The 16,400 acres of waterways, logwood swamps, and lagoon provide habitat for a diverse array of hundreds of resident and migratory birds—all year long. Explore the area by paddle power in a rented canoe or kayak, motor through on a guided tour, or hike the system of boardwalks through lowland savanna and logwood forests, with observation towers providing wide views across the lagoons.
The reserve was established by the Belize Audubon Society to protect its most famous habitant, the jabiru stork. It’s the largest flying bird in the Western Hemisphere, with a wingspan of up to eight feet. Multitudes of other birds (285 species, at last count) find the sanctuary a safe resting spot during the dry season, with enormous food resources along the shorelines and in the trees.
After a rain, thousands of minuscule frogs (no more than an inch long) seem to drop from the sky. They’re fair game for the agami heron, snowy egret, and great egret—quick hunters with their long beaks. A fairly large bird, the snail kite uses its particular beak to hook meat out of the apple snails.
Two varieties of ducks, the black-bellied whistling duck and the Muscovy, nest in trees along the swamp. All five species of kingfishers live in the sanctuary, and you can see ospreys and black-collared hawks diving for their morning catch.
On one trip, we watched from our dory (dugout canoe) as a peregrine falcon repeatedly tried but failed to nab one of a flock of floating American coots. Black Creek, with its forests of large trees, provides homes to monkeys, Morelet’s crocodiles, coatimundis, turtles, and iguanas.
A profusion of wild ocher pokes up from the water, covered with millions of pale pink snail eggs. Grazing Brahma cattle wade into the shallows of the lagoon to munch on the tum tum (water lilies), a delicacy that keeps them fat and fit when the grasses turn brown in the dry season.
Hunting and fishing are not permitted.
Although several organizations had a financial hand in founding the park, Belize Audubon Society (tel. 501/223-5004, www.belizeaudubon.org ) runs the show. The organization, with the continued help of devoted volunteers, maintains a small visitors center on the right just after you cross the causeway. Do sign in; this validates the sanctuary and gives the society a reason to sponsor it. It’s also obligatory, as is the US$5 per person entrance fee; the office is open 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 365 days a year. You will always find a knowledgeable curator willing to answer questions about the birds and flora encountered at the sanctuary.