memorable, comfortable, affordable ... Punta Gorda, Toledo, Belize

Lu Ha

The Sanctuary is currently officially closed for maintenance and expansion of the boardwalk to the visitors' centre. If you would like to visit the area during this time, please give us plenty of advance notice so that we can apply for special permission from the Aguacaliente Management Team.

Lu Ha is the local name for the Aguacaliente Wildlife Sanctuary (AWS). The designated area of nearly 5,500 acres is the heart of an extensive wetland region, formed by  a barrier of rolling landscape and karst hills which slow the flow of waters from numerous creeks on their journey to the Moho River.

This protected area was declared a sanctuary in 1998 and is managed by a Community-based Organisation - the Aguacaliente Management Team - representing 10 villages from the surrounding area of western Toledo.

The water level differs dramatically between the dry and wet season, and seasonal flooding has led to specific adaptations of the flora and fauna, with the result that the Sanctuary's mosaic of eco-systems is considered unique in Belize. The rains provide a huge fish breeding ground which, as the waters recede, give rise to large numbers of wading birds attracted by the rich pickings - including the jabiru stork and the roseate spoonbill.

Nearly half a mile of boardwalk was constructed by Trekforce in 2006, giving access to the visitors' centre for the majority of the year. During the dry season you can hike under the forest canopy and through wetlands to the warm springs at the base of the aguacaliente hills, or through lush grasslands for birdwatching. During the rainy season, canoes are available for hire from the visitors' centre to paddle gently through the lagoons to see a variety of flowering orchids, great silver tarpon, and green iguanas.

Do-it-yourself! The Sanctuary entrance is located on the outskirts of Laguna village, approximately 10 miles north-west of Punta Gorda Town. A village bus leaves PG around mid-day on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and you can find the entrance on your right as you enter the village. Your return journey can be made by walking (or hitching) the 3 miles from Laguna Village back to the Southern Highway and catching one of the regular James Line busses to PG.

A combination tour of Aguacaliente and Blue Creek Village is available from PG Town for US$90 per person including lunch, entrance fees, guide fees (and canoe trip depending on the water level). Minimum 2 persons. Tour operated by IBTM Tours from the Toledo Travel Center.

Visit the new website for information on the sanctuary and the Toledo District. Click here to open the Aguacaliente Wildlife Sanctuary brochure in PDF format. It will open in a new window, which may take a little time to load. Click here to read the Spring/Summer edition of their newsletter, for updates on their many and varied projects!

For more information on "Lu Ha" - the Aguacaliente Wildlife Sanctuary - visit the ToucanTrail website and Jan Meerman's Biodiversity in Belize website.

Many thanks to Michael Norbeck and the Aguacaliente Management Team for the photos shown on this page!