The BAS learned that a flock of about 200 Scarlet Macaws annually migrates from the Chiquibul Forest in the Maya Mountains of the Cayo District to Red Bank Village in the Stann Creek District. The birds come from mid-January to March of each year to feed on fruit from the Wild Annatto and Polewood trees that grow along the hills and riverbanks there. After learning about the presence of the macaws in the area, the BAS worked with the Programme for Belize to help organize a Scarlet Macaw Group. This group of villagers promoted tourism development around Red Bank and became guides to bring tourists to see the Scarlet Macaws. The Scarlet Macaw Group is largely dormant now, but villagers know about the macaws and no one shoots them now. Eco-tourism in Red Bank provides an economic incentive for the village to continue to preserve these beautiful and endangered birds.
The Tour: Red Bank Village is about two hours from Cotton Tree Lodge. For this trip, you will depart the lodge around 6 am and drive north towards the Stann Creek District. Once you arrive in Red Bank, you will park your vehicle and continue the journey on foot - uphill or down winding jungle trails - where ever the Scarlet Macaws have been sighted that day. Along with the macaws you are likely to see hummingbirds, oropendolas, herons, parrots, and toucans in the dense jungle foliage. After your hike you will return to the village for a picnic lunch, then return to Cotton Tree in the early afternoon.This trip is only available from mid-January to March of each year.