Rio Bravo Conservation Area
The Rio Bravo Conservation Area is located in the Orange Walk District, and is owned and managed by a private nonprofit Belizean organization, Programme for Belize. The area consists of some 250,000 acres; made up of a combination of broadleaf forest, swamp forest, palm forest, savannah, and marshland. The area is managed for conservation, scientific research, sustained yield-timber harvesting, non-timber forest product extraction, ecotourism and educational purposes.
The area that is now Rio Bravo was once logging territory. Most of the land was once owned by Belize Estate & Produce Company, a logging operation.
Up until the mid 1960’s, these areas were selectively logged for hardwood trees, primarily mahogany and cedar. Logs were transported via railroad to Hillbank Lagoon, 45 miles away. From Hillbank, the logs were floated to Belize City via the New River Lagoon and Orange Walk. They were then shipped to England from Belize City, or used locally.
There are two field stations that cater to birders, nature enthusiasts, and student groups: La Milpa Field Station and Hill Bank Field Station, both located at opposite ends of the reserve. Hill Bank Field Station is located near the New River Lagoon, close to Lamanai archaeological site, and La Milpa Field Station is located near La Milpa Archaeological Reserve.
Both field stations offer accommodations and meals, with rustic lodging, as well as dormitory style facilities. There are many trails near the stations, and numerous birds can be spotted just by walking around either of the properties in the early-morning. Deer, cats, wild turkeys, foxes, peccary and other wildlife are sighted regularly. The jaguar, ocelot, margay, jaguarondi and puma have also been sighted.
It is said that more wildlife has been spotted in the Rio Bravo Conservation area, than anywhere else in the country. Jaguar sightings, according to resident rangers, are the norm. Toucans fly freely, in abundance, with many other species of birds. This area is truly a paradise for birders and nature enthusiasts.