What do you suppose is the most popular thing to do in San Ignacio, Belize?
All good options… but no. Believe it or not, the most highly rated “Thing To Do” in San Ignacio according to Trip Advisor is to visit the Green Iguana Conservation Project at the San Ignacio Hotel Resort. We don’t always take our travel cues from Trip Advisor (no offense TA), but we also gave it two thumbs scaly claws up!
Located on the grounds of one of the nicest hotels in San Ignacio, it is easy to walk into the lobby and purchase a ticket for tours, which occur on the hour. For us, it was a nice stop as we walked up the hill to Cahal Pech. Some people balk at the cost of admission (a whopping $9US per person), but we were happy to contribute financially to the project and the squeals of delight — or absolute terror — were well worth it.
We only encountered green iguanas in the wild from a distance – usually when a local pointed them out to us as they were hanging in the trees. The conservation project allows visitors to get up close and personal (like, reeeeeeally close) with the reptiles, while educating groups along the way.
We were a bit put off by the large tour group (which was inevitable during the high season), but were happy enough to hang at the back of the pack as we walked the grounds. Once in the enclosures, there was enough room to spread out and observe the
dinosaurs lizards at a comfortable distance. Seriously though, they are dinosaur-like, right? “Excuse me sir, do you know Littlefoot the Longneck?”
Sadly enough, the conservation project is much needed in the region as the population of green iguanas has dramatically decreased due to over-hunting and loss of habitat. Yep, these little green Godzilla’s are considered a delicacy in Belize, especially the eggs. However, the conservation and education efforts of the project over the past 17 years have made a significant difference as iguanas are bred and released back to their natural habitat.
There are several sections of the enclosure including space for the juveniles, babies, and breeding. Can you guess who was selected to be the first guest to hold an iguana? You guessed it, Jimmy – the man who hates being at the center of attention (unless it involves a drunken football chant with his mates). Awkward attention aside, it was fun to see the iguana just hanging out on his shoulder.
You have the opportunity to interact with the iguanas as much or as little as you’d like. Pet them, feed them, stack them all on your head – go crazy! They like to play, just be respectful and don’t hurt them.
Jimmy may have been the first to hold an iguana, but I was the last to have all of the babies piled on me. I couldn’t help but laugh and smile the whole time – they are just too cute.
The dismount on the other hand was a little tricky and not so glamorous. How’s that for a candid photo?
All we can say is give it a go! This is a great activity for families, couples, or those flying solo. Strangers become close friends for a short period of time as you mock everyone’s reaction to the lively lizards. To learn more about the green iguana conservation project visit their website.
What about you – would you give it a go?