The rising sun was low on the horizon as our explorers set out on Zodiacs toward Monkey River, the largest estuary in southern Belize. The tiny village on the southern bank is home to approximately 250 people who make their living in tourism and as lobster fishers. As the Zodiacs slowly made their way upriver, guests stopped often to view birds and other wildlife. We spotted yellow-headed parrots, bare-throated tiger herons and raccoons. We also observed male green iguanas flashing their bright orange mating colors high in the treetops and a pair of keel-billed toucans flying across the river.

We arrived at the trail and into the Riparian or Gallery Forest we ventured. The short walk rewarded us with good views of a small troop of Yucatan black howler monkeys in a Cecropia tree, one of the monkeys’ favorite sources of food. As we continued upriver, we spotted majestic Ceiba trees. Montezuma oropendolas busily prepared their hanging nests for the approaching nesting season. The call of the oropendolas is always such a treat and a reason to smile. As the sun rose overhead, our Zodiacs returned to sea and the welcoming sight of National Geographic Sea Lion at anchor.

Once onboard and with the necessary testing for travel completed, we enjoyed a delicious lunch. It was again time to set out on further adventures. This time, we headed to a beautiful underwater world, the coral reefs surrounding Laughingbird Caye. This tiny island sits atop the rim of the faro or shelf atoll. It was named for the laughing gulls that nest on the north end of the island. Below the surface, beautiful tropical fish are visible as soon as you enter the sea. In the sandy areas, yellowfin mojarras, silver Jennies and permits blended in with the seagrass. Immature parrotfish were almost invisible as they foraged the algae growing on blades of seagrass. Fish of various colors gently moved in and out of the crevices of boulder lobed-star coral and staghorn coral.

Another beautiful sunset bid our guests farewell as they prepared to continue their travels tomorrow.