From Rain Forest to Reef to Ruins, Experience More on Our Diverse Nature Odyssey
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 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, 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 on the estate, with 350 resident species. We'll see a number of them at Laguna Seca, a wetland that is often patrolled by a troop of resident spider monkeys. It is a spot favored by water-loving bird species such as northern jacana, bare-throated
tiger heron, anhingas and many others.
Day 4: Botanical Gardens / Xunantunich Mayan Ruins / Hidden Valley
An optional early morning wildlife drive offers the opportunity to see mammals 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 support that effort.
After lunch, visit the dramatic Mayan ruins of Xunantunich. Learn about Mayan culture as 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. 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 overhead. 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 intriguing nocturnal creatures.
Day 5: Canoeing in Barton Creek Cave / Butterfly Farm / Hidden Valley
A unique adventure is in store this morning: 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.
This afternoon we visit the Blue Morpho Butterfly Farm at Chaa Creek, dedicated to research and conservation of Belize's native butterflies and plants. Observe the vibrant "Belizean Blue" during every stage of its life cycle as we watch flocks of brilliant butterflies fly among passionflowers, bromeliads, cycads and
heliconias in the country’s largest live butterfly display. On our return to Hidden Valley, we'll view a couple of the highest waterfalls on the property, then meet with local biologists to learn about conservation research happening on the reserve. This evening, a gourmet dinner featuring Mayan and Mestizo cuisine is served outdoors by the pool and gardens.
Day 6: Macal River Canoeing / Chocolate Making / Garifuna Drumming
From Hidden Valley, we float and paddle our way to San Ignacio on the placid Macal River, an environment that sustains numerous tropical bird species and giant green iguanas. Next, 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. Our day concludes with a stop at a local home in the Cayo District to hear the traditional music of Belize's indigenous Garifuna people, known for its heavy percussion. Drums made from hollowed-out local hardwood add an exciting element to the performance.
Day 7: Hummingbird Highway / Naia Resort
This morning, set out on a scenic drive along the famous Hummingbird Highway, stopping at St. Herman's Blue Hole National Park in the Maya Mountains. Managed by the Belize Audubon Society, this 500-acre tropical rain forest
preserve is home to more than 200 bird species and varied wildlife, including howler monkeys whose low drone is often heard resonating in the treetops. The park is named for the Inland Blue Hole (not to be confused with the famous dive site), a deep sinkhole surrounded by jungle vegetation and limestone rock walls that offers inviting swimming in its clear teal waters.
Continue to Placencia for lunch, then on to secluded Naia Resort. Fronting a beach of fine, powdery sand, Naia is a luxury retreat located within a 200-acre private reserve on the Placencia Peninsula. Just offshore lies the most spectacular marine island reserve in the Caribbean: the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses hundreds of cayes
, or small islets, and the most vibrant portion of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. The second-longest barrier reef in the world after Australia's, this coral wonderland lies among mangrove islands, tidal seagrass flats and
warm, crystal-clear water. Our location at Naia provides easy access for exploring this globally acclaimed site. Snorkeling here is some of the best in the world, with 500 species of tropical fish, numerous corals and sponges, delicate sea fans, bright anemones and spiky sea urchins on display. This evening, enjoy dinner featuring fresh seafood and creative local fare, then stargaze under the dark Caribbean sky.
Day 8: Snorkeling at Silk Cayes / Naia Resort
Travel a short distance by boat this morning to the Silk Cayes, twin patches of white sand studded with coconut palms and surrounded by healthy corals. From these idyllic islets, there's 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 whisks us back to the resort for lunch. The afternoon is free to relax—read by the pool or have a spa treatment in an overwater bungalow—before bidding adios
to Belize at a festive farewell dinner.
Day 9: Placencia / Belize City / Depart
After breakfast, our Belize adventure tour moves toward its close as we transfer to the Placencia airstrip for our flight back to Belize City. At the international airport, connect with homeward flights or continue with our extension to the ruins of Tikal.