From Reef to Ruins to Rain Forest, Explore the Heart & History of This Caribbean Paradise
Day 1: Belize City, Belize / Dangriga / Hopkins Bay
Our Belize adventure begins in Belize City, where you're met on arrival at the airport before boarding a short flight to Dangriga. From there, transfer by road to Hopkins Bay Resort, located on the coast of this small, diverse country where the Caribbean Sea meets the rain forest. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner and orientation with our Expedition Leader.
Day 2: Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve / South Water Caye
This morning we drive to Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve to search for wildlife on a guided hike. While sightings of the highly elusive jaguar within the dense rain forest are rare, we're likely to see signs of its presence, and possibly other cats such as puma, ocelot, jaguarundi
and margay. The sanctuary is also home to peccary, paca, brocket deer, tayra
and coatimundi. After a picnic lunch, return by road to Dangriga where a private motorboat whisks us to South Water Caye, one of the hundreds of cayes
, or small islets, that lie off the coast of Belize. This marine island reserve is located on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second longest in the world after Australia's,
and is surrounded by diverse mangrove islands, tidal seagrass flats, and warm, crystal-clear water.
After we check in to
our laid-back beach resort, an idyllic spot inviting relaxing and exploring, the afternoon holds our first opportunity for snorkeling. Exploring a patch reef from the beach, discover an intricate undersea world harboring some 500 species of brilliant fish, numerous corals and sponges, delicate sea fans, bright anemones and spiky sea urchins. In this magical realm beneath the transparent waters
we may also see manta rays, dolphins and sea turtles swimming alongside us. In the evening, unwind and enjoy dinner on the beach.
Day 3: Carrie Bow Cay
This morning we travel by boat to Carrie Bow Cay (some cays
are spelled without the 'e' on the end), a tiny island outpost that is the site of a Smithsonian field research station. Scientists from the National Museum of Natural History and their collaborators travel here to conduct research on the biology, ecology and geology of coral reef ecosystems. The location of Carrie Bow Cay allows immediate access to reef environments, seagrass habitats
and mangrove islands. We’ll explore the surrounding area, part of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, by boat and optional snorkeling excursions to view the vibrant marine life.
Back on South Water Caye we’ll learn more about the island ecosystem on a nature walk this afternoon. After dark, an optional night snorkel may reveal manatees, dolphins, turtles, sting rays
and a variety of other fascinating undersea life. Dinner is a festive occasion, accompanied by the traditional music of the local Garifuna people, known for its heavy percussion. Drums made from hollowed-out local hardwood add an exciting element to the performance.
Day 4: Hummingbird Highway / Xunantunich Mayan Ruins / Hidden Valley
After breakfast, we return by boat to Dangriga, stopping en route to visit Man of War Caye, home to nesting frigatebirds
and brown boobies. Then, a scenic drive along the famous Hummingbird Highway brings us to the dramatic Mayan ruins of Xunantunich. Examine the intricately carved stone temples of this ancient civilization, including the 130-foot-high pyramid of El Castillo. At the end of the day, we relax at Hidden Valley Inn, an intimate ecolodge
in the Maya Mountains. The pine forest environs of the private reserve surrounding the lodge are home to diverse animal species including five of Belize’s native cats and threatened and endangered birds such as the orange-breasted falcon, solitary eagle and stygian owl.
Day 5: Canoeing in Barton Creek Cave / Green Hills / Hidden Valley
A unique adventure is in store today: a canoe trip into Barton Creek Cave. Belize’s limestone landmass is riddled with subterranean chambers that the Mayans viewed as a sacred portal between the human world and the realm of the gods. As we glide through the caverns, we’ll see rock formations, skeletal remains
and cultural artifacts left by the Maya centuries ago. This afternoon we visit Green Hills Butterfly Ranch and Botanical Collections, dedicated to the research and conservation of Belize's native butterflies and plants. Flocks of brilliant butterflies fly among passionflowers, bromeliads, cycads, heliconias and orchids in a landscaped 2,700-square-foot flight area, the largest live butterfly display in Belize. We return to Hidden Valley for dinner.
Day 6: Hidden Valley / Chan Chich Lodge
Thousand-foot waterfalls and more than 90 miles of trails lace Hidden Valley’s 7,290-acre private reserve. We’ll spend our final morning exploring the area, looking for wildlife that might include howler monkeys, peccaries, soaring raptors and colorful butterflies. Then, we fly to Chan Chich Lodge on the Gallon Jug Estate in northwest Belize. This private estate lies within the heart of La Selva Maya, the largest contiguous rain forest
north of the Amazon: an extraordinary destination for wildlife encounters. Chan Chich is a premier ecolodge, offering unsurpassed ambience
Days 7 & 8: Chan Chich Lodge
No hunting has occurred on the estate for over 20 years, and we may see species that have vanished elsewhere, including large birds like the crested guan and great curassow. All five Latin American cats—jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay
and jaguarundi—live here, and jaguar are spotted occasionally, though rarely. On game drives and jungle walks we’re likely to see tapir, peccary and red brocket deer as well as coatimundi, tayra, agouti
and kinkajou. Birding is fabulous, too, with 350 resident species. On our final evening, we celebrate with a farewell dinner at the lodge.
Day 9: Belize City / Depart
Today, our Belize adventure tour comes to an end as we fly back to Belize City to make connecting
or continue on with our Tikal Extension.