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Trip Report Trip Report for Belize and Guatemala, February 2010

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We just got back from 8 days in this part of the world (should have been 9, but a missed connection meant one night in Charlotte, grrrrr).

Here's our report in three sections:

1) Cayo

We spent two nights at Cahal Pech Lodge, which was a great choice for us. With the great view, screen porches, access to the Cahal Pech ruins, and bird life buzzing about it was a bargain. The service was also outstanding--they were very accomodating to us even though we had to cancel tours because of the delay in arriving. We ate dinner one night there--can't go wrong with the pineapple chicken. The pools are also nice and refreshing. Our second night's dinner was at Hanna's, and the food there is every bit as good as you read in the Guidebooks. Highly recommended.

Our one tour while in the Cayo region was the Caracol/Rio Frio cave/Rio On pools tour. This was a lot of fun--it combined ruins, jungle, and Mountain Pine Ridge. Wading in the pools was a great way to cool off and refresh. Caracol itself was the feature attraction, and it didn't disappoint--the Caana is amazing. It's also kind of cool to be part of a miltary convoy, though the road there is kind of brutal.

2) Guatemala

We arranged our transfer to Guatemala through Cahal Pech, and they did a fabulous job of seeing us to our final destination, the Tikal Inn. While you're hardly roughing it by staying there inside the park, those who are foodies (not a lot of great food inside the park--decent is what you can hope for) or who can't deal without electricity at night may have issues. But, we thought it was absolutely the right call. The archaeological reserve itself is its most magical and the surrounding forest is the most alive during early morning and late afternoon--the exact times missed by the day trippers.

If you like monkeys, Tikal is an incredible place to see Spider Monkeys. All over the place and very active, provided you're in the reserve at the right time.Howlers were easier to hear, but harder to see. The bird spotting and photography was also amazing. Trogons and toucans and parrots were everywhere. Collared aracaris flew right over our heads while we were in the pool at the Tikal Inn. There are also crocodiles near the visitors center and down the road from the old air strip.

Just an amazing time, and an overnight is a must if you have the time or if you're into nature.

The Tikal Inn was a perfectly nice place to stay, and quite reasonably priced by the standards of anywhere but Guatemala. It wasn't particularly hot while we were there, but the pool was still a nice luxury. They also set us up with a good local guide for the sunrise tour (it wasn't Roxy, but he was still good--he spotted an Orange Breasted Falcon for us). We were on the breakfast/dinner included plan, and the dinner choices were pretty limited--if we go back we'll probably opt out of that plan. Breakfast was pretty good, and I don't mind being limited to pancakes.

We spent our last full day in Guatemala doing the Tikal Canopy tour, exploring the grounds of the park a little more, and then traveling to Flores, where we spent one night before flying out the next morning. The Hotel Santana gave us a room with a great view of the lake for an extremely reasonable price, and Flores itself is a nice little town much more reasonably priced shopping than inside Tikal, and we had GREAT pizza and Pizzeria Picasso. The town itself is pretty buggy, however.

3) Lamanai.

The next morning, we flew out of the Flores airport back to Belize City on TropicAir. At Belize City, we waited at the private lounge area of our next destination, the Lamanai Outpost Lodge. Once our ride was ready, we headed out by van for about 1 hour and then took an unbelievably fantastic boat ride to the lodge for about 90 minutes. Not only was the ride itself beautiful and fun, but the wildlife itself was incredible. We saw dozens of species of birds, and got within 4 feet of a 10 foot long Morelet's crocodile. I would rank it right up there with the Cano Negro and Tarcoles boat tours we had in Costa Rica.

And this was just the transportation to our lodge.

When we arrived, someone from the lodge's front desk was waiting for us. They had someone take our bags to our cabana while we were told that lunch was waiting for us. That kind of service was typical for our stay there. The LOL was easily the most expensive place we've ever stayed, but we have ZERO doubt we got our money's worth. The food was fantastic (if you have any food issues or preferences, let them know in advance and you'll be taken care of) and the service was even better. The tours/experiences that were included in our package included tours of the ruins, a nighttime boat safari with a spotlight, sunrise canoeing, and a sunset birding/booze cruise aboard their pontoon. The wildlife spotting was remarkable, with howler monkeys EVERYWHERE, and all kinds of cool birds (we saw an Agami heron and several red-capped manakins, in addition to the toucans and parrots and trogons. Someone saw a lovely cotinga the next day at the ruins). Toss in some beautiful grounds, a serene setting on the New River lagoon, and you've got an extraordinary experience.

Our final morning, we woke up to a glorious sunrise, and after one last fantastic breakfast, we took the boat ride back and enjoyed the wildlife and scenery one more time. And, just to top things off, on the van ride back to the airport, we stopped to check out a couple of nesting Jabiru storks! It was the most fun we've ever had ending a vacation.

You can find pictures of our trip here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2055022&id=1302058692&l=3dcbd61a49

or here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/31267353@N03/collections/72157623505110930/

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