GUANACASTE NATIONAL PARK

Guanacaste National Park is the name of a fifty-acre parcel of tropical forest located on the north side of the Western Highway just to the east of the Roaring Creek bridge. Belize Audubon Society members suggested this beautiful area be set aside. The land was first held as a Crown Reserve, then became a park and later received the completely protected status of a National Park under the Belize government to be cared for by the Belize Audubon Society. The Park derives its name from the giant guanacaste or tubroos tree growing near the southwestern edge. This colossal old tree shelters a large population of epiphytes, or airplants, among its branches and to view it is well worth the short walk from the park entrance.

The guanacaste or tubroos tree is a fast-growing species and one of the largest trees found in Central America. It can reach a total height of over 130 feet, 30 to 40 feet of which is straight trunk that may have a diameter in excess of six feet. The tree has a large, flat, wide spreading crown, pale green leaves and small white flowers. The seed pods are broad, flat, shiny dark brown, three to four inches across, and coiled into almost a complete circle, somewhat resembling a human ear. This may account for one of the names given to the tree - "monkey's ear tree". Cattle feed on the leaves, flowers and pods. Tubroos is a favourite timber for the dugout canoes that Belizeans call doreys. The wood is not readily attacked by pinworms. Feeding troughs and mortars for hulling rice are also made from the tubroos tree.

The guanacaste tree escaped being made into a dorey despite the tree's easy access to river traffic. The trunk, instead of growing straight, divided very near the base, so that the tree, instead of having one straight trunk, has three. This makes the tree even more widespread and a better support for numerous epiphytes, including several species of orchids, bromeliads, ferns and cacti.

In addition to the tubroos there are many other species of trees growing in Guanacaste Park. These include the Raintree, a magnificent specimen of which can be found near the head of the main trail, Mammee Apple, Bookut, Quamwood, a large Cotton Tree near the park's northern boundary, hundreds of Cohune Palms and two young specimens of Mahogany, Belize's National Tree. As a consequence of the protected status of Guanacaste Park the larger trees have been spared the woodman's axe.

Mammals recorded within the park's boundaries include Jaguarundi, Kinkajou, Paca, Armadillo, Agouti, White-tailed Deer and several species of bats, rats and opossum. Four-foot-long iguanas have been seen sunning themselves in the safety of the upper foliage of the taller trees and are just one of many reptiles found within the park. Over one hundred species of birds have been seen in Guanacaste Park. During the winter months the park's avian population is swollen by the arrival of North American migrants. An early morning or late afternoon stroll along the trails can add 40 to 50 species to an experienced birder's list. A lucky visitor may sometimes get a glimpse of the park's two resident Blue-crowned Motmots or the furtive Black-faced Antthrush. Other birds recorded at Guanacaste Park include Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Black-headed Trogon, Squirrel Cuckoo, Red-tored Parrot, Bright-rumped Attila and White-breasted Wood-Wren.

The Belize Audubon Society, with funding support from the MacArthur Foundation of Chicago, has developed nearly two miles of trail, installed several rest areas, a visitor center/museum and placed dozens of informative signs at strategic locations throughout the park. A self-guiding botanical leaflet is available for loan or sale at the visitor center". Thirty trees are numbered throughout trails. The guide provides information on how these trees are used in Belize. Many Belizeans and visitors enjoy swimming and picnicking while at the park. Guanacaste National Park is small, but its location makes it very important. The park is readily accessible to Belizeans and foreigners alike. It is located directly on a major bus route that heads east, south and west, making frequent stops by the park's visitor center. This makes the park ideal for environmental education and provides anyone who has a few minutes to spare a wonderful glimpse of the forest world of Belize.

To help the Belize Audubon Society maintain Guanacaste Park as a popular educational and recreational center visitors are asked to observe the following protective regulations:

  • Please register at our visitor center.
  • Do not disturb, harm or capture any animals or birds.
  • No fishing, or hunting is allowed.
  • Do not disturb, cut or remove any plants or trees.
  • Do not litter. Please place trash in bins provided.
  • Please do not bring pets into the park as they interfere with the wildlife.
  • Overnight camping is not allowed.
  • Do not drive motor vehicles or ride bicycles on the trails; these are for hiking only.
  • Firewood collection is not allowed, nor is digging.
  • Make use of the park's outhouse when necessary.
  • Please do not destroy or vandalize the facilities that have been constructed.
  • Please stay on the trails.
  • Horses are not allowed in the park as they damage the hiking trails.
  • Firearms are not to be taken into the park.
The Belize Audubon Society welcomes you to Guanacaste National Park and wishes you a most enjoyable stay.

This information is furnished courtesy of the Belize Audubon Society



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