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Ancient Sites, Rain Forests & Coral Reefs

Exploring the Natural and Archaeological Treasures of Belize and Guatemala aboard the American small cruise ship Yorktown

January 12-19, 2013

Belize trip brochure (Flip book)
Professor of Biology Ernest H. Williams led a trip to the ancient sites, rain forests, and coral reefs of Belize and Guatemala. Visit Ernest Williams' website

    Itinerary:

      Day 1

USA | BELIZE CITY, Belize | EMBARK

Fly to Belize City, the capital of Belize. Upon arrival, transfer to the pier to embark on Yorktown. Overnight aboard docked in port.

 

Day 2

LIGHTHOUSE REEF

Sail from Belize City in the morning for Lighthouse Reef, navigating through the maze of small islands and cays of the Barrier Reef. Located 50 miles from the coast, Lighthouse Reef is an atoll that includes incomparable natural wonders. Land at Half Moon Cay, at the southern fringe of the reef, which is the breeding ground of the endangered red-footed boobies, as well as other birds, including magnificent frigates, mangrove warblers, ospreys, and others. After exploring this idyllic spot and viewing the bird colonies, board local boats for the short trip to the celebrated Blue Hole, a large circular formation with its incredible blue and black hues. Part of an underwater national park, the hole is surrounded by a 1,000-foot coral rim that rises to the lagoon’s surface. Back in Half Moon Cay, you will have the opportunity to swim and snorkel.

Day 3

DANGRIGA | MAYFLOWER BOCAWINA NATIONAL PARK | DANGRIGA

The largest town in southern Belize (population 11,500), Dangriga is the cultural center of the friendly Garifuna, a people of mixed indigenous Caribbean and African descent. On arrival, drive to the nearby Mayflower Bocawina National Park, a lush forested area at the foothills of the Maya Mountains. Walking trails through the forest lead to waterfalls and Maya temples, including Mayflower, a Late Classic site. The forest is home to over 230 species of birds, howler monkeys, and other wildlife. After exploring this area of great beauty, return to Dangriga to learn about the Garifun culture at the Gulisi Garifuna Museum, visit local artists' galleries and shop for fine crafts made by the Garifuna people. You may also relax and swim at a nearby beach

Day 4

SANTO TOMAS de CASTILLA | QUIRIGUÁ | SAN FELIPE FORTRESS | SANTO TOMAS de CASTILLA, Guatemala

Located at the head of the spacious Amatique Bay, Guatemala’s port town of Santo Tomas de Castilla is our gateway to Quiriguá and the San Felipe Fortress, two of the country’s most interesting sites. Surrounded by rain forest, Quiriguá is an ancient Maya center, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, that is justly famous for its superbly intricate and well-preserved carvings on huge stone stelae that are spread around the Great Plaza. After exploring the site, drive to the waterside village of San Felipe for lunch and a visit to its fortress, which was built by the Spanish in the mid-17th century to protect their trade routes from British pirates. Set at the confluence of the Dulce River and Lake Izabal, the fortress offers splendid views of the lake and the surrounding forest.

Day 5

PUNTA GORDA | LUBAANTUN | NIM LI PUNIT | SNAKE CAYS, Belize

Returning to Belize, we land at Punta Gorda, a small town set on cliffs above the sea. Drive inland to explore two rarely-visited ancient Maya sites, Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit. Located on a high ridge, Lubaantun was a major Maya center that flourished around 700 A.D. The site includes five plazas flanked by buildings and ball courts. Nearby, Nim Li Punit was the ceremonial and religious center of the region, and it is known for its impressive stelae. Return to Punta Gorda to re-board Yorktown. Over lunch aboard, sail to the Snake Cays, where we enjoy swimming and snorkeling.

Day 6

BIG CREEK | COCKSCOMB BASIN WILDLIFE SANCTUARY | PLACENCIA

From Big Creek, drive to one of Belize’s most alluring places, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, a dense tropical rain forest set against the jagged peaks of the Maya Mountains. Clear streams and rivers traverse this protected sanctuary that is home to a rich variety of wildlife, including tapir, armadillo, anteater, jaguar, and over 290 species of birds, including the endangered scarlet macaw, keel-billed toucan, and the great curassow. There is also a large range of plants, including orchids, air plants, and giant tree ferns. After exploring this sublime place, return to the ship and sail just across the bay to Placencia, a small fishing village that is becoming one of Belize’s primary resort areas, thanks to its superb white sand beaches. Spend time at leisure to shop and explore Placencia, as well as enjoy time at the beach.

 

Day 7

LAUGHING BIRD CAY & SOUTH WATER CAY

Sail early in the morning for Laughing Bird Cay, a tiny piece of land (2.5 acres) of a submerged atoll and a part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage site. Pelicans and osprey nest ashore, but the real attractions are found underwater, where the surrounding reef of luxuriant coral supports a tremendous diversity of fish and invertebrate life. Spend the morning swimming and snorkeling to discover this fantastic marine world. Cruising north in the Inner Channel, the tranquil waterway between the mainland and the Barrier Reef, we reach South Water Cay, arguably one of the most beautiful of Belize’s isles. Sitting right on the reef, South Water Cay, which is part of a marine reserve, affords memorable swimming and snorkeling in crystal-clear water, while the beach is ideal for relaxing. The southern part of the island is a protected nature sanctuary. Late in the afternoon, sail to Belize City, arriving in the evening. Overnight aboard docked in port.

Day 8

BELIZE CITY | DISEMBARK | USA

Disembark in the morning and transfer to the airport for the return flight home.

 

RESERVATIONS

For reservations or further information, please contact Travel Dynamics International at 212-517-7555 or toll-free 1-800-257-5767

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