46. BELIZE – The Best Small Zoo In The World

As we were leaving Sarteneja I thought it’ll be an easier ride on that merciless road, because A; there was no rain for 2-3 days while we were in town so the water level must’ve gone down, and B; because we only had to take one third of this super bad road and hoping the rest would be better. I could’ve learnt by now; “do not assume anything”. Surely the few days dryness helped, but the second 2/3 of the road was just as bad as the way here if not worse (minus river ferries) What made it fun though, was that I got to drive Burt. Only if my dad saw me! John had some easy time, no driving and enjoying the view for once, and I got to connect with the mighty machine. It sure was great.

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The road was rough but wide with potholes swallowing Burt’s wheels. Sometimes approaching to puddles -or ponds more like it, not knowing how deep they would be but had to drive through them with a dynamic speed making Burt’s shock absorbers work for their worth. The road was hugged from both sides by thick jungle also soaked in deep rain water.

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The only community between Sarteneja and Orange Walk Town is a Mennonite village surrounded by fertile lands and corn fields. We saw Mennonite children playing by the side of the road and waving at us as passing by. They are absolute perfect photocopies of each other and their parents, bright blue eyes and golden colour hair cut in the same style, wearing the exact same outfit; dungaree and wellies for boys, long dresses and straw hats for girls and the same for their parents.
After a good couple of hours drive we stopped at Orange Walk Town for a quick shopping. For a reason or another, we changed our plans. We decided not to go to Indian Church -a town where there’s a Mayan archaeological site but to move on to Belize City.¬†We knew about a marina right at the edge of the city where we can park up. There is a reasonable fee they charge (BZ$15 per night) includes electricity. It was pretty much dark when we got there but parked up at the best spot, right by the water, tucked away, having lovely sea breeze. Then popped over to the opposite side of the marina, to the bar/restaurant for a couple of beers only to find out that in about half an hour they were having 70 guests for a 30th birthday party of the mayor’s friend. The DJ was warming up and we freaked out. We rushed back to our spot to see how bad the sound is. We couldn’t be at a worse spot. The water perfectly echoed the blasting music so in the dark we packed up and moved right behind the toilet/shower building, which actually made the trick. John wasn’t happy about this so the next day when he popped over to pay he made his point.

Another quick decision was made during morning coffee which was not to go to Belize City. To be frank, I wasn’t too keen anyway so it was fine by me. Instead, after we packed up, we moved on to our next destination, “The Best Small Zoo In The World”. We weren’t holding our breaths for this title. Since traveled through a big part of the US. In the US the most average things are called “the world’s best”, “The world famous” and so on. Also, neither John nor I are big fans of zoos. But this was different…

This was only a short distance from the marina so we got there reasonably early. The Zoo has an education centre about a mile or so away in the savannah. There are eco cabins with facilities, also a cafe and several trails for short hikes. We parked up and headed to the Zoo. We ended up spending the whole afternoon there till the last minute of closing time.

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The zoo is actually a sanctuary for all the animals there. They are all native to Belize and all of them were rescued or were born there and none of them could survive if they were released back into the wild. The zoo is in the jungle providing natural habitat and climate to the animals who seemed pretty content and happy to me in their large enclosures. Some of them got used to human presence so came up to the fence observing or play hide and seek with us, or in a case of a playful Toucan chew on our camera lens with its enormous beak. Along reptiles and marvellous, colourful birds, there were small mammals, tapirs, spider and howler monkeys, pumas and jaguars. The zoo was letting us know their stories on a display at each enclosure and introducing their species in little rhymed poems.

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The zoo wasn’t busy at all and towards closing time it was just John and me walking along the manicured jungle paths and spending time watching the animals, reading their -sometimes heart breaking stories. We accidentally caught a keeper, with a plastic bucket full of chicken bits, who offered us to go with him and watch him giving snacks to the jaguars. He told us more about them and more about jaguars in general. This was very special.