Macaw caw!

Okay I have to admit, when my friend suggested taking our preschoolers to Red Bank to see the Macaws, I had VERY little faith that we’d see ANYTHING.  I mean really… who takes two 4-year-olds birdwatching?!?  I was fairly certain that the serious birdwatchers and tourists that had paid big bucks to tour companies for the Macaw experience would wish death upon us and chase us out of the forest.  But I agreed to try.  Thinking, at least it’s a trip off the peninsula and we can have a little hike around a new-to-me area of Belize (this loooong school break is murder to me and boredom was setting in hard).  Well I stand corrected because we not only saw A macaw, we saw DOZENS! 

My friends found a local guide, Raul, on facebook and arranged to meet him out at Red Bank village.  Red Bank is a rustic little village a bit removed from the Southern Highway and predominately Maya.  It’s a bit strange: you travel about ten minutes down a deeply rutted dirt and stone road then reach blacktop in the village.  We’d visited once before to enjoy some time splashing around the river which is beautiful and used for recreation as well as washing.  The kids found someone’s old laundry station last time and spent a good hour and a half playing with soap (kids are weird).

Raul led us from the village down what I would call a cattle lane through corn fields and jungle that threatened total encroachment.  We parked in a designated area near the river and followed a trail up a nearby ridge.  It wasn’t a strenuous hike because Mitch even did it without asking to be carried (much).  The view from our ridge across the river was perfect.

You might be able to luck out and see Macaws on your own but Raul has local knowledge of where to go at what time of day to give you the best chance of spotting them.  We were late in to morning and the flock was moving from their morning feeding ground to the backside of the ridge we were observing in order to bed down for a mid-day nap.  Now I’m not a serious birder and like I mentioned, I didn’t expect to see anything, so all I have as evidence of this incredible sight are some crap quality cell phone photos.

But to see them in person was, no lie, pretty darn cool even for someone that doesn’t care about birds.

When they showed up on the ridge they showed up in force!  Raul said there’s only about 300 Scarlet Macaws that call Belize home (their main residence is the Chiquibal National forest and they come south seasonally to feed).  We must have seen at least 75 of them on our morning adventure.

A few of the stunners perched right in this tree that stuck up above the ridge just begging to be photographed properly, the sun hitting their magnificent feathers… but of course you can’t tell by my dismal snapshots.

After we’d seen more macaws than we could count and the kids were beginning to get restless, we hiked back down to the river and took in the sights from below. 

How beautiful!

We even saw two river otters; I didn’t even know there was such a thing!  I didn’t get a picture because they’re quick and very shy.

Just to put the cherry on top of a morning that totally exceeded my expectations- on the ride home I saw a Toucan flying parallel to the road!  So we enjoyed a little hike, a bit of river, loads of macaws with a bonus bird and otters thrown in.  To end we toasted our success with a watermelon juice at Happy Ranch.

About the author

Megan Rodden

never met a vacation she didn't like. Megan is a self-centered, snarky, unambitious derelict... like most of her peers.

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© 2014 Megan Rodden and Phil Nagengast.