The La Milpa Research Centre is nestled deep in the forests of northwestern Belize and is part Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area. Rio Bravo is host to a wide variety of habitats lending to great biodiversity. Combined with Shipstern in Corozal, and the Crooked Tree Bird Sanctuary create incredibly bird rich viewing opportunities for our Belize bird week with top ornithologist and guide Roni Martinez.
2020 Departure Dates & Costs
April 13 - 20, 2020 with Roni Martinez
May 17 - 24, 2020 combined with Chocolate Festival
Trip cost: 1,990.00 USD per person, based on twin share
$ 100 USD donation is included to the Belize Bird Conservancy
Read more in our Birding in Belize Blog...
Belize may be small country, but it is well endowed with wild landscapes, diversity of wildlife and interesting cultures both present and past. It is an English-speaking hideaway tucked under Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula with Guatemala to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Visiting here is like a step back in time because the unhurried pace of life and natural conditions and cultural charm. The coastal strip is a mosaic of mangroves, salt and freshwater lagoons, sandy beaches and meandering rivers. To the south and west rises the forested Maya mountain range. More than 65 per cent of the area of the country is still forested providing habitat for over 500 species of birds, as well as many mammals, reptiles and butterflies. Belize also includes numerous offshore islands that stretch along an almost continuous barrier reef off the coast. This reef system is the longest in the Western Hemisphere. The country is also home to hundreds of ancient Maya sites. Some have been excavated and are open to visitors but many others lie hidden in the jungle. Several indigenous cultures welcome visitors to experience Belizean hospitality, natural and cultural heritage.
Roni Martinez (April), born in Belize, has worked as a natural history guide since 2004. He began his career serving as the Conservation Officer in the Mountain Pine Ridge area. While there, his passion for birds and other wildlife deepened. In 2014, he left his position to pursue a wider career in birding and wildlife conservation, working with an array of researchers and conservation NGOs who share the same vision. Among his achievements, he co-founded the Scarlet Six Biomonitoring Team in to protect the last remnant population of Scarlet Macaws in Belize, is President of the Belize Raptor Research Institute, and has been proactive in efforts to conserve biodiversity in Belize.
Jonathan Urbina, (May) has been birding from a young age. At 13, he became the youngest birder to get a first country record - the Lesser Goldfinch. Since then, he observed 3 more first country records. His passion turned to academics, and he completed his degree in Wildlife Biology & Conservation. In 2012, he joined the Peregrine Fund’s Orange-breasted Falcon Restoration Project and spent 6 years gaining intimate knowledge of this iconic species as well as more of Belize’s avifauna. He also immersed himself in extensive training to become a bird guide which led to work guiding for several North American ornithological and wildlife operators. Past groups enjoy his pleasant personal demeanor and his skill in the field.
Days 1 – 4 La Milpa Research Centre
The La Milpa Research Centre is nestled deep in the forests of northwestern Belize and is part Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area. Rio Bravo is host to a wide variety of habitats including pine forest, secondary palm/broadleaf forest, marsh and freshwater lagoon. This diversity helps protect over 70 mammal species and 392 bird species. Twenty-two vegetation types are encompassed by the boundaries of the conservation area, and support 230 tree species. The research Centre is just 3 miles from the La Milpa Archaeological. This and sixty other archaeological sites found on the Rio Bravo have contributed to a rich base for archaeological research. Guests visiting the La Milpa Lodge experience firsthand the rich history of the Maya Civilization and in 1996, the site received international recognition when a royal Maya tomb was found and a male skeleton adorned with a jeweled necklace was unearthed on its grounds. We will stay in thatched- roof cabanas with private baths. (Comfortable and tastefully decorated dormitory are also available with 5 berths per room and shared bathrooms). Birding and hiking the nature trails are the order of the days at La Milpa. Avid birders can likely compile a list of more than 150 species during the three days. Time permitting, we will visit a nearby Mestizo and Mennonite village for a taste of Belizean culture.
Days 4 - 7 (April) Shipstern - Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative
3 nights to discover the beautiful Shipstern Lagoon, its mangrove islands and water bird colonies that thrive between February and June. Shipstern is the largest inland lagoon in Belize and perfect for birding. It is shallow, and fleeing stingrays are often spotted. Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, many Heron species and when conditions are right, American Woodstorks nest on the many islands. One of these islands harbours a small Black Mangrove forest, remnants of a Mayan structure, as well as beautiful epiphytes. Dry coastal forests nearby also provide habitat for an abundance of birds. Stay 3 nights in the birder's lodge with full board.
Days 4 – 7 (May) Chaab’ Ilb’e Lodge
Nestled along Jacinto Creek in the shadow of the Maya Mountains in the Southern district of Toledo, Chaab’il B’e Lodge will be your home base for 3 days of birding and wildlife exploring. Chaab’il B’e means “good trail” in Q’eqchi’ Maya and there are no less than 17 trails on the property lending to great birding. Chaab’il B’e Lodge has 20 acres of private forest with 3 of those acres maintained in gardens. In addition to the heliconias, gingers, and orchids endemic to Southern Belize, the gardens are full of local flowering and fruit bearing trees which attract birds year around. One birder couple said, “We don’t have to leave the property. The property’s birding checklist includes over 200 species. We can just sit by this one tree and complete our list.” With the Maya, Creole, Garifuna and East Indian cultures along with the explosion of the cacao industry, the Teledo District in southern Belize offers a complete natural and cultural experience different than anywhere else in the country.Options are also available to visit the nearby ruins of Lubaantun and Mim LI Punit. The Lubaantun Ruins are the largest Maya site in Southern Belize. A late classic ceremonial center dated to 700-900 AD this site consists of eleven large structures tower above five main plazas and three ball courts. Nim Li Punit is one of the smaller Maya sites well known for the large amount of stele found here. Inheriting its name from the carving of a figure wearing a large headdress, Nim Li Punit means “the big hat” in the the Maya Kekchi language.
Both departures include day trips in the area, conservation talks and presentations, and birding at all the local hotspots.
Day 7: Transfer to Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary (B,L,D)
Leaving Southern Belize and head to Crooked Tree Lagoon. One night at Bird’s Eye Lodge, located on the edge of the small rural village of Crooked Tree. Afternoon boat trip.
Day 8: Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary (B)
Morning birding at the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary which is a vast wetland where waterbirds of many species concentrate during the dry season and are easily seen. We will see a range of waterbirds including egrets, ibises and possibly the Jabiru Stork. We will also have a boating tour to experience the area, and search for birds from a different vantage point. Continue to the Belize airport for departure. (Photos by R. Alvarez, J. Kamstra and C. Evans)
Pre and Post tours available
- 7 nights accommodation & meals
- Local expert bird guide
- River trip, daily transfers to bird hotspots, entry fees to ruins site and national park
- Round trip road transfer to Belize International airport
- Tax & service charge
- Your tour cost includes a $100 USD contribution to Belize Bird Conservancy