Chiquibul Forest Reserve


The Chiquibul Forest Reserve in the Maya Mountains is the largest protected area in Belize, totaling 147,000 acres with a perimeter of 119 Kms. It is an area of outstanding biological diversity providing critical habitat for many endangered species and forming a key part of the tri-national Maya Forest – the largest remaining intact tropical forest north of the Amazon.

Classified as lowland tropical broad-leafed rain forest, the Maya Forest boasts 375 plant species found nowhere else on earth. but only here in Belize have vast swatches of the once might forest escaped the march of development, thanks to the country’s small population, the inaccessible terrain and a keen awareness of the value of eco-tourism.

The Chiquibul Reserve is home to an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna, from the large and familiar – jaguars, pumas, tapirs, black howler monkeys and scarlet macaws – to the small and altogether unknown.

Some of the more endangered species frequently include: Jaguar, Ocelot, Harpy Eagles, Bairds Tapir, Black Howler Monkey, Tree Frogs,Morelet’s Crocodiles and Scarlet Macaws.

Inside the reserve there is a the research stations of Las Cuevas. Though the main purpose of Las Cuevas remains biological research, Las Cuevas has recently began welcoming eco-tourists. “This is no mint on the pillow eco-lodge” Chris Minty emphasizes, its main selling point is the fact that it’s a functioning research station.

Visitors have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and help scientists, or join field courses similar to those the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh MSc students take part in.

For visitors wishing to experience this remote, unexplored part of the world, Las Cuevas provides support for campers at their Monkey Trail Campground and at the Explorer Lodge with clean, single and double rooms; hot and cold water, excellent food, laundry service and bar.

There is no shortage of things to do …. Apart from the fascinating array of wildlife and plants at your doorstep, Las Cuevas Research Station is near rivers for adventures in canoeing and at the center of numerous Mayan archaeological sites, including the awe-inspiring Caracol, just 24km away, as well the most extensive cave system in the Western Hemisphere, providing exciting opportunities for underground exploration.

For those interested in natural history, Maya archaeology or simply the experience of living in a rainforest, the relaxed atmosphere of the Explorers Lodge at Las Cuevas offers the ideal place to stay in an area of outstanding biological diversity. Visitors to Las Cuevas not only have the opportunity to stay in one of the world’s last unspoiled wildernesses, but also have the chance to see and learn about the cutting edge science and forest management that is helping to conserve it.

Las Cuevas Research Station is reachable by road some 48 miles from San Ignacio. (info from Las cuevas research station)