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Belize is one of the world's leading ecotourism destinations, with swathes of untouched rainforest, prolific wildlife, mangrove coasts, and one of the most extensive coral reef in the western hemisphere, second only in size and grandeur to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Add to that ancient monuments (over 900 ancient Mayan ruins are located in the country) and fantastic beaches and you have an ideal family adventure destination.
Explore Tour Leader
2 nights basic cabins
9 nights comfortable hotel
2 nights comfortable lodge
10 - 16
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Belize City, the capital of Belize until 1970 at which time it moved to Belmopan. Its a typical Caribbean town, parts of the town are still largely built of wood and galvanised iron, with many of the original colonial style houses in an elegant state of disrepair. The port is where most of the activity is, with boats coming and going to the offshore Cayes.
Our Leader plans to meet us in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Belize City at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Belize's Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (airport code BZE), which is 16km, around 20 minutes' drive from the hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
Belize City is usually a quick pitstop for travellers en route to get into the Belizean jungles or directly onto the Caribbean Islands. If you do arrive earlier in the day you might want to take a walk down the seafront towards the lighthouse and the port. The Belizean Tourism Village is also here - this colourful enclave of small shops, bars and restaurants was predominantly set up to capture the cruise trade but is a nice rest stop for a drink on non-cruise days.
It's worth noting that flights from the UK will likely require an overnight stay in the USA, with the most frequent flight options transiting via Miami or Houston. We recommend that you book an airport hotel, which often offer complimentary airport shuttle services.
Golden Bay Hotel (or similar)
Leaving Belize City on the northern highway, we turn off into the tropical interior and drive to the Community Baboon Sanctuary. Here we have a chance of up close encounters with the world's second loudest land mammal - the Yucatecan black howler monkeys in their natural habitat and learn about the close relationship these animals have with local people who benefit from their protection - confusingly the local people call the monkeys 'baboons'.
Later in the afternoon travel inland to the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, an important wetland habitat. Settle down for two nights enjoying the hospitality of our local hosts on the shores of the Crooked Tree Lagoon. Established in 1984, this maze of waterways and lagoons supports a wonderful variety of wetland species. For our first close up encounter with Belize's famed wildlife it's possible to use the hotels kayaks for an afternoon paddle in the lagoon. If the weather is fine we may take a sunset cruise on the lagoon in search of Green Iguanas and numerous wetland species including several species of kingfisher, heron, waders and raptors.
Birds Eye View Lodge (or similar)
If we failed to do the sunset cruise yesterday we can rise early this morning to explore the lagoon by boat. In this birdwatchers paradise we may spot wood stork, boat-billed heron, vultures, kingfishers, grebes, hawks, snail kites, jacanas and, perhaps most notable of all, the rare jabiru - the largest flying bird in the hemisphere with a wingspan of up to 4 metres. Over 250 resident and migratory bird species have been spotted in the park.
Returning to the lodge for breakfast, this morning we venture by vehicle to the New River and Tower Hill bridge for the boat ride upstream to the 2000 year old jungle ruins of Lamanai, one of Belize's largest Mayan ceremonial centres.
Water birds are abundant in this ancient rainforest and freshwater crocodiles may be spotted lurking along the river bank. Lamanai, the original name of these Maya ruins, means 'Submerged Crocodile', which helps to explain the numerous carved crocodile representations at the site. The ruins are only partially cleared; most of the structures are still consumed by the surrounding rainforest with its thick canopy of huge trees, in total 718 known structures have been uncovered. The humid atmosphere adds an aura of mystery to the scattered and overgrown relics and there is some evidence that the Maya practised human sacrifice here.
We return to our lodge mid-afternoon. For keen bird watchers you won't have to venture far from the lodge, the lake hosts an abundant population of neotropical birds, just fifty feet from the lodge.
This morning we make a short excursion on foot to explore Crooked Tree further. This was one of the first settlements the British made in the area in the early 17th century. Testimony to this is the many Scottish titles and surnames that still exist. The extraction of logwood for textile dyes is what brought the original settlers here and we can still see the logwood tree growing commonly along the shores today.
We bid farewell to the reserve mid-morning, heading by bus to San Ignacio, a traditional Belizean town. Straddling the Macal River, once a critical transportation artery for the Maya and later the European settlers, it is now a centre for visiting ancient Mayan sites making it an ideal place to base ourselves for the next couple of days.
This afternoon we will visit a Green Iguana breeding programme in San Ignacio dedicated to re-releasing these magnificent reptiles back into their native habitat. The rest of the afternoon has been left free to enjoy the pool or head into town to explore. Our base is a resort just ten minutes outside of San Ignacio, featuring individual cottages, beautiful landscaped gardens and a swimming pool.
Cahal Pech Village Resort (or similar)
Today we make a visit to the great classical Maya site of Xunantunich, Mayan for 'Rock Stone Maiden'. We travel the short distance to the area by bus, crossing the River Macal by traditional hand-winched ferry to arrive at the site. Occupied until about 850 AD, the main plaza is dominated by an awesome structure called El Castillo - a massive pyramid which rises to 40 metres. On the top is a partially restored stucco frieze representing the Sun God and astronomical signs of the Moon and Venus. The views are superb view from the summit, looking out over the forest with the Maya mountains to the south and the lowlands of Guatemala to the west.
This afternoon we drive through the traditional orthodox Mennonite Community of Barton Creek to a remote cave system. Leaving our vehicle, we board canoes and paddle into the Mayan underworld to explore the striking cave formations.
San Ignacio is at the heart of Belize's (small) inland tourism and offers many different activities. Today you can choose from several different optional tours in the surrounding area. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tikal just over the border in Guatemala is one of those options. Set in one of the America's greatest forest reserves known as 'The Maya Biosphere', Tikal and the surrounding forest are also home to many endangered animal species that are often seen here, living amongst one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world. Abandoned in the 10th century and rediscovered 900 years later, this huge site lies amongst an example of more than 1000 years of undisturbed tropical forest regrowth. The ancient site provides an atmospheric backdrop to some superb wildlife spotting; it's possible to spot hummingbirds flycatchers and honeycreepers, all to the chorus of Howler Monkeys roaring in the distance.
Other optional tours include a visit to the archaeological site of Cahal Pech. Very active families may like to consider a caving trip to the ATM Caves. This is a physical outing that involves a full day of activity, including three river crossings (ropes are used to cross), squeezing through some narrow channels in the cave walls, clambering over and climbing down rocks, and swimming through dark pools inside the cave itself. The pay off is a chance to see pottery and well preserved skeletel remains from the Maya times, but it's one for active families with experience - there is no ducking out point once you're in the caves. You may instead wish to visit the Belize botanical gardens and jungle lodge where we can tour the gardens, lunch, and then paddle back to San Ignacio along the Macal River, rich in birdlife, butterflies and iguanas; alternatively simply relax at the hotel pool.
Today we head south along one of Central America's most scenic roads - the Hummingbird highway. Our first stop will be at the Blue Hole National Park operated and run by the Belize Audobon conservation society. Broad leaf semi deciduous rainforests cover the limestone cliffs with a network of cave complexes hidden amongst the rich vegetation. Subject to local conditions, we aim to visit a large cave complex and swim in a crystal clear limestone sink hole surrounded by lush jungle.
Continuing along the highway through orange and cacao groves, our final destination is the tropical island of Tobacco Caye, located ten miles off the coast, a 20 minute boat ride from Dangriga Town. As one of the smallest islands in Belize, Tobacco Caye has an intimate, relaxed feel with a host of activities to choose from. We stay in cabins right on the reef's edge overlooking the ocean at the delightful Windward Lodge, a laid back collection of brightly coloured characterful beach cabins. Each cabin has a porch complete with a hammock to sit back and relax with the sounds of the waves breaking in front of you.
Windward Lodge (or similar)
Tobacco Caye measures just 200 feet wide and 400 feet long. Optional trips include visiting the small coral cayes, such as Bird Island a renowned local bird sanctuary. There are excellent snorkelling opportunities in the World Heritage Site of the Belize barrier reef system off the island as well as fishing tours, manatee watching and tours to nearby islands. A full list of costs of these activities is provided in the optional excursion section. Alternatively you can play beach volleyball, use one of the hotels kayaks or simply unwind in a hammock overlooking the ocean.
Enjoy a tropical island sunrise and optional guided pre breakfast snorkel trip with your tour leader. After breakfast the morning is free to kayak or snorkel, or just kick back and enjoy the island vibes and lifestyle of Tobacco Caye. This afternoon we head back by boat to Dangriga, and take a short drive back into the Maya Mountains appreciating the jungle clad scenery of Belize's interior.
Our base for the next two nights is a biology field station for Tropical Research and study. During our time here we will get a hands on experience of data collection and observations, starting with a bat misting net session this evening. Bat's make up Belize's most diverse mammal group with more than 40 different species.
Our accommodation is in rustic cabins in the jungle, in a bunk-house style. Each cabin has two or three bunk beds per room, with shared facilities. Although basic, the location in the jungle makes this a wonderful two night stop.
T.R.E.E.S Bunkhouse (or similar)
An optional pre breakfast ramble along forest trails allows us to showcase the incredible diversity of this tiny country. Belize's national bird - the Keel Billed Toucan is a common sight in this area and its frog like call is commonly heard from the tree tops in the early morning.
The Maya mountains are an important watershed for the country, and there are many waterfalls in the area to discover. Depending how active and energetic you're feeling you can either embark on a full day trip deep into the jungle interior to visit Davis falls, Belize's second highest waterfall or opt for a more sedate visit to Billy Barquedir National Park, home to the Billy Barquedir waterfall which has a delightful large forest pool and natural jacuzzi.
Davis Falls is a full day adventure on a specially adapted tractor trailer, we forge through eight miles of jungle dirt roads including eight river crossings before beginning a 45 minute hike through mature tropical forest to the foot of David falls at around 500 feet (120 meters). Its Belize's most impressive yet little visited waterfall, most of the time we will have the falls virtually to ourselves. There is ample time to enjoy the falls and take a refreshing dip before we retrace our steps back to our lodge. The total duration of the day is between six and seven hours. Please note if the river levels are too high we will head to the Billy Barquedir waterfall instead.
We leave the park this morning and head towards Belize City to take a water taxi to Caye Caulker. Once a pirate lair, this tiny but enchanting tropical island lies 34km northeast of Belize City and about 1.6km inside the greatest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. The water taxi transfer takes about an hour.
The island remains uncrowded and unluxurious, with relatively modest prices in restaurants and bars, owned and run by the friendliest of local people. The local fishermen catch lobster, conch, fish and crab to supply the domestic and foreign markets, so fresh seafood is readily available. (Lobster is the best buy when in season from Jun to Feb).
There's time to relax here at the hotel. The location is ideal to enjoy a number of optional trips over the next couple of days.
Costa Maya Beach Cabanas (or similar)
A free day to do as much or as little as you wish, and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Caye Caulker.The island remains uncrowded and unluxurious, and the local fishermen catch lobster, conch, fish and crab to supply domestic and foreign markets. It's a popular place with backpackers, so there is a proliferation of good, reasonably priced restaurants. There's time to relax or enjoy a number of optional trips. You may take a snorkelling trip out to the nearby Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark and Ray Alley, or take a full-day trip out to the Manatee Reserve to observe manatee in their natural mangrove habitat. Scuba diving is also available.
Another free day to relax or enjoy the optional activities available. Caye Caulker is surrounded by coral reefs and excellent swimming and snorkelling opportunities along the reef. You may like to take one of the free sea kayaks from the hotel to explore mangrove forests rich with birdlife, alternatively it's possible to hire bikes to explore the island at your own leisure taking in the fine views of the crystal clear Caribbean ocean, coral sand beaches and swaying palm trees. For those looking to kick back and relax the hotel has a fine beach front location with stunning views of the Caribbean Sea.
The trip ends at our hotel on Caye Caulker. From here, we get a water taxi back to Belize City. The water taxi takes around one hour. The earliest water taxi is at 6am and operates throughout the day. An onward road transfer to Belize's Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (airport code BZE), will be provided. The earliest your flight can depart is 9.30am.
For those on later flights we will provide unaccompanied water taxi transfers later in the day with connecting onward road transfers to the airport. If departing today from Belize City, these transfers will be provided free of charge.
Sub-tropical with a brisk prevailing wind from the Caribbean. Summer highs are rarely above 35°C, winter lows rarely below 15°C. Annual rainfall ranges from 107cm in the north to 364cm in the south and humidity can be high at any time of year. The rainy season extends from June through October with a short dry period in August, but some rain can be expected throughout the year.
2 Pin Flat
A selection of optional activities are listed below to help you budget for your Family adventure. Whilst the basic tour price you pay before you travel includes a great selection of highlights, we have also built in free time to allow you the flexibility to choose from a carefully selected range of additional excursions and activities or take time to relax, the choice is yours. At certain destinations along the way there may be several options to choose from and it may not be possible to fit all the activities in; your Explore Leader will be able to give advice on which are the most suitable for your family. San Ignacio (day 6): Cahal Pech archaeological site - $5USD San Ignacio (day 6): Non escorted/non guided; full day trip to Belize Botanical Gardens - $60 USD San Ignacio (day 6): Visit the botanical gardens, lunch included, and paddle on the River Macal San Ignacio (day 6): Caving excursion to ATM Caves, lunch and transport included - $125 USD San Ignacio (day 6): Full day trip to Tikal inc. transport, entry, guide and lunch - $145 USD (based in min. 3 persons) Tobacco Caye (days 7,8): Fishing trips - $30 USD per hour per person (minimum 3 persons) Tobacco Caye (days 7,8): Boat trip in search of Manatee's in the mangrove lagoon, including time to snorkel off Carrie Bow Field Station - $50 USD per person Tobacco Caye (days 7,8): Canoeing and kayaking - free of charge (3 kayaks are available, its possible to hire more locally for $15 USD per kayak per hour) Tobacco Caye (days 7,8): Snorkel gear - free of charge Caye Caulker (day 12): Caye Caulker Marine reserve snorkel Trip - $50 USD per person Caye Caulker (day 13): Boat trip to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and snorkel trip - $100 USD per person Caye Caulker (day 13): Boat trip to North Island Reserve $35 Adult $17.5 (under 15 yrs)
Bring lightweight, informal clothing suitable for jungle activities. A jumper or fleece is advisable for cool evenings and you'll need a good lightweight waterproof jacket all year round or a poncho or small umbrella. Long sleeved shirtsnorkel shirt and long trousers give protection against thick forest growth and insects on jungle walks. A swimming costume and sun hat are essential.
Lightweight trail boots are preferable for jungle paths, and you'll want to bring sandals. Bring shoes you don't mind getting wet for exploring caves and wet beach landings.
One main piece of luggage and a daysack. Remember, you are expected to carry your own baggage so don't overload yourself.
Insect repellent, a torch, water bottle, and suncream. Binoculars are essential for bird and animal watching.
The first night is based in Belize City, which we use as a gateway meeting point. Our hotel is located on the coast, with spacious rooms. The hotel features a swimming pool and a choice of two restaurants. We then move to the shores of the Crooked Tree Lagoon in one of the oldest European settlements in Belize. This area is rich in wildlife and especially birds. All of the rooms are ensuite and have air conditioning and fans with included meals served at the lodge. We then head to the Cassia Hill Resort situated ten minutes from the lively town of San Ignacio. The resort features a number of individually well-appointed bungalows each containing a combination of 1 double and 1 single bed with en suite bathrooms. All units are fully air conditioned and have ceiling fans, flat screen TV's and hammocks on the balcony with fine views of the lush rolling hills of the Maya Mountains and San Ignacio. The hotel is set in manicured tropical gardens with a swimming pool, outdoor bar and dining area. Days 7 and 8 are on the tropical island of Tobacco Caye where we stay in beach cabins located right next to the Caribbean Sea which is just a few feet away from your room! Rooms offer views of the great barrier reef and Caribbean sea and contain a private bathroom, electric fan and a deck with chairs and a hammock. The hotel offers a beach volleyball court and free use of kayaks, paddle boards and snorkel gear. There is wi-fi in the main reception area. Our most basic and adventurous accommodation is in the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Reserve on Days 9 and 10 which is a protected area that is thought to have one of the densest populations of cat species in the America's. Our accommodation is in bunk houses deep within the forest at the parks head-quarters. The lodge has a number of rooms which have three bunk beds per room with shared facilities. While in the jungle, local Mayan ladies cook delicious meals in the kitchen while we explore the forest, rivers and waterfalls. We then drive back to Belize City, using the local water taxi, to the Coral Caye Island of Caye Caulker. This charming island is 32 miles north east of Belize City and just a mile away from the breaking waves on the world's second longest barrier reef. Our hotel for three nights is set in a quiet location with a private beach and use of canoes (when available). All rooms have fridges, ensuite facilities, air conditioning and fans, balconies and outside seating. A perfect location for the end of the tour and to relax at the beach or take snorkelling excursions before returning by water tax to Belize City.
The hotels in San Ignacio and Belize City have pools and there is snorkelling by the barrier reef
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Belize: Visas are not required for UK, New Zealand, Australian, US and Canadian citizens. Guatemala: Visas are not required for UK, New Zealand, Australian, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. You should confirm all visa related issues with the relevant Embassy prior to departure. USA: (including those in transit) Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can enter the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) - where you apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), which applies if you enter the country by sea or by air. This must be done on line - https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have an electronic passport with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. Please note for your ESTA application you will be required to supply Point of Contact information. Explore' s USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. If you are leaving for the USA before this, please call the Explore team to get this information.(Not necessary if in transit) For further information please check out the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, TB, infectious hepatitis and polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.