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National Geographic Eco-Tour of Belize and Guatemala

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Written by Marshall Cossman.

In February, 2008, my wife and I took a 10 day National Geographic eco-tour of Belize and Guatemala. It was educational, exotic, and we had 17 other tourists with us who were most interesting. From Belize City, the capital of Belize, we flew to our first camp, Golden Stream, in the middle of the rainforest of southern Belize. The landing strip was a short dirt runway cut in the forest.

In two days we visited two Mayan ruins, Nim Li Punit and Lubantuum, dating from 730 BC to ca. 800AD. From here we canoed down Golden Stream to our second camp, elevated above the forest floor by about twenty feet. Though we were always given down time and the choice of relaxing in the camps or going on hikes through the rain forest, there was always something of interest to see or talk about. Our National Geographic guide was Belize expert with about 20 years of experience there though he worked in Washington, DC at National Geographic headquarters. Each day he gave a powerpoint talk on what we would be seeing the next day, the ecology, and whatever else to expect. He also brought in other experts whom he knew and who worked in Belize.

From this camp we rode an open power boat down the rest of Golden Stream out into the Gulf of Honduras. Our camp for the next three days was a tent camp on stilts on a two acre island. Potable water for bathing in functional showers, drinking , and cooking was brought in by boat from the mainland, Punta Gorda. From here we took power boats back to the mainland to catch planes back to Belize City. Here we made a connection to fly to Guatemala. We were then driven by bus to Tikal, once the major city of the Mayan empire, dating from 900 BC to 900 AD. Of the 10,000 known ruins 4000 have been excavated. What is there is absolutely awesome. We spent a day and a half there. It was very warm and humid.

After a day of walking through the forest from one ruin to another, climbing 400 steps to the top of Temple IV, it was a relief to fall into the pool at our hotel. Don’t expect a Marriott-type accommodation. Though we were assured by a local, the Tikal Inn was the best of the three hotels adjacent to the ruins, there was no electricity or hot water between 10PM and 6AM.