Sunday, December 18, 2016

Belize November 2016

Diane and I traveled to Belize in November with two other dear friends.  We made all the arrangements on our own - which was pretty easy because the national language is English, and all the places we arranged ahead of time had email and took either credit cards or paypal.  We used local guides at each different location to help us understand the history, botany, geology, and bird life. We used local van transportation to get from one destination to the next and learned a lot from our drivers.  - no shuttle trip was longer than 1.5 hours between destinations. We arranged the trip to be in Dangriga on the 19th for the Garfuna people's Settlement day festivities.  If you like drumming and throbbing crowds in a very ethnic setting check it out. The crafts people were amazing in Placencia, and that's a great place to chill out and end your journey.  The main street is a sidewalk....- no cars.  Also, Caye Caulker where we visited at the start of our trip is highly recommended. No pavement, no cars on the whole island. Just walk around or use one of the ubiquitous rusted beach cruiser bikes. 

Trip starts by driving south to LA along the Owen's Valley to stage our car in LA so when we return we can go straight to Thanksgiving festivities with family. 

Crooked Tree Lodge - located along a massive lagoon that is home to a vast bird population.  As the water evaporates after wet season the bird populations become more and more congested along the water's edge.  Bird viewing is mostly from small boat or kayak.  Arrange to rent a canoe if you come here so you can go out early in mornings along the water's edge.  Watch out for crocs though!

Boat trip up the New River to Lamanai - an ancient Maya ruin. Great day trip.

Caye Caulker - lots of colorful and funky lodgings along the water's edge. No paved streets. get around on foot or by bike. The best snorkeling and diving is out at the reef, so you need to arrange boat transportation.  Recommend Barefoot Fisherman Expeditions for snorkeling - they use a small catamaran to get out to the reef and Marine Park - Recommend Black Durgon Dives for scuba.

Caves Branch - amazing jungle Lodge with lots of adventure activities as well as an outstanding botanical garden on the premises - copious and great food with top drawer lodgings.  If you can , consider the treehouse suites.

Ancient all terrain vehicle gets us through the muddy pineapple plantation to the Caves Branch river and the start of our tube expedition.

Hmmmm, what are we getting into here? As we take a short trek down a muddy path to the small green/blue river nestled at the base of an imposing jungle.

The bird watching was amazing - good guides and binoculars made all the difference in finding and identifying birds. I did not bring a big camera lense on this trip due to the adverse conditions and my misguided goal of traveling super light, but if you are serious about bird photos, bring the glass - the opportunities are stunning!

Transportation for another jungle cave outing.

Guatemala and Tikal.

Ornamental Banana plant