After spending time in Orange Walk and exploring Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, we left our hotel and walked up the road to the bus station to catch a bus to our next destination – San Ignacio.
San Ignacio would be our last stop in Belize before we crossed the border into Guatemala.
The bus ride was about two and a half hours, and much the same as the previous buses we had caught in Belize – super fast and super sketchy. But we survived! Once I had accepted that we probably weren’t going to die, I tried to settle in and enjoy the scenery, which was actually beautiful. The Belizean countryside is SO green and lush. Here is a super amazing quality iPhone video that I took on the bus ride – you’re welcome.
We were dropped off in the town square of San Ignacio. It took us a second to get our bearings and try to interpret the vibe we were getting. There was loud reggae music playing, people everywhere and we were getting a few stares. We found a cafe in the town centre that had free wifi so started looking online for where we should stay.
Whilst we were sitting there we had two different people come up to us, both men, and try to get money and/or cigarettes from us. One was super sly and tried to befriend us before asking – he persisted for at least 15 minutes. The whole thing was just super uncomfortable and weird. There was a man at the table next to us who sounded like he was from North America and when the guy moved on to ask him after we turned him down, he flat out told him to f*** off. We were pretty grateful for that.
Anyway, we found a hostel called Bellas Backpackers, but unfortunately it was booked out for the night. We grabbed a bite to eat at a local restaurant and agreed to go check out the backup accomodation option we’d found online – it was an inn above a hardware store. I cannot for the life of me remember what it was called or find it online. But trust me – that doesn’t matter, because this is the part in the story where things go downhill. We got sick, I mean really sick. It came on quick and strong and we were both practically bedridden in this hot little room that we had rented. It was an entire afternoon of sweating and throwing up and it didn’t stop there. By the evening, John was feeling better, but I was still a bedridden wreck. It was a rough night. We suspected it was from the little restaurant we grabbed lunch from the day before as that was really the only thing we’d eaten and we did get some weird vibes from the place…..
By noon the next day I was feeling a bit more human, and we were also anxious about wasting time. There were things in San Ignacio that we wanted to do badly, but not in that physical state. So we agreed to use our ‘golden ticket’…….. allow me to explain.
This whole Central America trip was on a backpackers budget, and the idea was to spend money on experiences and activities rather than fancy accomodation. But we agreed before we left that if the opportunity arose and somewhere really special came up, we’d do it, at least once. Well – this was our opportunity. So we packed our things and headed out to Black Rock Lodge – an incredible eco-lodge nestled in the rainforest just outside of San Ignacio. Click here to read all about the few days that we spent there.
We weren’t going far, and agreed to come back down into San Ignacio when were feeling better. Keep reading for more!
After our few days in Black Rock Lodge, we came back down into the town of San Ignacio and checked into Bellas Backpackers, the hostel we had initially planned on staying at when we first arrived. It was super basic but had a sweet rooftop with the best view.
We used Bellas Backpackers as a base for exploring San Ignacio and spent the next few days interacting with as many animals as possibly could. If you’re not an animal lover, you’ll probably be bored by the rest of this post!
It’s a breeding program that not only allows guests to interact with Green Iguanas of all ages and sizes, but educates people about the incubation, hatching, rearing and releasing process. Green Iguanas are threatened and this program does a wonderful job of getting people up close and personal with these amazing creatures as well as educating visitors on their plight and how they can protect them.
We had a fantastic local university student show us around. He spoke to us about his role in the program and let us feed the iguanas which was incredible! We basically just held some browse/foliage and they climbed all over us. You can watch footage of it here.
The following day we visited the Belize Zoo. It is home to over 170 animals, all who are native and were rescued from various situations or donated from other facilities. It’s small but has a lot to offer. We paid a few extra dollars to do some close encounters and had the best day patting and feeding Tapirs, Toucans and Tayras, as well as staring at a Harpy Eagle for at least an hour. What an incredible bird! We’re not usually big cat people, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet two of the Zoos ambassador Jaguars, so paid a few extra dollars to do that too.
The first guy we met was Lucky Boy the black jaguar. He has a really sad background that you can read about here. His keeper told us all about his transformation and the work that they do with him, and we were able to feed him some delicious chicken necks. It was a wonderful moment that I’ll never forget.
The keeper then took us over to meet Junior the Jaguar. When his mother was considered a ‘problem jaguar’ who was killing sheep in a Belizean Mennonite community, The Belize Zoo acted fast to capture and relocate her before she was killed by a sheep farmer. When they captured her they discovered she was infested with beef worm maggots and incredibly weak, which explains why she was taking the easy feed of sheep on a farm. During her rehabilitation, the discovery was made that she was pregnant! Unfortunately she rejected her cub after two days, so the Belize Zoo raised him as an ambassador for his species and eventually released his mother back into the wild when she was healthy again.
Our encounter took place inside his enclosure which was a great size and really lush. They locked him off into his den and brought us into a small cage that lives inside his enclosure, before releasing him – basically we were the caged animals, not him! It was from there that we fed him treats and interacted with him under the guidance of his keeper who taught us all about Junior and jaguars in Belize. Another amazing encounter that we will never forget.
We filmed most of our day, check out the video below to watch!