Into the blue of Belize and the mystery of the Maya
The eastern coast of Mesoamerica is little known and rarely visited via the sea. Since the days of the ancient Maya, who flourished along the coast some 1,500 years go, civilization has had little impact. Large swaths of the region remain wild with protected tropical forests, meandering rivers, abundant birdlife—and the largest coral reef system in North America. The Belize Barrier Reef is alive with a galaxy of brilliantly hued fish and corals. The human history is fascinating, and the imprint of the Maya evident. Discover temples nestled in the forest, or set overlooking lakes. And modern life, a melting pot of people, cultures, languages, and music.
Book by May 31, 2021 and receive FREE ROUND-TRIP economy group airfare between Miami/Guatemala City. Complimentary air is based on economy group flights and must be ticketed by Lindblad Expeditions. In the case that Lindblad's group flight is not available at time of booking, we reserve the right to issue a credit. Baggage fees may be additional. New bookings only and not combinable with other offers or pre- or post-extensions. Call for details.
Book by May 31, 2021 to save 10% when traveling as a group of 6 or more people on select departures. Take advantage of these great savings, while enjoying traveling with your friends and family. Valid for new bookings only, subject to availability, not applicable on extensions, and may not be combined with other offers. Call for details.
Discover temples and forests teeming with life. Remarkable ruins of pre-Columbian Maya civilization. Delve into the mystery and history amid stone temples, palaces, and terraces cut by ancient people. And dive into a wealth of biodiversity in the Northern Hemisphere’s largest reef system at the Belize Barrier Reef. Revel among hundreds of species of fish, marvelous sea turtles, graceful rays, over 90 varieties of coral, and with luck, manatees. As only a small percentage of the reef has been studied, researchers believe hundreds, even thousands more species could be discovered in this protected zone.
I don’t know if it could get any better than having guides who are super knowledgeable about the way of life today and the way of life 2,000 years ago.
Explore with top expedition teams
See, do, and learn more by going with engaging experts who have been exploring this region for decades. Go with an expedition leader, naturalists, historians, and more.
Veteran expedition leaders are the orchestrators of your experience. Many have advanced degrees and have conducted research or taught for years. They have achieved expedition leader status because they possess the skills, experience and the depth of knowledge necessary to continually craft the best expedition possible for our guests.
With a team of naturalists aboard you’re ensured a healthy diversity of specialties—marine biology, evolutionary biology, ornithology, archaeology, and more—and personalities. Choose to spend time with whoever shares your interests.
Your undersea specialist will prepare you for snorkeling outings and offer voiceover to the corals, fish, and marine species you discover. Plus they'll don diving gear and capture footage of the deep to review in comfort during Recap.
Every expedition aboard a ship in our National Geographic-flagged fleet offers an exclusive service—a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic certified photo instructor. This naturalist is specially trained to offer assistance with camera settings, the basics of composition, and to help you become a better, more confident photographer.
Video chroniclers accompany every expedition shooting vivid HD footage—with no recycled footage ever—to provide you with a professionally edited and completely authentic memento of your expedition. Working during the day, and editing into the night, they have your video ready for preview prior to, and available to purchase, at disembarkation.
Henry David Thoreau called it the "tonic of wildness." It’s what Belize and Guatemala, with their beauty and wildness intact, give you—a spirit lift. To compound this healthful effect, add the luxury of comfort to the privilege of being here—with a quality of shipboard life and a philosophy of wellness designed to relax and rejuvenate body, mind, and spirit.
Leaving Panama City,
National Geographic Quest
sailed out of the area’s bay to Iguana Island. Formerly used as target practice for bombers during World War II, the craters left behind can still be seen some 70 years later. The island was later turned into a wildlife refuge in 1981 because of the abundance of frigatebirds and other wildlife. With the anchor dropped, our outing began.
Many guests did not hesitate to grab gear for snorkeling in the crystal waters surrounding the island. The weather was fantastic today. Parrot fish filling the water, frigatebirds in the sky, and the island’s white sand beach all made for an exceptional day of land and water activity. We continue now sailing toward
our next destination, catching rays, dolphins, and schools of tropical fish along the way.
Welcome to Central America, and welcome to the Panama! This is where one wakes to the sound of howler monkey and the Amazon parrots. Yesterday we did the first part of the Panama Canal by crossing the Gatun Locks, in three consecutive steps, which raised the
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85 ft to the level of Gatun Lake. We dropped anchor outside the new set of locks in order to have a nice, restful night of sleep.
Today the crew repositioned the ship just a few miles south to position the ship in front of one of the most known and well-researched rainforests of the world. Barro Colorado Island (BCI)
is a lush landmass totalling 3,750 acres in size. It was once part of a contiguous dense forest region but was cut off when the Chagres River was dammed in 1913. This was a vital step in the creation of the Panama Canal.
Its segmentation made this island an ideal choice for studying both tropical ecology and island biogeography. Since the 1940s, BCI is home to a research facility of world renown that is managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and the island and surrounding peninsulas are one of the first biological reserves in the world.
In order to fully explore this place, we had the option of either walking through the forest or taking Zodiacs for a ride along the perimeters of this tropical paradise. As we landed to drop off those walking, a crowd of birds caught our attention. We followed them to find they were in the middle of constructing nests. Yellow-rumped caciques are in the weaver/oriole family, so it was really something getting to see them working on what would soon be their future homes. And from there the sightings kept coming: monkeys, anteaters, toucans…The Zodiac riders didn’t come up short either, getting to see an assortment of crocodiles, toucans, capuchin monkeys, and snail kites.
But the day was not finished, as we still had to cross Gatun Lake in order to reach the Pacific Locks from the Panama Canal. We did a later crossing, which actually was nice because it gave us a chance to appreciate night lights of Panama City. And so our first day of expedition went by through the magic of the rainforest and the wonders of the Panama Canal.
Our last day exploring the second largest barrier reef in the world began in a small Caye known as Ranguana Caye. White sands, coconuts trees, and shade were all part of the welcome our guests received coming ashore.
Some go birding while others gathered around our certified photo instructor to practice with angles and lighting before heading inland for the real deal. The rest suit up to explore the underwater world.
We spent the whole of our day in Ranguana snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and relaxing in hammocks. By the end of the day, we all gather back onboard
National Geographic Quest
to recount and share our thoughts and experiences about our un-
journey thus far.
A full day of exploration today necessitated an extra early start of 5:45 this morning (yikes!). Luckily there was fresh coffee available, which we sipped with contentment, knowing our ever-nearing trip to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary would well be worth arising before dawn.
The Cockscomb Sanctuary is the world’s only jaguar preserve and is home to the largest jaguar population worldwide. Not only is this rainforest a haven for jaguars, it is one
with wildlife of all kinds. Birds of more than 300 species, howler monkeys, a small galaxy of creepers and crawlers, and even more plant life set the stage. One of a few stunning highlights here was seeing the channels of leafcutter ants carrying the leaf haul down from the trees and across the path. Our photo instructor suggested that we take videos of the action, which turned out great!
Outside of looking for birds and learning about the native plant species, we had the opportunity to properly stretch our legs over a hike to Ben’s Bluff. The hike was hot, humid, and brought on plenty of sweat, but it also lent us the opportunity to cool off at a secluded waterfall on the way back.
We were anchored outside of Placencia and had a few different expedition options after lunch. Placencia is home to the world’s narrowest street, which some guests decided to stroll along and spend time in the local community. Various artisan shops, restaurants, and a top-notch ice cream shop were a few places guests stopped at. After exploring by land, we got to explore by small watercraft. The Zodiacs were deployed and we cruised around the mangroves looking for wildlife. Various birds, upside-down jellyfish, and iguanas were spotted. The local Belizean guides talked to us about the flora and fauna, and gave us a better glimpse into the community. We cruised through residential canals and were happy to get a small glimpse into Placencian life.
Though our day was long and the itinerary full, we weren’t about to miss our special evening event. The Garifuna Collective, an internationally sought-after musical group, agreed to come to our ship and perform for us tonight! This group is the only music group from Belize to tour worldwide. They have upcoming shows in New York’s Central Park, various countries in Europe, Africa, and more. We felt honored (and excited!) that they came to do a private performance. We spent the evening dancing off our dinner and dessert and letting the Garifuna funk fill our souls.
Today was definitely not a day for landlubbers! We immerse ourselves, literally, in an underwater world bounding with life beneath the Caribbean sea surface. Some of our guests went for the full diving experience, while others dawned snorkels for a tour of the reef systems.
The day started at West Pelican Caye with a brief a.m. shower and ended at Laughing Bird Caye, which is part of a reserve managed by Southern Environmental Association. Depending on which guest you spoke to, you might get conflicting answers as to which activity was the best! Each site was equally captivating, with stunning arrays of corals and fish species that would thrill even the most experienced.
Some guests kayaked around mangrove islands. Others tested their balance on stand-up paddleboards. For the more leisure-minded, hammocks were available to kick back and relax. As the sun started its descent for the day, everyone headed back to
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and thus ended another beautiful day in Belize!
The geography is really remarkable—with a great diversity of ecosystems, and an abundance of land and marine species. On the human side there’s fascinating diversity as well. The region contains many cultures and languages and has a rich history.