I must start this off by saying that I am not a zoo person. The thought of spending an entire day (and a spending a small fortune) walking around a zoo, among crowds of people, all to see a some sleeping animals from 20 yards away, does nothing for me. If I had the option, I’d rather stay home and watch the National Geographic channel from my couch. Simply stated…zoos are not my thing and you will rarely find me making them a part of a family adventure. I look at zoo excursions as more of a time killer when all else fails or simply something I do to appease my persistent children (shhh! don’t tell them that).
So that being said, while in Belize this summer, my kids started begging to visit the Belize Zoo. I was totally hesitant. The weather was insanely hot, the mosquitoes were out in full force, and bottom line… zoos aren’t my thing. While the Belize Zoo prides itself in being a rescue and rehabilitation center to local animals, they also offer some unique and once in a lifetime animal encounters. I knew that a visit would be supporting a great cause and would have an educational aspect that I always strive for with my kids…but still it’s the “zoo” thing. So after a few beers poolside, pleading children, and the possibility of doing the “once in a lifetime experience” of the Jaguar encounter (explanation at bottom of page), I reluctantly agreed. My expectations were low and it made clear that our time was limited.
We arrived at the zoo right at the peak of the heat. Let me explain that this is not just hot, it was over the top hot. The kind of hot that burns your skin and instantly makes you soaking wet in sweat. We quickly learned that it was even too hot for “Junior” the jaguar to be taking visitors into his cage, so we had to settle for a visit with the Tapirs (photo below of this interesting creature). I was instantly disappointed, but logically knew that getting inside a cage with a grumpy jaguar is probably not a great idea. Maybe a blessing in disguise.
We wandered through this amazingly well kept facility, taking a quick look at the local animals of Central America. My feelings about zoos started to change for the better. We were able to hang out in the enclosure with the Tapirs, the national animal of Belize, and get up close to some really unique creatures. Our visit was quick, informative, had no crowds, and the kids had a blast. We ended with an ice cream from the gift shop, experienced something totally new, and supported a great cause all during our quick and informative 45 minute stop (exactly how a zoo should be seen). Perfection!
Jaguar experience: So, for $50 USD, 5 people can pile in a cage, inside the enclosure of a Jaguar. You would have the opportunity to learn from an animal trainer about “Junior” the jaguar, feed him a little snack of raw chicken, and even get a kiss from him. Sound crazy? Absolutely yes, but talk about a once in a lifetime experience! Hopefully my next visit to Belize will be a little cooler for Junior and I’ll have a chance to get up close and personal.