We arrived in Belize at 3:30 pm on Sunday January the 4th, met with our EF tour guide Jewel, and headed directly to the Birds Eye View Lodge. The lodge is in a small village called Crooked Tree and is very secluded. The staff and accommodations were great and the students enjoyed the scenery.
On the second day, after a great breakfast, we headed to the Lamanai ruins. We were transported to the ruins by boat. During the boat ride Jewel pointed out wildlife and other points of interest. Once at our destination, we walked the trails that took us through the Mayan ruins of Lamanai. Jewel gave us a guided tour of the ruins, and students and staff were given the opportunity to climb a 109 foot Mayan temple. We then took the boat back to our bus, and returned to the hotel for dinner and a little relaxation.
Day three was a long travel day and we started very early. The students had some time to relax on the bus before our hike at Peccary Hills. Our tour guide Joseph showed the students how to hunt, what plants to eat and how to build shelters in the jungle. The students had the opportunity to try coconut water, sugar cane and all spice. A few students learned how to start a camp fire with flint and locally grown cotton. After the hike we headed deeper into the hills for lunch and zip lining. A little more than half of the students participated in the zip lining. All of the students that participated were very supportive of one another, especially to those who were trying it for the first time. They all had a great time. Once everyone was back on the bus we started our two hour drive to the Aguada hotel in San Ignacio.
On day four after breakfast at the Aguada we visited the Xunantunich ruins. This site is very large and had several temples and houses. Jewel talked to the students about the history of the site and gave us information about the archeological digs that are still happening today. The main house at the site is 130 ft. tall and most of the students climbed to the top. Aside from the ruins we also were able to coax a giant tarantula out of its hole and see some howler monkeys. Our next stop was at the Cornerstone Foundation for our community service. The cornerstone foundation is a nonprofit organization that was founded twenty years ago and is locally owned. They serve food to children at three schools in the area and they are funded through private donations. Our students were split into three groups; one group fed children at a school, another group fed children from the Cornerstone headquarters and our last group painted a mural on the building. Following our community service event we took a trip into the foothills to a Blue Morpho Butterfly sanctuary. The students learned about the life cycle of the butterfly and had a chance to walk through an enclosed butterfly habitat. Our last stop of the day was to the Santa Elena Primary School. They had an opportunity to interact with the students and hear about the school from the teachers. Finally we headed back to the Aguada for dinner and a birthday party for one of the students.
On day five our first stop was at the Orange Gallery where the students had a chance to get souvenirs for friends and family. After an hour drive we arrived at the Belize Zoo, 29 miles from Belize City. Jewel led our students through the zoo and gave a detailed description of each animal we encountered. The students were even able to hold a Boa Constricter. From the zoo we headed to Burrell Boom for lunch at the Old River Tavern and then it was off to the Community Baboon Sanctuary. After a hike through the jungle looking for Howler monkeys, the staff were able to get one to come down from the trees for us. The students were able to get within a few feet of the wild monkey for pictures. Finally we headed to Belize City to catch our water taxi to Corona Del Mar at Ambergris Caye.
Day six started out rainy but cleared up just in time for us to go snorkeling at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The students saw eagle rays, a sea turtle, nurse sharks, sting rays and many other fish on the reef. This was a great opportunity for some of the students to step outside of their comfort zones and try something new. After lunch at Pinocchio’s a few of the students went on a snuba excursion while the rest had an opportunity to take a break and relax after an eventful morning in the water. That evening after dinner a few of the students even participated in karaoke at the hotel restaurant.
On our final day in Belize the student woke up early and got back on the water taxi to head to the mainland. The students had a great trip and learned a lot from our time in Belize.