Cayo District, Belize
Ians Cave Branch adventures offers a number of outdoor adventure activities located in the middle of the jungle. Night walks, cave rafting, rapelling down into the jungle through the canopy 500 ft after a very long jungle trek was an amazing experience. The guide was very experienced and at the end a delicious meal awaited us.
Drink lots of water and watch out for the bastard trees!
I'd never been kayaking before, but I gave it a try down the Mopan River! Since we were there during the dry season, the rapids and waterfalls were very mild. It was a lot of fun -- we saw many iguanas and wildlife along the way. It was also a lot of fun to see the local children playing and splashing in the water -- very cute.
Sadly, I wasn't very good at the actual kayaking -- every time I tried to paddle our kayak would head straight for the river banks! So I just relaxed and let my husband do all the work!
The Cayo District is located west of Belize City along the Guatemalan border. It is the largest district in Belize (a district is like a state or province) and is a beautiful area of rolling hills covered in lush jungle vegetation. There are many waterfalls and caves to be explored here. You can also swim or canoe along the Macal and Mopan rivers, birdwatch, visit a butterfly farm or a site of Mayan ruins.
San Ignacio is set in the heart of the Cayo district along the western highway and makes a great base for all your jungle excursions. See my San Ignacio pages for more info and photos.
Rent horses and a tour guide for a trip through the jungle or to ruins. The guides are full of information about the birds, vegetation, ruins, history and rural life. Be sure to ask them to show you an allspice tree, tourist tree, and ask about the sybolic significance of the four colors of the North, South, East and West, and the story of the tree of life. Maybe you will be lucky enough to spot a Scarlot Winged Parrot, monkeys or a Toucan while you are in the jungle.
Mark from Clarissa Falls Resort will, for a small fee, drive you to the ferry that crosses the river to the ruins. He will also run tubes up to you, if you call him when your finished exploring the ruins (from a pay phone across from the ferry), enabling you to tube back down to Clarissa falls. Lots of wildlife. A very eco-friendly experience.
From Clarissa Falls Resort (the end of the tubing trip) it's quite easy to hitchhike back to San Ignacio. Very safe and an excellent day trip. Highly recommended.
Be sure to get out to this district as see the various Mayan Ruins and 1000' falls. There are several day-trips and multi-day trips of interest that start here.
For a great tour operator, talk to Lenny @ Maya Walk Tours. (use their btl.net email address listed on their webpage)
If you're out in San Ignacio, spend a day canoeing the Macal River -- there are many great places to visit along the way. Be sure to stop at Chaa Creek and the Rainforest Medicine Trail! This trail is dedicated to Don Eligio Panti -- a famous healer from San Antonio. The director of the Ix Chel Tropical Research Station (at the beginning of the Medicine Trail), studied with Panti. Panti was 103 years old when he died in 1996. There is a shop where you can buy products of the forest -- if you're suffering from a bit of sunburn, pick up some of the natural salve for sunburn (I can't remember the name of it) -- but it works!
From Santa Elena (near San Ignacio), take Cristo Rey Road -- through Cristo Rey village -- about 10km further, you will arrive at San Antonio. Many of the locals speak Yucatec and/or Spanish and English. This village is the home of Don Eligio Panti (died 1996) -- he was a famous curandero -- His home (pictured) has been turned into a little museum -- which includes some fantastic information about his life and his traditional (Maya) healing practices. Also visit the Garcia sisters -- they are renowned for their slate carvings -- the sisters have a guest house and gift shop. There are lots of great hikes in and around San Antonio
About a 10 minute drive out of San Ignacio we were taken to a little waterhole, on the edge of the jungle, probably jaguar, crocidiles, and many other animals just minutes away, we really enjoyed a cool down from the extreme heats and humidity
I really loved visiting the butterfly farm. You feel like you're in a fairy tale as you stand in a screened room filled with beautiful plants and flowers as butterflies fly all around you, sometimes even landing right on you. The Green Hills Butterfly Ranch which we visited had 27 varieties of butterflies, so it was truly beautiful.
I would also be sure to make a trip to Tikal in Guatemala. We took an all-day tour to visit these Mayan ruins, and it was a very powerful experience. Tikal has been extensively excavated, and the view that you have from the top of the highest temple is really beautiful.
Carlos took us to many of the places tourist would never be. Usually we were the only people there. He took us to many water falls so we could relax in the water or jump off of them. I even jumped off of a 50 or so foot rock into the river. While we were all on top of the rock, we saw something in the water. We thought it was an iguana, but as it swam closer and closer, we found out it was a snake. We jumped anyway. The first pic is me up on top and the second you have to look for me...i bend into the rock :)