The Amazon: Explore the Exotic Wildlife

Take a trek through the Amazon jungle to see some of the most exotic creatures in the world, including the brown-throated sloth, piranha, howler monkey, toucan and jaguar.

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Sea Lion
Sea Lions

Sea Lions

Some travel companies on the Galapagos Islands offer tours that provide tourists with an opportunity to see sea lions chillin’ in the sun. There are 2 species of sea lions on the islands. A sea lion (featured) has a thin fur coat and usually hangs out on beaches and rocky shorelines. Fur sea lions only live on rocky shorelines and have a thick fur coat. 960 1280

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San Cristóbal Island

San Cristóbal Island

San Cristóbal Island -- aka Chatham Island to English speakers -- is the easternmost island in the Galapagos Islands, and one of the oldest geologically. The island has 2 popular dive sites, Kicker Rock and Isla de Lobos. If you’re into birdwatching, then head to the Laguna El Junco, the largest freshwater lake in the archipelago. The lake harbors a large population of birdlife. 960 1280

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Blue-Footed Boobies

Blue-Footed Boobies

Birdwatchers flock to this part of the world to see a variety of wildlife unique only to the Galapagos Islands. Visit Espanola Island and North Seymour Island for an up-close-and-personal view of the blue-footed booby. Males and younger birds usually have lighter feet than females. 960 1280

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Giant Tortoises

Giant Tortoises

Some Galapagos tortoises can weigh over 500pounds and measure 6 feet from head to tail. These turtles have a unique water storage capacity; they can go more than a year without any food or water. Some subspecies are threatened or in danger of extinction, while others have stable and growing populations, thanks to the efforts of conservationists and the Charles Darwin Foundation. 960 1280

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Land Iguanas

Land Iguanas

Fernandina, Isabela, Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Espanola and South Plaza Islands are home to between 5,000 and 10,000 land iguanas. English naturalist Charles Darwin claimed that there were so many iguanas on James Island that setting up a tent was a monumental task. 960 1280

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Galapagos Hawks

Galapagos Hawks

These hawks are the largest birds on the Galapagos Islands. The buzzard-like birds feed on lava lizards, snakes, young marine iguanas and chicks of sea birds. The best places to spot these feathered creatures are on Espanola, Santiago, Santa Fe, Isabela and Fernandina Islands. 960 1280

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Barthlomé Island

Barthlomé Island

Take a stroll along a path to Pinnacle Rock Overlook to get an awe-inspiring view of Bartolomé Island, a volcanic islet just off the east coast of Santiago Island. The island was named after Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, a lifelong friend of naturalist Charles Darwin. 960 1280

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Galapagos Penguins

Galapagos Penguins

The biggest populations of Galapagos penguins are on the islands of Fernandina and Isabela. This type of penguin is distinguishable from other species because of an upside-down horseshoe shape around its stomach, which extends down to its legs. 960 1280

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Surfing

Surfing

Hit the waves! The Galapagos Islands are a popular destination for surfers. Baltra Island’s Aeolian Cove, San Cristóbal Island’s Punta Carola, Santa Cruz Island’s Las Palmas and Isabela Island’s Playa Barahona are just a few of the best surfing spots in the archipelago. 960 1280

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Darwin Island

Darwin Island

Take a dive near Darwin’s Arch off the coast of Darwin Island. This island was named in honor of naturalist Charles Darwin, and it is among the smallest islands in the Galapagos archipelago. The tropical waters around the island are a prime spot for divers to explore the marine life, including whale sharks, green turtles, manta rays and dolphins. Darwin Island is not open to land visits. 960 1280

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Whitetip Reef Sharks

Whitetip Reef Sharks

Whitetip reef sharks can be easily identified by their pointed nose, silver-gray color and the white tips on their tail. Fearless and curious, whitetip reef sharks may approach swimmers closely but are seldom aggressive unless provoked. Devil’s Crown on Floreana Island and Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz Island are just a couple prime places to see this specific species of sharks. 960 1280

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Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island

The second largest island after Isabela, Santa Cruz Island is a large dormant volcano, located in the center of the archipelago. Its capital, Puerto Ayora, is the most populated urban center in the islands. The town’s southern shore is lined with cactus, marine iguanas, pelicans and the blue-footed booby that coexist among tourist boats, restaurants, small hotels and houses. 960 1280

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Snorkeling

Snorkeling

Go snorkeling to see batfish (pictured), hawkfish, blue-chin parrotfish, bumphead damselfish and more. The myriad fish in the Galapagos are enough to keep any swimmer entranced for hours. The best time for snorkeling is from December to May. 960 1280

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Lava Lizards

Lava Lizards

Head to Santiago, San Cristóbal or Santa Cruz Islands for your chance to get a glimpse of a lava lizard. There are 7 different species of lava lizards found in the Galapagos. The male lava lizard is larger than the female and they look distinctly different. The overall color patterns are different, and the females have bright red skin under their throats. 960 1280

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Glover's Atoll Belize
Glover's Atoll Belize

Glover's Atoll Belize

Divers and snorkelers will find an abundance of marine life at Glover’s Atoll, a protected reef system and the southernmost and smallest of Belize’s 3 atolls. Divers frequently encounter dolphins, turtles, sharks and manta rays there. 960 1280

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Whale Shark in Belize

Whale Shark in Belize

Catch a glimpse of the largest fish in the world – the whale shark – from Placencia, Belize. The gentle (believe it or not) creatures are typically found within only 20 feet of the water’s surface, and congregate in Belize each year to feed on fish eggs. 960 1280

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Carocol in Belize

Carocol in Belize

Belize has the highest concentration of Mayan sites of all the countries in Central America, and archeologists suggest that Carocol, believed to have been one of the most important political centers of the Mayan civilization, was home to more than double the number of people that currently live in Belize City, the country’s largest metropolitan area. 960 1280

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Laughing Bird Caye

Laughing Bird Caye

Laughing Bird Caye is one of the beautiful islands that make up the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage Site. 960 1280

Victoria Reay's, Wikimedia Commons  

Stingray

Stingray

A stingray is one of the impressive creatures you may come across on a snorkeling trip in Belize. Be careful not to walk along the ocean floor -- you wouldn’t want to step on one! 960 1280

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Actun Tunichil Muknal

Actun Tunichil Muknal

Actun Tunichil Muknal -- one of Belize’s many Mayan archaeological sites -- houses the skeleton of a teenage girl, dubbed “The Crystal Maiden” because of the sparkling, crystalized appearance of her bones. To reach the cave, visitors must embark on a 45-minute hike, followed by a swim to the inside of the cave. Visitors can also get a look at the remains of the 13 other humans that now share the cave with the Crystal Maiden. 960 1280

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Belize City

Belize City

Boats are anchored in the harbor of Belize City, the largest city in the small Central American country. 960 1280

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Sea turtles

Sea turtles

Belize is home to one of the world’s most endangered marine species, the sea turtle. Green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles can all be found between the coast and the barrier reef. 960 1280

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Blue Hole in Belize

Blue Hole in Belize

The aptly named “Blue Hole” is a large collapsed sinkhole near the center of Lighthouse Reef. Explorer Jacques Cousteau named the hole one of the top scuba diving sites in the world. 960 1280

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Red-footed booby in Belize

Red-footed booby in Belize

Visit Half Moon Caye to get a look at one of the island’s 4,000 red-footed boobies. 960 1280

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Silk Cayes in Belize

Silk Cayes in Belize

One of the Silk Cayes – tiny, serene, white-sand islands on the Belize Barrier Reef. 960 1280

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Red lionfish

Red lionfish

The exquisite red lionfish. Watch out for them -- it’s their large venomous spines that make them resemble lions. 960 1280

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Half Moon Caye in Belize

Half Moon Caye in Belize

The sun rises over Half Moon Caye in Belize. 960 1280

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Antillean Manatees in Belize

Antillean Manatees in Belize

Antillean manatees can be found in the rivers, lagoons and coastal areas of Belize. Because of their slow metabolisms, they prefer shallow, warm water, and can be spotted in water only a few yards deep. 960 1280

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Spider Monkey, Costa Rica
Baby Spider Monkey

Baby Spider Monkey

A baby spider monkey takes in some tender loving care at an animal rescue center in Costa Rica. The species is endangered due to deforestation. Spider monkeys require a large habitat: they can roam up to 2,000 meters in a single day. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/Edelmar  

Spider Monkeys

Spider Monkeys

Did you know that a spider monkey female carries baby on her back? Babies are carried on their mothers' chests until they reach 2 months, at which point they switch to their mothers' backs. 960 1280

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Leatherback Sea Turtle

Leatherback Sea Turtle

A leatherback sea turtle hatchling emerges from its nest in the sand. Leatherbacks cannot expect restful lives: according to the Journal of Experimental Biology, they spend less than 0.1% of their day at rest. 960 1280

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Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

A Scarlet Macaw looks at the camera from a tree. In captivity macaws can have lifespans of up to 50 years. 960 1280

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Margay

Margay

A margay lies in the grass. Margays are one of the most adept at tree climbing of the feline species, and can even descend down tree trunks head first. 960 1280

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Collared Anteater

Collared Anteater

A collared anteater, also called a tamandua, searches for food. In captivity, these animals have a more expansive diet than their name suggests: they will also eat fruits and meat. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/Olof Van der Steen  

Rainbow Boa Constrictor

Rainbow Boa Constrictor

A rainbow boa constrictor relaxes in a tree in Manuel Antonio National Park. Adult rainbow boas can range from 4 to 6 feet in length. 960 1280

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Howler Monkey

Howler Monkey

A howler monkey relaxes in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Their calls, usually a sign of marking territory, can be heard up to 3 miles away. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/GregBethmann  

Baby Howler Monkey

Baby Howler Monkey

A howler monkey baby sits in a tree with his mother. Howler monkeys are polygamous, with an average ratio of 4 females to every male in a social group. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/Ian MacDonnell  

Green Lizard

Green Lizard

A green lizard is camouflaged in the leaves of a tree branch. Costa Rica has a huge amount of biodiversity and is home to more than 200 species of reptiles. 960 1280

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Sloths

Sloths

Young sloths hang out on a bamboo tree. Although slow movers, sloths are not as lazy as once thought: they sleep a little less than 10 hours per day. 960 1280

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Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

A colorful red-eyed tree frog perches on a vine. In order to avoid predators, these frogs cover up their blue-colored sides with their legs to blend in with their lush, green surroundings. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/JanPietruszka   

White-Headed Capuchin Monkey

White-Headed Capuchin Monkey

A white-headed Capuchin monkey scopes out his environment. Capuchins are highly intelligent and are known to use tools to crack nuts and forage for food. 960 1280

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Coatis

Coatis

Coatis, also known by their adorable name, snookum bears, are actually part of the raccoon family.  Although they have become popular pets in Central and South America, they are notoriously difficult to train. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/Ian MacDonnell  

American Crocodile

American Crocodile

An American crocodile bares its teeth in the Tarcoles River, Costa Rica. If you encounter one, be sure to escape by land: this species can swim at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. 960 1280

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Spiny-Tailed Iguana

Spiny-Tailed Iguana

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the black spiny-tailed iguana is the world's fastest lizard, reaching speeds of up to 21.7 miles per hour. 960 1280

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Green Iguana

Green Iguana

Despite their frightening appearance, green iguanas are herbivores and flee when encountered with danger. They may have reason to run: in some places in Central America, green iguanas are a source of food. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/Cathleen Abers-Kimball  

Butterflies

Butterflies

Butterflies have only a 2% chance of surviving to adulthood in the wild. In Costa Rica there are many preserves and butterfly farms to preserve species' biodiversity. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/Himagine