2016 Itinerary

Curved walls at Lubantuun.

Curved walls at Lubantuun.

Belize is only the size of Northern California yet contains an incredible amount of biodiversity and tremendous cultural history.  We’ll visit several ecoregions in Belize as well as two ancient Mayan cities (Xunantunich and Lubaantun) – both partially restored.  The Belize Zoo and the Maya Mountains are also on our agenda along with Coral Reefs, Toucans, and an Underground River (among many other sights and sounds).

Keel-billed Toucan.

Keel-billed Toucan.

We start our adventure as we board our planes to reach our ultimate destination: Belize.  Once in Belize, we’ll receive the warm hospitality of the Tropical Education Center (3 nights), Blue Creek Rainforest Reserve (3 nights), South Water Caye (4 nights), and 2 nights at Bocawina Rainforest Lodge (in Bocawina-Mayflower National Park).  Each of these locations affords us a base of operations as we explore the unique features of that area including the myriad kinds of flora and fauna we’ll encounter. We will also have an opportunity to closely see birds and bats as we will be doing netting for these flying animals.  Special trips to Xunantunich and to Lubaantun also allow us to

Frieses at Xunantunich.

Frieses at Xunantunich.

experience these ancient Mayan cities and to reflect on the civilization that ruled this area of Central America a thousand years ago.

Here is what our itinerary looks like…

  • January 4 – Arrive in Belize in the afternoon.  Tonight at the Tropical Education Center.
  • January 5 – Day hikes in the savanna and visiting the Belize Zoo.  We will also have a special guided night tour of the Belize Zoo with some of their wildlife care specialists.  Overnight at the Tropical Education Center.
  • January 6 – Day trip to Xunantunich.  Overnight at the Tropical Education Center.
  • January 7 – Bus picks us up and we go to the Blue Creek Rainforest Reserve in the tropical rainforest of southern Belize.  Tonight at Blue Creek.
  • January 8 – Guided hikes in the forest at Blue Creek.  Tonight at Blue Creek.
  • January 9 – Guided hikes in the forest at Blue Creek.  Evening activities at Blue Creek.
  • January 10 – Depart Blue Creek and visit Mayan ruins at Lubaantun.  Lunch in Dangriga at a small local open-air restaurant.  Boat ride to South Water Caye.
  • January 11 – Activities at South Water Caye – along the barrier reef.
  • January 12 – Activities at South Water Caye – along the barrier reef.
  • January 13 – Activities at South Water Caye – along the barrier reef.
  • January 14 – Boat ride back to Dangriga and then we’re driven to the lodging facilities at Bocawina Rainforest Lodge.
  • January 15 – Activities in the Maya Mountains at Bocawina-Mayflower National Park (relaxing, hiking, zip lining, waterfall rappelling) – note that the zip lining and rappelling are at extra cost.  Tonight at Bocawina Rainforest Lodge.
  • January 16 – After breakfast we’ll have a little bit of time to relax before we get picked up by bus for the ride back to the airport.  Arrive back in Sacramento this night.  Some of you might choose to stay longer and you are more than welcome to do so.

More in-depth daily details of our activities are provided in below sections….

Lodging at South Water Caye

Lodging at South Water Caye

Lodging is generally dorm-style with the chance to upgrade to double-occupancy cabanas for more cost (and based on availability).  The food is wonderful at all of these lodges and field stations and there are also vegetarian options available (but no vegan options – sorry).  We will need to have some money for a couple of lunches while we are driving to new locations and as we come back to TEC from Xunantunich. In Belize, chicken is a major staple of lunches and dinners – the spices used in Belizean stewed chicken makes it simply wonderful…mmmm, mouth is watering just thinking about it!5

Details of our Itinerary:

  • Day 1 (January 4, 2016) – We will need to arrive in Belize in the afternoon to meet the charter bus at the airport (late afternoon) that will take us to the Tropical Education Center. The TEC is a component of the Belize Zoo and is located in the savanna and pine woodland of central Belize.  We’ll have dinner at the TEC and then spend overnight at the TEC.
  • Tapir


    Day 2 (January 5, 2016) – After breakfast we will have the morning and afternoon to explore the savanna and pine forest around the facilities at the TEC as well as walk to the Belize Zoo.  After dinner we’ll go to the Belize Zoo for a private guided night tour of the Zoo. In past trips, we’ve had the opportunity to feed the tapir, kinkajous, agoutis, and jaguars during the night tour – really an amazing experience to get a piece of apple taken from you by a tapir or a piece of chicken taken from your hand by a jaguar!  Overnight at TEC.

  • Main pyramid at Xunantunich

    Main pyramid at Xunantunich

    Day 3 (January 6, 2016) – After breakfast, we board a charter bus for a trip to the ancient Mayan city of Xunantunich. This city is perched on a hill and was once one of the most powerful city-states in the region. It was abandoned in 890 AD and once had a population of approximately 200,000 people. We will have a guided tour of restored portions of the site. We will have lunch at a restaurant (you’ll need to have a bit of cash for the lunch).  Dinner and overnight at TEC.

  • Blue Creek Station

    Blue Creek Station

    Day 4 (January 7, 2016) – After breakfast, we’ll load onto a chartered bus for the trip down to the Blue Creek Rainforest Reserve in southern Belize. This station is owned by International Zoological Expeditions and is located on the west bank of Blue Creek in the tropical rainforest. We’ll arrive in the late afternoon and will be greeted by children from the village. They will ask to carry your luggage (oftentimes very persistently) over the 1/3rd mile long trail to the lodge. Between $3 – $8 US should be given for each piece of luggage (depending on size and weight). We will have dinner at the lodge and a guided night hike along trails in the forest.

    Flowstone in cave at Blue Creek

    Flowstone in cave at Blue Creek

  • Day 5 (January 8, 2016) – This is the start of two full days at Blue Creek. We’ll have the opportunity for various guided hikes for both days. For example: an ethnobotany hike, a birdwatching hike, a hike into a cave system, a cave swim, and activities in the local Kekchi/Mopan Maya village. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is provided at the lodge.
  • Sturnira lilium

    Sturnira lilium – Orange-shouldered Bat.

    Day 6 (January 9, 2016) – This is our last full day at Blue Creek. We’ll have the daily guided activities as described above and will also have the option of just relaxing and/or birdwatching at any time. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is provided at the lodge.

  • Lubantuun


    Day 7 (January 10, 2016) – After breakfast, we’ll load into a charter bus and go to the Mayan ruins at Lubaantun. We’ll have a short, guided hike through the restored portions. After our tour, we’ll reboard the bus and head to Dangriga. On the way to Dangriga, we’ll stop (if we have time) at the Mayan Women’s Cooperative Craft Center where you can purchase handcrafted arts and crafts. For lunch, we’ll be stopping at a local small restaurant for a quick lunch (this lunch is



    covered by the cost of the trip) and then catch a boat that will take us on a 45-minute ride out to South Water Caye. Dinner will be at South Water Caye.

  • Day 8 (January 11, 2016) – We’ll have all of our meals at South Water Caye and our lodging will be in dorm-style housing. We will have the option of upgrading to double-occupancy cabanas for a nominal upgrade cost (if available). In the morning we’ll snorkel along the barrier reef at the south end of the Caye. During each day, we’ll be
    Red Urchin

    Red Urchin

    able to participate in a guided trip to other snorkel locations or to one of the nearby islands. Evenings will be spent relaxing at South Water Caye. Of course, all activities are optional and you can always choose to simply relax and take in the “Island Atmosphere”.

  • ShrimpDay 9 (January 12, 2016) – Again, all meals are at South Water Caye and there will be optional activities during the day. One of these activities may be a trip to the Smithsonian’s research facility on Carrie Bow Caye. This is also a spectacular snorkeling spot so we’ll bring our snorkeling gear for after the tour of the facilities.
  • Patch Reef at Whale ShoalDay 10 (January 13, 2016) – This day would be similar to Day 9 except instead of a visit to Carrie Bow Caye, we’ll go on a snorkeling trip to a patch reef. This is a reef that is just below the surface with no above water component (island) above the reef. This is another wonderful location to see reef creatures.
  • WrenDay 11 (January 14, 2016) – After breakfast, we’ll load our luggage on the boats and get a boat ride back to Dangriga. On the boat ride, we’ll likely stop at Man-o-War Caye – a bird sanctuary with a nesting colony of Magnificent Frigate Birds and Brown Boobies – to take a close look at these beautiful birds as they fly around the island and the boats. Once we reach Dangriga, we’ll transfer our luggage to a charter bus and be taken to the Bocawina Rainforest Lodge in the
    Panorama at Bocaina

    Panorama at Bocawina

    foothills of the Maya Mountains. We’ll have lunch here and then can either relax on the grounds or take a hike into the forest or over to the stream and waterfall. This resort is located within the boundaries of Bocawina-Mayflower National Park, in the northern portion of the Maya Mountains.  A large, unexcavated Mayan city once existed here and is evidenced by the numerous mounds and artifacts on the site.  This is an opportunity to see an archeological site that is largely unrestored.  Dinner and overnight at Bocawina Rainforest Lodge.

  • Greater Stripe-faced Bat

    Greater Stripe-faced Bat

    Day 12 (January 15, 2016) – After breakfast, we’ll have the opportunity for various activities including: relaxing around the grounds of the lodge or hiking along the established trails or zip lining or rappelling down a waterfall.  The zip lining and waterfall rappel are at additional costs to participants.  Lunch, dinner, and overnight at Bocawina Rainforest Lodge.

  • PuffbirdDay 13 (January 16, 2016) – Our last day in Belize (unfortunately). After breakfast, we’ll have a short period of time to relax before we have to load our luggage on our charter bus for the ride back to the airport.
  • While these are the plans for activities, they may be somewhat adjusted based on their availability and if something new is offered up by the Belizean guides. Past trips have been able to choose from all of the items listed above. Meals are covered throughout the trip with the exception of a couple of lunches while we are on the road. These snacks/meals are not covered in the trip cost. In addition, drinks and snacks are also not covered by the trip cost.

The total cost of the trip is $2,175.00 (not including airfare) and includes the following:

  • Three night accommodations at the Tropical Education Center.
  • Three night accommodations at Blue Creek Rainforest Preserve.
  • Four night accommodations at South Water Caye Marine Reserve.
  • Two night accommodations at Bocawina Rainforest Lodge in Bocawina-Mayflower National Park.
  • All meals (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) while at our accommodations.
  • Shuttle transportation (Airport to TEC, TEC to Xunantunich back to TEC, TEC to Blue Creek, Blue Creek to Lubaantun, Lubaantun to Dangriga, Dangriga to Bocawina).
  • Transfers by boat (Dangriga to South Water Caye, South Water Caye to Dangriga).
  • Full day excursion to Xunantunich with Guide and lunch while traveling today.
  • Guided nocturnal tour of the Belize Zoo.
  • Two half-day guided activities each day at Blue Creek.
  • Excursion to Lubaantun with Guide.
  • Traditional Garifuna drumming performance and lunch at the Lebaha Drumming School.
  • Four guided snorkeling excursions at South Water Caye.
  • Use of kayaks, paddle boards, and the marine facility at South Water Caye.
  • All tips for Guides and other services (up to 10% level…additional tips may be donated if you choose).
  • All taxes (9% hotel, 12.5% Goods Services and Transport).
  • The South Water Caye marine reserve fee ($15/person).
  • Entry fees to Xunantunich, Lubaantun, and Bocawina-Mayflower ($30/person total).

What is not included are:

  • Some meals – e.g. at the airports, traveling down to Blue Creek, snacks.
  • Any additional tip you wish to give for excellent service to guides, drivers, housekeepers, chefs, etc.
  • Any additional excursions or activities that are not listed above.
  • Souvenirs and other purchased items for yourself.
  • Drinks or snacks purchased at the lodging facilities that are not included in meals.
  • Your airfare and your transportation to the airport (excepting in Belize with the group).

Keep in mind that accommodations are largely dorm or group style and meals are similarly group-style where we all gather at one time to have our meals.  Vegetarian meals are available and most food allergies can be accommodated.

Violaceous Trogon

Violaceous Trogon


Wood boring beetles in the Maya Mts