Living on Ambergris Caye is blessing, we have the sparkling Caribbean Sea and gorgeous beaches as our playground. Yet every now and then, a change of scenery is needed, and there is no place than mainland Belize. It is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise. With sprawling mountains to mysterious caves, there is no end to the adventures you can partake in. Which it is impossible to experience everything Belize has to offer in a single day, with the help of Chukka Caribbean Adventure and Tropic Air, you surely can get your fix.
At their invitation, I board the 7AM flight to Belize City, excited for the adventures that await me. We meet our two friendly hosts, Karina Cunil and Melecia Bank before we take to the road towards our first stop of the day. At Chukka’s Almond Hill Lagoon Sanctuary Outpost, we are greeted by the entire staff with a military salute (super official, I felt like royalty). There at the banks of the lagoon were our royal carriages- I mean airboats! The happy-go-lucky Chukka crew rounds up our group, giving us a briefing on the tour and the environmentally friendly vessels we are about to ride in. After the dos and don’ts of air boating, we took our seats in the vessel, put on our safety gear (noise canceling earmuffs) and with one final salute from the Chukka crew, we were ready for take-off.
As the ginormous steel blades started spinning, the vessel thrust forward with its powerful 450-horsepower motors. First mate Sandy Lanture guided us through the trip, instructing when to lean to the sides during sharp turns, and of course pointing out the abundant wildlife found at the lagoon.
Almond Hill Lagoon Sanctuary is home to over 50 species of birds, and several marine reptiles, including the Morelet Crocodile. Within the perimeters of the lagoon lies White Lily Pond, home of a speculated 18-21 foot crocodile. Of course, that couldn’t be proved because Sandy says our captain, Kenrick Arther, is too afraid to jump in the water and measure the croc. I bet the guys at American Crocodile Education Sanctuary would have gladly taken the plunge to measure the big beast- but that’s not to say Captain Kenrick didn’t do a great job driving us! In fact, he was awesome! The closest we got to an actual crocodile was the sight of one sunbathing in the mud banks of the lagoon. In the blink of an eye, it was back in the water, concealed by the mud and foliage.
Unlike the crocs, the birds were sure to make their presence known. Flapping through the sky or even running across the waters, we managed to spot a handful of winged critters, including the Light Blue Heron, the Black Vulture, the Laughing Gull, the Osprey and the Bare-throated Tiger Heron, just to name a few. We even got to see a couple iguanas hanging around (literarily) on the low hanging branches of trees along the water banks.
Seeing all the critters was a treat, but what really caught my eye was the bountiful flora in and around the lagoon. It truly shows that no matter how much development this country is going through, nature still has its stronghold. As we sped along the waters, my appreciation for the wonders of nature increased by the tenfold.
Once back on land, Sandy told us that there would be a wine tasting. OH, how I love my wine, this was working out phenomenally! Locally crafted wine such as Blackberry, Ginger, Pineapple and Sorrel were poured out for us. I opt for the Blackberry, a crisp and flavorful drink that went down smoothly. Made in Belize at the Bel-Mer Winery, just a few miles away from the Almond Hill Lagoon Sanctuary Outpost, the local wines were a hit! After the final sip and quick good byes, it was time to hit the road again to our second destination.
As we made our way to the Western part of Belize, the landscape began changing. Savannas turned into rolling hills, and soon, mountains. Hidden below the surface is one of Belize’s most mysterious and beautiful attractions, cave systems, and that was our destination! More specifically the Crystal Cave system. The cave is given its name due to the spectacular crystal (calcite) formations that cover the floors, walls and ceiling. Calcite is a white/colorless mineral consisting of calcium carbonate. Just the notion of such a beautiful, sparkling cave had me itching with excitement, 45 minutes on the road was agony, but we made it, and my excitement could barely ne contained. Conveniently Chukka’s Jaguar Paw Outpost is at the location of the Crystal Cave.
We change into water friendly clothing and shoes, and then met our tour guide Miguel Diaz. We are fitted with helmets, headlights and a safety jacket, then led to the entrance of the cave, where air filled tubes awaited us. With tubes on hand, we started our descent into the Cenote, a sinkhole created from the collapse of limestone, and exposing an underground water system. At a command from Miguel, it was time to turn on the head lights, as the deeper we ventured into the cenote the darker it got.
Once at the bottom of the cenote, and at the entrance of the cave, I was mesmerized at the sight that awaited us. Sparkling crystals everywhere! It was as if a preschooler went crazy with the white glitter and threw it in every direction! For a girl that loves sparkle, this certainly made my day. After a couple minutes of oohing and aahing, Miguel instructed us on how to get into the water and lay our backs on our tubes. As I plunged into the water, one word rushed into my mind, COLD! Yup, cave water is two things, pristine and c-c-c-c-c-c-c-cold.
When all the gang was in the water (all of us bravely trying not to shiver), we made our way into the depths of the sparkly cave. Miguel connected all of our tubes together; teasing that he’s already lost a person, and couldn’t afford to lose another one. We laughed but followed orders, and bonded into a long human chain. As we floated into the tranquil cave, we were able to fully appreciate the immensity of the Crystal Cave. Unlike many caves in Belize, the Crystal Cave has an abundant of high ceilings. There are also several areas where collapsed roofs require us to get out of the water and trek to access another section of the cave. At about five miles long, with depths of 2 to 75 feet, with several caverns and underwater caves, the Crystal Cave is impossible to fully explore in one day, let alone a two hour expedition, but what we saw was spectacular!
We drifted further and further into the cave, with only our headlights illuminating our paths the stalactites, stalagmites and pillars covered in calcite, glistening and twinkling, transporting us to another world, one of beauty and purity. Miguel explained how one single human touch on the formations would kill the calcite, not allowing any more to grow (and sparkle) for over a thousand years. It truly brought home how fragile the Earth really is. Seeing the shimmering formations was more than enough for me!
When the tour drew to an end, I was sad to leave, but the call of lunch was appealing. After some delicious rice and beans, stewed chicken and coleslaw, we took to the road once more. Our ride back was rather quiet; the dynamic crowd who had arrived early was now wiped out on their return voyage! As we flew back to La Isla Bonita, our minds were full of adventure and images of beautiful offerings of Belize.
The next time you are in the mood for a change of scenery go play with Chukka Caribbean Adventures! You will discover the playful side of yourself and won’t want to let go!
About Chukka Caribbean Adventures in Belize!
The name Chukka came from a polo term meaning “It’s time to play”. Chukka was founded in 1983 by Danny Melville when he opened a polo and equestrian center for locals. He decided to complement it with an opportunity for tourists to ride horses while in the water, a tradition where polo players took the horses swimming in the clear saltwater of Mammee Bay to relax the horses. Since then Chukka has been providing premier adventure expeditions in Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, and now Belize. Chukka Caribbean Adventures has operated in Belize for the past eight years offering, tourist with trilling adventures while educating them on the importance of conservation and preservation. Visit their website at chukka.com/location/belize to learn more on their adventure packages. Remember to check out all the other fun tours Tropic Air has to offer at www.tropicair.com/en-us/tours.aspx.