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Signature Belize: Rainforest, reef and ruins

12 days from £2666pp

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Signature Belize: Rainforest, reef and ruins:
Trip Dossier

English-speaking Belize is rapidly becoming one of the world’s premier eco-adventure destinations, with a bunch of excellent, high quality lodges scattered through the undisturbed Mayan Mountains and along the coral-fringed Caribbean coast.

On this good-value fortnight’s holiday packed with adventures, you can enjoy many cultural and wildlife-focused experiences. Visit communities of the Mayan and Garifuna peoples, and find out how they live in harmony with nature and the modern world. You even get to visit an artisan chocolate factory:

 The small-scale, eco-friendly accommodation we have chosen is appropriate for lovers of sporting activities too: go caving, hiking, tubing down fast-flowing rivers, kayaking and snorkelling. Experienced guides will be with you all the way.  

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Belize City, transfer to mountain lodge.

Day 2

Excursion to the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves.

Day 3

Optional excursion to Tikal or Caracol Mayan ruins.

Day 4

Transfer to lagoon-side, multi-activity lodge at Lamanai.

Day 5

Visit to Lamanai Mayan ruins.

Day 6

Transfer to eco-resort in the southern district Toledo.

Day 7

Optional active and cultural adventures.

Day 8

Excursion to Hokeb Ha cave and Ixcacao cocoa plantation.

Day 9

Transfer to Caribbean beach resort at Placencia.

Day 10

Optional water sports and wildlife spotting.

Day 11

Further beach time and sea-sport opportunities.

Day 12

Transfer to Belize City airport for international flight.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Belize City, transfer to mountain lodge.
 

Arrive in Belize City and transfer by road to your remote forest eco-resort, Pook’s Hill Lodge, on the edge of Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve - a journey inland of about 90mins. The thatched property is surrounded by flourishing tropical foliage and rugged hills populated by a multitude of birds and mammals.

Day 2

Excursion to the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves.
 

Today you have a day trip to the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves (often referred to as ATM caves though you can’t withdraw any cash there!).  There you hike into the caves, cross over underground rivers and enter a giant chamber which was long ago the setting for Mayan religious ceremonies and is stuffed with relics including ceramics and, rather gruesomely, skeletons.

ATM caves

Day 3

Optional excursion to Tikal or Caracol Mayan ruins.
 

The Mayan peoples have had a presence in Mexico and Central America since well before the birth of Christ. Their civilisation, which was at its height in the 1st-9th centuries AD  has left a legacy of remarkable buildings, sculptures and artefacts featuring their hieroglyphics and reflecting their artistic creativity and knowledge of astronomy and mathematics.

Tikal and Caracol, shrouded by extensive rainforest, are two of the most impressive, long-abandoned Mayan sites, now reclaimed for visitors with their pyramids,  sculpted temples, broad plazas and and ball-parks. You can choose to visit either on your free day at leisure.

Caracol Ruins Belize

Day 4

Transfer to lagoon-side, multi-activity lodge at Lamanai.
 

Transfer back to Belize City and continue by road and river to Lamanai Outpost Lodge on the woodland-fringed banks of New River Lagoon.

At Lamanai Outpost you can choose from a range of fully guided soft-adventure experiences that start from your cabin’s doorstep and do not require long hours of driving. We suggest you consider signing up for two included activities per day.

These include dawn adventures to spot jungle wildlife as it wakes up: howler monkeys, toucans and parrots thrive in this habitat. Compliment this with a night-time walk, a crocodile observation boat ride, spear-fishing or a stroll along a medicinal nature trail. 

Keel Billed Toucan

Day 5

Visit to Lamanai Mayan ruins.
 

Don’t miss the opportunity on one of your days here to discover the nearby Lamanai Maya ruins. In the company of an expert guide, you’ll explore the mysterious abandoned jungle-cloaked temples. The ruins encompass over 700 structures, a visitor’s centre and museum.

Lamanai ruins

Day 6

Transfer to eco-resort in the southern district Toledo.
 

Transfer by water and road back to Belize City airport and take an exhilarating  light-aircraft flight to the little port of Punta Gorda on Belize’s less-visited southern coast.  It’s just a short drive on to another adventure-filled, family-friendly property, the Lodge at Big Falls.

The lodge is crammed between the Mayan mountains and the Rio Grande, on a meander of the river with over a kilometre of river frontage.

It’s great accommodation for families, with each hardwood or thatched cottages having its own bathroom and three their own kitchenettes. 

Blue morpho butterfly at Chaa Creek

Day 7

Optional active and cultural adventures.
 

Again, there are loads of activities on offer which will suit all sorts of interests and enthusiasms. Try kayaking, snorkelling, caving, and hiking. Cultural activities include a visit to a Mayan or Garifuna indigenous community, to learn about how their long-standing settlements have maintained their traditions and customs.

Mayan Lady

Day 8

Excursion to Hokeb Ha cave and Ixcacao cocoa plantation.
 

You'll follow the path to Blue Creek running along the base of steepening limestone cliffs to arrive at a waterfall and the entrance to the Hokeb Ha Cave. The creek runs out the entrance of the cave, cascading over limestone boulders in the shadow of the surrounding rainforest. 

Archaeologists have found many Mayan ceramics and an altar inside the cave, so it was probably a place where religious ceremonies took place.  Strong swimmers can travel upstream to the point where the river cascades into a deep pool from a higher cavern, enjoying the limestone formations along the way.

Afterwards, visit Ixcacao, a small-scale, family-run chocolate manufacturer in San Felipe. Ixacaco is the only Mayan chocolate-maker in Belize and supplies the famous company Green & Blacks with organic chocolate. Tour the cocoa grove and have a demonstration on chocolate production with a meal that includes mole sauce - scrummy.

Swimmers by natural pool in Belize

Day 9

Transfer to Caribbean beach resort at Placencia.
 

Transfer to Placencia via Mango Creek. This friendly and low-key beach resort sits on the tip of a long peninsular in the south of the country. The village is typified by its ramshackle and colourful wooden houses built on stilts, linked by paths weaving under swaying palms rooted in powder-white sands.

Nearby Monkey River and Placencia Lagoon provide good opportunities for spotting wildlife including the rare and comical manatee.

Placencia

Day 10

Optional water sports and wildlife spotting.
 

From your small, Caribbean-style lodge, Laru Beya, you can now indulge in a few water-sports and seaside activities: there’s also a lovely infinity pool.

You are at leisure; but we recommend an excursion in search of the West Indian manatee, a huge, aquatic mammal whose closest relative is the elephant. They have extraordinary, prehistoric looks, at the same time rather sweet and cuddly, with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail, flippers, and heads and faces wrinkled with whiskers on the snout.

On your boat trip gliding through lush mangroves in their feeding grounds in Placencia lagoon, you have a good chance of getting up close to these amazing creatures.  

Manatee

Day 11

Further beach time and sea-sport opportunities.
 

Another suggestion: a trip down Monkey River, exploring its banks with a knowledgeable guide. Monkey River rises in the Mayan mountains and flows down to the coast and out into the Caribbean Sea, so it passes through a variety of ecosystems from high altitude forest through freshwater riverine vegetation to coastal mangrove.

You can expect to see turtles, crocodiles and loads of tropical birds. Continue to the howler monkey refuge, managed by the region's nature guides. 

Howler Monkey, Belize

Day 12

Transfer to Belize City airport for international flight.
 


Essential information

Transport

4 domestic light aircraft flight; 4 road journeys or road and river journeys.

Accommodation

For this holiday we have chosen small, family-friendly countryside lodges which blend into the natural environment with bird- and exotic foliage-filled grounds. There are plenty of adventurous activities and excursions on offer. The beach resort, suitable for both families and honeymoons, is also mid-range. 

Meals

Breakfast daily. Lunch day 9. Full board days 4,5.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by clients on their return.

Included excursions

• Guided excursion Blu Creek cave.
• Visit to Xicacao chocolate factory.
• Some activities at the lodges.

Summary of nights

12 days, 11 nights:  Pook's Hill 3,  Lamanai 2; Big Falls 3;  Placencia 3. 

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• International flights to Latin America.
• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Departure tax (US$10.75)
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Belize is the Belize dollar which is always 2 to 1 US dollar .(US dollars also accepted).

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$45 per day per person should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir.

How to take it

Cash machines are available Belize City and so with a debit or credit card with a PIN number you can withdraw money up to the daily limit at the start of your holiday. Bear in mind that for the majority of your trip you are staying in remote locations. There are ATMs in Placencia, but untested by us and we'd hesitate to advise you to rely on them for funds. Since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. We recommend that additionally you take most of what you are likely to spend in US dollars cash (but maybe no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency or spend directly. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. 

The Belize exchange rate is fixed at $2 Belize dollars to 1 $US. Both currencies are widely accepted. 

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

There is an  international departure tax of $20 to be paid on departure, also a security tax of about $5 and a small conservation charge.

Journey grade

There are no long days of travel on this trip. This holiday is suitable for couples; friends; single people; families, honeymooners; history, wildlife and active adventure enthusiasts. 

If you have a disability or other special requirements, please call us. In the summer  (Jun-Oct) the weather can be extremely hot and humid, you might bear this in mind if travelling with small children or elderly persons.

Climate

The best weather conditions are during the dry season December to May. It can be cool in the highlands in winter, while the jungle areas are hot and humid all year round. There’s a low risk of tropical storms or hurricanes from June to November.

Clothing and special equipment

Bring plenty of light, loose and preferably cotton clothing and good, comfortable walking shoes, trainers or sports sandals. We suggest that you plan to ‘layer’ your clothing; it is easier and more efficient to put on a couple of light layers than one thick jumper, and sensible to have long sleeves for areas where mosquitos or sand flies may be. 

Protection against the sun (sunblock, sun hat) and mosquito repellant are essential and you should bring swimwear. A daypack is useful for carrying sun block, guidebook, water and any extra layers. Binoculars are strongly recommended. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in Central America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements, including advice on yellow fever inoculations and malaria tablets.  For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

Passengers must present a digital e-passport (one which contains a readable chip).

ESTA - if flying to, or via, the USA, you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.  This costs $14 per person, and must be applied for by you personally.

Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them. 

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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