January 2 - 9, 2010
Join us on a magical trip through Belize, an adventurer’s paradise. In Belize we will see Maya temples towering above rainforest canopies and an incredibly colorful array of marine wildlife in Belize’s Great Barrier Reef. Belize is a small, English-speaking country on the Caribbean Coast. This former British Colony has one of the lowest population densities in the world, leaving lots of room for pristine landscapes and natural habitat. About 60% of the land is undeveloped with about 40% being under some version of official protection. The interior features Mayan ruins scattered throughout lush tropical rainforests. Its barrier reef, declared a World Heritage Site in 1997, is second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and is blessed with powder-white sandy beaches.
Our journey will begin in western Belize, in highlands blanketed with lush jungle, home to exotic wildlife and hundreds of species of birds. Rivers and streams have carved caves and caverns that can be explored on foot or by boat. Our time is divided between exploring the tropical rainforests and the Mayan ruins. The itinerary includes a full-day trip to the magnificent ruins of Tikal in neighboring Guatemala.
Then, we travel by boat to a small island right on the Barrier Reef. South Water Caye is an ideal base to explore the reef. We use a boat to move to various snorkeling sites, but it is also possible to snorkel right from the island. The waters are clear and warm and the reef supports an astounding array of corals and tropical fish.
Throughout our trip we stay in family-run lodges, just big enough to accommodate our group. The thatched-roofed cottages of Pook’s Hill Lodge are located in the highlands, in the midst of some Mayan ruins. The large central building has a lounge and restaurant serving family style meals. On South Water Caye, we stay in simple cottages, also with private facilities, and with a central lounge and dining area.
Day 1 – Saturday, January 2, 2010
USA / BELIZE CITY / POOK’S HILL LODGE
Fly from the USA, arriving at the Belize International Airport in the late afternoon, where we meet our local naturalist guide. Travel along the Western Highway for a little over an hour to Pook’s Hill Lodge, a lovely family owned lodge located in the rainforest. Here we are greeted by the friendly staff who take us to our individual cottages, our base for the next four nights. Freshen up, then gather for a family-style dinner. POOK’S HILL LODGE (D)
DAY 2 – Sunday, January 3, 2010
After breakfast and early morning birding, for those who wish, we travel through the Mountain Pine Ridge to the rainforests of the Vaca Plateau adjoining the Maya Mountains. We explore the sprawling Mayan ruins of Caracol located deep in the rainforest beyond the mountains. Caracol was once a rival of Tikal and there are Maya carvings on temples that commemorate Caracol’s victory and domination over Tikal – though we can’t really be sure all the victories were in warfare or if some may have been in sporting events. The ruins of Caracol are truly spectacular but they are less often visited by tourists even though there is now an all-weather road that takes us there. We return by way of Rio On Pools where we stop for a swim in the pools formed by this mountain river cascading over huge boulders. We are back at Pook’s Hill Lodge late in the afternoon, in time to freshen up before enjoying a home-cooked dinner. POOK’S HILL LODGE (B,L,D)
Day 3 – Monday, January 4, 2010
This morning we travel to the western part of the Cayo District to a location upstream on the Macal River where canoes are waiting. First we take a walk through the jungle to learn about the abundant medicinal plants that grow in Belize. Many of these plants have proven their worth in modern Western medicine, and the benefits of many more have yet to be discovered. The New York Botanical Garden and the National Cancer Institute have been involved in research projects here. We visit a butterfly farm and nature center and learn about the life cycle of the beautiful blue Morpho butterfly. We have lunch at Chaa Creek and then board our canoes and paddle leisurely down this beautiful tropical river observing a variety of birds and animals including huge iguanas sunning themselves on tree branches overhanging the river. Stops are made often all along the river as there is much to see prior to arriving in San Ignacio, where our vehicle is waiting to return us to Pook’s Hill. We may take an evening walk in search of nocturnal creatures. Not only will we spot interesting things but also the jungle sounds are incredible. POOK’S HILL LODGE (B,L,D)
Day 4 - Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Cross the border into Guatemala, en route to Tikal National Park. Explore the jungle-clad ruins of palaces, temples, ball courts and ceremonial platforms: the "Q" Complex, the Great Plaza with the Pyramid of the Grand Jaguar and Pyramid of the Masks, the Palace of the Nobles, and Pyramid IV. Our lodge adjacent to the ruins allows us to savor the dusk and dawn serenade of the rain forests that surround us. JUNGLE LODGE(B,L,D)
Day 5 - Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Tikal, Guatemala/South Water Caye
Rise early to see the sunrise over the pyramids and scam the treetops for toucans and monkeys. Drive back into Belize and continue to Dangriga on the coast via the Hummingbird Highway. Board our boat for the trip to the South Water Caye, an island set directly on the Barrier Reef. PELICAN'S POUCH LODGE (B,L,D)
Day 6 – Thursday, January 7, 2010
SOUTH WATER CAYE MARINE RESERVE
This morning we board our boats for a snorkeling excursion to some of the great sites in the calm, protected waters of the South Water Marine Reserve, the largest marine park in Belize. The coral is fabulous and some of the fascinating fish we are likely to see include rainbow parrotfish, Nassau grouper and spotted eagle ray. The afternoon is free to relax and enjoy more snorkeling right from the beach. If weather and water conditions are good, we can also snorkel from the beach at night. With underwater lights we see how the colors change as the coral opens up. This is truly a remarkable activity and one that opens the door to tremendous marine environmental education and learning. PELICAN’S POUCH B,L,D
Day 7 – Friday, January 8, 2010
SOUTH WATER CAYE MARINE RESERVE
After breakfast we enjoy another great day as we go out snorkeling again by boat. First we visit a caye commonly known as Bird Island where we find Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Boobies and Brown Pelicans. Next, we visit the mangroves on Twin Cayes for snorkeling to investigate the marine life there. Mangroves are nurseries for baby sea creatures and here we may see baby snappers, barracuda, sea-stars, rays, sergeant majors and sea urchins along with a large number of upside down jellies, which at times cover the sea floor. In addition to these wonderful snorkeling sites we also visit Carrie Bow Caye, the location of the Smithsonian’s marine research facility. Here we are briefed by the station manager and researchers about the types of research projects currently underway at the station and in the labs. PELICAN’S POUCH B,L,D
Day 8 – Saturday, January 9, 2010
SOUTH WATER CAYE/ BELIZE CITY / USA
After breakfast we travel by boat to Dangriga, and by coach to Belize International Airport. Here we catch our flight back to the USA and home
Land Only: - $3,695 per person and based on double occupancy
Single Supplement: - $795 single supplement
Mae Cheung Shafizadeh , Seimer & Hand Travel
1-800-451-4321, ext 303
Ignacio Gallup-Díaz specializes in the history of the early modern Atlantic World. His courses explore how European conquest and settlement of the Americas, coupled with the forced migration of Africans and the continued presence of Amerindian communities, led to the evolution of complex societies. His recently published monograph, The Door of the Seas and Key to the Universe: Indian Politics and Imperial Rivalry in the Darién 1640-1750, (Columbia University Press), examines the interaction between competing European colonizers and Panamá's Kuna people. The text is published as an electronic book in the Gutenberg-e series of scholarly monographs. Gutenberg-e, a publication project directed by Columbia University Press and the American Historical Association, provides access to its texts on the Internet at gutenberg-e.org. Gallup-Díaz is now at work on research projects that explore the development of autonomous African and indigenous communities in Panamá and Suriname during the period of colonization (1500-1800); the intellectual underpinnings of early English expansion; and poetical depictions of the Spanish attempts to subdue eastern Panamá and its peoples.Back to the top »