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Placencia and the Cockscomb Basin Belize

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Our final destination in Belize was of course the coast! While many travel to San Pedro to see the Caribbean in Belize we instead chose Placencia, a charming little town at the very tip of a peninsula in southern Belize. Not too far from Placencia, nestled in the jungle, lies the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary – an incredible spot for wildlife viewing. But hold on, we’ll get to that in a bit. Placencia captured our hearts with its peaceful beaches, delicious food, and proximity to exciting adventures. It’s a central spot for fun trips to nearby islands for fishing or snorkeling. Our rental cabin in Placencia was about 75 yards from the beach, nestled in some oak trees that were mixed in to the palms. We were pleasantly greeted by a flock of Red-lored Parrots! Luckily they were not accompanied by pirates. Fun Fact: did you know that the term “lore” is used for identification, its the area between a bird’s eye and its bill.

While we did enjoy relaxing at the beaches of Placencia and enjoying the local restaurants, we also planned for adventure by taking a snorkeling day trip to Laughing Bird Caye, a small island about a 30 minute boat ride from Placencia. The reefs were amazing! It was like being in a dream, swimming with fish in a giant aquarium. The water was so clear and blue, making the ocean floor’s colors stand out. We saw all kinds of fish, crabs, and urchins, including a Giant Blue Crab and Barracudas, which made our day even more special. We were also greeted by some familiar PNW sea birds, Ospreys and Sanderlings, who travel long distances during migration. As we explored the beach we were pleased to discover some nice sized Hermit Crabs enjoying a stroll on the beach, take a look at the video!

 

After our adventures on the water, we spent some good time just relaxing in town and at our rental where there were a few other local birds and enjoyed sightings of local birds like the Morelet’s Seedeater and the ever-chatty Red-lored Parrots. Black Vultures, White-crowned Pigeon’s, and Royal Tern’s made appearances too, adding to our overall bird tally. Oh, and let’s not forget the majestic Great Frigatebirds soaring overhead – a familiar sight from our previous adventures in Puerto Vallarta.

On our way back to the airport we made our last stop at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Just a few miles off the highway leading to a jungle paradise. There are many trails you can hike here, and we learned that tubing down the creeks is also a popular activity here; when we ran into other people they were either on a creek in an inner-tube, or carrying one towards their next drop in.

They have a small visitor center where you can learn about the local venomous snakes to watch out for (we saw none), though they told us the story of a time a guide got bit when exiting the public shower in bare feet! He was tagged on the foot by a baby snake but luckily was transported to the hospital in time to make a full recovery. The center also had maps of the trails and a few snack items for purchase behind the counter. Just outside the visitor center we saw some very colorful birds, both the smaller Golden-hooded Tanager and an Olive-backed Euphonia were spending time together in the same tree, they reminded me of the colorful warblers that also spend time in Central America and then travel up to the PNW in summer time. We even spotted a Yellow-warbler, maybe it was the same one we saw on our visit to Walla Walla! The Golden-hooded Tanager and the Olive-backed Euphonia are common but can only be found in limited section of Central America so you’ll have to head south to see these.

Keel-billed Toucan
Keel-billed Toucan
We were so glad to learn about Cockscomb basin and to take a visit as this was finally where we photographed the most famous bird of Belize, the Keel-billed Toucan. This is “Toucan Sam” from the Fruit Loops box, a very colorful bird that makes a distinctive call that sound like frogs croaking! They use their massive bills to crack tough seeds and eat berries by tossing them up with a tilt of their head and then swallowing them whole. This was one of our favorite birds to see on our visit, but another bird caught our eye as well: the Gartered Trogon, with its striking yellow-ringed eye. It’s a bird unique to Central America, along with related Trogon species found in Northern South America.

During our walk through the jungle, we heard what seemed like someone or something moving through the underbrush, with the sound of sticks breaking. It happened repeatedly, and we soon realized, using the Merlin app, that it was actually the distinct sound made by the White-collared Manakin. What a unique bird sound! We also heard and spotted a Rufous-tailed Jacamar. Both birds were smaller but incredibly colorful and noisy, making the walk under the jungle canopy well worth it. If you visit Placencia, be sure to take a day to visit the Cockscomb Basin!

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a time-lapse taken of the sunset from the Placencia Yacht Club. This tiny little bar on a pier is accessible only by boat. They offer a small food selection, and you can request a ferry to head over, as we did. It was just a quiet little spot with an incredible view!

 

Useful Links:

  • Read our last Belize post about San Ignacio!
  • Check out all our other birding and nature adventures here.
  • We stayed in a rental but there are some nice smaller hotels and resorts in the area, we got some good pizza at the Turtle Inn, a Francis Ford Coppola resort.
  • Please check out the Kingsyard banner above and give it click. They make some really cool bird feeders and bird houses that you’ll want to check out! Also use Booking.com for your travel!
  • Don’t forget your bug spray! We recommend using something with DEET, trust us!
  • Most of these shots were taken with the Sony a7 along with the Sony FE 200-600mm lens.

 

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