Went to the Zoo at 8:30 when they opened after advice given---Belize in May is monster hot and the animals are much more active in the mornings than later...definitely enjoyed the birds including the Harpy eagle, toucans, mot-mots, and others, also cats including a new Black Jaguar which they just saved from death this past year, also ocelots, pumas and others, monkeys, tapirs (check out the "package" on the prime male---at least 4 feet long!!!), peccaries, otters and many other natives---I am not much of a fan of zoos, but this one seems to rehabilitate lots of damaged ones, and is fun to walk around when it is cool in the mornings---couldnt imagine doing this in the afternoon!
We only wanted to spend half a day snorkling so we took the 8am water taxi from BC to Caye Caulker (pronounced Key Caulker or Corker) arriving in CC at about 10 minutes to 9am....Nice trip with a full boat of locals and tourists and views of a couple of mangrove cayes on the way---we found Liberty Tours on the street leading to the other side of the island and bought a 3 stop snorkling tour---there are many other people selling tours...--we left at about 10:30 and asked to be back in time for the 1:30 water taxi back to BC (the next one is 4:30!) We had 3 stops as advertised, with rays, sharks, coral and lots of pretty bright colored fishies, as well as a 4 foot long barracuda who I tried to get a shot--those pix not ready yet! Had a drink at Una Mas right near the taxi terminal (it was the bartender Yamilla's birthday!) and had a cold Bellikin before catching the taxi back. Nice visit and wouldnt mind staying a night or 2 next trip!
Altun Ha are the closest Mayan ruins to BC and therefore get more tourists thanb any other site in Belize, including tons of cruise ship goers...The best advice is to go at 8-8:30 am while it is still cool and the throngs have not arrived yet---There are 5-6 large pyramids and structures among the palm trees and vines---very pretty early in the morning, even when a fairly large local school group showed up--it was fun watching their teachers lead games and chants about their local site--definitely climb at least one--we climbed the Temple of the Sun for photo ops of the whole site, but not for the faint of heart!
A very cool spot if you can beat the crowds----
This zoo about a half hour west of Belize city was formed to protect animals that formerly had been kept as pets. Today it has samples of most of the wildlife of Belize, many of which such as the cats would be extremely rare to see in the wild.
Occupied form about 900 BC to 1000 AD, Altun Ha was a regional site subservant to Lamanai. Despite that these compact ruins are very well exevated and preserved given a very good feel for what a Mayan plaza woudl look like.
The Belize Zoo is a delight to visit. It is a small zoo, about 125 different animals, but it is well worth your time. The animals are well cared for, and the staff of the zoo are supremely helpful. They were eager to talk about the animals in their care, even to the point of bringing around snacks to coax some of the more reclusive ones out into view.
You also have the option of visiting some of the animals up-close. Feeding the tapir, high-fiving a jaguar, etc. It gives you a really personal view of the animals, a glimpse of their size and personality, and is about US$5-10 per visit (beyond the cost of the admission). The entire zoo is a treasure, a great way to spend the day in Belize and see wildlife you otherwise might miss.
Fees: US$15.00 for adults and US$5.00 for children, non-Belizeans.
Hours: 8:30am - 5:00 pm
Highly recommend visiting this site in the Orange Walk District, take a boat tour up the Belize River till you arrive at the ruins. The ruins are large with a famous temple in the Center. You really get a sense of the architectural achievements of the Mayan Civilization.
Although treking to see the Mayan ruins, it is worth the trip. Most of these structures are well preserved and gives you a sense of how people lived in the past. It was a bit scary scaling the sides of the temple, but the view was worth it.
We used cavetubing.BZ for cave tubing from our cruise ship. We got the 1st tender off the ship as instructed and followed their instructions to find the guide. The owner's son, Vitalino Jr., was our driver, he gave us a lot of information on Belize on the hour drive to the caves. Our group was 12 in total, 8 that did just the tubing, 4 that did the zipline and tubing. We only saw the ziplining group before and after the cave tubing so we didn't have to wait for them to zipline. The walk through the jungle (do not ignore the note about bug spray if you are a mosquito magnet like my husband!) was not strenuous but you must be able to carry an inner tube and walk for 30-45 minutes. The guide stopped at various points along the way and showed us glue trees, had us taste termites, showed us poisonous trees and then the remedy tree that was next to it. Groups were racing past us so I'm guessing that their guides weren't showing them much of anything.
We passed by a point where he said that the cruise ship tours started so their tour was shorter as everyone gets back out at the same place. Once we got to the launching spot, we were eased into our tubes (no jumping or falling back into them) and hooked together in two lines of four. My husband's feet were under my armpits and I held onto the tube handle of the woman next to me. The current of the river this time of year when it's drier is very gentle and slow, this is not white water rafting, at least not in this season, it's a leisurely float down the river through some caves. The guide was with us the whole time guiding the rafts and we didn't break apart until the very end. The caves themselves are interesting to see and at one point everyone turned out their headlamps and we were in complete darkness.
After we finished up we changed clothes and then went for lunch prepared by Vitalino's family using his grandmother's recipes at Vitalino's Patio. They served us chicken, beans and rice, cole slaw and some fabulous rum punch, all very yummy. And then we headed back to port with plenty of time before the last ship tender.
If you are going cave tubing, I would highly recommend these folks, it's clear that it's a family run business, that they care about their customers safety and that they are enjoying the tour and Belize.
My only complaint was that the tubes used were a little hard on my neck, it might have been the position I was sitting in but if you have neck issues, you might check out VIV which has the tubes with the head rests.
The cost including lunch was $45 per person, they did not require a deposit and you paid in cash after the excursion.
We decided to go cave tubing after reading a lot of reviews on Cruise Critic, we hadn't done it on our 1st trip and it seemed like it was the most popular cruise excursion. There are a number of independent operators that run this trip for cruise passengers, I narrowed it down to two and finally decided on the most popular, Cavetubing.bz. The other one I was considering was VIV, a newer company that seemed to have better inner tubes with headrests but I ultimately decided on Cavetubing.bz because of all the positive feedback on Trip Advisor.
All of the trips appear to go to the same spot, Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve, based on the crowds coming and going, our guide estimated that on a busy cruise day that around 3,000 people do the cave tubing! But some of the trips do less of the river than the others, specifically the ones booked as shore excursions from the cruise lines.
From the port, it takes about an hour to drive to the cave sight, they outfit you with an inner tube, lifevest and helmet and then you set off for a 30-40 minute walk through the jungle to get to the caves.
You have to be fit enough to carry your own inner tube, but the walk wasn't strenuous and the cave tubing itself is like a lazy river. It wouldn't have been my 1st choice of an excursion had I not been to Belize before but we had already snorkeled at Shark Ray Alley and had already seen the Mayan ruins at Lamanai so we decided to do something different. You can combine cave tubing with ziplining, a stop at the Belize Zoo or some of the tours also included a stop at Altun Ha, another Mayan ruin.
For my review of cavetubing.bz, see the next tip.
Make sure to check out that old All-Spice tree at the beginning of your walk towards the Altun Ha Mayan Ruins.
If it was not told to us by our guide, we would have not known it. We even picked up some of the fallen leaves and started smelling them. It is so amazing to see something that I use as an ingredient in my kitchen and know where it is coming from!
These trees grow in Belize and these are used as ingredients to their food.
At the top of the Sun God Temple, there is a circular stone where the Mayans gave their offerings to their Gods.
Without a tour guide and much research, you will not able to tell that this circular stone was the place where the people before made offerings.
The Sun God Temple is the biggest structure in the Altun Ha Mayan Ruins. It is at the center of the Mayan ruins. You have to climb a steep stairway made of big slabs of stones to get to the top. This is where the Mayans made their sacrifices at the top of the ruin.
I rather visit the Altun Ha if I were you if I didn't have enough time in Belize. It is bigger and nicer than the Xunantunich and Lamanai.
It takes at least two hours to get there and two hours back and another two hours to check the place.
Don't buy tours that were sold by the cruiseship because they are expensive. There are many independent tour companies at the Terminal in Belize City that are holding placards. You can ask them. We paid $40.00.
Make sure to bring food and drinks. The food there are super expensive. And wear comfortable shoes.
Also, make sure to go there with a group because it will be cheaper. You can ask people around. And, make sure that your Belize City tour is included.
Visit the Altun Ha Mayan Ruins. It takes about 45 minutes from Belize District. There are many vans for rent down at the Belize District. Make sure to pack some snacks or lunch (especially drinks) because soda costs $8.00 there...Also, make sure to wear comfortable shoes. There are no paved ways going to the ruins. Also prepare yourselves for rocky, bumpy roads on the way to Altun Ha! The entrance fee to the Mayan Ruins is $10.00 per person.
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