Travel to where the colorful plumage of tropical birds accentuates the vine encrusted stone edifices of Central America’s Mayan past. Explore the only sanctuary to be dedicated to the solitary and elusive jaguar while your eyes feast on the multitude of exotic tropical birdlife that Belize has to offer. Visit Xunantunich, once a hub of Mayan civilization, now a magnificent ruin, whose central pyramid stands amid the cacophony of the living jungle. Explore the Underworld in the caves of Xibalba in Belize, and Tikal, Guatemala, where the Mayans built a temple believed to be a portal to a spiritual Underworld. At all times you are surrounded by the incessant calls of thriving birdlife accompanied by the ancient voices of the region’s Mayan past.
Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
Belize is hot and humid year-round. In the Mountain Pine Ridge area which is higher in elevation, the tem-perature is cooler and more comfortable. The wet season is from mid-May through October. Transitional period is between No-vember and February, with the driest being March and April.
Your journey begins as you fly to Belize City. After customs, a light aircraft takes you to Placencia on the Caribbean seacoast, where you have the rest of the day to relax. Tonight, enjoy a welcome dinner. Located on a white sand beach overlooking the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, the family-owned beach resort is small and sweet. With only eight unique beach houses, kayaks and bicycles for the more active crowd and a delightful restaurant, you’re sure to enjoy your stay here. GREEN PARROT RESORT. (D)
Begin your Belize adventure and visit the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary which is 150 square miles of tropical forest and the world’s only jaguar preserve. Cockscomb also boasts some 300 recorded species of bird. Look for the Keel-billed Toucan, the national bird of Belize, while walking along the park’s extensive trail network. GREEN PARROT RESORT. (B,L)
Today, take a boat ride through the emerald green waters of the Monkey River for excellent opportunities to observe birds within the trees that line its banks, where you may see an Anhinga drying its wings after a plunge, or a colorful Slaty-tailed Trogon making a meal of a grub. Howler monkeys use the trees as an arboreal highway and can be seen leaping from tree to tree. This day incudes a breathtaking and informative guided walk through the rainforest and a traditional Creole lunch in the village of Monkey River. GREEN PARROT RESORT. (B,L)
Your three-hour drive takes you to Cayo District where you settle into your lodge. In the afternoon, discover Xunantunich a major ceremonial center during the Classic Period, where the pyramid “El Castillo” (The Castle) believed to date from the 9th Century AD, still stands amid the lush jungle foliage. Birds abound here and you may enjoy a sighting of a White-whiskered Puffbird or one of the several species of parrot that reside here. Afterward explore the dome of Rio Frio – the largest cave in the country, in what is believed to be the largest cave system in Central America. A true nature lodge located at the foothills of the Maya Mountains, your cabana is situated within a 300 acre private reserve encompassing the site of an ancient Maya Plazeula group. POOKS HILL LODGE. (B,L)
Today’s adventure takes you off road to the Barton Creek Cave system. In canoes equipped with high powered lights, gently paddle along the river into the cave system known as Xibalba – Mayan for underworld. Your afternoon is spent bird-watching while exploring Pook’s Hill and its pristine nature trails, a birder’s paradise, with over 300 recorded bird species. POOKS HILL LODGE. (B)
Wake up early and travel to Aguacate Lagoon Reserve where you will take a short jungle hike to reach the small Mayan site of Aguacate, which is rich in birdlife. Common sightings may include jacamars, trogons, puff-birds, guans, and in the water Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Night Herons, Anhingas and Neotropic Cormorants. Continue on to the Belize Botanic Gardens home to some 200 native species of orchids. Within the gardens, an inland lagoon features a bird blind for enhanced bird viewing opportunities. POOKS HILL LODGE. (B,L)
You now travel into Guatemala and to Tikal, one of the world’s most significant archaeological sites. Visit the Great Plaza (Temples I & II and the ball court) believed to have been built around 700 A.D. Considered the portal to the Underworld, Temple I is where the tomb of Ha Sawa Chaan K’awil was discovered in 1962. Next, visit Mundo Perdido, the oldest of all the complexes found in Tikal, to see Temple IV built around 741 AD, which stands at 212 feet, and was the tallest structure in North America prior to the development of the modern skyscraper. Tikal is a national park and in addition to its exemplary archeological treasures, the park offers world-class birding within a protected rainforest. Your home for the night is located in a vast private nature reserve on the shores of lagoons. Your spacious bungalow is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. In its private reserve the hotel boasts a refuge for conservation and breeding of white-tailed deer, tepezcuintle, Scarlet Macaw and peccary. VILLA MAYA. (B,L)
Cross back into Belize and visit the 29 acre Belize Zoo & Tropical Education Center which cares for over 125 indigenous animals, many of them rescued. Then it’s on to the Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS), a pioneering project in voluntary grassroots conservation established to protect the endangered black howler monkey (called ‘baboon’ in the local Creole dialect) while promoting economic development in the participating communities. Finally arrive at your home for the next two nights which sits on the shores of New River Lagoon. During the dry season (late November to late April) when water levels drop, large numbers of water birds congregate in the lagoon. During your stay, explore the 3,000 year old temples of Lamanai or enjoy hiking in the living jungle where you may encounter howler and spider monkey, peccary, coatimundi, some 270 species of birds, and perhaps the tracks of the elusive jaguar and ocelot – or even a fleeting glimpse of the big cats themselves. Other activities include a dawn walk in the jungle, sunset cocktail cruise, and a nature walk at night by spotlight. LAMANAI OUTPOST LODGE. (B,D;B,L,D)
Transfer back to Belize City for your flight home, carrying with you many fond memories of your Belizean adventure. (B)
Your four-day beach extension will take you to one of the premier spots to enjoy the wonders of the world’s second largest reef. Head to the sleepy town of San Pedro and your elegant hotel. THE VICTORIA HOUSE offers guests extensive gardens, a large beachfront, excellent restaurant, spa and bar, and a relaxed and scenic setting but with easy access by road to town and the many restaurants and shops found there. While here, you’ll enjoy two full-day tours – to Caye Caulker and Rocky Point – both areas to snorkel, dive, and discover the abundant coral and sea life.
Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.
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