Day 1: Arrive in Belize
Upon landing you'll be met by our representative and transferred to the boat dock at the Belize Tourism Village where you'll board a water taxi for the exhilarating 90 minute trip to the Turneffe Atoll. Boat over azure waters speckled with mangroves and coconut tree covered islands past the Belize Barrier Reef and to the western side of Turneffe Atoll. Check into your beach front room and take a refreshing swim in the tranquil waters of the Caribbean. Beachfront cabanas with Caribbean views offer immediate access to world class snorkeling and SCUBA diving for undersea enthusiasts. The cabanas have private porches with chairs, hammock, one king or two twin beds and a private bathroom with hot water showers. Meals are served family style prepared with a variety of fresh fish, meats, salads, fruits, vegetables, deserts, and other local specialties.
Day 2-3: Belize Barrier Reef
Spend your days snorkeling on one of the premier barrier reefs in the world. Snorkel from the beach in front of your cabana or join two guided excursions each day. A variety of excellent snorkel and dive sites offer the opportunity to view colorful fish, beautiful coral, stingrays, eagle rays, barracuda, nurse sharks and much more. When not in the water, enjoy activities for everyone including kayaks, hobie cats, and short bird watching walks. Hire a fishing guide and try your luck fly fishing for bones, snook, or permit. Keep as busy as you wish, or slow down and relax in a hammock on the beautiful white sand beaches surrounding this primer Belize vacation resort. All snorkel activities are included, while dives can be purchased on site or in advance at an extra cost.
Day 4: Great Blue Hole & Half Moon Caye
An all day excursion by boat takes us to some of the most premier dive spots and barrier reef environments in all of Belize. Our first stop this morning is the Great Blue Hole, one of the most astounding dive sites to be found anywhere on earth. In the center of the Lighthouse Reef atoll, this large, circular sinkhole hole is approximately mile across and 480 ft deep creating the dark blue color. Experienced scuba divers descend into its depths to ancient caves among giant stalactites and stalagmites formed 15,000 years ago. The most lush and abundant marine life is found in the shallow waters surrounding the outer rim and among the many coral heads of the reef. Snorkeling is exceptional here with angelfish, butterfly fish, groupers and other fishes swimming among elkhorn, staghorn, and finger coral formations. We anchor-up to enjoy a Belizean style BBQ on the sandy shores of Half Moon Caye and visit the bird sanctuary to see red-footed boobies and frigate birds, and land iguanas. En route back to the lodge we stop at another special snorkeling or dive location to see the frenzied feeding of yellow snapper and the impressive barrel sponges.
Day 5: Punta Gorda
Transfer from the Turneffe Atoll to the Belize Municipal Airport and board your short flight to Punta Gorda, Belize's southern most town located on the Caribbean Coast. In Punta Gorda, receive a warm welcome and introduction to one of the centers of Maya culture, the undiscovered Toledo District. Drive 30 minutes inland to The Lodge at Big Falls, your home for the next four nights, which is situated on a meander of the Rio Grande. Arriving in time for a refreshing swim in the pool, enjoy a drink and brief orientation of the lodge before dinner is served in the softly lit thatched-roof restaurant.
Day 6: Lubaantun Ruins & Rio Blanco National Park
After breakfast investigate the Lubaantun Maya ruins, exploring the ancient temples, plazas and ball courts with your guide Steven Choco and learning the mysterious story of the Crystal Skull. Take a cable suspension bridge to a 1.5 mile jungle loop trail in the Rio Blanco National Park. Savor a picnic lunch and swim beneath the waterfall in this relaxing unspoiled wilderness getaway. On your way back to the lodge visit the Cal family home to learn about traditional ways of the Maya including how they take advantage of the trees, plants, and herbs in their surrounding environment to create food, medicine, furniture and a livelihood. Return to another delicious meal at your hotel.
Day 7: River Kayaking & Cacao Tour
Hop in a kayak and travel downstream on the Rio Grande from San Miguel village. Watch for iguanas falling into the river from the overhanging branches and kingfishers, herons, cormorants, sungrebes and other riparian bird species. Keep on the lookout for river otters and turtles before paddling back to the lodge for lunch. Relax on the lodge grounds before driving to San Felipe, to meet Joan Cho who manages a small chocolate making facility. Learn about the regions organic farming methods, drying and fermenting techniques and how his beans are used to produce the signature Mayan Gold chocolate bars, the first Fair-trade product. Roll up your sleeves and try your hand and roasting and grinding fresh cacao with sugar and spices to create your own chocolate bar. Continue on into Punta Gorda this evening to try a local Belizean diner at a local restaurant before returning to your hotel.
Day 8: Punta Gorda
Join your local Mayan guide, Steven Choco, for an early morning birding walk (6:30am). This is when the birds are most active and we’ll investigate a variety of bird habitats, including riverside, orchard, meadow and forest. Species regularly seen include both keel billed and aracari toucans, blue crowned motmots, black & white owls, striped cuckoos, many tanagers (crimson collared, scarlet rumped, blue-grey, etc) to name a few. Enjoy breakfast and then visit the home of Ray McDonald and the Warasa Garifuna drumming School where you Ray will teach you the basics of Garifuna drumming rhythms on the primera and segunda drums. This is literally a “hands on” experience and loads of fun. The afternoon is up to your discretion to choose your adventure. Your choices are to visit the home of the Chiac family who are well known for their traditional Mayan craft making skills, swim through the dark waters of the Blue Creek Cave, or wiz through the air on a newly constructed zipline course. Or choose to enjoy some leisure time to explore the environs around the lodge or grab a kayak or inner tube and paddle up the Rio Grande river which meanders through the forest next to the property. Your guide will be able to give you more information on each of these excellent afternoon activities to help you decide.
Day 9: Depart
Linger over breakfast, before your flight transfer from Punta Gorda back to the Belize International Airport. Board your international flight home with wonderful memories of relaxing beach time, invigorating adventures and fascinating cultural experiences.