Red Bank Village
A look up into the clear blue sky above reveals a wonderful collage of brilliant colors flying through the cool sweet air, leaving behind a lingering rainbow of red, yellow and blue. The magnificent Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) have chosen the small Mayan Village of Red Bank in South Stann Creek as their seasonal feeding grounds, amounting to the largest concentration of Scarlet Macaws in Belize and the entire Central American region.
32 miles down the Southern Highway, there is a sign pointing westward to Red Bank Village. Just four miles in on a dirt road (that gets messy in the rainy season) lies the small, quiet and young village (only established 16 years ago) of Red Bank. The story of the large flocks of macaws in the area only became known to wildlife preservation organizations a couple years ago when they had reason to believe that the villagers of Red Bank were hunting the Macaws for food. Being an endangered specie and rare specie to Belize, the Belize Audubon Society and Programme for Belize immediately developed plans that would include setting up a tourism venture in the village and educating the villagers about the importance of the bird and ways in which the birds may possibly be financially beneficial to their livelihood. The ‘Scarlet Macaw Group’ was formed with members from the village. Mr. Geronimo Sho is the chairman of the group and is the person to contact before visiting the site. It is also important to call first to confirm whether the macaws have arrived.
Several villagers who were familiar with the bird’s seasonality and feeding grounds were trained to be licensed tour guides. A guest cabana was built that includes four separate rooms to rent. Dining can be arranged at the Kitchen/Mess hall where the village’s Women’s Group prepare local dishes. Since the village resources are limited, guests should feel free to bring along any niceties and supplies that they may need.
Every year around Mid-January through to March, the large flock of Scarlet Macaws (sometimes numbering 200 pairs) fly out of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve in the Cayo District and gather near the village to feed on the sweet, ripe fruits of the ‘annato’ and ‘pole wood’ trees. A steep hike with one of the local tour guides through a jungle path will take you to the Scarlet Macaw haven. Visitors are dazzled by the vibrant colors of the magnificent creatures as they fly overhead or perch on branches above and all around, feeding on the sweet fruit that lures them to the site every year.
Apart from the seasonal arrival of the Scarlet Macaws, Red Bank is also home to many other species of birds year round. Commonly seen are hummingbirds, herons, toucans, oropendolas and parrots. Remember to bring along your binoculars, a reference bird book and your hiking gear.