Belize's Iguana Project: A Royally Wild Experience

Belize’s Iguana Project will get you as close to an iguana as you ever wanted to be.  Located at San Ignacio Resort Hotel, it’s the area´s premier conservation project, focusing on the Green Iguana. You will leave with all of your iguana questions answered, including why the male Green iguana is sometimes orange. Hint: There will be a lesson in sex education as your tour guide explains iguana mating. The interpretive tour proved to be an educational, hands-on, and unforgettable day of adventure for our crew.

The Venue: Fit for a Queen

We arrived at the hotel to visit the iguanas without a reservation. The grounds are immaculately-maintained and well-rated on TripAdvisor. Queen Elizabeth II´s visit here in 1996 is a recommendation in itself–a matter of great pride to the hotel owners. Tours depart every hour on the hour. We arrived a half an hour before the next tour which gave us just enough time for the all-important potty break and to enjoy some fresh-squeezed lemonade on the patio before our tour began.

The only way to get to the medicinal trail where the interpretive tours begin is down a steep flight of steps. Unfortunately, this makes for a non handicap-accessible tour. There are no elevators in the hotel. The staff, however, was very attentive and accommodating. Two workers were available to help carry Hosea’s wheelchair down the steps.

Belize Iguana Project Hotel

Arriving at the hotel.

On the Trail for Iguanas

We walked down the steps and enjoyed a beautiful nature walk down the medicinal trail. Our guide pointed out local herbs and healing trees. I could have spent the whole afternoon right there. He also taught the children how to eat termites.

According to the staff at the Iguana Project, if you are stranded in the jungle, you must eat termites to survive. Forget the fact that coconuts, and bananas grow wild. Keep your fishing line and hook in your pocket. For authentic jungle survival, YOU MUST EAT TERMITES–a skill that Brent and our older children were eager to try. Our guide took them to a 7-foot termite mound and taught the proper way of catching termites. They claim the termites have a “minty, roasted carrot flavor. ”

IGUANA PROJECT

Then tour moves on to an educational presentation on the Green Iguana. We learned about the life expectancy, hatching process, and survival skills of the iguana. After the informative presentation, our guides briefed us on entering the iguana greenhouses. Since the goal of the Iguana Project is to release the iguanas into the wild, only about three of the large iguanas are considered safe to touch.

Treading on Iguana Turf: the Greenhouse

Going inside the iguana house proved to be a fascinating, once-in-a-lifetime trip for our children.

While highly interesting, there is an element of danger. The Green Iguanas can whip with their long tails. If that warning goes unheeded, the iguana can scratch and claw and even bite. The guides are there to help ensure that the guests are gentle, to watch that the iguanas are feeling safe, and to remove any stressed iguanas.

However, as with any tour including wild animals, you know what your own child can handle. Make sure you feel comfortable with your child’s ability to follow directions before entering the greenhouse area.

Iguana Project in Belize

Hannah had a hair-raising experience, even for the guides. She was sitting on a bench, hand-feeding one of the iguanas. The largest untamed iguana, wanting to examine her food supply, traversed quickly across her legs and jumped off. She said she could feel its claws through her thin dress.
We could not get Hosea’s pediatric stroller into the narrow iguana house. The guides cheerfully brought a couple of large iguanas out to visit him. His bright smiles and loud giggles let us know that he enjoyed the iguana visit.

Our favorite part of the visit was visiting the second greenhouse where the eggs incubate and newest hatchlings reside until they are old enough to be released. With aplomb, little Hadassah shook off her squeamishness and decided to take her turn with the baby lizards. She smartly placed her bonnet on her head to keep them out of her hair. All of the children liked these wiggly babies.

Belize's Iguana Project: A Royally Wild Encounter
This was definitely a day our children will talk about and remember fondly. Best of all, they were having also having an amazing educational encounter that sparked their interest in iguanas long after our tour ended.

The most awesome part of worldschooling children in a free range environment is that they own what they learn.

Here’s a short educational clip our children created in Mexico using the lessons they learned following their visit at the Belize Iguana Project:

YOUR IGUANA PROJECT EXPERIENCE

This is a great place to bring children of all ages. When we were there, a few backpacking singles and some retired couples were also having an enjoyable tour.

The Iguana Project tour price is BZE $12 for adults and BZE $6 per children. (The Belizean dollar exchange rate is fixed at BZE $2 for every US $1)

San Ignacio Resort Hotel maintains a very informative website, named after the town itself.

Here are a couple pointers.

Wear sturdy shoes that handle mud. Wear clothes you feel comfortable climbing in and being climbed upon.

Wash your hands after handling the iguanas. You don’t want to ruin your adventure so take precautions. I always carry an essential oil  hand sanitizer.

Location The hotel is on the George Price / Western Highway, the main highway stretching the 72 miles from Belize City (and the major airport) through the capital of Belmopan to San Ignacio. Keep abreast of the one-way bridges in and out of the area. Driving on the Western Highway, an undivided, unlit two-lane road, can be treacherous at night. Visitors on a schedule should arrive the day before and stay at the hotel.

Explore Some More  Before or after the iguanas, make a day of your visit by going to downtown San Iagnacio. The market (biggest day on Saturday) is our favorite–a colorful immersion into the bustling best of Belize. We recommend Ko-Ox Hannah in downtown San Ignacio for good Belizean fare in a street cafe atmosphere. The Running W Restaurant at the Resort Hotel is a more formal affair featuring excellent steaks raised on the family-owned farm. We have eaten at both places and recommend them both. You have to decide what your budget and preferences are.

GO FOR THE IGUANA PROJECT. It’s a fun, educational trip for all interested in conservation or anyone looking for a day of family fun and learning. We highly recommend this tour to anyone interested in wildlife conservation, Green travel and especially to those with children.

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Brent and Stacey-jean Inion
Brent and Stacey-jean Inion
Brent and Stacey-jean Inion, parents of nine (including four children adopted with special needs), 2014 National Geographic Travelers of the Year and the National Geographic Travelers People's Choice Travelers of the Year. They love to laugh, to read and to explore as a family. The secret to their marital bliss is an early morning cup of freshly brewed coffee before the children awake.

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