Belize is graced with more than 180 miles of coast, thick rain forest, and Maya ruins; and beneath its Caribbean waters lies one of the most extensive barrier reef systems in the world. Set out by kayak from our base at Half Moon Caye to explore mangrove islands and white-sand beaches, and snorkel in turquoise waters amid an astonishing diversity of marine life. Head inland to the Sibun River Valley and experience the wonders of the rain forest on a river kayaking trip and an adventure into an extraordinary Maya cave system. Then travel to Guatemala to encounter the UNESCO World Heritage site of Tikal, where ancient Maya temples poke through the treetops. Along the way, stay in lodges and camps ideally situated for spotting birds and wildlife.
Arrive in Belize City and transfer to Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, a lush habitat of lagoons, creeks, and tropical forest. Gather for an orientation and welcome dinner this evening.
Venture out by boat to explore the lagoons of Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary in the early morning. The rich vegetation that lines these waterways teems with wildlife and tropical birds, and we can expect to see species such as kingfishers, ospreys, snail kites, and Jabiru storks. Return to the lodge for breakfast before departing by boat for Lighthouse Reef Atoll, located at the furthest edge of Belize’s Barrier Reef. Settle into our comfortable, safari-style beach camp at Half Moon Caye, a pristine nature reserve of littoral forest and white-sand beaches. Numerous bird species nest here, including a colony of rare red-footed boobies. In the afternoon, get comfortable with your paddle and your fins as we kayak and snorkel in the sheltered waters around Half Moon Caye.
Spend two days at Lighthouse Reef, discovering a fascinating coastal ecosystem and Belize's world-renowned coral reefs. On a variety of sea kayaking excursions, glide past white-sand beaches and thick mangroves. Take to the sea in specially outfitted sailing kayaks, and snorkel along shallow reefs inside the lagoon where parrotfish, angelfish, and grouper hide amid fantastic coral formations. Our snorkeling outings take us to the edges of drop-offs and walls where we may see pelagic species such as dolphins, tarpons, sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, and more. In the evenings, relax back at camp and enjoy dinners of fresh seafood and Belizean specialties. (2-6 miles paddling daily, 2-6 hours)
This morning, experience the Great Blue Hole, made famous by Jacques Cousteau who first explored it in the early 1970’s. Located within Lighthouse Atoll, this vast, circular sinkhole measures nearly 1000 feet across. Don your mask and fins and snorkel the outer perimeter, on the lookout for harmless nurse and reef sharks. Tonight, gather at our camp for a traditional Garifuna music and dance performance, and learn about the unique culture and origins of the Garifuna people. (3-4 miles paddling, 2-3 hours)
Spend a final morning immersed in the serene beauty of Belize's coral atolls. If you wish, rise early for a sunrise yoga session or fishing expedition. Or go snorkeling at your favorite coral patch. This afternoon, return to the mainland by boat and travel into the Maya Mountains of southern Belize. Our jungle lodge is located on the Sibun River within the Sibun National Forest Reserve.
Enjoy waking up in the lodge’s stunning surroundings—there are more than 100,000 acres of rainforest wilderness on our doorstep. Then set out for an adventure at Actun Tunichil Muknal, an extraordinary cave system in Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve. Equipped with headlamps and helmets, swim into the cave’s mouth and follow the subterranean waterway into a Maya underworld of cathedral-like caverns. Climb up into ceremonial chambers that bristle with glittering stalactites and stalagmites, and examine artifacts from Mayan rituals. Leave the caves after dark and embark on a jungle night walk, keeping an eye out for Belize’s numerous nocturnal species. (3-5 miles hiking, 4-5 hours)
Hop into specially designed inflatable kayaks and set off on a guided excursion on the Sibun River. As we paddle through jungle, spot colorful birds, wildlife, and bright tropical flowers along the river’s edge. Pass dramatic geological formations, and navigate class I and class II rapids. Later, pay a visit to a cacao plantation and end the day with a hike to a hilltop with a sweeping vista of the Sibun River Valley. (3-4 miles paddling, 2-3 hours; 2-3 miles hiking, 1-2 hours)
Travel into Guatemala to explore the legendary Maya city of Tikal, a World Heritage site. Marvel at the magnitude of this sprawling city built on the backs of Maya laborers, and delve into this fascinating and enigmatic ancient culture. Explore some of the more than 3,000 spectacular stone structures, from pyramids and plazas to precipitous temples that pierce the jungle canopy. Return to Belize in the late afternoon and settle into our lodge. Enjoy dinner on your own in town tonight. (6 hours driving roundtrip)
Begin the day at the Belize Zoo, getting better acquainted with endemic wildlife including jaguars, tapirs, and toucans, and participate in a unique Jaguar Rehabilitation project. Later, transfer to the airport for your return flight home.
National Geographic Adventures are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,150 in 2015 and $1,200 in 2016. International airfare to/from Belize City is not included in the adventure cost. On the December departures, there is an additional holiday surcharge of $200 in 2015 and $300 in 2016.
GROUP SIZE: 8–16
See special terms and conditions for this adventure.
Belize’s sheltered waters are ideal for sea kayaking, while its atolls and reefs offer exceptional snorkeling. This trip is suitable for beginner and expert kayakers alike; no previous experience is necessary. We will be paddling stable, two-person kayaks for an average of 2–6 hours a day, which includes snorkeling time.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
We will camp 4 nights in cabana-style tents with limited, shared facilities located in the heart of a protected marine park. We will stay 5 nights in comfortable lodges and hotels that combine ideal locations and local charm.
Call to speak with an Adventure specialist about this trip.