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 an adventure into an extraordinary Maya cave system. Then travel to the remote Toledo District to encounter Maya culture, both ancient and modern. 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 farthest 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 1970s. 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 rain forest 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 Maya rituals. (2-3 miles hiking, 4-6 hours)
Relax this morning, or go on an optional birding walk. After breakfast, drive to Mayflower Bocawina National Park for a jungle hike with a local guide. Our destination is Bocawina Falls, a picturesque cascade that flows into a natural swimming hole, where we’ll enjoy a refreshing dip. Should our trip coincide with the scarlet macaw season, we will instead travel to the foothills of the Maya Mountains and set out on a hike in search of these majestic birds. Later, travel to remote Punta Gorda and settle into Copal Tree Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World nestled in the lush coastal jungles of southern Belize. (1 mile walking, 1 hour)
This morning, visit the ancient Maya ruins at Lubaantun. Active in the 8th and 9th centuries, Lubaantun is the region’s largest Maya complex and marks the spot where a mysterious crystal skull was discovered in the 1920s. Enjoy a locally sourced lunch, and take a hands-on lesson in bean-to-bar chocolate production. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure to explore your stunning surroundings. (1 mile walking, 1 hour)
After breakfast, fly from Punta Gorda to Belize City, where you’ll catch your flight home.