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My husband and I have recently returned from a wonderful trip to Belize! We spent a total of 10 days in this beautiful country - 4 nights on the mainland and 5 nights on the island of Ambergris Caye. We both agree that it was the most amazing vacation adventure we've taken so far!
Our entire trip including accommodations, transfers, round trip air travel from the mainland to Ambergris Caye and our excursions on the mainland were arranged by Katie Valk of Belize Trips. Katie Valk is an American that resides in Belize and helms a travel agency that specializes in Belize. She also dabbles in Guatemala. You can find her online at belize-trips.com. She also has a US based phone number listed on her website.
Katie's service and expertise were invaluable and we highly recommend her agency. Planning a trip to Belize can be a very daunting task depending on your individual interests, not to mention the endless options available. Katie made planning a breeze!
We arrived in Belize on April 30th thru May 10th, which was during their dry season. It only rained twice during our stay in the jungle and they were very brief rainstorms, only an hour or so in duration. The rain seems to rattle every living thing, as the jungle vibrates with the noise of frogs, insects and birds after a rainshower
After arriving at Belize's International Airport, we were met and driven by way of a 4-wheel drive vehicle, to the Jaguar Paw Jungle Resort located in the Cayo District. Belize is home to the 2nd largest rain forest in the world. This resort features 16 air conditioned themed rooms and a main building that houses the front desk, bar and restaurant. We were extremely happy with the service, meals and accommodations at the Jaguar Paw and highly recommend this property. It was an awesome experience!
While at the Jaguar Paw Resort, we participated in the following excursions - guided nature hike, cave tubing, a full day tour with a private guide to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich and Cahal Pech, a trip to the Belize Zoo and finally an aerial canopy tour of jungle.
The Jaguar Paw Jungle Resort is home to a number of animals. Located onsite is a dwelling that houses kinkajous, gibnuts and rabbits. They also have a butterfly sanctuary onsite with a curator. Guided tours of the sanctuary are available free of charge. There are also wild animals that sometimes come in to feed at the resort including a howler monkey and a pair of quosh. The resort is also home to no less than 6 dogs, 4 of them being German Shepherds. The German Shepherds are very friendly and attach to the guests quickly. They will follow you on the trails and sleep on your porch. We found them a comfort because you never know what might go bump in the night!
We thoroughly enjoyed our excursions! Although, if you have back problems you may find the nature hike a bit uncomfortable if you're not prepared. The path starts out friendly enough, but then it gets a little more tricky. This very educational guided hike was about 1-1/2 hours in duration, with inner tubes in hand as we ended this hike by tubing on the Caves Branch River through 3 caves. During the hike we learned about numerous plants, fruits and trees that are native to Belize.
The site visit of the Ruins was also extremely educational. The sites of Xunantunich and Cahal Pech date from 200AD - 800AD. These sites have not been completely excavated, as the country of Belize cannot afford this luxury. American colleges have done most of the excavating with grants and they enlist the aid of local Belizeans with Mayan ancestry to assist. Our guide for the day, Junior, has assisted in a number of these digs since the mid 70s and was very knowledgeable about the Mayan culture and history.
One other excursion that I have to touch on was the aerial canopy tour. I was extremely nervous about this, but am so glad I didn't let my anxiety get the best of me! After meeting our two expert guides and getting suited up with belts, clips and hard-hats, we made a short hike to the first of 8 platforms situated 80' above the jungle floor. The first guide explained the proper technique and after being fastened to a cable, he was pushed off the platform by our rear guide and flew across the tops of the trees like Tarzan! I was next in line and after being pushed off I believe I was half way down the cable before I actually opened my eyes. Unfortunately for me, I broke too soon and found myself suspended in mid-air, 6' from the platform and had to manually pull myself across the cable to the platform. I can assure you that was the last time I made that mistake! By the time we reached the 3rd platform, I was an expert at landing the platform in
Ninja-like fashion. Our guides were excellent and we felt very safe and secure at all times. The views from the top were amazing! This excursion ended with a repel straight to the ground from a height of 60'
To cap off our stay in the jungle, we were asked by our zip-line guide if we'd ever eaten a termite. When we replied no, he kicked at a nearby nest and quickly offered us a taste of one of it's inhabitants. Surprisingly enough, they taste like mint and are chock full of protein. Soldiers are instructed in their survival training to snack on termites, so it's not as strange as it sounds!
After our 4 night stay at the Jaguar Paw Resort, we were driven to the Belize Municipal Airport for our departing flight on Maya Air to the island of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. This airport services the Belizean islands and the southern mainland of Belize. Tropic Air also services this airport. The flight was 15 minutes in duration and when we landed at San Pedro Airport it was as though we had just clawed our way out of the jungle as it was a whole different world - white sandy beaches and turquoise water!
While in San Pedro, we stayed at Ramon's Village Resort and again couldn't have been happier with our accommodations! This resort consists of 61 thatch-roofed cabanas, a restaurant, bar and dive shop. Our oceanfront room was 40 feet from the water's edge. They also had the best beach on the island. Like the Jaguar Paw Jungle Resort, there was no television or phone in the room, but we did have air conditioning.
The downtown area has a number of shops and restaurants and was about a 5 - 10 minute walk from Ramon's. San Pedro is very safe, no crime, so you can feel comfortable walking around after dark, as the shops and restaurants are open late. We ate at a number of terrific restaurants including Elvie's and Carumba! I also recommend D & E's Frozen Custard Shop also located in downtown San Pedro which is owned by two American ex-patriots from Meadville, PA.
While on Ambergris Caye, we went on 2 snorkeling adventures and my husband, Peter, dove once. The must see snorkel spots are the Hol Chan Reserve, Shark/Ray Alley and the Blue Hole. The Hol Chan and Shark/Ray alley trips are just half day, but the trip to the Blue Hole was close to a 13 hour day.
The all day snorkel to the Blue Hole also included a snorkel stop at Long Caye, as well as an off shore snorkel at Half Moon Caye. A picnic lunch was provided at Half Moon Caye. Half Moon Caye is home to the red-footed booby. Half Moon Caye is a national park and is uninhabited save for the park rangers that live there in 2 week intervals. It's beautiful there - the perfect spot for our picnic!
Peter took a resort course and made one dive with Amigos Dive Shop, which is just a short walk down the beach from Ramon's. He's taken resort courses in the past, but insisted this was by far the best course and resort dive he's experienced. So if diving is your thing, you may want to consider Amigos
Belize has the 2nd largest marine population and the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world and we agreed that it offered the best snorkeling we've ever experienced! Keep in mind we've been to a number of Caribbean islands including Grand Cayman and the Turks and Caicos Islands. While making our way to the Blue Hole a school of dolphin followed us. We also snorkeled with nurse sharks that were 6' - 10' in length, a school of squid, met a moray eel and from the safety of our boat encountered a black tipped shark and a bullhead shark.
After our 5 night stay in San Pedro, we took a Maya Air flight back to the Belize International Airport and then boarded our flight back home to the states.
I hope you've gained a little insight on the wonders of Belize. In short, it was simply un-Belizeable!
Thanks to Kimberly for this trip report ...