Discover the tropical wonders of Belize on a voyage along the country’s coastline and reef system. With National Geographic Sea Lion as your base of exploration, snorkel the colorful corals of the Belize barrier reef, skirt the shores of white-sand islands by kayak and stand-up paddleboard, and swim in turquoise lagoons teeming with marine life. Discover the Northern Hemisphere’s largest and most vibrant reef system—a region seldom explored and known to few. Head inland to explore lush jungles on foot; and cruise coastal rivers in Zodiacs, seeking out howler monkeys and toucans in the surrounding rainforest canopy.
Paddle a kayak or stand-up paddleboard in turquoise lagoons and board Zodiacs to cruise wildlife-rich coastal rivers
Spot turtles, rays, and myriad species of colorful fish while snorkeling or diving the coral gardens of the Belize barrier reef
Join a naturalist for a hike in Mayflower Bocawina National Park and learn about the latest research on jaguars
Enjoy a festive drumming performance from the internationally acclaimed Garifuna Collective
Make the expedition as active as you choose. Go on an aerobic hike, take a stroll along the beach, or choose to simply get a massage aboard and relax. Explore by Zodiac and on foot with further options each day for more physical activities such as longer hikes, kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, or biking. Scuba diving the reef is also available for experience divers.
Arrive in Belize City and transfer to the National Geographic Sea Lion. Settle into your cabin as evening falls and we set sail away from the Belizean mainland and out into the Caribbean Sea. (D)
Belize Barrier Reef
Awaken in the northern cayes of the Mesoamerican Reef, a barrier-reef system that stretches more than 600 miles and harbors incredible marine biodiversity. Edged with mangroves and scattered with idyllic tropical isles, these turquoise waters give us much to explore during our full day here. If weather and conditions permit, visit Half-Moon Caye to see its red-footed boobies and magnificent frigatebird colony. Later we’ll find a calm spot to paddle a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Or don a mask and fins to snorkel among sea turtles, swirling schools of tropical fish, and harmless nurse sharks. (B,L,D)
Mayflower Bocawina National Park
Spend the morning discovering the lush rainforests and waterfalls of Mayflower Bocawina National Park. On a variety of hikes with our naturalists, photograph unusual tropical flowers, watch for colorful bird species, and identify the tracks of tapirs and jungle cats. A series of camera traps are set up throughout the park to capture images of the elusive jaguar, so revered in Maya culture. Meet local scientists and researchers to see some of this footage and learn about ongoing studies of jaguar behavior. Tonight an internationally acclaimed drumming group, the Garifuna Collective, joins us on board to perform their spirited music. (B,L,D)
Monkey River / Belize Barrier Reef
Rise early to board Zodiacs at the mouth of Monkey River and cruise inland through the Belizean jungle in search of toucans, green iguanas, and myriad bird species. Few experiences rival hearing the first throaty roar of a mantled howler monkey echoing across the canopy. Explore the southern cayes of the Belize Barrier Reef this afternoon and enjoy more opportunities to kayak and stand-up paddleboard, or go snorkeling amid vibrant corals teeming with tropical fish. For scuba divers, incredible dive opportunities abound (at additional cost). (B,L,D)
Belize Barrier Reef
Our second straight day on the reef brings us into the central cayes. Here coral patches dot the shallow coastal lagoon, which harbors parrotfish, butterflyfish, octopuses, and countless other marine species. We’ll drop anchor nearby and spend the full day within the fringing reef, discovering natural wonders both in the water and out. (B,L,D)
Return to Belize City overnight and disembark after breakfast to transfer to the international airport for your flight home. (B)
Join us and celebrate your great milestones, including birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, retirements, and more. Beginning in 2023, groups of 8 or more traveling together in celebration receive 5% off and a complimentary group photograph, while the cabin-of-honor receives onboard ship credit, beautiful cake, and more onboard celebrations. Milestone celebration must be communicated at time of booking. Milestone amenity package is one per group, intended for the guest celebrating the Milestone event. Group discount is applicable to cruise portion only, and does not apply towards additional services such as hotels, extensions, airfare, etc. Group cancellation terms also apply. Not combinable with certain offers.
FREE BAR POLICY
Enjoy free beer and wine (excluding super-premium brands) on all 2023 departures aboard National Geographic Venture, National Geographic Quest, National Geographic Sea Bird, and National Geographic Sea Lion. Starting in 2024, your full bar tab (excluding super-premium brands) will be included.
Save 10% on any consecutive journeys taken on board one of our expedition ships. This savings is applicable on voyage fares only, and are not valid on extensions or airfare.
BRINGING THE KIDS
We believe sharing an expedition with your kids or grandkids is a life-enhancing experience. So take $500 off for each child under the age of 18.
Certain offers may be combinable, up to two savings opportunities, except where noted otherwise. For example, travel with a group of 8 or more on back-to-back expeditions, and take advantage of both savings.
$700 AIR CREDIT
Book by June 30, 2023, to receive a $700 air credit per person on select departures. New bookings only. Subject to availability. Credit will be deducted from cabin fare prior to any additional applicable savings. Call for details.
Shortly after National Geographic Sea Lion dropped her anchor, we awoke to very calm seas with overcast skies and a light southwest wind coming off the land. Our guests prepared for early morning adventures and headed out in Zodiacs and local skiffs to explore the meandering lower reaches of Monkey River, the largest estuary of southern Belize. Great blue herons and great egrets stood knee deep on the sandbars near the shore while yellow-crowned night herons and black vultures hunkered down in the drizzle that accompanied us. Guides and guests gazed up at the treetops, hoping to see green iguanas with the males in their bright orange breeding colors and perhaps a troop of Yucatan black howler monkeys. We walked the trails through the gallery forest a few miles upstream. Our luck was shining brightly, and several monkeys were sighted high above. We returned to the ship to savor the delicious brunch prepared by the amazing hotel department. Ranguana Caye was our base for the snorkeling and island activities this afternoon. Guests had a wonderful experience swimming among the bright and beautiful fish and the other tiny critters that live in the hard and soft corals of the fringing reefs. Parrotfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, and sergeant majors were some of the familiar friends seen. As the trip wound down to the final stages, contact information was exchanged among new friends, experiences were shared, and future trips were discussed. Guests bid farewell to the crew and staff. Glasses were raised, and a guest slide show put smiles on our faces.
What a day! After a full day on land yesterday, we were all eager to get in the water and see some good stuff today. Upon arrival to West Snake Caye, part of Port Honduras Marine Reserve, the wind was from the west. Within a half hour, it turned from the south. Although the waves came in at an angle, it didn’t stop us from snorkeling. Our Belizean snorkel guides were ready and waiting, and we used their three boats to separate into advanced, intermediate, and beginner groups. We went to the leeward side of the island, where we observed and photographed soft corals, hard corals, fish, and marine invertebrates. A couple intrepid kayakers ventured out. They stuck to the calmest corner and had a very relaxing time in the shallows near the mangroves, which is an ecosystem unto its own. By noon, we returned to the ship for lunch. We changed anchorage to position the ship closer to the labyrinth of Payne’s Creek mangrove forest. Before setting out by kayak or Zodiac, we enjoyed learning from a great visitor. Augustin Cho, a ranger from Payne’s Creek National Park, joined us on board to explain the park’s important role in the conservation of the diverse habitats found in this part of Payne’s Creek National Park. The afternoon found us traveling under a very light mist. The temperature was perfect. Explorations of the mangrove were varied. We observed spotted eagle rays feeding off oysters on red mangrove roots, boat-billed herons nesting on small islets, and clumps of red mangroves. With the quiet and gentle weather and almost no wind (an anomaly these days), I had trouble convincing the kayakers it was time to come in. No one was ready for the adventure to end, but daylight was fading.
Day two of our voyage was multifaceted. We started with an exciting hike up the foothills of the Maya Mountains to see scarlet macaws. We had a chance to take a wonderful float in an inner tube down a mountain stream. We enjoyed a lunch buffet with a plethora of local flavors. Next, we hopped on the “Hokey Pokey” water taxi to Placencia, where an art festival was in full swing. Our guests took the opportunity to appreciate artwork made by many local artisans. Finally, we danced the night away to the rhythm and beats of the Garifuna Collective.
Strong easterly winds diverted National Geographic Sea Lion to the Payne's Creek anchorage earlier than planned today. A late morning excursion was scheduled with some of our guests choosing to explore the mangrove channels of Payne's Creek estuary from kayaks, while others explored by Zodiac. This area is being studied by archaeologist, Heather McKillop, who has found evidence of commercially produced salt and salted fish for trade in the Mayan culture’s late Classic period, around 600-800 AD. The mangrove forests that line the estuaries, coastal lagoons, and some of the offshore islands, are one of the most productive ecosystems in Belize. These mangrove roots are fish nurseries, filtration systems, even sequestering carbon and are often referred to as Mother Nature’s seawall. On the afternoon’s walk through the open landscape of the savannah, some of the guests got to see two different carnivorous plants, the sundew Drosera capillaris and at least two species in the genus Utricularia . They saw and learned about various species of fire-tolerant trees, shrubs vines and palms. They also found the tracks of white-tail deer, coati, and armadillo in the soft mud along parts of the trail. All guests returned to the ship as the sun started its descent to the horizon. Then it was time for farewell cocktails and the trip’s last recap and dinner. Another great day in Belize by the Caribbean Sea and sadly, the end of a fantastic trip.