Sports and the Outdoors in Hopkins Village
Sports and the Outdoors
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary has excellent birding, with some 300 species identified in the reserve. You can also sometimes see the jabiru stork, the largest flying bird in the Western Hemisphere, in the marsh areas just to the west of Hopkins Village. Keep an eye out as you drive into the village from the Southern Highway. North of Hopkins is Fresh Water Creek Lagoon, and south of the village is Anderson Lagoon. These lagoons and mangrove swamps are home to many waterbirds, including herons and egrets. A kayak trip on the Sittee River should reward you with kingfishers, toucans, and various flycatchers. About 30 minutes by boat off Hopkins is Man-o-War Caye, a bird sanctuary that has one of the largest colonies of frigate birds in the Caribbean, more than 300 nesting birds. Hamanasi, Jaguar Reef, and other hotels arrange bird-watching trips. Costs for guided birding tours run from BZ$50 to BZ$200 per person, depending on where you go and the length of time.
Canoeing and Kayaking
When kayaking or canoeing on the Sittee River, you can see many birds and, possibly, manatees and crocodiles. Manatees and porpoises are often spotted in the sea just off the Hopkins shore. If you go on a tour with a licensed guide from a local lodge, expect to pay BZ$100–BZ$150 per person. Several hotels in Hopkins, including Tipple Tree Beya Hotel, Hopkins Inn, Jungle by the Sea, and All Seasons Guest House, rent kayaks, canoes, and other water equipment by the hour or day. Although it's possible to do sea kayaking from Hopkins, often the water is choppy. Long sea-kayaking trips should be tried only by experienced kayakers, preferably with a guide.
Caving tours from Hopkins typically go to St. Herman's Cave and the Crystal Cave at Blue Hole National Park on the Hummingbird Highway. Cost is around BZ$120–BZ$150 per person.
Diving off Hopkins is very good to terrific. The Barrier Reef is closer here—about 10 miles (17 km) from shore—than it is farther south. Diving also is fairly costly here. Half-day, two-tank dive trips to the South Water Caye Marine Reserve are around BZ$200–BZ$280, not including regulator, BCD, wet suit, and other equipment rental, which can add BZ$50. Dive shops with fast boats can also take you all the way to the atolls—Turneffe, Glover's, and even Lighthouse. These atoll trips generally start early in the morning, at 6 or 7 am, and last all day. Costs for three-tank atoll dives are around BZ$380–BZ$400 for Glover's and Turneffe, and BZ$580 for Lighthouse and the Blue Hole. In late spring, when whale sharks typically show up, local dive shops offer dives to see the Belizean behemoths at Gladden Spit Marine Reserve for around BZ$400. Marine park fees (sometimes included in dive trip charges) are BZ$10 each for South Water and Glover's marine reserves, and BZ$20 for Gladden Spit.
Hamanasi. One of the best diving operations in Southern Belize is at Hamanasi. They have three large, well-equipped dive boats, including a 45-ft. boat with three 200-horsepower outboard engines. Hopkins. 533/7073. www.hamanasi.com.
Most hiking trips go to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, where there are a dozen short hiking trails near the visitor center. Full-day trips to Cockscomb generally cost about BZ$120–BZ$150 per person from Hopkins and can be booked through your hotel. If you're a glutton for punishment, you can go on a guided hike to Victoria Peak, the second-highest mountain peak in Belize. The 40-mile (67-km) hike from the visitor center at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary to the top entails inclines of 45 to 60 degrees. Most of these trips require three to five days up and back and cost in the range of BZ$600–BZ$800 per person (minimum of two people). One guide who will take you on jungle tours is Marcos Cucul (www.mayaguide.bz). He is a jungle survival guide who is a member of the Belize National Cave and Wilderness Rescue Team.
Local lodges arrange horseback-riding trips, working with ranches near Belmopan and Dangriga. A full-day horseback trip, including transportation to the ranch and lunch, is around BZ$150 per person.
Local lodges offer trips to Gales Point and the Southern Lagoon to try to spot Antillean manatees, a subspecies of West Indian manatees. These large aquatic mammals—adults weigh 800 to 1,200 pounds—are related to elephants. They're found in shallow waters in lagoons, rivers, estuaries, and coastal areas in much of Belize, and are especially common in the lagoons around Gales Point. These gentle herbivores can live 60 years or longer. The cost of manatee-spotting trips varies, but is around BZ$150 per person. Under Belize government guidelines, you're not permitted to feed manatees, to swim with them, or to approach a manatee with a calf.
Snorkeling off Hopkins is excellent, though expensive compared with the Northern Cayes. Half-day snorkeling trips from Hopkins to the Belize Barrier Reef, usually a pristine section of it in the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, cost from BZ$150 to BZ$230 per person. These snorkel trips are at least twice as pricey as those to Hol Chan from Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker, partly because the trip out and back to snorkel sites here is longer, and also because there's less competition to hold prices down. Full-day whale-shark snorkeling trips (usually whale sharks are best seen in late spring and early summer, around the time of a full moon) are about BZ$350–BZ$400.
Windsurfing is a growing sport in Hopkins, as the wind is a fairly consistent 10 to 15 knots, except in August and September, when it sometimes goes calm. The best winds are in April and May.
Windschief. Windschief rents well-maintained windsurfing equipment for BZ$20 for the first hour, then BZ$10 for additional hours, or BZ$60 a day. Private lessons are BZ$60 an hour. Windschief also has beach cabañas from BZ$60 a night double, and a bar. Hopkins. 668/6087. www.windsurfing-belize.com.
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