From Reef to Ruins to Rain Forest, Explore the Heart & History of This Caribbean Paradise
Day 1: Belize City, Belize / Chan Chich Lodge
Our Belize adventure begins in Belize City, where you're met on arrival at the airport before boarding a short flight 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, and an extraordinary destination for wildlife encounters. Chan Chich is a premier ecolodge located atop an unexcavated ancient Mayan city and surrounded by unspoiled rain forest
laced with hiking trails. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner and orientation with our Expedition Leader.
Days 2 & 3: Exploring the Gallon Jug Estate
No hunting has occurred on the Gallon Jug Estate for more than 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 Chan Chich is renowned for having the highest rate of jaguar sightings in all of Central America. These elusive nocturnal creatures are difficult to spot, however, so we’ll be on the lookout for signs of their presence. Though jaguars may escape our notice, it is fairly certain we will not escape theirs. On game drives and jungle walks, we hope to see tapir, peccary and red brocket deer as well as coatimundi, tayra, agouti
and kinkajou. Birding is fabulous, with 350 resident species.
Day 4: Botanical Gardens / Xunantunich Mayan Ruins / Hidden Valley
An optional early morning wildlife drive offers the opportunity to see animals that are more active at dawn. After breakfast, we board a chartered flight to the Central Farm airstrip and continue to the Belize Botanical Gardens, a 45-acre riverfront complex in a valley flanked by the Maya Mountain foothills. Featuring native and exotic plants that grow in the Cayo district, the gardens help protect Belize’s floral biodiversity while educating and inspiring the community to do the same.
After lunch, visit the dramatic Mayan ruins of Xunantunich. Our Expedition Leader unveils the history behind the intricately carved stone temples of this ancient civilization, including the 130-foot-high pyramid of El Castillo, as we learn about Mayan culture. Our destination this afternoon is Hidden Valley Inn & Reserve, a 7,300-acre private reserve in the Maya Mountains. Thousand-foot waterfalls pour from on high, and more than 90 miles of trails criss-cross the area. On a nature walk along the private trail system, search for wildlife including howler monkeys, peccaries, colorful butterflies and raptors on high. The surrounding pine forest is home to diverse animal species including five of Belize’s native wild cats, plus threatened and endangered birds such as the orange-breasted falcon, solitary eagle
and stygian owl. On an optional night walk, join our Expedition Leader to look for fascinating nocturnal creatures.
Day 5: Butterfly Farm / Canoeing in Barton Creek Cave / Hidden Valley
This morning we visit the Blue Morpho Butterfly Farm at Chaa Creek, dedicated to research and conservation of Belize's native butterflies and plants. Observe the "Belizean Blue" during every stage of its life cycle as you watch flocks of brilliant butterflies fly among passionflowers, bromeliads, cycads, heliconias in the country’s largest live butterfly display.
A unique adventure is in store this afternoon: 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. Return to Hidden Valley for a meeting with local researchers, followed by an open-air dinner on the hotel’s beautiful grounds.
Day 6: Macal River Canoeing / Chocolate-Making
From Hidden Valley, we float and paddle our way to San Ignacio on the calm Macal River, an environment that is home to numerous tropical bird species and giant green iguanas. After lunch, we visit a local home in the lush Cayo district to hear the traditional music of the Garifuna people, known for its heavy percussion. Drums made from hollowed-out local hardwood add an exciting element to the performance. Next, we visit a Mayan family in San Ignacio for an interactive chocolate-making workshop. During this feast for the senses, roasted cacoa
beans are peeled, crushed and turned into a chocolate paste, which we’ll then use to craft a traditional chocolate drink with notes of pepper and cinnamon. Our leftover chocolate paste gets mixed with sugar and molded it into bars to take home.
Day 7: Hummingbird Highway / Hatchet Caye
A scenic drive along the famous Hummingbird Highway brings us to the town of Placencia. Here, a private motorboat whisks us to Hatchet 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 mangrove islands, tidal seagrass flats, and warm, crystal-clear water. Located just outside the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hatchet Caye provides us easy access for exploring this globally acclaimed wonder.
After checking in to our laid-back beach resort, an idyllic spot that invites relaxing and exploring, the afternoon holds our first opportunity for snorkeling. Explore a patch reef from the beach to 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 before you take to stargazing under a dark Belizean sky. An optional night snorkel may reveal manatees, dolphins, turtles, sting rays
Day 8: Silk Cayes
This morning, journey a short distance by boat to the Silk Cayes, twin patches of white sand studded with coconut palms and surrounded by healthy corals. From the beach
we have immediate access to the vibrant fish, turtles, rays
and sharks that inhabit these iridescent blue waters, part of a protected marine reserve that is among the healthiest sections of Belize's sprawling barrier reef. Via boat or snorkeling, view the teeming marine life. Return to Hatchet Caye in the afternoon with time to relax and absorb the languid island atmosphere before dinner. After dark, there’s another chance for an optional night snorkel filled with fascinating undersea life. We bid adios
to Belize with a festive farewell dinner.
Day 9: Belize City / Depart
After breakfast, enjoy an optional kayak excursion around the island, if time allows. Our Belize adventure tour comes to an end as we travel by boat to Placencia and fly to Belize City to connect with flights home,
or continue on with an extension to the pyramids of Tikal.