Sharks dominating a reef, jaguars in the rainforest, and the rarest of birds are just what Belize’s natural wonders offer. There are plenty of opportunities to explore with canoeing, biking, snorkeling, diving, sunset cruising, hiking on trails and through caves. This Latin America adventure travel will immerse you in rainforest and reef to give you the feeling of a landscape that remains mainly untouched and mysterious. Your sense of adventure will be complemented by excellent wilderness lodges.
Journey to the Maya Ruins of Altun
Boat trip to the jungle ruins of Lamanai
Visit the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Explore the Xunantunich archaeological site
Fascinating wildlife, beautiful jungle rivers, tropical forests, and lost civilizations are all that you will enjoy in this Latin America adventure travel. We visit lesser-known Maya sites such as Xunantunich and explore the awe-inspiring temples of Lamanai. There are opportunities to see howler monkeys, toucans, parrots, crocodiles and much more in their natural habitat. We end the trip on the Ignacio, unwinding and snorkeling in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Welcome to Belize City. We will transfer you to the hotel after that you'll have a free evening to explore. Belize City was the capital of Belize until 1970 and is an ideal Caribbean city. Parts of the city still have large wooden construction mixed with galvanized iron, with many of the original colonial style houses in a beautiful state of disrepair. There is also a canal system through the old part of city and Creole English is widely spoken by the inhabitants.
This morning your guide will pick you up from the hotel and drive along the northern highway to pick up the people joining the tour from Miami or Houston at the international airport. From here you will visit the Maya Ruins of Altun Ha with your local guide. In the evening, we will arrive at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, where we settle down for two nights enjoying the hospitality of our local hosts on the coasts of the Crooked Tree Lagoon.
Rise early this morning and get ready to explore the lagoon by boat. In this birdwatchers paradise there is the opportunity to spot wood stork, various herons, vultures, kingfishers, raptors and shorebird, and perhaps most important of all, the rare jabiru stork, the tallest flying bird in America's standing at 5ft with a wingspan of up to 9ft. We return to the lodge and after breakfast continue today’s tour by vehicle to the New River. Here we will enjoy boat ride upstream to the 2000-year-old jungle ruins of Lamanai. Waterbirds are plentiful in the ancient rainforest cover and crocodiles may be found lurking along the river bank. Lamanai, the original name of these Maya ruins, means Submerged Crocodile, which helps to illustrate the various carved crocodile images at the site. The ruins have located some distance off the beaten trail and are still not reconstructed or cleared. We move on foot following rough trails. The surrounding rainforest with its thick canopy of tall trees and wet atmosphere adds an aura of mystery to the scattered and overgrown relics. A cache of children's bones has been unearthed from beneath one of the stelae, implying that the Maya practiced human sacrifice here.
Optional early bird walk and sunrise along the Crooked Tree Lagoon can be an extraordinary experience in this significant wetland sanctuary. After breakfast, we visit the Community Baboon Sanctuary to see howler monkeys. Here we have an opportunity to watch troops of black howler monkeys swaying from the trees in their natural habitat before we start our journey south along the beautiful Hummingbird Highway. We will approach a local organic farm and tree planting project along the way in this wonderful setting. Our day ends in the beach resort of Placencia, a city located at the end of a narrow peninsula between mangrove lagoons and the Maya Mountains and the Caribbean Sea.
Placencia is southern Belize's premier beach spot and a starting off point for touring various Kayaks that make part of the Belize barrier reef, the largest reef system in the western hemisphere. Today, we have the opportunity to visit Laughing Bird Caye. It stretches 9 miles west of the Placencia Peninsula and is an area of special biological importance within the world heritage site. It is a picturesque abandoned tropical island that allows us to experience a guided snorkeling tour directly from its coral sand shores. Alternatively, you might like to rest and enjoy local life at the beach in Placencia.
This morning we will explore the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. This is the first and only jaguar reserve in the world, in the heart of an important huge tract of smooth tropical forest that is thought to have the densest population of jaguars in all the America's; the majestic cats are a protected species here in their natural habitat and are no longer hunted as big game: however we would have to be really fortunate to spot one. They normally grow up to six feet in length and weigh some 159 kilograms. The reserve inhabits five species of wild cats, wild pigs, dwarf brocket, and white-tailed deer and Belize's national mammal, the Tapir. The park is also home to more than 300 species of birds that can be spotted on an extensive network of maintained trails. This tour includes a hike through the rainforest to a small waterfall and for the more dynamic a hike to the clearing of "Ben's Bluff" that offers outstanding views of the forest and towards Belize's most beautiful mountain, Victoria Peak at 1120m. Leaving the park behind we drive on towards San Ignacio on the hummingbird highway, we can stop at the "other" Blue Hole, a collapsed limestone cavern to enjoy a welcome swim in fresh water in yet another vast protected forest reserve - the Blue Hole National Park.
San Ignacio, a popular Belizean town is an excellent place to base ourselves for the next couple of days. Mounting the Macal River which was once a critical transportation artery for the Maya and later the European immigrants it is now a center for many adventurous activities. Today we make a visit to the famous classical Maya site of Xunantunich, Mayan for 'Rock Stone Maiden', perhaps for phallic or fertility reasons. We travel by bus and then cross the River Mopan by traditional hand-winched ferry to arrive at the site. Occupied until about AD 850, the main plaza is dominated by an impressive structure called El Castillo, a huge pyramid which rises to 40 meters. On the top is a partly repaired stucco frieze representing the Sun God and astronomical signs of the Moon and Venus. The excellent view from the summit looks out over the forest with the Maya mountains to the south and the lowlands of Guatemala to the west. After visiting Xunantunich, we travel to San Ignacio and the lively market, full of Belize's colorful cross-section of various people and the local produce they bring to the city from the surrounding hills on a Saturday. The afternoon is free for personal exploration or cave canoeing into the Mayan underworld at the striking Barton Creek cave system, placed near to the Orthodox German Mennonite Communities found in Belize's interior.
Today your Latin America adventure travel comes to end. Try to take advantage of the free morning before we transfer you to the airport. Relax in the hotel's gardens and pool or perhaps make an independent visit to the nearby Cahal Pech Archaeological site - a traditional option is to visit one of the region's most notable botanical gardens - the Belize Botanical Gardens. This extensive botanical collection in the Macal River Valley is encircled by Rainforest and rich in wildlife. From the gardens, we can paddle by canoe through spotless jungle view back to San Ignacio.
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