Some people do not mind a longer adventure and some prefer the shortest most direct route the “treasure.” This was the case with today’s guest poster, Barbara Hickman. She and her crew opted to do the popular Lamanai Maya Ruin tour by plane versus a longer day taking the tour by boat.
My best friend, my daughter, and I took a Spring Break trip to Belize. The highlight of our trip was the Tropic Air Lamanai tour. From start to finish, it was seamlessly organized, fascinating, and worth far more than we paid for it.
We caught our 8:00am Tropic Air flight at the San Pedro airport, and a half hour later we landed on a gravel air strip in Orange Walk, on the mainland of Belize. The plane was tiny and full, and the pilot was wonderfully humorous. One of the passengers was instructed by the pilot to sit in the co-pilot seat because it doubles as a passenger seat when necessary (“but you probably shouldn’t touch the controls, HA HA”). I think she actually sat on her hands so she would be certain to do what he asked! When we landed, it was a little breezy, and the little plane weaved and bobbed in the wind all the way down, but just before it touched down it straightened out and set down as smooth as glass. The pilot grinned and turned around to us all and said, “Pretty awesome landing, eh?” We all cracked up!
Our driver was waiting for us at the Orange Walk airport to take us to the place where we would be boarding the boat to take us up river to Lamanai. He took us by sugar cane fields and a sugar processing plant, and promised that when he picked us up in the afternoon that he would let us spend some time looking at those places in more detail (my best friend and I are both engineers, so we have a strange notion of what is interesting, compared to some tourists). In the meantime, he did a very nice job of explaining a bit about the history of Orange Walk and how sugar fits in – and he was not even our tour guide!!
We arrived at the boat and met our guide, Carlos Godoy and headed upriver toward Lamanai. The ride up the river took quite awhile, but we saw an amazing number of birds and plants, and Carlos knew the names of every single one! He stopped frequently to show us interesting things, such as John McAfee’s riverfront estate in Orange Walk, termite mounds in trees, bromeliads growing wild, and Carlos’ favorite spider monkey that comes running for a banana at the sound of his boat motor! We saw children playing in the river (and also alligators in the river!), fishermen catching their daily haul, an Amish family fishing, and so many more things before we even got to Lamanai.
When we finally arrived at Lamanai, it was early enough in the morning that we had the entire site to ourselves! On our way to the ruins, Carlos showed us the national flower of Belize (the Black Orchid), and and allspice trees and we smelled their leaves. We also saw strangler figs, kahoon trees, and howler monkeys.
The temples at Lamanai were incredible, and it was amazing to me that you can actually climb them (unlike those in Mexico). They were beautifully maintained and preserved given as remote as the site is. Not far from the ruins is an old abandoned sugar mill that we also explored.
It was a fantastic trip and everything was as smooth as glass. Every transfer, boat to van, van to plane, etc. was flawless. I cannot recommend Tropic Air highly enough for their flights and for their tours!
Click through to Tropic Air Tours page to see more great tour options by plane.