Visiting the Belize Zoo

Visiting the Belize Zoo

Visiting the Belize Zoo

Why it’s worth a visit (even if you don’t like zoo’s)

The Belize Zoo is a safe haven for orphaned, injured, or misused animals local to Belize.  I’m not a fan of zoos or animal encounters, as so many contain animals in unnatural habitats, living in cement cages, who were ripped from their parents and paid for for human enjoyment.  So, I make sure to do research prior to contributing any funds towards something that could potentially endanger or threaten the quality of life for an animal. With this being said, the Belize Zoo is a gem of a place for the creatures it houses.

        The Belize Zoo started as a simple ‘backyard zoo’ to help house and protect animals that were used on film sets in the 1980’s.  Today it protects animals only natural to Belize’s land in open enclosures (some of which the animals could very easily leave if they wanted to).  It serves as a resource to the country as prior to the zoo existing many did not know of the species native to their country.

        These native animals living at this zoo have come in naturally; meaning they weren’t paid for to complete a set of animals a guest might want to see.  As I stated earlier, this place began on the premise that film set animals needed a refuge after being used for ‘work’ (another post for another time).  Currently many of the animals are rescues of wildfires, hunting accidents/orphaned young, or injured due to loss of habitat.

How unique & precious are tapirs?!

They are very difficult to see in the world and are Belize’s national animal.  To me, they look like a cross between an ant eater and a hippo.

        While still hesitant to visit any zoo, no matter it’s rescue efforts as a cage is a cage to a wild animal, I really enjoyed how the areas that held the animals were much larger than what I’ve seen at any zoo in the United States (with the exception of the San Diego Safari Park).

There were also signs throughout the park educating guests not to pluck any plants, the need for these animals to remain wild and why these animals ended up at the Belize Zoo. And the staff here are caretakers, not just assigned trash pick up or queue directors.

        If you find yourself in beautiful Belize and are able to, try to make time to contribute to the conservation efforts of the Belize Zoo with a visit.  See for yourself and compare to others zoos that you have visited- if you’ve been there, what did you think? Would you agree with how they have built this place?

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing online brand strategist. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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End Note regarding the Belize Zoo:

I do not endorse any zoo or animal encounters of any kind.  I truly believe that animals should be kept in their natural habitat if possible.

Unfortunately, much of Belize land has been changing (tourism increases and buildings) that if an animal’s home is burned or destroyed their last option may be a zoo similar to Belize’s.

Please keep in mind that we are all entitled to our own opinions- if you disagree with mine or the words used in this post feel free to share, but in a respectful and kind manner.

*there is an option to pay to feed one of the jaguars;  I’ll admit I had considered doing this (as jaguars are my favorite big cat) however we connected with someone who used to work at the zoo while on another tour and he told us that he didn’t agree with the direction these encounters were going — as you can now have the jaguar perform tricks (?!) While these animals are well protected and cared for, this type of ‘entertainment’ should not be an option.  Pay to visit the zoo, but don’t fall for the trap of this kind of animal encounter.

If you’re planning a trip to Belize, check out my other blog posts on the most beautiful places to visit & the best things to do in Belize

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Getting to San Pedro, Belize

Getting to San Pedro, Belize

Getting to San Pedro, Belize

Directions to make your travel day pass with ease

        Often while planning for a trip it’s important to also research how to get from point A to point B.  And with so few tools out there to help with traveling around Belize I wanted to share how we were able to get to San Pedro Island in Belize.  *If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

        Landing into Belize City is a breeze as the airport is small with only one baggage claim area and its 90’s decorated simplicity.  Grab your items and head outside where you will be able to order a taxi or hire a car and ask them to take you to the Marine Terminal (or water taxis).

*The fare should be a fixed rate (I believe around $25 USD) TOTAL.

        Driving from the airport to downtown Belize City’s marine terminal has a similar look to driving through Cancun; the marsh and less built up areas in between the airport and the resorts (although no large resorts in Belize).  You’ll see simple structures, palm trees, flowers budding on trees, and dirt roads with avid bike riders.

[Related: Top Things to do in San Pedro, Belize]

       Arriving at the dock you will find a covered courtyard with various shops offering (overpriced) knick-knacks and snacks, with the ticketing office towards the back right.

*My suggestion would be to purchase round trip tickets as they are cheaper than two one-way tickets and can be used at any time during a three-month time period.

        Luggage is boarded separately at no extra cost.  Be sure to tell them which island you are going to.

*Make sure you have don’t lose your luggage tags they hand you

        Choose your seat wisely when boarding as they pack in people like sardines and the ride is over an hour and a half long.  Prepare for a numb bum and for a visual transition of murky brown water to the sparkling teal blue you’ve dreamt of from pictures.  En route you will pass by other islands, one of which is the other well known island, Caye Caulker (pronounced ‘key’ Caulker). Don’t worry they shout which island they are stopping at so that you depart at the correct one.

                When you arrive at San Pedro, the boat will dock at the center of the island where town is and only a breezy two-minute walk to the closest hotel, the Mayan Princess.  If your hotel is further away there are taxis waiting to swift travelers off their feet to their end destination.

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing online brand strategist. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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 TIPS for getting to San Pedro, Belize

  • The taxi fare from the Belize City airport to the Marine Termianl should be a fixed rate (I believe around $25 USD) TOTAL.
  • Purchase round trip tickets as they are cheaper than two one-way tickets and can be used at any time during a three-month time period.
  • Don’t lose your luggage tags they hand you
  • the boat ride from Belize City is almost two hours, so be prepared and try to find a comfortable seat

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Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico Facts and Tips

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico Facts and Tips

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico Facts and Tips

Everything you need to know & the best tips!

Last Updated December 7th, 2019

Within the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico, hidden deep under the surface, are over 100 fragile limestone caves bursting with diversity and beauty.

They are known as the Carlsbad Caverns, one of the worlds oldest & most famous cave systems in THE WORLD! And they will definitely blow your mind with how deep these caverns go.

Read on for how to plan you visit to Carlsbad Caverns and travel tips from both a traveler who has been there and a local who you used to live in the town.

Getting to Carlsbad Caverns

If you’re visiting the caverns from out of state, you’ll most likely be staying in the town of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The caverns are a 20 minute drive from town.

If driving from farther away here are directions to the park:

Driving from El Paso, Texas: take US-62 for 130 miles

While driving to the caverns, you’ll be driving towards the mountain that balances a border for New Mexico and Texas. Be sure to observe the small towns and frequented gas stations that showcase the small town life nearby this underground site & reflect on your nostalgia of simpler times.

The turnoff to the national park is marked by White City. White City hosts a collection old western style shops and small restaurants

The entrance to the park is long. Winding roads through undulating bare boned bluffs bring you far away from civilization and will have you wondering how anyone discovered this place way out in the ‘middle of nowhere’.

At the top of the road is the main entrance with a spectacular view of your desert surroundings.  Looking towards the Guadalupe Mountains, all that is seen is desert and desolation. You’ll be left day dreaming of western cowboys kicking their spurs and somehow surviving this seemingly isolated land.

Don't Forget to Pack:

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Arriving at Carlsbad Caverns & What to do there:

Once you’ve driven the seven miles from the parks marked entrance to the visitor center, you will find multiple parking lots. Park & head get in line.

The park will have a line of visitors waiting to enter at their 8:30am opening time. Once open the line will queue to the ticket station inside. Here is where you purchase your tickets and book a ranger guided tour (if you want to go on one).

Inside of the visitors center you can also rent an audio guide. If you prefer to walk around at your own pace I would suggest renting an audtio guide.

 

There are two ways to enter Carlsbad Caverns:

1. The Natural Entrance

2. The Elevator

Unless you need handicap accessibility or are unable to walk for long periods of time, I would HIGHLY suggest taking the Natural Entrance.

The Natural Entrance is what you see most often in pictures of Carlsbad Caverns. It’s a zig zagged walkway that descends into the caverns.

Once past the shadowy entry, your eyes will slowly adjust to the light-to-dark transition and you’ll begin to be able to grasp the extensive size of this place. It wows each first timer, including myself!

*Once you finish walking through the caverns you can either backtrack to the natural entrance or take the elevator back up. My suggestion- take the elevator back up. It leads into the visitor center.

 Things to do at Carlsbad Caverns

Hours can be spent inside the caverns, examining each stalagmite, small pool of water and colossal ‘rooms’.

  • Hike down the Natural Entrance into the caverns, then meander through the pathways to
  • the Big Room, which takes about an hour and a half to walk through (there are shortcuts throughout to make the walk shorter & wheelchair accessible parts in here)
  • catch the Bat Flight Program – from May to October rangers provide a FREE about the 300,000+ bats that fly out of the caverns every evening and back in every morning. The program takes place at the amphitheater just outside the Natural Entrance. Times for the talk and the bat flight varies depending on the sunset time of the day.
  • Dawn of the Bats – on the third Saturday of July you can join rangers and watch the bats return to the caverns in the hundreds of thousands. Usually around 5am.

 

Don’t be fooled by the desolate desert outside as Carlsbad Caverns holds secrets from earth’s beginning.

Where to stay when visiting Carlsbad Caverns?

There aren’t campgrounds on the national park, so it would be best to either

1. Stay in the town of Carlsbad, New Mexico or

2. Camp at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park

What to wear for your visit

  • Dress in layers – outside of the visitors center is windy and the caverns are cold inside
  • Wear close toed shoes. Many parts of the caverns are wet from natural drips
  • Bring a headlamp if you want to see more of the detail within the caverns

Understanding now that any place can have its hidden gem and surprise you, I’m looking forward to visiting New Mexico again.  Have you ever visited a place with little confidence and been enthusiastically surprised at its unexpected beauty?

Fun Facts about Carlsbad Caverns

  • A 16 year old discovered this place in 1898!  Talk about fulfilling a childhood dream.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely considered a career as a treasure hunter after watching National Treasure, so stumbling upon this place must’ve been incredible!
  • There is a deadly fungus called “White-nose Syndrome” that is deadly & can kill the Brazilian free-tailed bats.  Carlsbad Caverns is host to the highest number of these critters so protecting their home is vital!
  • President Obama came here once for a Fathers day weekend trip with the First Family.

 

TIPS for visiting Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

  • The eco-system in the caverns is delicate & fragile, and is susceptible to damage from human activities. Be your best self and don’t leave ANY garbage inside, do not step on unsolicited walking areas or touch the cave walls & formations.
  • If you have a camera that can withstand darkness with a flash that won’t hurt the quality of the photo- bring it!  My iPhone did okay and my professional camera needed custom Manual settings and my flash still didn’t withstand it.
  • Dress in layers; it’s windy at the buildings entrance and chilly inside of the caves but your body temperature will adjust
  • Include in your arrival time the drive from the entrance to the parking lot.  It’s about a 20 minute drive through winding roads once you pass the entrance to get to the parking lot
  • The parking lot is easily accessible and free!
  • The Visitor Center opens at 8:00am, with the Natural Entrance opening at 8:30am,.  I’d arrive before then to be towards the front of the line to purchase tickets.  Then allow the first round of visitors to enter so that you can take pictures with few other visitors in the way.
  • Take the Natural Entrance into the caverns, and the elevator out.  The winding entrance is a stunning way to enter and shouldn’t be missed.
  • Passes are $15/person.  There are options for ranger guided tours to add on to your ticket
  • The rented audio devices are okay.  Quite frankly, listening to it all became excessive fairly quickly.  I’d suggest reading the general information beforehand to learn about it
  • Arrive before it opens, but don’t go in until most the early crowd goes; this way you can take pictures with the entrance with less people in them (see my images above)

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