At the Belize Zoo, you can see more than 150 animals, representing over 45 species, all of which are native to the country of Belize. During my visit, I loved seeing the toucans, symbol of the country and colorful mascots for tourism.
However, it was my time inside the jaguar habitat that was most memorable. I stepped through a double gate, past a heavy fence and into dense jungle where I had to follow a path that ended in a cage smaller than a dining room table. The cage had a small bench inside and I was instructed to sit on that bench.
The next thing I knew, I was face to face with a jaguar. I could see the individual hairs that make up its fur, I felt its tongue on my forehead and its massive teeth were close enough to alert me to the seriousness of my position if I was in any way careless. Yet with a ranger accompanying me inside the cage, who talked to the jaguar and seemed in control the entire time, I was more than safe enough to be able to relax for just a minute and enjoy being so close to one of nature’s least understood cats.
There is no cat that is larger or more powerful in the Western Hemisphere than the jaguar and being in such close proximity to one is, in my opinion, one of the few things in Belize that should absolutely be classified as a “can’t miss.” Inquire at the information desk, when you purchase your zoo admission, about the jaguar experience; a limited number of times are available per day and every visitor must be accompanied by a ranger.