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Tony Rath's

 
PLACES TO SEE > NATURE RESERVES > Rio Bravo

Thanks to the foresight and management of the Programme for Belize, the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, a 250,000-acre tract of subtropical broadleaf forest, has become a national example of sustained forestry development and conservation. The Programme for Belize is a private, non-profit, Belize-based organization dedicated to the preservation and management of Belize's natural resources, namely the Rio Bravo area. Programme for Belize hopes to eventually incorporate the nearby Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatamala and Mexico's Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in a tri-national "Maya Peace Park".

Research station at Rio Bravo
Research station at Rio Bravo

Most of the tropical forest serves as a pristine haven for howler and spider monkeys, king vultures, gray foxes, over 80 species of bats, tapirs, porcupines, anteaters, and 110 species of orchid. Although elusive, all five species of cat within Belize also reside here: puma, jaguar, margay, jaguarundi, and ocelot. Birds encompass an entirely different magnitude of diversity within the Rio Bravo borders.

ocelot, one of five wildcats found at Rio Bravo
Ocelot, One of Five Species of Wildcats Found at Rio Bravo
Tayra or Bush Dog
Tayra or "Bush Dog", a Common Mammal Found at Rio Bravo

The Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area also includes over sixty Maya Archaeological sites, many of which are unexcavated. La Milpa, the third largest site in Belize, and Chan Chich (Lodge and site) are found here. Stumbling upon an unexplored ruin while hiking through the forest is not uncommon.

Trail Leading to La Milpa Mayan Site
Trail Leading to La Milpa Mayan Site
Burial Chamber at Chan Chich Mayan Site
Burial Chamber at Chan Chich Mayan Site

The immense forest has supported the logging business for decades. Mahogany, cedar, and dozens of other precious hardwoods have dwindled through intense harvesting. Much of Programme for Belize's impetus for acquiring the land has been to determine the most productive uses for the forest. The Programme promotes low-impact tourism, regulates timber harvesting, and funds on-going research dissecting the region's ecology. Agroforestry experiments, forestry management education, and preservation-motivated eco-tourism contribute to the Programme for Belize's overall management scheme.

Research Station at Hill Bank
Research Station at Hill Bank

Visitors can take guided tours and jungle walks along trails or visit Mayan sites within the vicinity of accessible villages. Guests can stay at the La Milpa Field Research Station (operated by the Programme for Belize) and partake in evening lectures on natural history, conservation, and sustainable development. Rio Bravo is located about an hour's drive southeast of Orange Walk Town. Visitors can also fly from Belize City to a private airstrip in nearby Gallon Jug.

ShipsternBacalar ChicoRio Bravo

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