Nim Li Punit
Nim Li Punit is a Maya Classic Period site in the Toledo District of the nation of Belize, located 40 kilometres north of the town of Punta Gorda, at 16° 19' N, 88° 47' 60W. Nim Li Punit is sometimes known as Top Hat. Nim Li Punit is a medium-sized site from the Maya Classic Period, flourishing from the 5th century AD through the 8th century AD, it consists of structures around three plazas, including several step-pyramids, the tallest being 12.2 meters high. The site has a number of carved stelae illustrating the ancient city's rulers. Several stelae are in an unfinished state; the site is open to visitors subject to an admission charge. Nim Li Punit is situated in the foothills of the Maya Mountains with proximity to clear mountain streams; the Maya Mountains form a nearly impenetrable backdrop forest to the north and east, while the expansive somewhat swampy coastal lowlands adjoining the Caribbean Sea lie to the east. Low-lying swampland between the Sarstoon and Temash Rivers is situated to the south.
The site is within two kilometres of Belize's Southern Highway, accessed by an unpaved road. Area soils are fertile for tropical standards, explain the region's ability to support sizeable prehistoric settlements such as Nim Li Punit. Local sandstones are found in nearby stream and river beds, these materials were used as the principal building stones for the site's structures and stelae; the Maya Mountains and foothills are among the oldest surface rock formations of Central America. The ancient city of Nim Li Punit was laid out in a fashion consistent with other Mayan lowland Classic Era sites, such as Lubaantun and Uxbenka. Nim Li Punit is constructed in the Classic Period prototypical geometric form, using large amounts of fill material to achieve expansive level plazas and terraces; the sky world is exhibited characteristically in the north by shrines and burial structures. The location of the ballcourt is intermediary, illustrating the position of this activity to represent perpetual conflict between the forces of life and death.
The ballcourt is so well preserved, it appears ready to host a game. It is thought that within the Plaza of the Stela in the South Group that there is an E Group geometry that would have been used for astronomical observations. For example, several monuments present before a long terrace known as Structure One, which mark the location of solstices and equinoxes. Unlike Lubaantun, where dry-stone construction was employed, the stone structures are cemented with Mayan mortar; the peak population of Nim Li Punit is estimated to have been in the range of 5000 to 7000 people during the peak occupation Late Classic period. Early occupiers of this site migrated from Guatemala, similar to the history of nearby Lubaantun; the peoples of Nim Li Punit are thought to have spoken a dialect of the Cholan language, that spoken in the Mayan heartland. Evidence from carved stelae document the site was active in the period 721 to 790 AD, based upon actual Mayan calendar dates inscribed on at least six different stones.
As at many other Mayan sites occupation of Nim Li Punit ceased rather in the 9th century AD associated with areawide overpopulation exceeding the region's carrying capacity of the prevalent milpa farming system. The Nim Li Punit population is thought to have been aligned with Mayan settlements such as Tikal in the Petén Basin region of Guatemala; the visitors' center indicates that this site had political and social connections with Copan in Honduras. Nim Li Punit is situated in a locale rich in forest, soil and other natural resources; these assets, coupled with proximity to ample flowing mountain streams, provided the aboriginal Maya at Nim Li Punit a resource base that allowed their civilisation to thrive. While most of the surrounding broadleaf tropical rainforest is secondary growth, due to the disturbance of the Maya themselves, there is considerable biodiversity of trees, mammals, birds and other life forms. In addition to the soils being able to support basic prehistoric staple crops of beans and corn, there are diverse herbs in the vicinity known to have been used by the "ancient ones" for medicinal purposes.
Mammals found in the area include two primates: Yucatán black howler monkey, Alouatta pigra and Central American spider monkey, Ateles geoffroya. Numerous rodents are found here including Agouti paca. A variety of carnivores are present, such as jaguar Panthera onca. Further, hosts of bats and birds frequent the present forest. Nim Li Punit was discovered in 1976 with initial explorations conducted by Norman Hammond of the British Museum-Cambridge University. Hammond excavated a portion of the central plaza. Barbara McLeod of the University of Texas, Austin produced the first detailed analyses of stelae inscriptions. Richard Levanthal in 1983 bored test pits and surveyed the site as part of an overall southern Belize Maya
Victoria Peak (Belize)
Victoria Peak within the Maya Mountains is the second highest mountain in Belize. The highest peak in the country, Doyle's Delight at a height of 1,124 metres, is located 57 kilometres southwest of Victoria Peak. Victoria Peak is situated in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Victoria Peak is situated in the Stann Creek District of Belize, in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, is home to many flora and fauna common to Belize, it was pronounced a natural monument in 1998, comprising about 4,847 acres bordered by the Sittee River Forest Reserve, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Chiquibul National Park. Victoria Peak is situated in a broad-leaved montane elfin forest; the tropical evergreen jungle has been damaged by hurricanes such as Hurricane Hattie in 1961, fires caused by occasional lightning. These environmental factors have caused the ecosystem to become stunted. Along with averages of 100 inches of rainfall per year, Victoria peak is windswept and cloud covered and the soil is poor as the various surrounding vegetation takes up all of the nutrients.
The mountain is found covered with non-calcareous rock, along with the growth of many different plant species. Many of the plants that thrive in this diverse forest are used for medicinal practices, food, or as guides and trail markers ensuring the Maya hunters do not become lost in the forest; the vegetation begins at the base of the mountain with moist, tropical forest, transforming into elfin shrubland, characterized by sphagnum moss and a tree canopy of about 2–3m high. Just ahead of the summit is rich, humid forest, dense with secondary growth among mature tree stands, yet with a clear forest floor; the base of the mountain is compiled of sedge marsh that turns to orange groves as the elevation increases slightly. The many species of trees inhabiting the peak include mahogany, banak, swivelstick, yemeri, santa maria and many more. Frequent species of plants that are characteristic to Victoria Peak and the Cockscomb range are Clusia sp. and Myrica cerifera, two plants species which form thick stands that average about 1-2 m tall.
Shrubs such as these are often accompanied by “beard lichen” growing amongst the branches. Bromeliads and orchids are numerous, such as the orange flowering orchid, Epidendrum ibaguense or the scarlet orchid known as dragon's tongue. Epidendrum ibaguense, or the fiery-coloured orchid, is a rare species of orchid that only grows at higher elevations. One of the other more common plant species seen is the hot lips bush, it is most spotted along the trail edges and is characterized by its ‘pouting’ red flower. AviansAs many as 300 species of birds can be spotted in the Cockscomb Basin itself. There are many native species that reside in the Belizean forests on Victoria Peak, as well as seasonal migrants that average about 18% of the bird population. Of those, there are critically endangered species present such as the ornate hawk-eagle, keel-billed motmot, the scarlet macaw. Other common birds of Victoria Peak and the Cockscomb Basin include: great curassow, crested guan, clay-coloured robins, social flycatchers, collared-seed eaters, crimson-collared tanagers and masked tanagers, bat falcons, Montezuma’s oropendola, as well as white-collared manakins, the slaty-breasted tinamou, chestnut headed oropendolas, parrots and Agami heron to name a few.
MammalsCockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary in the Victoria Peak region hosts the world’s densest jaguar population. Panthera onca is the third largest member of the cat family in the world and is considered endangered in the majority of its habitat ranges. Other common mammals of the Victoria Peak region that are thriving in the protected area and Cockscomb Sanctuary are: jaguarundi, puma, peccary, paca, as well as brocket deer, nine-banded armadillo, otter, coatimundi and agouti; some of the animals listed on the IUCN Red List of endangered mammals that inhabit Victoria Peak and area are the ocelot, jaguarundi, puma as well as Baird's tapir, all of which have populations beginning to increase in size. OtherThere are many reptiles and insects that frequent the broad-leaved montane elfin forest. Smilisca cyonostica, a species of frog, along with Gastrophryne elegans, a toad that had not been seen in Belize, has been observed on the peak. A week-long diversity survey recorded 44 species of butterfly in the area.
The forest carpet is covered in leaf-cutter ants that create long travelling routes, while tarantulas remain hidden under leaves at trail edges. Botflies are present, due to the presence of cattle ranchers further north that settle throughout Belize, infect mosquitoes with their eggs to be transferred to a bovine host and to hatch into larvae right underneath the epidermal layer. Victoria was thought to be the highest mountain in Belize at 1,120 m, until recently when Doyle’s Delight was measured at 1,124 m; the first exploration of Victoria Peak occurred in British expeditions of 1888 and 1889, but the explorers scaled a nearby peak that they mistakenly labeled Victoria Peak. Several expeditions followed in 1927-1928; the name “Victoria Peak” was given in honor of Queen Victoria for the highest peak in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary Range. On May 2, 1998, Victoria Peak was declared a natural monument, adding it to the list of protected areas in Belize. Rowan Garel, a 12-year-old visually impaired boy, climbed to the top of Victoria Peak along with his father in 2011.
His efforts, with assistance from Delta Air Lines and his father, raised money for a summer camp put on by the Belize Council for
Bladen Nature Reserve
Bladen Nature Reserve is a landscape of caves, pristine streams and rivers, undisturbed old growth rainforest and an abundance of diverse flora and fauna which includes a great deal of rare and endemic species. Described as the crown jewel of Belize’s protected areas, Bladen is considered to be one of the most biodiversity-rich, geographically unique areas within the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. At 99,796 acres Bladen forms a significant portion of the Key Biodiversity Area of the Maya Mountains Massif, identified as one of the most important blocks of protected areas within Belize and more broadly, itself a region considered a world ‘hotspot for species diversity’ and considered critical for the preservation of the biodiversity of the Western Hemisphere. At its most sheltered points, west of the rugged karst hills, Bladen has protection from many of the destructive storms that hit the Caribbean coastline, resulting in a forest with a little-disturbed structure, tall trees of impressive stature and intact ecosystems.
The large number of ecosystems encompassed within the nature reserve highlights its importance as a protected conservation area. Bladen protects species diversity across a great range of elevations, which according to recent evidence includes several potential new and endemic species. Within the Maya Mountains, Bladen forms a crucial link between Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary to the northeast and Columbia River Forest Reserve to the southwest. Chiquibul National Park and Forest Reserve lie to the northwest, connecting to the protected areas system in Guatemala. With the rapid clearance of forested areas throughout Central America, this is part of the last remaining large intact block of forest within the region – the Selva Maya - stretching from Belize through to Guatemala and Mexico; this large expanse of forested uplands and valleys is essential for the survival of species such as the jaguar, scarlet macaw, white-lipped peccary and harpy eagle, which need large contiguous forest stretches in order to maintain viable populations.
Management Bladen is one of three nature reserves within Belize, is managed through partnership between the Government of Belize and the Ya'axché Conservation Trust. Ya’axché took over management in December 2008 and has a letter of intent from the Belize Forest Department to co-manage the protected area. Ya'axché now assumes responsibility for the day-to-day management of the reserve. Bladen Nature Reserve provides global environmental benefits by providing clean air, functioning as a carbon sink, rainfall generation, preserving genetic diversity. On a more local scale Bladen functions as a sanctuary for birds and mammals which are subject to hunting for bushmeat, with this large contiguous block of undisturbed rainforest these game species are able to increase population size thus creating a ‘spillover effect’ onto community lands where they may be hunted as a source of protein by indigenous Mayan communities which buffer Bladen and who have traditionally lived off the products of these forests.
Bladen Nature Reserve's role in watershed protection within the area is important, with the river system providing water for local communities and large agricultural areas on the coastal plain. The watershed drains into the Caribbean Sea 26 km to the east, with the Belize Barrier Reef - the second largest barrier reef in the world - lying offshore, reliant on the quality of the water. Bladen, along with Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary protects the upper waters and tributaries of the Monkey River, ensuring that it provides the major benefits of watershed protection and management to the coastal plain areas, including water supply, water quality, flood control, sediment control, quality of fish stocks and habitat preservation. Furthermore, Bladen protects the steeper slopes of the watershed areas, which, if cleared, would cause rapid erosion and sedimentation problems, not only within the river system downstream, but on the sea grass and out on the fragile coral reef. Bladen Nature Reserve encompasses much of the Upper Bladen Watershed, is composed of two geomorphological areas - the granite / volcanic slopes rising to the crest of the Maya Divide to the north west, the limestone karst to the south, both draining into the flat, alluvial plain of the Bladen Branch itself.
Between these two, lies the Bladen Branch valley, draining to the northeast. The geology of Bladen follows this general topography, being divided into two geomorphological areas running parallel to each other; the ridge of metamorphosed sedimentary rocks, known as the Santa Rosa Group, with localized granite intrusions, is part of the main Maya Mountain range, subjected to tectonic uplift along two major fault systems – the Northern Boundary Fault to the north, Quartz Ridge / Bladen Fault during the Triassic period, accompanied by intrusion by granite. In the early Cretaceous period oceanic waters flooded the area and fossiliferous limestones were deposited over the entire Maya Mountains; the beginning of the Paleogene Period saw renewed tectonic uplift of the Maya Mountains resulting in the formation of an upland plateau, shaping the present topography of the Maya Massif. This plateau dips to the west, whilst the steep eastern edge of this plateau has been eroded by numerous streams to form the series of steep sided valleys leading down from the Maya Divide, that form the relief in Cockscomb and Columbia Forest.
To the east and south-east lies rugged limestone topography of steep, conical hills pocked by vertical-sided sinkholes, underground streams and caves. Water is scarce in this karst landscape during the dry months, re
The Belize River runs 290 kilometres through the center of Belize. It drains more than one-quarter of the country as it winds along the northern edge of the Maya Mountains to the sea just north of Belize City; the Belize river valley is tropical rain forest. Known as the Old River, the Belize River begins where the Mopan River and Macal River join just east of San Ignacio, Belize; the Belize River – Mopan River Catchment contains over 45 percent of the population of Belize. The Belize River, in spite of 78 runs or rapids, is passable via the Mopan to the Guatemalan border, it served as the main artery of commerce and communication between the interior and the coast until well into the twentieth century, has long been associated with forestry, of logwood and of mahogany which survives in small stands. Early on, loggers using the river encountered the Maya and had conflicts with them and with the Spaniards. In 1807 there was a request for "ammunitions" for the loggers. In the late 1820s, the Methodist minister Thomas Wilkinson found three to four thousand men working at camps most of the year.
By the late 19th century there were over 130 small settlements along the river. Burrell Boom just above Belize Town served as a catch-point for logs. Today the Belize River is a vital source of drinking water and other domestic use for local people living along the river; the major source of degradation is the extensive deforestation in the upper reaches of the Mopan River and non-sustainable agriculture. Karper and Boles have asserted: "The greater Mopan/Belize River Catchment provides a prime example of a watershed under stress from extensive non-sustainable agricultural practices that have occurred within the region over the past three decades." Traditional slash and burn agricultural practices contribute to watershed degradation. There are a number of Maya archaeological sites in the watershed of the Belize River and its tributaries: Mopan River, Macal River, Chaa Creek; these sites include Xunantunich, Chaa Creek, Cahal Pech
Great Blue Hole
The Great Blue Hole is a giant marine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 70 km from Belize City; the hole is circular in shape, 318 m across and 124 m deep. It was formed during several episodes of quaternary glaciation. Analysis of stalactites found in the Great Blue Hole shows that formation took place 153,000; as the ocean began to rise again, the cave was flooded. The Great Blue Hole is a part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization; this site was made famous by Jacques Cousteau, who declared it one of the top five scuba diving sites in the world. In 1971 he brought the Calypso, to the hole to chart its depths. Investigations by this expedition confirmed the hole's origin as typical karst limestone formations, formed before rises in sea level in at least four stages, leaving ledges at depths of 21 m, 49 m, 91 m. Stalactites were retrieved from submerged caves, confirming their previous formation above sea level.
Some of these stalactites were off-vertical by 5˚ in a consistent orientation, indicating that there had been some past geological shift and tilting of the underlying plateau, followed by a long period in the current plane. The tilt indicates. Initial measured depth of Great Blue Hole was 125 m, the most cited depth up to this day. An expedition by the Cambrian Foundation in 1997 measured the hole's depth as 124 m at its deepest point; this difference in measurement can be explained by ongoing sedimentation or by imprecision in measurements. The expedition's goal was to collect core samples from the Blue Hole's floor and document the cave system. To accomplish these tasks, all of the divers had to be certified in cave mixed gases. In December 2018, two submarines descended in an attempt to map its interior. Using sonar scanning, the team was nearly able to complete a 3-D map of the 1,000 foot wide hole; this is a popular spot among recreational scuba divers who are lured by the opportunity to dive in sometimes crystal-clear water and meet several species of fish, including Midnight Parrotfish, Caribbean reef shark, other juvenile fish species.
Other species of sharks, such as the bull shark and hammerheads, have been reported there, but are not sighted. Day trips to the Great Blue Hole are full-day trips from the coastal tourist communities in Belize. On-shore caves of similar formation, as large collapsed sinkholes, are well known in Belize and in the Yucatán Peninsula, where they are known as cenotes. Unlike the mainland cenotes which link to underwater cave systems, there is little evidence of horizontal development in the Blue Hole. In 2012 Discovery Channel ranked the Great Blue Hole as number one on its list of "The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth". In 2018, They featured a two-hour special titled Discovery Live: Into the Blue Hole featuring Fabien Cousteau and Richard Branson. Though the Great Blue Hole is considered a bucket-list dive, one should be aware that it is not for divers of all skill levels – a prerequisite is logging more than 24 dives, it is not a'colourful dive', divers witness a dark cave with impressive stalactites.
Blue hole List of caves in Belize Great Blue Hole website
Cahal Pech is a Maya site located near the town of San Ignacio in the Cayo District of Belize. The site was a palatial, hilltop home for an elite Maya family, though most major construction dates to the Classic period, evidence of continuous habitation has been dated to as far back as 1200 BCE during the Early Middle Formative period, making Cahal Pech one of the oldest recognizably Maya sites in Western Belize; the site rests high above the banks of the Macal River and is strategically located to overlook the confluence of the Macal River and the Mopan River. The site is a collection of 34 structures, with the tallest temple being about 25 meters in height, situated around a central acropolis; the site was abandoned in the 9th century CE for unknown reasons. The earliest pottery in western Belize is found here. "Emerging information from western Belize suggests that ceramic-using populations may have been in place as early as ca. 1200 B. C. at Cahal Pech and elsewhere. While these complexes, termed "Cunil" at Cahal Pech and "Kanocha" at Blackman Eddy, remain to be broadly documented across the Belize River Valley, they are the earliest established ceramic technologies recorded in western Belize."
The name Cahal Pech, meaning "Place of the Ticks" in the Yucatec Maya language, was given when the area was used as pasture during the first archaeological studies in the 1950s, led by Linton Satterthwaite from the University of Pennsylvania Museum. It is now an archaeological reserve, houses a small museum with artifacts from various ongoing excavations; the primary excavation of the site began in 1988. Restoration was completed in 2000 under the leadership of Dr. Jaime Awe, Director of the National Institute of Archaeology, Belize. Other nearby Mayan sites include Chaa Creek, Baking Pot, Lower Dover. Cuello Colha, Belize
Glover's Reef is a submerged atoll located off the southern coast of Belize 45 kilometres from the mainland. It forms part of the outermost boundary of the Belize Barrier Reef, is one of its three atolls, besides Turneffe Atoll and Lighthouse Reef; the oval-shaped atoll is 12 km wide. The interior lagoon is dotted with around 850 reef pinnacles rising to the surface. Major cays include Northeast Cay, Long Cay, Middle Cay and Southwest Cay. Glover's harbours one of the greatest diversity of reef types in the western Caribbean. A large spawning site for the endangered Nassau grouper is located at the northeastern end of the atoll, it has been identified as one of only two viable sites remaining for the species, of nine known locations. In 2002, it was declared a special marine reserve, permanently closed to fishing; the Glover's Reef Marine Reserve was established as a national protected area in 1993 under the Fisheries Act, is managed under the Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The reserve encompasses the marine area of the atoll, totaling 86,653 acres. According to the World Wildlife Fund, it is considered one of the highest priority areas in the Mesoamerican reef system, providing nursery and feeding areas and a unique habitat for lobster and finfish. In 1996, it was designated by UNESCO as one of seven protected areas that together form the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System; the marine reserve is divided into four different management zones, with each zone having strict regulations defining activities that are permitted and prohibited. General Use Zone - 26,170 ha, 74.6%. Where this zone overlaps with the grouper spawning aggregation site, it is closed to fishing all year round. A fifth zone has been created to offer greater protection to the northeast spawning aggregation site, it overlaps with the Seasonal Closure Zone. It is permanently closed to all fishing; the protected area is considered to be within IUCN's category IV: a Habitat/Species Management Area, with active management targeted at conservation through management intervention.
The Wildlife Conservation Society operates the Glover's Reef Research Station on Middle Cay. It was opened in 1997 for the purpose of promoting and facilitating long-term conservation and management of the wider Belize Barrier Reef complex. Since its opening, the station has hosted more than 200 scientific and research expeditions. Glover's Atoll Resort on Northeast Cay Home page for the Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve and Research Station