DO: Thirty miles northwest of Belize City lies the Community Baboon Sanctuary, a 20-square-mile haven of safety created when seven villages voluntarily came together to protect the area’s black howler monkeys (known to locals as baboons). The sanctuary offers guided treks by day to see troops of the monkeys, as well as night safaris to see crocs, kinkajous and maybe even a jaguar.
Nearby, the 5-foot-tall Jabiru stork, the tallest flying bird in South America, frequents the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, a Belize Audubon Society preserve just an hour from the city, where boat trips explore expansive waterways filled with fowl.
The ruined city of Lamanai sits 26 miles down the New River. Tours of the Mayan site, which originate in the town of Orange Walk, combine a river safari — look out for snail kites and squirrel monkeys — with climbs up the towering, jungle-shrouded temples.
An extensive system of underground, rain-fed rivers has developed beneath the country’s porous limestone surface. Travelers can explore them by cave tubing at Caves Branch in the western jungle.
At the unique Belize Zoo, visitors can spot elusive jaguars, tapirs and harpy eagles. Zoo director Sharon Matola runs the nearly 30-acre compound renowned for its work in rehabilitating jaguars.