We chose Belize over Costa Rica for one reason, I wanted to see Mayan Ruins. A self-professed history buff, and Indiana Jones fangirl, the lure of being among ancient structures from a fallen empire was too strong to go elsewhere. Maruba offered two different excursions to Mayan Ruins. Altun Han was the closest, only about 15 minutes outside the resort and only a two hour tour. Lamanai was an all-day trip, an all-day trip that involved a river ride through the jungle. We chose Lamanai.
It was about a 45 minute car ride to get to the boat tour. Driving in Belize is an adventure in itself. There are potholes and “sleeping policemen” – known in the States as speed bumps – everywhere but that does not stop the drivers from zipping along at excessive speeds. The drivers know exactly where every obstacle in the road is, and can maneuver around them effectively. To be honest, it can be quite frightening at times.
At the dock, we were ushered into our tour boat. Tim and I sat in the front to get a full view of the surroundings. Our guide for the day, Guadalupe, first took us over to an area where a spider monkey lived. Tim jumped at the chance to feed the friendly little guy.
There are few things I love more than being on a boat, and this ride was a special one. On our ride, which was partly through the jungle and partly through a savannahish area, Guadalupe pointed out numerous native flora and fauna. We saw crocodiles, a variety of birds, iguanas and many interesting plants. We even rode past a Mennonite community; Belize is home to over 10,000 Mennonites.
After about 45 minutes or so, we arrived at Lamanai. Once a city of over 40,000 Mayans, it is now primarily occupied by howler monkeys. Three temples have been excavated and are available for visitors to see, and climb. Following Guadalupe along a trail carved out in the thick jungle, we approached the Mask Temple.
If you were a 90s kid like myself, the mask on the temple looks very familiar. The Olmec mask is not the original, but a fiberglass replica. Each ruler would update the Mask Temple by building on top of it, so much so that the original temple looks nothing like it does today or when the last ruler reigned.
After another short hike, we approached the High Temple, which remains the tallest structure in Belize. Standing 33 meters, the view from the top shows off both savannah and jungle views. While our experienced guide Guadalupe could spring up the steep steps, the rest of us used a rope to guide our way to the peak.
Following the High Temple, we were shown a ball court and the royal quarters before visiting the Jaguar Temple. On our way, one of our fellow travelers spied a boa constrictor!
The day capped with a traditional Belizean feast of stewed chicken, rice and beans, and fruit. It was one of our favorite meals of the trip. We boarded the bus, were given rum punches and Beliken beer (so good, if any one in AZ sells it, please let me know!) and headed back to Maruba. Lamanai was incredible and I would recommend this trip to anyone visiting Belize!