Wildlife Sightings & And Other Out of The Ordinary Animal Experiences on Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is a large island – the biggest caye in Belize – at over 25 miles in length. And while building and development is BOOMING, there is still a huge amount of unpopulated land, rarely visited by humans.

I’ve been living on the island for 17 years. For the first 8 years, I existed almost solely in a few-mile radius – within a stone’s throw of San Pedro town – the only urban center on the Caye.  My experience with land-based wildlife was limited – mostly to black iguanas (or wish willies), green iguanas and mosquitoes.

Though I’ve seen amazing things in the water, here are my 8 favorite sea creatures.

Green Iguana at Calvins Sanctuary

Later, I moved north – to about 8 miles north – still less than halfway up the island.  

And I quickly branched out even more – to the NW side of the island at Cayo Frances Farm and Fly. And more recently to the still-under-contruction Rocky Point Permit Camp at about 18 miles north (closer to Mexico than it is to San Pedro town!)

Map of Ambergris Caye and the 2 flyfishing camps
Red – bridge, yellow – Secret Beach area, blue- Cayo Frances, green – Rocky Point Permit camp

Living on a coastal island of Belize surprises me in some way every single day – life is much less ordinary at an off-the-grid lodge – where the daily visitors are birds (many wading birds nest in the mangroved cayes on the west side of the island) and fish with a flyfishing boat once in a while.

15 Things that No One Told You about Living in Belize

But once in a while we see something even more exciting…

A roseate spoonbill – “a Belizean flamingo”

Here are some of the extra-ordinary things I’ve encountered over the last few months, things that show me how big and…cool this island is.

One day there was a ruckus in the mangroves over the lagoon…a bird squawking and screaming.  Closer inspection and…it was a green vine snake with a bird’s neck in his mouth.

One of my favorite birds is the bare-throated tiger heron.  Drying his feathers on an old mangrove stump.  He looks like a flasher opening his raincoat.

The property is almost all black dirt – which is pretty rare on a coral reef island.   While digging, this was found.

Teeth of a parrot fish

After a bit of internet research, it’s been identified as the teeth of a giant parrotfish.  To grind coral, their throats are lined with these grinders.

One of my favorite sightings was these GORGEOUS eagle rays in just 2 or 3 feet off water at the entrance to Cayo Frances.

Two gliding eagle rays
Two eagle rays gliding along

Synchronized swimmers.

We have found parts of the mouth plates of the eagle rays. Hard like bone – or teeth. You can see them in full in this article. Who knew?

Eagle ray mouth plates
Solid rock hard plate

On certain parts of the island, thousands come out of the woods in the night time to spawn. It’s AMAZING (lots of pics here)

Hermit crabs mating
Hermit crab spawning at about 5 miles north, Ambergris Caye

We’ve seen a peccary (also known as a javelina or a skunk pig) swim across the lagoon and a few herds of them trotting along with a baby or two. Here is a tusk we found at Cayo Frances.

Peccary tusk and mouth plate for eagle ray
Peccary tooth on right, eagle ray plates on the left

A few years ago, we had a deer dropped off at Cayo Frances.  A flyfishing guide and his guests spotted the fawn in distress – wading in the lagoon, lethargic.

After watching him for over an hour – looking for the mother – the fawn was picked up and delivered to our “doorstep”.  We rushed over from the other side of the island to pick him up and bring him to medical help.

We named him Frances.  Poor guy did make it to help on the mainland, where he was thought to be about four months old but he was seriously dehydrated, weak, and in severe shock.

Little Frances didn’t make it.  I wonder how many deer are left on the island – I imagine not many.

What a beautiful animal.

Note:  To hunt, a PERMIT from the Forestry Department is NEEDED.  Without it, it is ILLEGAL. As far as I know, there are NO permits issued on Ambergris Caye.

Also spotted south of the Cayo Frances camp by a kayaking guest was this gorgeous mother, tamandua, feeding her baby.  

Quick to leave so the family is not disturbed.

I have seen local foxes – we had one in our neighborhood for a while. They are tiny (like a large house cat) and grey/red. The Grey Fox is only 8-15lbs at full size and can climb up trees easily with hooked claws.

Jeff has spotted an ocelot before…running at a resort about 7 miles north. His picture…well…it won’t make it to National Geographic…but I’m not even sure I’d be able to get my camera out!

Ocelot running away
Ocelot running on Ambergris Caye

Just a few weeks ago, while I was hitching a ride home across the Cayo Frances Lagoon, we ran into…A CROCODILE! A big beauty just out swimming (probably moving from protected mangroved area to the next more hidden area)

And then snakes again. I RARELY see a snake while out and about in Belize. The very best chance you have for a sighting is a boa constrictor warming himself up on the road at night. But waaaaay up north, a Tropical Rat Snake stopped by the construction site to say hi.

And then…sometimes when it rains…these guys can come out of their holes. And I know how many of you feel about them…I feel the same way about scorpions…

Red belly Mexican tarantula
Mexican Red Belly Tarantula

So let’s leave it there. Please let me know if you’ve seen anything exciting. There are big cats at the far north and west of the island but they are shy (to say the least!) And that’s definitely for the best.

Have a great Sunday everyone.

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11 Comments

  1. Joni on January 28th, 2024 at 10:28 am

    That was such an interesting article. Even got off the article onto the link about Eagle Rays. So much beauty here.

  2. HARPO ZANEIS on January 28th, 2024 at 10:34 am

    Great article and pictures/thanks

  3. James on January 28th, 2024 at 10:39 am

    Great photos. Thanks for sharing. How’s the new fishing lodge/camp coming?

  4. Gerry Gavin on January 28th, 2024 at 12:13 pm

    Great pics thank you
    off topic question
    Does San Pedro have any plans for future bus transportation to ease the golf cart situation In Atlantic city we have jitneys small busses that do a continual loop privately owned but publicly supported
    We will be settling on a condo in June and the on off bus makes sense on a busy thorofare

    • San Pedro Scoop on January 28th, 2024 at 12:18 pm

      It’s a great question and makes all the sense in the world. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen anytime soon. Last year, a private company wanted to run vans on a fixed route from south to Secret Beach but from what I understand, the govt wasn’t interested. I believe the taxi union and the golf cart companies have quite a large number of votes in this town…and change happens when the 4000 or so voters demand it. (And that hardly ever happens!)

      It feels like we are nearing a tipping point but…I wouldn’t count on any change soon.

    • David Martin on January 29th, 2024 at 3:57 pm

      I’m sure anything approaching the size of an Atlantic City jitney would be impossible to navigate around San Pedro’s narrow and often congested streets. My experience (10 years ago) was that the largest taxis available were minivans – and even they pushed the limits on practical size. But I like the idea of the hop on and off bus. Maybe do it with 6-seat golf carts – sponsored by the local business association. Unfortunately, as Rebecca said, you’d still have to fight the Taxi Union…

  5. Chris D on January 29th, 2024 at 10:54 am

    Do the crocs ever venture up to secret beach? That would be scary.

    • San Pedro Scoop on January 29th, 2024 at 1:43 pm

      you can sometimes see them while driving out to Secret Beach – they are definitely in the lagoon but they usually stay far away from people and secret beach is PPEEEOOOPPPLEE. I can’t imagine it happening!

  6. Diana Drake on February 2nd, 2024 at 12:18 pm

    Residents need to form a protect flora n fauna committee n draw up a master plan of all the mangrove areas, old tall shade trees, n animal habitats. Get as many residents as u can to sign n get them into positions of authority over utility n others permits n licenses. Secede if the residents are not given power over Ambergris Caye. You and your businesses are the biggest money makers for the bureaucrats ofBelize. They need you more than Ambergris Caye needs them.

    • Cerric on February 4th, 2024 at 11:03 pm

      Here is my plan, mangrove areas will be restricted no one will be able to go near them (without specialized access which will be acquired by the Belizean government and will require strict evaluation before further access). New mangroves should be planted in varied areas to support the environment further. Plastic, and glass should be banned on the beaches of Belize, these materials should never be present on the beaches. Trash, plastic(s), or glass(s) on the beach quickly become pollutants obviously and seeing how Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world restrictions for beach-goers should be much stricter. Laws surrounding interference, or hunting animals (especially animals that are endangered within Belize) should be much stricter, if we are going to ever increase the population of green iguanas for example we will need to strategize a plan to have reworked (stricter) laws surrounding the hunting of said green iguanas, these laws should also be strongly enforced for other threatened wild life of the country. Together we should bring our concerns for the safety of the flora and fauna to the attention of the Belizean government and propose new modernized laws for the protection of the environment there, we need to preserve the heart of Belize.

      • San Pedro Scoop on February 8th, 2024 at 11:54 am

        I’m on board with this plan…unfortunately there is very little enforcement here…even of great laws.

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