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Belize - Week 2

26th January

This morning we woke to low cloud over the town. It was quite picturesque.

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Before breakfast we had a wander around the hotel.

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After breakfast we headed off for a visit to the Belize Botanical Gardens.

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We had heard that we might get to see some toucans so that was why we went. They had an extensive botanical collection on 45 acres in the Cayo district. The garden is in a valley on the banks of the Macal River, surrounded by the Maya Mountain foothills. There was certainly a lot of plants that we hadn’t seen before.

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They had an enormous bamboo forest.

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We even got to see some bird life. Most was high up in the trees and impossible to get photos of. The keel-billed toucan is the national bird of Belize, it is very shy but we did get to see one. Our first sighting.

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We also got to see this magnificent bird. It was so colourful. It is a Collared Aracari. Most of the time I couldn’t see his tail.

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A Golden Fronted Woodpecker.

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After lunch Shane chose to canoe 3 hours back to San Ignacio. There was a vulture on the cliff.

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I wanted to go and visit Cahal Pech Mayan Archaeological site.

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I was glad I did as they were so different from anything we had seen so far. Even the door ways were totally different from any other Mayan ruins we had seen. Cahal Pech means “Place of Ticks”. The site was a palatial, hilltop home for an elite Maya family, and though the most major construction dates to the Classic period, evidence of continuous habitation has been dated to as far back as 1200 BC. Primary excavation of the site began in 1988.

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27th January

We were leaving Belize today so packed our luggage on the top of the bus.

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We farewelled the Cahal Pech Village Resort.

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This is the Belize and Guatemala border.

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There were lots of money changers there to provide us with Guatemalan Quetzales. They would take it in turns so that they all benefited from us.

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We then drove to Tikal, just over the border in Guatemala. We first booked into our hotel for the next two days, the Tikal Inn. We had lovely rooms by the pool.

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Arriving at Tikal we spent the day exploring this great Mayan metropolis, which can justly be compared with Egyptian and Greek masterpieces. Initially settled about 600 BC, Tikal was abandoned by its rulers around AD 890 and totally deserted a hundred years later. The city covered an area of 16 square kilometres. It was re-discovered in 1848 and opened to the public in 1955. It was recognised by UNESCO in 1979. Tikal in Mayan means “in the lagoon” but it’s still known as “the place of the spirit voices”.

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Only a few of its great temples and pyramids have yet been excavated. Here you can see a big mound. This has a temple under it.

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The next ruin we saw was part of the East complex.

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This temple is called The Two-Headed Snake Temple. It is the tallest temple in Tikal and in all Mesoamerica. It was built in 740 A.D. It is 70 metres tall.

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You can still climb it, so we did. The views of the temple top out over the jungle and the hidden city below are mesmerising.

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This is a pyramid not a temple, where again you could climb to the top.

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There were 360-degree views.

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This tree looked quite pretty with all the growth on it.

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This temple measures 57 metres in height and was built between the years of 550 and 650 A.D. It is the second temple in height.

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This is the Sloping Panel Temple.

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A couple of other ruins we saw along the way.

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Our last stop for the day was the Great Plaza. This is the most important part of the park because its buildings show the most impressive of Tikal’s architecture. These buildings took more than 1000 years to build.
In the plaza we saw:

The Big Jaguar Temple. It is 47 metres high and was built in 700 A.D. There was a tomb discovered in the temple.

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The Mascarones Temple. It is 38 metres high and was built in 700 A.D.

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Views of the plaza from the Mascarones Temple.

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The North Acropolis is where most of the engraved and smooth steles that describe part of the history of the governors. Its big platform holds eight funerary temples built in more than 300 years.

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This big mask was also found there.

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The Jaguar Temple and plaza from the North Acropolis.

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This is the Central Acropolis. It is a maze of buildings forming a series of seven internal patios.

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The Jaguar Temple and plaza from the Central Acropolis.

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The bird life was amazing.

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The Golden Oriole

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Another Keel Billed Toucan.

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The Loro Parrot.

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This wild turkey was so colourful.

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We watched a Lineated Woodpecker for ages, at one stage it fed its young in the hollow. The knocking noise it made as it tapped the wood was surprisingly loud.

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There were lots of coati running around.

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We got to see some Howler Monkeys which we had seen before but there was a gorgeous baby so I couldn’t resist another photo.

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We also got to see Spider Monkeys swinging through the trees. They were lovely.
One even had a baby on its back.

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28th January

This morning we got up early and did a bird walk. There was so much bird activity it was incredible. Once again some of it was hard to capture but we did manage to get quite a few good shots. We saw lots of the Keel Billed Toucan’s.

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We also spent ages watching a Yucatan Woodpecker.

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We also got to see a Yucatan Squirrel.

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Just by our hotel we were also lucky enough to see an Agouti which is part of the rodent family.

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We then took a drive to visit Guatemala's second largest lake - Peten Itza and the colonial island town of Flores.

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Flores is a town in Guatemala’s northern Petén region. It’s on an island on Lake Petén Itzá, linked by a causeway to the town of Santa Elena. After having a coffee stop, we headed out on a boat circumnavigate this little island. From any direction you can see the twin-domed Nuestra Señora de los Remedios cathedral.

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This is the little town of Tayasol which is on the peninsula.

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We did a small hike from Tayasol to a look out point so we could see Flores and the lake.

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I found this pretty bug as we climbed the stairs.

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There is a small car ferry which we thought was amusing. The driver sits at the back of the ferry.

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As we returned by boat, we saw a lovely kingfisher.

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We had some lunch at a traditional Guatemalan restaurant. We decided to have tacos which came in 4 different flavours. They were steak, chicken, pork & pineapple and a sausage one. They were so tasty. We watched the lady cooking the tortillas.

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After lunch we had a walk around town and visited the cathedral.

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The streets were cobble-stoned and very colourful.

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It only took 20 minutes to walk around the waterfront of the whole island, that is how small it is.

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It had been a hot day so after an hours drive back to Tikal the swimming pool was waiting for us.

Tonight the Howler Monkeys were really close up in the trees. They carried on with their loud howling late into the night and then woke us early when they started again. It isn't often that you can wake up experiencing this, so we consider it a real treat.

29th January

This morning we headed back to Belize City. We had an easy border crossing back into Belize and once in Belize City we took a water taxi to Caye Caulker. This journey took most of the day.

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Once a pirate lair, this tiny but enchanting tropical island lies 34km northeast of Belize City and about 1.6km inside the greatest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The water taxi transfer takes about an hour and was a highlight, speeding through the turquoise waters.

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We then headed to our hotel called the Anchorage Resort, which is right on the beach.

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30th January

Today we decided to go out on a lovely catamaran called the Gypsy Queen to Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

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Caye Caulker from the catamaran.

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Our first stop was the Coral Gardens. It was a bit rough, so I didn’t go in, but Shane did. There were a few small fish but lots of coral.

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He found an eel.

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He also saw a turtle.

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Our next stop was an amazing experience snorkelling in Shark Alley. No sooner had we pulled up there were nurse sharks everywhere. They are used to fishermen throwing things into the water so as soon as a boat arrives, they swarm.

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I was a bit nervous getting in but really enjoyed it.

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Our final stop was at Hol Chan Marine Reserve which is close to Caye Caulker. It covers approximately 18 km² of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. Hol Chan is Mayan for "little channel". There was even a floating ranger’s station.

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This is the best snorkelling we have ever done. It was wonderful. The varieties of fish in big schools was incredible.

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We even got to see 3 graceful angel rays.

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We sailed back through the split. This was originally cut out to create a short cut but over the years with hurricanes it has got bigger and bigger. It is now a place to go and see the sunset.

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31st January

Today we had one last chance to see a manatee. So, we headed off by boat to Swallow Caye which is a manatee reserve. This is part of the reserve and rangers’ station.

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The first thing we saw were some dolphins.

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Nearby was an Osprey nest. There was even a chick in the nest.

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There were cormorants and frigates in the trees.

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We then moved on to an area where manatees are known to feed on the sea grass.

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We were lucky enough to see 5 or 6 manatees. Well parts of them anyway. They didn’t pop up for long before taking a breath and heading back down.

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On our way back we stopped at another spot where there were stingrays and nurse sharks.

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Near Caye Caulker is a Tarpon Hole. These are the same fish we saw on our visit to Florida Keys. They can grow to 8 feet long; these were 3 or 4 foot.

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Shane put his hand out and pretended to feed them and they jumped out of the water. They told us to hold our hand out flat as if you put your hand into a fist their mouths are that big that they can try and swallow your hand.

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Tarpon from underwater.

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We then saw some sea horses. Part of their habitat has been destroyed so some clever business owner set up an area near shore where they were hoping they might come to and they did.

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Just before docking we saw the most unusual thing. There was a barge loading sand. But when we looked closer there were divers with buckets getting the sand, bringing it to the surface and passing the buckets up to the barge. No machinery here, all done manually.

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For our last evening in Caye Caulker we headed to The Split.

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We sat and had a drink at the Lazy Lizard.

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We stayed and watched the sunset.

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1st February

We returned mid-morning by boat to Belize City. We have had a fantastic time here in Belize. This sign says it all.

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We headed off to Belize City International airport for our return flight to Miami. We booked into a hotel for the night before our flight tomorrow. We are once again going via Doha. So we will sign off for this holiday. We hope you enjoyed our travels.

Posted by shaneandnicola 09:26 Archived in Belize

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