The Central American nation of Belize is smaller than all but four U.S. states, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in remarkable diversity. On this trip, we will explore vast wetlands by boat, travel deep into the rainforest, explore ancient Mayan cities, and snorkel on the second largest coral reef in the world!
Belize has an incredible diversity of birds, boasting nearly 600 species. Some highlights include the Snail Kite, Jabiru, Keel-billed Toucans, and multiple species of motmots, parrots, trogons, and hummingbirds. Belize is also rich in mammalian life, with Yucatan Black Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, Kinkajous, Agoutis, and Tapirs.
We’ll also explore three different ancient Mayan cities throughout the tour: Altun Ha, Lamanai, and Tikal. The latter is widely regarded as the most impressive Mayan city today. Located just across the border in Guatemala, this vast city is a cultural marvel and a birder’s delight!
The final two days of the trip will be spent back in Belize on Caye Caulker, surrounded by the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. A snorkeling trip to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef will get us up-close-and-personal with the vibrant marine life, including corals, urchins, colorful tropical fish, and harmless nurse sharks and rays. The island also has unique birds such as Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Boobies, Yucatan Vireos, and Bananaquits. Once we get to Caye Caulker, we’re on island time, so there will be plenty of time for you to enjoy the island however you see fit!
Arrive in Belize City, make introductions, and drive to the lagoon island community of Crooked Tree. We’ll have some time to bird the grounds before dinner at the lodge.
In the morning we’ll explore the lagoon by boat with chances to see birds such as the Snail Kite, Jabiru, and American Pygmy Kingfisher. Later we’ll bird the upland part of Crooked Tree, looking for the beautiful Yucatan Jay, before finishing the day at the famous Mayan site of Altun Ha.
We’ll travel down the New River by boat, birding as we go, to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai. Once we arrive, there will be time to bird as a group, as well as to explore the ruins on your own.
After breakfast, we’ll head to the Community Baboon Sanctuary, where we will learn about the citizen-driven conservation effort focusing on the local Yucatan Black Howler Monkeys. We’ll also make a stop at the Belize Zoo, which features entirely native Belizean animals, before settling in at our next lodge.
We will start the day by walking the bird-rich grounds of the lodge, hoping for colorful species such as the Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari, and Lesson’s Motmot. We’ll then visit a nearby butterfly garden, where the flowers and feeders lure in an abundance of hummingbirds. In the afternoon, we’ll explore open, agricultural habitat with many raptors and flycatchers.
We’ll bird the lodge again in the morning, and then cross the border into Guatemala as we travel to the ancient Mayan city of Tikal.
Two full days to explore and bird Tikal, both as a group and individually. The birding here features a wide range of antbirds, trogons, euphonias, and much more.
Back into Belize where we’ll head to the coast to catch a water ferry to the island of Caye Caulker. There will be time in the evening to check out the many shops, restaurants, and pubs that the town has to offer.
In the morning, we’ll head out to the reef for a snorkeling adventure featuring nurse sharks, rays, corals, and a wide variety of colorful fish. The afternoon will be yours to relax on the island or go birding with the group. The island is home to some specialty birds such as the Yucatan Vireo, Black Catbird, and Bananaquit.
Back to the mainland where we’ll say our final goodbyes before heading home.
PRICE of TOUR: $4,195
SINGLE SUPP.: $1,130
START DATE: Jan 10 - 20, 2024
DURATION: 11 days
GROUP SIZE: Up to 14
TRIP FOCUS: Birds, Wildlife, and Mayan Ruins
Chris Payne grew up in rural Pennsylvania with two naturalists for parents, so he has been immersed in the natural world his entire life. Once he discovered the world of birds, he was hooked. After graduating with a degree in biology, he pieced together bird-related field work for several years before returning to school to work on an M.S. in biology. Leading nature tours is the best of both worlds for Chris: getting to work in nature surrounded by birds, but more importantly, getting to share that passion with others.
Rebecca Payne has always been avidly curious about the natural world. What started out as exploring the backyard of her childhood home led to an interest in exotic animals. While completing her B.A. in Zoo and Wildlife Biology, she was surrounded by teachers and mentors who nurtured her love for all things birds and birding. For several years, Rebecca worked in zoos across the country as an aviculturist, participating in breeding programs for endangered species, bird shows, and public outreach. Through these experiences, she discovered that her true passion lies in teaching others and fostering meaningful connections between people and wildlife. Rebecca has enjoyed many fulfilling teaching roles, from New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, to the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, to Pennsylvania State Parks. All the while, she has had her binoculars in hand, using birds and avian ecology to bring people closer to nature.
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