We were going into the turn a lot faster than I was expecting, but our guide appeared comfortable negotiating the river with his powerboat. Todays adventure was a river and lagoon boat ride to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai.
The company I fly for, Astrum Helicopters regularly flies trips to the Lamanai Outpost Lodge where folks can stay for a day touring the Lamanai ruins or spend several days at the Lodge enjoying the ruins and the incredible variety of birds and local wildlife.
As much as we like to fly to places, Paula and I had decided to get a different take on Lamanai by doing the river tour. One of the main advantages of an open air boat ride was the chance to enjoy nature in close proximity. There were countless shore birds, Egrets, Herons, Buzzards, Kites, Ospreys, Jacanas and an impressive nesting pair of Jabiru. According to our guide the Jabiru is the largest bird in the Northern hemisphere. It has a wing span to rival the Condor and it stands over 4′ tall. The Jabiru pair were nesting in a giant Guanacaste tree that looked like it could hold a small Belizean family. Interestingly, the Guanacaste tree is the tree the Mayans used to make their dugout canoes and is still used today. Here are some folks in one of the canoes. They might just fit in that nest.
We arrived in Lamanai with our small group and settled in for lunch at the picnic area with a larger group of international tourists and travelers. The river trip, lunch, guided tour and return trip was only $40.00 U.S. a piece. Good value for a 5 hour trip.
If you enjoy things Mayan, Lamanai is the place. Its interesting to me that Lamanai is one of the few Mayan cities where the name is actually known. Funny thing is, that most guide books will tell you that the name Lamanai means submerged crocodile. No, not really. The actual name of the place is Lamanyan . Lamanai translated means submerged or drowned bug or mosquito. Its always been a curiosity to me how mistranslated or Anglicized place names gain acceptance. Can it really be that much more difficult to say Roma rather than Rome or Turino rather than Turin? You get my point.
So many of the Mayan locations in Belize have local names that don’t reflect the grandeur of the former Mayan cities that existed on the site . Near San Ignacio the Mayan ruins of Cahal Peche look down over the city. Too bad not enough history survived to be able to tell us what the Mayans called their city. It sure wouldn’t have been Cahal Pech, which translates to “place of ticks”. Lovely name.
Paula and I have traveled to many of the Mayan sites and naturally I got thinking about a way to see several sites while still enjoying luxury accommodations . There are ruins near several major towns in Belize and some first class accommodations like the ones I mentioned at Lamanai. However once you have seen Lamanai and Altun Ha which are in close proximity to each other its a fairly long road trip to the San Ignacio area to see Actun Tunichil Muknal, Cahal Pech, Xunantunich (pronounced Su-nan-tu-nich) and even Tikal. Road trips have there place but having driven our Motorhome around much of Belize I can tell you that the highways tend to take the path of least resistance, which means flatter country and not as interesting scenery. I have a better plan for traveling the miles.
My plan would naturally involve helicopters and here is what I think would be a great trip. We pick up two to four people at the Belize international, fly them over to Altun Ha and the overflight of Lamanai and land at the helipad at the Lamanai Outpost Lodge for one or more nights stay. After enjoying Lamanai we fly everyone over to the Cayo district to the Lodge at Chaa Creek . On the way over to Chaa Creek we would fly by several beautiful waterfalls including 1000′ falls. We set down at the helipad at Chaa Creek and our travelers could choose to see any or all of the Mayan sites mentioned earlier.
My personal favorite is Actun Tunichil Muknal. Paula and I will be writing a blog about that trip later but suffice to say that it is an experience you will never forget and I believe will not be offered to the public for too much longer.
Paula and I at the cavern entrance to Actun Tunichil Muknal
Check out the links for more detail and/or check back later and we will have some personal insights into our Mayan experience. There are only about 30 more Mayan sites to see. We can hardly wait.