The Temash and Sarstoon National Park: Eden on Earth
Some call it Temash and Sarstoon National Park. Others, Sarstoon Temash National Park. You can use either as long as you don’t miss seeing this Belize treasure.
Must you have a keen appreciation for Mother Nature to find plenty to see and do within the confines of Belize’s Temash and Sarstoon National Park? Not really—especially if you hire a guide out of Punta Gorda who will be happy to point out all of the gorgeous and unique facets of this reserve by ferrying you 13 miles south by boat to reach this remote area.
This parcel of land is named for two rivers that flow through 41,000 acres of park declared protected areas by Belize’s government in 1992. Is it worth your time to travel all this way? The answer is yes—but only if you’ve been eager to spot jaguars, tapirs, ocelots, warries and rare species like the white-faced Capuchin monkey and rare scarlet macaws.
Why this park is exceptional
Home to plant species and ecosystems that can’t be found anywhere else in Belize, this is no ordinary sanctuary. A mix of broadleaf, wetland and mangrove forest protect 13 separate ecosystems and occupy around 10 miles of coast on the Gulf of Honduras. This haven hosts 226 bird, 24 mammal, 22 reptile, 42 fish and 46 moth and butterfly species.
Despite the fact that this reserve is named for both rivers, topography is distinct: River banks along the Temash are awash in gigantic, old red mangrove trees that tower 100+ feet into the air. At their trunks, spot orchids and bromeliads in such perfusion, visitors say this floral extravaganza takes their breath away.
The Sarstoon River serves as a border between Belize and Guatemala. Banks are home to comfrey palm forests, so the Sarstoon has a more tropical look and feel. Seabirds soar over both and you could spot tarpon and snook in the rivers.
It’s what happens between the rivers that makes this area precious
The land that separates the two rivers consists of a shallow stretch of sand bars that can’t be traversed by boat. Within this unique environment, minnows, shrimp and seabirds coexist nicely and if you scour the river mouth, you could spot Manatee feeding on grassland. They reproduce in the most remote areas.
Who can you thank if you have the opportunity to visit this Eden on earth? The Sarstoon Temash Institute of Indigenous Management (SATIIM), a non-profit formed in 1997 in response to this area being ceded to the government, despite acknowledgement that this sacred land had always been under the purview of indigenous Maya and Garifuna people.
Thanks to SATIIM’s intervention, détente between the government and these ancestors was declared, and in recognition of this declaration of mutual respect, the World Bank gave SATIIM a prestigious Marketplace prize. This was the first time an indigenous entrepreneur was so honored, and this recognition has helped keep this sustainable community pristine and maintain the sacred nature of this lovely park.
Photo by SATIIM.