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Guanacaste National Park

The History

Guanacaste National Park (GNP) is a 50-acre protected area located roughly in the center of Belize. It is just north of the capital city Belmopan in the Northeast quadrant of the Cayo District. GNP was established as a Crown Reserve in 1973 and gained National Park status in 1990.

This 50-acre National Park is a protected segment of a secondary growth tropical forest. It is the most accessible of the Belize Audubon Society managed protected areas; located less than two miles from the capital city of Belmopan at the intersection of the Hummingbird and Western Highways. This makes the park easily accessed by private vehicles and bus. Here the whole family has the opportunity to experience the beauty of Belize's world-renowned biodiversity only minutes away from an urban setting. The proximity of the park to Belize's major towns and cities makes it the perfect destination for an unforgettable day trip.

The park's relatively small size allows our visitors to come face to face with the wildlife and lush vegetation at an amazingly short distance from the entrance. To enhance your enjoyment, the park boasts an educational center with a gift shop, a wooden observation deck overlooking the river, a refreshing swimming area. GNP also has sheltered picnic areas and over two miles of maintained trails.

Buffer Communities

Belmopan is the largest settlement (approximately 8,000 residents- 2003) in GNP's vicinity, with the northern outskirts of Belmopan extending almost to the GNP'S entrance. Just west of GNP is the village of Roaring Creek with approximately 6000 residents. Once a thriving junction town, its role at the center of the country was eclipsed with the construction of Belmopan City in 1970. Also located in the vicinity of GNP are the refugee communities of Salvapan and Las Flores. Populated mostly by Salvadoran and Guatemalan, these communities have grown significantly over the past fiveto eight years.

Forest Cover

GNP contains a secondary growth forst, much of it reclaiming previously cleared land. Most of the forest is in the middle stage of succession. The area's dry season gives the forest cover a semi-deciduous quality.

There are two broad forest types in GNP: Cohune Palm forest and Broadleaf Hardwood forest. The Cohune palm and Broadleaf Hardwood types are often contiguous or intermixed, however in GNP the Cohune Palm forest type is more common. A third community, the Riparian Forest Association can be found along GNP's riverbanks and is adapted to periodic flooding.

Plant Life

Within the boundaries of the park there is a tremendous range of plant life to be seen, from the small Black Orchid (Belize's National Flower) to the colossal Guanacaste (Tubroos) tree from which the park takes its name. The Guanacaste is one of the largest tree species in Central America and its wide-reaching branches support numerous epiphytes, including several species of orchids, bromeliads, ferns and cacti. The Guanacaste is a highly prized hardwood known for its resistance to insects and decay. Its lumber is the material of choice for construction of dugout canoes.

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.

Animals and Birds

The immense range of plants is mirrored in the animal community of Guanacaste.

If luck is on your side, you might be able to see a Jaguarundi, Kinkajou, Paca, Nine-banded Armadillo, and White-tailed Deer along with many species of bats. There is no shortage of reptilian life, including Iguanas up to four feet long that basking in the canopy foliage.

Similarly there is plenty for the avid bird watcher to see at GNP, with over 120 species recorded in the park. The majestic Blue Crown Motmot, can be seen along with the Black-faced Ant-thrush, Belted Kingfisher, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Magnolia Warbler, and Red-lored Parrot to name only a few.

Cultural

GNP has no major Maya sites, however pottery pieces and other artifacts were discovered by park wardens during trail construction. In addition, there is a suspected chultun, or Maya underground storage chamber, located in the north-central part of the park. To date, there have been no investigations of this chamber by archeologists.

Visitor's Use and Park Rules:

GNP is a day use park. The entrance fee are BZ$1 for nationals and Bz$5 for non-nationals. The opening hours are 8:00am - 4:30pm.

To help the Belize Audubon Society to maintain the park's pristine conditions we ask that all the visitors observe the following regulations:

  1. Please register at the visitor center.
  2. Please do not harm or attempt to capture any animals or birds.
  3. Please do not disturb, collect, or remove any plants or trees.
  4. No fishing or hunting is allowed.
  5. Please sign in at the warden post.
  6. Do not litter.  Leave trash in bins provided.
  7. Cooking is only allowed in designated areas.
  8. Please do not bring pets to the park.
  9. No firearms allowed.
  10. Please stay on the trails.

Recommendations

Bring sturdy shoes, long sleeved shirt, long pants, insect repellent, sunscreen and plenty of water.

All school groups are welcome; please register with the Belize City office prior to you visit.

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