We spent 9 days in Belize to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We are birdwatchers, hikers, snorkelers and for this trip we obtained open water scuba certification before leaving for Belize. I will post separate reviews of the places we stayed, but this report might be helpful for folks trying to plan their own Belize excursion.
As a preliminary observation, I cannot adequately convey how impressed I was with the friendliness, optimism and ingenuity of the people I met in Belize. They are are willing to work hard and they take pride in their work. That can-do spirit extends to doing what it takes to enable their guests to enjoy their time in Belize.I never saw or felt any resistance to adjusting plans 'on the fly' in order to to make things work for us.
Nightlife (at least human nighttime entertainment) was not one of our priorities and seeing the well-developed ruins was low on our list, and we ultimately planned a trip entirely within the Stann Creek District. We had to let go of ATM cave tubing and a river wildlife expedition , but we can do those when we go back. Ready access to great snorkeling at our own pace and schedule was a big priority, and that drew us to South Water Caye. I emailed all three of the operations on the island and got the best feedback from Rosella Zabeneh at Blue Marlin Resort. She gave us good ideas about other things to do in Belize and where to do them, investigated and helped us avoid potential pitfalls and Rosella and her assistant Melissa ultimately ended up arranging most of trip for us, including arranging and booking all our local transportation, having someone meet us at BZE and walk us though arrival and get us on our connecting Maya Air flights.
Our first 2 days were spent at Mama Noots' Eco Resort in the jungle in Bocawina Mayflower National Park , in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. We did a self-guided hike up to Bocawina Falls, walked at a pace suitable to bird watching ,saw and photographed some uncommon birds, enjoyed the wonderful pool at the base of the falls. The next morning we were up at 5:30AM and went on a self-guided bird walk before breakfast, then took a packed lunch and a self-guided hike to the top of Antelope Falls..one of our favorite parts of the trip, in part because the upper part of the trail is a real physical challenge, with 50%+ grads where you use ropes along the trail to pull yourself up as you climb hand and foot up roots, steps carved into the trail, etc to reach an amazing pool at the top, as big as a hotel swimming pool, over 7 foot deep in places and surrounded by towering jungle trees and draped with flowering vines. We shared it with 2 local families for a few hours and it was idyllic. Even the walk back DOWN the trail is challenging! Which reminds me: if you're going hiking in the jungle, take boots or sturdy trail shoes, because the trails are rocky, broken, uneven and no place for "adventure" sandals. I learned the hard-way. We saw lots of birds and lizards and the Mayflower Mayan ruins on this hike, as well. Mayflower is a small site, minimally exposed and a great birdwatching location. After this hike, I did the Bocawina Zipline Adventure, the longest in Belize. This is all newly constructed, designed and built by the guides, the runs are great and the views from the platforms are amazing. I will post a separate review. That night we went for a night hike with a guide and saw jaguarundi, kinkajou, armadillo, night hawks, crocodile and, my favorite, millions of leaf-cutter ants marching through the jungle. This was the driest time of the year, so while mosquitoes were almost non-existent, the wildlife was pretty scarce as well, plus it was almost a full moon, which keeps the nocturnal animals inactive until the moon sets . We went for one more 5:30 AM bird watching walk the next morning with a guide and identified over 30 species of local birds.
Then we were off to Southwater Caye!