The San Ignacio Resort Hotel is a jewel in the Belizean Jungle. Great food, heavenly beds, private hammocks and of course Iguanas.
That’s right. Iguanas. Green ones to be specific.
At this point you may have questions such as:
- How does a hotel get overrun with Iguanas?
- Why do Iguanas even need hotels? What wrong with the jungle?
- Is the hotel staffed by trained iguanas that bring you your breakfast in bed? If so, where can I book?
Good news is that we have the answers!
As our tour guide/taxi driver from the previous day drove us to the hotel he explained that when he was younger Belize was packed with Iguanas. It wasn’t that uncommon to see over 100 in one tree alone. Today though you’ll be lucky to see one.
This is because the green iguana is considered a delicacy in central America and the animals have been over hunted for food. This has led to the population skydiving towards the endangered species list.
The Green Iguana Conservation Project now known as The Belize Iguana Project was originally set up by Mrs. Mariam Roberson and Daniel Velasquez in 1996. It relies on supporters and donors to continue to run the program and protect this endangered species. The purpose is to educate and create awareness, focusing on nurturing iguanas from incubation, hatching and rearing through to releasing them back into the wild at maturity.
We were met by our guide, Abdon in the hotel lobby along with Sol, a young green iguana. Sol accompanied us down the path from the hotel to The Belize Iguana Project enclosures. Abdon was great fun and very knowledgeable, explaining everything he thought interesting on our path to the enclosures.
Inside we first met some of the larger adults. Shy at first, they soon turned the charm up to 11 when our guide handed us some leaves. The leaves were devoured in seconds, disappearing faster than Harry Houdini when he realised he’d left the iron on.
Sol tried to blend in with the adults, although being bright green made him stick out like a sore, bright green thumb. He seemed desperate to hang out with the adults as he kept running away or hiding so we might forget he was there.
Holding the Iguanas is a must. They are incredibly friend and cool to the touch. They are scaly, very firm and surprisingly heavy. They have claws and nails but these mainly tickled me when I held them. However, some did decide to go for a climb on me so I would recommend wearing wear long clothing to protect your skin just in case (and make sure that your tetanus is up to date).
We then moved into the juveniles enclosure. They were friendly, very energetic and loved to climb. It was here that we learnt that if they lose their tails, they can grow up to 60% of it back as cartilage. So some had patterned, very long tails and a couple had shorter single coloured tails.
At the time of our visit there were 16 females, 10 males and 8 babies and we met the whole gang.
The Belize Iguana Project doesn’t breed Iguanas. Instead, eggs are donated by kind contributors who support the program to stabilise their species and help them remain a part of the country’s heritage. Once the iguanas become fully fledged adults they tend to live solitary lives and are therefore released back into the wild.
We visited the Belize Iguana Project on a very warm day in May. San Ignacio is VERY hot so we’d recommend avoiding mid-day or afternoon visit. We went at 9 am and were still dripping profusely. The more you sweat, the more the iguanas will need to use their claws to hold onto you.
The tour takes around 45 minutes to meet and learn about the whole gang and feed them. It’s an incredibly unique experience and unbridled fun. We would highly recommend taking the time to visit the Belize Iguana Project in San Ignacio and quite frankly if you’re in San Ignacio you should stay at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel and if you’re staying at the hotel then you simply have no excuse!
There were just us two on the tour, but the previous time at 8am included a whole class of school children. So I would recommend to book in advance check how many will be on the tour with you.
Hopefully by the time you get to see them the wonderful people at the project will have worked out how to get train them to bring you your breakfast in bed. Just don’t expected any leaves to have survived the journey from the kitchen to the bedroom.
Thank you to the San Ignacio Resort Hotel for sponsoring our Belize Iguana Project tour. However, this was an eye opening experience and all opinions in this article are honest and our own.
Last modified: 9th June 2016