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Ultimate Belize Nature Safari


Belize nature tour mapDay 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 our short flight to Chan Chich Lodge on the 30,000-acre Gallon Jug Estate in northwest Belize. This private reserve 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 on top of an unexcavated ancient Mayan city, and it's 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 25 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, though they are highly elusive and rarely seen. However, Chan Chich has the highest rate of jaguar sightings in Central America—about one per week—and if we're very fortunate, we may see one, or signs of its presence. Though jaguars may escape our notice, it is fairly certain we will not escape theirs. On game drives and jungle walks, we'll look for plentiful monkeys and many of the 350 resident bird species on the estate. Laguna Seca, a wetland often patrolled by a troop of resident spider monkeys, is a spot favored by water-loving birds such as northern jacana, bare-throated tiger heron, anhingas and many more. Other mammals on the reserve include tapir, peccary, red brocket deer, coatimundi, tayra, agouti and kinkajou, and we occasionally spot some of these as well.

Day 4: Green Iguana Conservation / Xunantunich Maya Ruins
An optional early morning wildlife drive offers a chance to see species that are more active at dawn. After breakfast, board a chartered flight to the Central Farm airstrip and continue to a conservation project for the threatened green iguana, known to biologists as Iguana iguana and to the ancient Maya as Itzamna. This reptile has been an important symbol of life in the rain forest for millennia, contributing to the ecological balance of the river habitat. But development and over-hunting have diminished the green iguana’s once abundant population. We’ll observe them up close as we learn about the incubation, hatching, rearing and releasing process. Continuing to the dramatic Mayan ruins of Xunantunich, explore Maya culture as our Expedition Leader unveils the history behind the intricately carved stone temples, including the 130-foot-high pyramid of El Castillo. This afternoon, arrive at our jungle ecolodge on the banks of the Macal River, surrounded by lush vegetation and tropical birds. 

Day 5: Butterfly Farm / Canoeing in Barton Creek Cave / Chocolate Making
This morning we visit Green Hills Butterfly Ranch and Botanical Collections, dedicated to 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. Then an unusual adventure is in store this afternoon: a canoe trip into Barton Creek Cave. The limestone landmass that comprises much of Belize is riddled with subterranean chambers that Mayans viewed as a sacred portal between the human world and the realm of the gods. As we glide silently through the caverns, we’ll see rock formations, skeletal remains and cultural artifacts left by the Maya centuries ago. Keeping our focus on ancient Mayan tradition, we visit a local family in San Ignacio for an interactive chocolate-making workshop. During this feast for the senses, roasted cacao 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 for us to take home.

Day 6: Macal River / Placencia / Ray Caye
After a morning rain forest walk in search of birdlife along the Macal River, we transfer to Placencia. Here, a private motorboat whisks us to Ray Caye, one of the hundreds of cayes, or small islets, that lie off the coast of Belize. This marine reserve is located on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second longest barrier reef in the world after Australia's. The caye 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, Ray Caye provides easy access for exploring this world wonder. After dark, tonight’s optional night snorkel in this magical realm may reveal manta rays, squid, octopus and a variety of other fascinating undersea life.

Day 7: Laughing Bird Caye National Park
During a full-day excursion to Laughing Bird Caye National Park, we’ll have two opportunities to snorkel in an undersea world that harbors some 500 species of brilliant fish, numerous corals and sponges, delicate sea fans, bright anemones and sea urchins. The long, narrow island, which was named for the laughing gulls that once bred here, is the southernmost island in the Belize Barrier Reef’s central lagoon. Situated on an elongated ridge of reef known as a faro, the palm-studded island has steep sides that enclose a central lagoon isolated by deep channels on all sides. It remains one of the premier protected areas within the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage Site, and holds national park status due to its unusual abundance and variety of coral habitats and marine life. Our expedition to Laughing Bird Caye includes a picnic lunch on land, during which we keep an eye out for brown pelicans, green herons and the melodious blackbird.

Day 8: Snorkeling at Silk Cayes / Ray Caye—Kayaking
Travel a short distance by boat this morning to the Silk Cayes, twin patches of white sand dotted with coconut palms and surrounded by healthy corals. From these idyllic islets, gain immediate access to the vibrant undersea world. Huge schools of tropical fish inhabit the transparent turquoise waters, part of a protected marine reserve encompassing a vital section of the Belize Barrier Reef. We'll snorkel through an area known as "shark, ray and turtle alley," where we typically get close-up views of nurse sharks, large loggerhead turtles, eagle rays, stingrays and whiptail rays. After an exhilarating journey of discovery beneath the sea, our boat returns us to the resort for lunch. The balance of the day is spent experiencing the famously transparent Caribbean waters from the surface as we paddle kayaks among the islands, gliding over schools of colorful fish and perhaps encountering dolphins along the way. This evening we bid adios to Belize at a farewell dinner.

Day 9: Placencia / Belize City / Depart
After breakfast, our Belize adventure tour moves toward a close as we transfer to the Placencia airstrip to fly back to Belize City. At the international airport, connect with homeward flights.

Physical Rating: Easy to Moderate

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