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 North America’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.
Book by July 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.
Dates, Rates & Cabins
Travel on this itinerary from $3,990 per person
Browse our team directory to discover the full cast of expedition staff
As the sun rises,
National Geographic Quest
anchors just a half-mile from the mouth of the Monkey River. This costal waterway stems deep in the Maya mountains and exist into the Caribbean Sea. Monkey River is home to many species of birds, reptiles and black howler monkeys. The afternoon was spent enjoying the tranquil Caribbean Sea around the island of Ranguana Caye, snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking and beach lounging before our day ended with a beautiful sunset.
Our day began at 5:30 a.m., in order to get up and ready in time for a day’s expedition to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Many wonderful educational programs are run here, with a highlight being the wildlife protection program featuring local jaguars.
By 6:30 a.m. guests began arriving at the beach in Placencia, a beautiful town where our buses were waiting. After receiving our Belizean breakfast, we loaded the buses to head to our day’s adventure. En route, we learned how this area became a wildlife preserve. It was originally a logging settlement, established around 1973, with very few people living amongst its many thousands of acres. Over time, residents in nearby villages began complaining that the local large cat population was decimating their own animals, namely their dogs and cows. Local researchers came in to investigate and realized the jaguar population was the cause of the commotion. Therefore, over time, the area was turned into a sanctuary and the area’s one and only jaguar preserve. The remaining locals evacuated the area in 1986 and since then, research has abounded, with about 150 big cats found. They were originally all thought to be males, but over time they realized some females had snuck in, so the count was modified and could be much higher today than estimates allow. About 85% are likely males, with females having 2 or 3 cubs a piece. While learning about the jaguars, we also saw birds like the black-headed trogon, stripe-throated hummer, white-colored manakins, and crested queans, which are all protected here as well.
After our visit to the sanctuary we enjoyed a stop at the local Mayan Center to buy local handicrafts and chocolates. Lunch was local and delicious, and, with full bellies, we headed into town. This afternoon our guests had the option to explore the town independently, or to return to
National Geographic Quest
. All in all, it was a wonderful day.
Greetings from Lighthouse Reef, Belize! Today was a breezy day with many clouds moving through, giving our travelers periods of sunshine and shade throughout the morning. Our first activity was walking the trail to the observation tower to see both a red-footed booby and magnificent frigatebird rookery. The bright orange flowers of ziricote trees caught the attention of our guests, as did the red peeling bark of the gumbo limbo and the long, tangled hanging roots of the bearded figs. In the dry fallen leaves, hermit crabs and various lizards rustled along.
Finally, we arrived at the observation tower. What sights to see and what sounds to hear! Everywhere there were white, fluffy baby boobies and frigatebirds. But the sun was shining and as the day warmed, the sea began calling. It was time to explore the coral reefs and see some underwater jewels—the reef fish.
No snorkeling experience is complete without seeing these lovely fish who keep our reefs healthy, like the parrotfish, none of which is more colorful or plentiful than the stoplight parrotfish. Some others seen today were sergeant majors, juvenile damselfish, and several wrasses and grunts. Spiny lobsters and a nurse shark were also pointed out by our local guides. All in all, it was a wonderful morning.
In the afternoon, a walk across Long Caye led us through a buttonwood and saltwater palmetto forest. In the shallows between the red mangrove stands and the dock we sighted a school of silversides being chased by a foot-long barracuda. A few minutes later, a large southern stingray cruised by looking for its last meal of the day. A beautiful sunset followed, ending another glorious day in Belize.
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
National Geographic Quest
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.