Swimming into the underworld!
We booked a daytrip Mayan ruins/caving combo. The adventure started with a boat ride across the lagoon, where Aahsum has a van parked. Our tour guide was a young man named John (I wish I could tell every Placencial tourist about him, because without him our adventure would not have been the same).
We visited ruins Lim Ni Punit , which was not a dissapointment. John knew everything about this site and explained all great historical detail.
It was time for lunch and John brought us to a little house where a woman served us homemade tortillas, chicken, rice on her front porch. The family dogs were scratching under the picnic table and a scraggly kitty was rubbing against our legs. A parrot perched on the railing and a horse was tied to a rock in the front yard amongst the flies and animal droppings. We were okay with it, though. We left with full bellies!
About 1hr further we came to Blue Creek Caves, which ancient Mayans called the underworld. We hiked to the cave entrance with turquois creek water running from it. With life jackets & headlamps we followed John into the entrance. ONE MILE DEEP INTO THE CAVE we swam against a current and climbed over serveral series of rapids. The further we went, the stronger the current and the larger the rapids we needed to climb over! After about 1hr, deep under the mountain was a waterfall that roared from the ceiling 50ft high. We turned off our headlamps & listened. John swam in the falls. We headed back & swimming out was as challenging as swimming in.My niece was swept down the first set of rapids & plunged 6ft into the rocky pool below. We both made it out with minor scrapes and bruises, despite the fear of smashing my teeth at any time.I felt like I climbed Mt.Everest, like I accomplished the impossible. At the end we sat inside the cave mouth while it rained,watching hundreds of bats flying in & out of the cave. My niece and I will remember this excursion forever.
Don't Miss This!!!
By far the most fun I've ever had on any vacation (and I've been on a ton!) was on Doyle Gardiner's tour of the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve. It includes a jungle hike chock full of all kinds of fascinating facts and surprises, a great lunch, tubing down the river, swimming under a waterfall, and sliding down the river rocks. He's the only guide that includes the rock slide portion, which makes it the unforgettable experience of a lifetime!! As a budget traveler, I was tempted to do the trip myself, but took my friends advice and went with Doyle (booked thru Nitewind Tours, at the south end of the sidewalk). It was worth every penny, and then some! If you are lucky enough to visit Placencia, you HAVE to do this tour!!! Of course the diving in Placencia was world class, and the beaches are the best in Belize, but this tour took my breath away.
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Adventure Travel
Cockcomb Jaguar Reserve
Unfortunately, Jaguar are nocturnal, so the chance of seeing one during the day is very slim, but I still highly recommend the excursion. We saw so much interesting flora and fauna, birds, and some interesting animals. It's a large jungle with a lot to offer, especially a breathtaking waterfall and relaxing tube ride down South Stann Creek. Remember to bring sneakers and hardcore mosquito repellent
- Hiking and Walking
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Go for the grand slam!
The fishing was incredible, we caught everything. We didn't get any tarpon to complete the so-called Grand Slam, but we caught a bunch of Bonefish and and a Permit. We were even spin casting, so don't worry about not being able to fly fish. THen we went out around Ranguana Cay and caught all kinds of Mackerel, Snapper, Jacks, and way too many Barracuda. We also got a couple Skipjack Tuna. There were a bunch of other fish, but the gist is that it is something that must be done while in Placencia.
Monkey River Tour
This was the highlight of our visit to Placencia. We used a tour agent called "Ocean Motion" located on the sidewalk in the village. For $50 US per person, they offered tours at 6:00 and 7:30 AM. We selected the 6:00 departure because it would be more comfortable. The small boat picked us up on the beach at our hotel and went to Monkey River village via some mangrove pathways. The boat driver was very friendly and knowledgeable, pointing out various species of birds and vegetation. He served fresh organge juice ad watermelon on the trip. We picked up a guide in Monkey River Village and proceeded to a place up the river where we got off the boat and hiked for a mile or so in the rain forest. We saw a few monkeys, lots of birds, and interesting flora. Then boarded the boat, went back to Monkey River Village, had a soda and left. We then searched the ocean and found porpoises and mantees. We are able to get very close and enjoyed taking pictures of the sea life. Then back to Placencia. Whole trip was about six hours. One bit of advice: the mosquitos are bad enough in Placencia, but they are even worse in Monkey River jungle area. Wear long pants and shirt and hat, and spray yourself with lots of Deet.
Placencia holds the record for having the narrowest street in the world. The ‘pavement’ is 3 feet wide and serves as the main thoroughfare through the village, it is lined with hotels, restaurants and dive shops.
Placencia has a long beach on the one side of the peninsular where most people swim and sunbathe. The beach nice white sand and the sea is fairly calm so its good fro swimming and snorkelling, we saw a few starfish just off the beach. When we were there, there was a bit of rain so a lot of seaweed and debris was washed up on the beach. There was also quite a lot of litter on the beach, its pity that it is not cleaned up since the main source of income here is tourism.
Snorkeling is always a sure bet in the Placenica area, however the best snorkeling is off a boat or on one of the many Cayes. There is one area off the beach that kept the kids busy for hours. At the tip on the pennisula is a resort called Trade Winds right out front is the ruins of an old dock - just beyond the dock is a small area with interesting sea life to look at.
We almost didn't do this but I'm so glad we did. Go to the Splash Dive Shop in the marina (or any of the dive shops, but Splash is great) and ask for a daytime snorkeling trip to one of the Cayes ("keys") on the reef. They will take you out in a boat for about a 1/2 hour drive and you can swim with the fishes (or bow-legged women, whichever you prefer). For only $40 US each you get an all-morning/most of the afternoon trip to the Laughing Bird Caye in Gladden Spit national park, on the Barrier Reef, and lunch is included. (and lunch is good too).
The national park fee is $10 US. You get a guide who will help you snorkel in the area on the reef. You will be on a little tiny island out in the middle of nowhere, but it's fantastic.
If you go in March, you may get a view of a whale shark, a very rare sighting. We missed the whale shark, but people with us saw a big ray in the water, and we saw many flying fish leaping out of the water. And about 100 kinds of colorful fish, lobsters, and coral under the water that was unbelievably beautiful. Don't miss this tour! It's an enormous bargain for what you will experience.
Snorkeling is easy but it can be a little tricky to not breath out of your nose, which is important. I hadn't done it before except for the day before. You will have a guide but make sure you are in your swimming comfort zone and that he is aware of how much experience you have.
- Diving and Snorkeling
- National/State Park
During the months of May and June the gentle whale sharks make their appearence. You must travel to the outside of the reef which is quite a distance and risk of sea-sickness sets in. The whale sharks are huge (size of a bus) with enormous mouths used to filter their meals through. They are very gentle and curious. Seeing them is a give or take, recently the sightings have been less and less so it would be a good idea to check with the tour agencies before heading out.
- Diving and Snorkeling
- Whale Watching
Hiking through the jungle
Coxcomb basin is an area of subtropical rain forest nestled between the Maya mountains. It's name comes from the cockscomb profile of the nearby mountains. The area is a protected jaguar reserve and is home to over 250 kinds of orchids, tree fern, air plants and vines, almost 700 varieties of trees, more than 290 species of birds and 5 species of wild cats.
The park has an equiped interpretative centre with guides on hand to lead a light tour down some jungle paths, the chances of actually seeing a jaguar are slim to none but it does get the adrealine going.
There are additional heavier hikes over trails full of cutter ants carrying their loads off to unknown destinations.
When we were there you could rent a tube for around 5 bucks and float down the river listening to the tucans and howlers off in the dense foliage. The river is basically slow moving with the biggest risk being scraping your butt on the rocks in the shallow areas.
At one time (and I believe is still available) you could spend a night in one of the cabins at the park.
At the entrance to the park is a fairly comprehensive Mayan centre selling the typical but beautiful Mayan wares.
** remember bug spray!!!
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
The belize zoo is well worth visiting. Happy healthy animals, knowledgable staff, easy access and safe.
Kids will love the spider monkeys, howler monkeys, a beautiful jaguar, crazy tapir (the national animal of Belize) and so on.
The zoo pays homage to Belizean culture and national treasures and is wonderful way to spend the day.
- Family Travel
The Garifuna people are unique to the eastern shore of Central America, less than eight percent of the population are Garifuna. The religous practices are guarded and seem to be a combination of African, Indian with a scattering of Catholicism. Their music, known as punta or punta rock, involves maracas, drums and turtle shells (where the famous Turtle shell band derived it's name). The punta dance is a subtle movement below the hips, the upper body barely moves, it's all in the hips and it a LOT harder than it looks, very sexy.
Garifuna culture performances have sprung up around Placencia, though most of the singers and dancers live in Seine Bight, a small Garifuna village north of Placencia.
Ask with your hotel for information on seeing a performance, many of the north end hotels sometimes offer performances, Turtle Inn, Kitty's Place, Robert's Grove.
- Religious Travel
Exploring the caves
A great inland adventure is the river-cave system about an hour away from Placencia. You climb up a mountain, get in to a hole that's maybe 2 feet wide, continue your way as you go deeper into the cave, surrounded by a multitude of bizarre formation of stalactite and stalagmites The you jump into the river inside the cave and float for around 15 minutes until you hit daylight again. Once we floated out of the cave, several Mennonite men and women in their traditional clothes were standing on the rocks above the river, looking at us. It was very surreal.
- Adventure Travel
Exploring the Mayan Ruins
Visit the Mayan Ruins site of Nim Li Punit. If you have been to Palenque, Tikal, Copan, or Chichen Itza you won't be overly impressed with the ruins of Nim Li Punit but you will enjoy the silence and the absence of the tourist hordes. There are several tour operators in Placencia that offer trips to Nim Li Punit and other sites