About 3½ mi (6 km) west of Sarteneja on the road to Orange Walk or Corozal is the Shipstern Wildlife Reserve. You pass the entrance and visitor center as you come into Sarteneja. The 31 square mi (81 square km) of tropical forest forming the reserve are, like the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, a paradise for bird-watchers. Currently, Shipstern is owned and operated by a Swiss conservationist nongovernmental organization, but it is slated to become a Belize national
park. More than 300 species of birds have been identified here. Look for egrets (there are 13 species), American coots, keel-billed toucans, flycatchers, warblers, and several species of parrots. Mammals are in healthy supply as well, including pumas, jaguars, and raccoons. The butterfly farm next to the visitor center is now a small education area, and butterflies are being repopulated. Nearby,a small museum at Mahogany Park focuses on the history and uses of this beautiful tropical hardwood. There is a botanical trail leading from the visitor center, with the names of many plants and trees identified on small signs. Admission, a visit to the butterfly center, and a one-hour guided tour of the botanical trail is BZ$10 per person. You can add a tour of the Mahogany Park for BZ$5. Other tours are available, including one to the lagoon at Xo-Pol to see crocodiles. Bring plenty of bug juice. For tour information, stop at the Shipstern visitor center or contact the Sarteneja Tour Guide Association.