Peer into the dense foliage surrounding Chaa Creek and what do you see? Multiple pairs of glowing red eyes staring back at thee! Dr. Seussian poetry aside, this is not an uncommon sight when cruising the grounds at the Lodge at Chaa Creek. Despite their ominous looks at night, these critters are just as curious as you are. When swinging from branch to branch or slumbering in a burrow gets commonplace, these creatures can always count on humans for entertainment.
You can be solo on a hiking trail or traversing through the night with an enthusiastic troop and you’ll always spot captivating fauna. Seeking mammals you could never dream of discovering back home? Or maybe you’re fond of the creepy crawlies that get your heart dancing in excitement. The Lodge at Chaa Creek is home to those and more. Don your headlamps and binoculars because you’re in for quite a ride when traversing through Chaa Creek’s 400-acre property!
A Blink-and-You’ll-Miss-It Jaguarundi
With the eyes of a predator and the build of a large house cat, the jaguarundi won’t make a prey out of you. Instead, it opts to feast on other mammals such as small birds, mice, and wild rabbits. As you trek through the Cassowary Trail, stumble upon a jaguarundi on the hunt for a nightly snack. It’s easy to fall in love with their cute face but don’t be deceived! The jaguarundi are hunters at heart. While they’re abundant in the Central and South American region, jaguarundis are said to be locally extinct in the United States. This makes a sighting at Chaa Creek much more thrilling! Walk on foot-worn trails and in the distance hear bird-like chirps that vibrate in the air. The jaguarundi may be trying to trick you as those sounds are among the 13 they can produce. Cock your ears and listen for whistles and yaps that signify a jaguarundi is close by. It’s no mistake if they let themselves be seen. Spot one before it runs away!
The Feisty Mexican Red Rump Tarantula
Eight legs and a beautiful black and red velvet color predominates the mini-holes in the ground on Chaa Creek’s property. Easy to draw out of hiding and hard to catch in hand with their nimble legs, the Mexican Red Rump Tarantula is an impressive arachnid. These aren’t for the faint of heart, since they’re much bigger than your common household spider! You’ll learn the differences between a male and a female Red Rump Tarantula courtesy of your knowledgeable guide. An amazing fact is that females can live up to 25 years while males only up to five! We can proudly say that some of the females on Chaa Creek’s property are well-known residents. Want to meet one of them? Muster up your courage and let your guide teach you the knack of baiting one out of their hole.
The Tree-Hopping Kinkajou
Known as the Night Walker in Belize, the best time to glimpse a kinkajou on Chaa Creek is during a Creatures of the Night hike. Since they’re nocturnal, once the sun sets then it’s their time to shine. Quite literally. Wave your flashlight at the jungle canopy over your head and don’t be surprised when you spot a pair of glowing eyes looking down at you. On your trail, you’re bound to hear rustling around and above you. The fun part is guessing which animal is joining you on your hike! Kinkajous can be loud as they jump from tree to tree in search of yummy fruits, insects or flowers. With their long prehensile tail they use for balance, you’re more likely to see one hanging from a tree than on ground level. So, once you hear the swishing of leaves, use your keen sense of hearing and eyesight to look for a night walker.
The Royal Rat Agouti
With a nickname used in Belize since the ’80s, the Royal Rat of Belize is an abundant species at Chaa Creek. While its scientific name is the agouti paca, in Belize it is widely referred to as gibnut or the royal rat. You may wonder what this rodent did to be revered at such great lengths! Legend has it that on a visit to newly established Belize in 1985, Queen Elizabeth II was served gibnut stew as a meal. She happily ate it alongside her hosts and went as far as to describe it as tasting like “rabbit.” Since then, Belizeans dubbed gibnuts as the ‘royal rat’ and a sighting is always met with excitement. Hunted for their game meat, gibnuts are small creatures no longer than two feet. If you hear the crunching of leaves on the ground, or the chewing of a cohune nut, the royal rat is paying you a visit.
The Sleek and Sly Ocelot
Bearing an eye-catching fur pattern similar to a jaguar, its always a celebration when an ocelot is spotted on the trails. Finding one may be challenging due to its stealthy maneuvers but we’ve seen them enough times to know it loves Chaa Creek’s forests as much as we do! It’s always exhilarating to stumble upon an ocelot since the sight is rare and treasured. Ask any of your friends here at Chaa Creek and we’ll tell you. No matter how many times we’ve seen one, we never get bored of them. Listen to the incredible first-hand stories from your naturalist guide and make it your personal goal to spot an ocelot to add to the list. After this, you’ll have your own first-hand stories to share with friends.
Does the animal-lover in you have you jumping in excitement at this list? Visit your friends at Chaa Creek and meet some new four-legged (or eight-legged) ones on your stay here. You can contact us at reservations[at]chaacreek to get you started.