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Embark on a unique land-and-sea expedition to discover the marine wonders of Belize and the Maya ruins of Guatemala. Snorkel amid hundreds of species of fish and corals on the Belize Barrier Reef with the new National Geographic Quest as your base for exploration. Explore the shores of white-sand islands by kayak and stand-up paddleboard, and swim in turquoise lagoons teeming with marine life. Then venture to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Tikal and other intriguing Maya ruins to encounter thousands of ancient temples and shrines scattered beneath the rain forest canopy.
Spot rainbow-colored fish, turtles, rays, reef sharks, and more while snorkeling or diving the coral gardens and lagoons of Belize’s barrier reef.
Kayak amid palm-fringed islands and step ashore to view a colony of rare red-footed boobies.
Venture into the jungles of Guatemala to discover Tikal’s spectacular temples and pyramids with local experts.
Explore the ruins of Yaxhá, the third largest Maya ceremonial city in Guatemala, and the secluded site of Topoxte, located on a tiny island in the middle of a lake.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Day 1 — Belize City, Belize
Arrive in Belize City and embark the National Geographic Quest. Set sail this afternoon. (D)
Day 2 — Laughing Bird Caye National Park or Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve
Second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in terms of biodiversity, Belize’s barrier reef is home to a dazzling undersea world. Begin our exploration at the southern edge of the reef, anchoring along the shores of Laughing Bird Caye National Park or Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve. Take to the warm waters by snorkel, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard. For certified scuba divers, incredible dive opportunities abound. (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Quiriguá and Río Dulce, Guatemala
Explore the ancient Maya city of Quiriguá and view its elaborate stonework, sculpted to glorify Maya kings. Have lunch on the shores of Lake Izabal—Guatemala’s largest lake—then take a local boat through the limestone canyon of Río Dulce, where monkeys, herons, and toucans can be spotted. (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Glover Reef, Belize/South Water Caye Marine Reserve
Enjoy world-class snorkeling and diving opportunities at the protected marine reserves of Glover Reef and South Water Caye, on the lookout for colorful fish, spotted eagle rays, and sea turtles. Then explore the palm-fringed shorelines and reef crests by kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Conditions permitting, we may stop at a remote field station to learn about coral reef research. (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Lighthouse Reef and Half Moon Caye Natural Monument
Sail north to Lighthouse Reef and go snorkeling, diving, or kayaking inside its fringing reef. The shallow lagoon is dotted with hundreds of coral patches that harbor parrotfish, butterflyfish, octopus, and other marine species. Visit Half Moon Caye, a pristine nature reserve of littoral forest and ivory beaches, and go for a walk to view a nesting population of red-footed boobies. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Belize City/Flores, Guatemala/Tikal
Disembark and fly to Flores, Guatemala. Upon arrival, transfer to Tikal, one of the largest cities in the Classic Maya world. Spend the afternoon exploring this extraordinary site, where ancient pyramids tower more than 200 feet and thousands of temples, shrines, and plazas are scattered beneath the rain forest canopy. Camino Real Tikal Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Tikal
Delve deeper into the mysteries of the Maya with local experts. Explore Tikal’s architectural treasures, including the Temple of the Great Jaguar and the North and South Acropolis. Encounter ancient Maya art and hieroglyphs, and examine carved stone inscriptions that illuminate the history and spiritual significance of Tikal. Camino Real Tikal Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Yaxhá and Topoxte
Explore Yaxhá, a former Maya ceremonial center, which is situated on a ridge overlooking Yaxhá Lake. If you wish, climb a temple for panoramic view. Next, take a local boat to visit the secluded site of Topoxte, located on an island in the lake. Explore the ruins of this fortified Maya city, listening for the calls of birds and monkeys in the surrounding jungle. Camino Real Tikal Hotel
Anthropologist Richard Hansen directs the National Geographic-funded Mirador Basin Project in northern Guatemala. An adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Utah, Richard was named the 2008 Environmentalist of the Year in Latin America by the Latin Trade Group, a major regional publisher. The president of Guatemala has also awarded him the country's National Order of the Cultural Patrimony. Richard is a founder of the Geographic’s Dialogue of Civilizations conference and appeared in the Society's Dawn of the Maya documentary.