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Planning Belize trip

Old Feb 29th, 2012, 05:27 PM
  #1  
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Planning Belize trip

I’ve read a lot of trip reports and general Belize posts for the last years or so (this trip was supposed to happen a couple years ago), but now we are ready to go in Feb 2013.
We are in our mid 40s, love nature, photography, snorkeling, good food and this will be our first trip to Belize. With an almost finalized itinerary, here I am for a sanity check:

Day 1 – fly from Newark to Belize, transfer to Lamanai
Day 2, 3, 4 – Lamanai – any suggestion of a special cabin request, or are they all the same?
Day 5 – Transfer to Tikal (somehow)
Day 6 – Tikal
Day 7 – Transfer to South Water Caye - any suggestion for the best way to get from Tikal to Dangriga? I want to make this as painless as possible, so while not looking for the cheapest option, we cannot afford a private plane either.
Day 8, 9, 10, 11 – South Water Caye
Day 12 – Transfer to Ambergris Caye
Day 13, 14, 15 – Ambergris Caye (Victoria House)
Day 16 – Transfer to Belize City and fly back home

I am pretty happy with the jungle/beach split, but I am wondering if I should take a day from SWC and add it to Lamanai…
I will appreciate any thoughts and suggestions you might have. Thanks
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 02:37 AM
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Hi, there! You have a couple of really long transition days on Day 5 and Day 7. If you try to go with public transit or set it up on the fly you'll feel like you'll traveling the whole day, I'm afraid. Private shuttles and flights could bring the travel time down but are pretty expensive. Here's a great website with links to your options:
www.belizebus.wordpress.com
If you stayed the night of Day 5 in the park at Tikal and Day 6 in Flores you could fly from Flores to Belize City and on to Dangriga.

2 things you don't have on your list that we love are the Belize Zoo and the ATM cave; many of us choose to stay a couple of nights in western Belize to catch those.
www.belizezoo.org
http://pacztours.net/actun-tunichil-muknal/

For Tikal, consider contacting archaeologist/naturalist Roxy Ortiz - she's terrific:
www.tikalroxy.blogspot.com

You can read about our trips and see photos using the link below. Happy trails!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 02:39 AM
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I just wanted to say have a great trip. You will love Victoria House.
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 05:33 AM
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hopefulist,
You have a good point…2 big travel days, and very close to each other. Unfortunately I do not have another day/night for Flores, plus, I am not a big fan of one-night stay.

I am wondering if the effort to go to Tikal it’s worth it.
Maybe another option would be to save Tikal for a future Guatemala trip, and this time, use the 2 nights for something else (or even take 1 night from SWC and add it to these 2).

Considering that we are not interested in ATM, what would make sense here?
Thanks a lot
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 10:59 AM
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I've uploaded a few Lamanai cabin photos so you can see the difference in the views http://pix.kg/p/4112833731105%3A1101591920/scl

The cabins slope downward as you get closer to the lagoon. We stayed in #9 which is the lagoon view cabin closest to the lagoon. From our deck we had a peekaboo view of the lagoon (there's a lot of vegetation). There are 2 stand alone lagoon front cabins #14 & 15 closer to the dock (in the last 2 pics they're above and slightly to the right of the airboats) and 4 other lagoon front cabins #10-13 that share a long deck with hammocks. There are also 2 garden view cabins with AC but we didn't find it necessary in Feb. My splurge pick would be 14 or 15. If the view isn't important, then really any cabin is fine. Hope you enjoy LOL as much as we did!

For nature/wildlife, I would also suggest Chan Chich but it would probably involve a charter flight back (the cost was close to $300 for 2 passengers in 2009). It was an easy transfer from Lamanai about 2 hours by road.

Is it not possible to spend night 6 in Tikal and fly out of Flores on the morning of Day 7? I've never been to Tikal so am not familiar with the logistics. I'm with you on one nighters though and would lean toward skipping Tikal. The Lamanai site is walkable from LOL and you can visit/revisit on your own as much as you'd like. Again my point of view is coming from someone who has never been to Tikal.

I think Cayo is enjoyable even if you don't do ATM (we've been twice and not gone to ATM). There's not as much visible wildlife as at CC or LOL but the birding is good and you'll see some different species vs the habitat at LOL. And it's an easy transfer to Dangriga. I think it was less than 2 hours by road. We left duPlooys at a reasonable hour in the morning, stopped at the Blue Hole, made it to Dangriga for lunch and got on a boat to Thatch Caye mid-afternoon.
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 11:15 AM
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Thanks for the diagram, Patty - Lamanai interests me, so that's very helpful.
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 12:36 PM
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Patty,
Thanks a lot - The chart and the pictures are great (I could not find anywhere a resort map), I think we would like 14 or 15, because view is always important.

I picked LOL because DH is not a birder, and it seems that LOL offers enough birds and wildlife, the most varied activities, and it has the lagoon views. Plus, the price was better. The other lodges (Chaa Creek, Chan Chich) seem to cater more to birders, so I am afraid he would get bored there. We both loved Bosque del Cabo, but that was our first jungle experience, and the view was great…

I think LOL is a good choice for us, but I might replace Tikal with a Cayo jungle lodge if logistics to get to/from Tikal prove too complicated. However, at a first look, Tropic Air seems to have several flights/day for all our destinations, so that might work.
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 02:32 PM
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I'm not a fan of 1-night stays, either, just mentioned Flores because the flights and express buses leave from there. If you're thinking of visiting Guatemala in the future, I'd save Tikal. If you spend your extra time in Cayo you could visit Xunantunich or another ruin if you wanted or just focus on Lamanai this trip.

If you're not wanting the water part of ATM but are interested in other caves, let us know and we'll share some other ideas with you.

Another spot we like is Hopkins Village, a bit south of Dangriga. We think the Hopkins Inn is pretty much perfect and love the evening drumming at the Lebeha Center.
www.hopkinsinn.com
www.lebeha.com

Keep us posted!
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 02:59 PM
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I don't know if it interests you, but we did canoeing at Barton Creek and loved it - really pretty, and there are some artifacts there.
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 04:04 PM
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hopefulist,
I have no idea if we’ll get to Guatemala in the future, I hope to, but who knows?

We are not interested in ATM, or any other cave where we would have to go on our hands and knees or through narrow tunnels. I saw youtube videos that you need to swim to get into ATM (or other caves in the area). What do people do with their cameras? I cannot imagine going anywhere in Belize without it…
VG, Bartoon Creek canoeing sounds really nice.

We just got back from Maya ruins tour in Mexico, so I am not sure how interested we might be in more ruins for a while. Tikal seems different, bigger, we could do the sunrise tour there, plus everybody says that wildlife there is ABUNDANT. If it is “just another Maya ruin”, and the wildlife similar to what we’ll see at LOL, maybe I need to reconsider and really explore another jungle lodge that offers something else other than birding and caves. Maybe duPlooy?

Really, I am not trying to be difficult here…and I truly appreciate all the suggestions. But how do I decide, 2 nights Tikal or 3 nights duPlooy? We would have to probably to take a day away from South Water Caye.

I need help. Thanks
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 06:05 PM
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xyz,
I'm also planning a trip to Belize and had Tikal on my initial agenda. I decided to scrap that plan and add Lamanai. We will also be at Chan Chich (best place to see cats) and Cayo where we plan to take a day trip to Caracol.

My understanding is that the most common way to get from LOL to Tikal is via plane thru Belize City. We do want to do the ATM cave, so I didn't want so spend so much time getting to Tikal.
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 07:26 PM
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Chechem Ha and Actun Chapat are 2 other potential cave visits - no swimming or tight spots. I LOVE caving but the thought of tight spots makes my stomach turn over. We have little waterproof cameras we used in the ATM cave; the guides each carry a dry bag for non waterproof cameras and you get them out once you reach the dry part of the cave, then return them to the bag for the exit.

If you're more into Maya sites than caving and you're not sure you'll get to Guatemala in the future, then I'd pick Tikal. It is definitely not just another ruin and the wildlife viewing is wonderful. I may have already mentioned this, but try to arrange a guided tour (or tours!) with Roxy Ortiz if you go. She's incredibly knowledgeable and a pleasure to be with - can't wait to get back to Petén this summer for a few more days at less-visited ruins.
www.tikalroxy.blogspot.com

Here's a technique for choosing that I learned from one of my sons when he was 6; we both still use it:
Go "eeny meeny miney mo" and when you end with "you are not the ONE" and experience a brief flash of relief or disappointment you'll know which you want.
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 07:58 PM
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X, we did see some wildlife at Tikal, but it's nothing compared to someplace like Bosque del Cabo. We saw some cool oscillated turkeys, aracaris, and spider monkeys.
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Old Mar 5th, 2012, 05:43 AM
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We were not impressed with the Belize Zoo and were in and out in 20 minutes but with a rental car for 5-6 hours we were hard pressed to find much to see in Belize City. The Gardens were noit impressive either. This visit was in May 2010.
I assume you are not an avid snorkeler because if you were I would suggest, based upon your budget, you would get much better quality snorkeling at an island just off the mainland called Turneffe Island Resort. They take you in a car with A/C to marina and you launch 35 minutes to this lovely peaceful island with very nice rooms, good food. They take you out to the reefs twice a day for about 75-90 minutes. They offer though expensive, great bone and tarpon fishing. We are returning for our 3rd visit this April.They require a 4 night minimum.
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Old Mar 5th, 2012, 06:05 AM
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Stan,
1) Thanks for the Belize Zoo tip - I was not too keen to go see it (a zoo it's still a zoo in my mind), so we'll skip it

2) We love snorkeling, and TIR looks great, but I was looking for snorkeling from shore, and it seems that while we cannot find that at Turneffe, we could at South Water Caye.

We would meet their 4 nights min requirement...maybe I need to rethink this portion of our trip.
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Old Mar 5th, 2012, 08:56 AM
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The Belize Zoo is not like any other zoo I've heard of. It's a huge conservation and education effort. All the animals are indigenous to Belize and none are caught in the wild except for the problem jaguars that have to be removed from their areas. They've basically just cut swaths through the jungle and netted the animal's enclosures so the setting is very natural. The signs are hand painted, unique, and informative, and show the sense of humor of the zoo's founder, Sharon Matola.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharon_Matola

Check out these online photos of the zoo:
https://www.google.com/search?q=beli...KueeiQLhy9m0Bg

If you have any interest in the flora and fauna of Belize I'd say it's a must do.
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Old Mar 5th, 2012, 11:02 AM
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hopefulist,
Thanks - I really appreciate the conservation and education effort, and I understand that these animals were all rescued and would not have a chance in the wild otherwise.

But...they are still caged and I do not have a strong desire to see them. For the same reason I had to skip the trip to the Animal Sanctuary when we visited Costa Rica.

But who knows, maybe if we have time we'll stop there this time...
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Old Mar 5th, 2012, 04:21 PM
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It feels much more like the people walking the jungle paths are caged to me and the animals are in their native habitat. There's plenty to do without it, though. Happy trails!
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Old Mar 5th, 2012, 04:28 PM
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I wanted to add that I get it that some people just like seeing beautiful places when they travel which Belize also offers, but a big part of why I love to travel is to learn about the natural environment and the cultural and environmental issues of a country. Reading "Jaguar" by Alan Rabinowitz and 'Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw' about Sharon Matola's environmental fights and then visiting the Jaguar Preserve and the zoo and seeing their work in action fills the bill. To each his/her own, but frankly I think I get more bang for my travel buck than most people.
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Old Mar 5th, 2012, 04:30 PM
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I agree, on so many levels. And I know, sometimes I am the caged one, but that's life.
We'll enjoy Belize no matter what, I'm sure...
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