Amigos Del Mar Dive Shop has been defying great expectations since 1987. Proven not only to be the largest dive shop on Ambergris Caye but one of the best in snorkeling and diving, Amigos Del Mar has now taken to the jungle in order to bring people as close to mother nature and adventure as possible. Amigos Jungle Tours offer a unique experience in mainland Belize. Away from the coral reef and sparkling Caribbean waters, Amigos is feeding adventure junkies great trips such as cave tubing, zip lining, ATV tour and even trips to the ancient Maya temples of Xunantunich, Lamani and Tikal in nearby Guatemala. The San Pedro Sun crew was luckily invited to a tour of Tikal Temple which proved not only to be culturally enriching but also adventurous and exciting.
The trip started at the break of dawn; being a morning person I indulged in the fresh coffee offered at Amigos del Mar Dive Shop to wake me up and prepare me for the great trip ahead. The boat departed at 6AM destined to Belize City. Our captain and tour guide, Edgar Munguia, maneuvers the “Another Princess”(name of our vessel) through various channels as we watch the sun rise in the horizon.
Once we arrive at Belize City we are quickly escorted to a waiting air conditioned van ready to hit the road. Not wanting to waste time, we enjoy a healthy breakfast of mixed fruits and chicken burritos while on the drive. As we make our way from one district to another, we enjoy the change of scenery that runs along the Western Highway. Being a good geography student myself, I noted the change in foliage as we enter the Cayo District. The Cayo district is known for its lush rainforest and sprawling mountains, the Macal and Mopan Rivers snake their way through this district which is known as the heart of Belize.
But our destination does not lie within the boundaries of Belize. The Tikal Temple is located in our neighboring country of Guatemala in the districtof Peten. The driver drops us off at the Santa Elena border, where we get our passports stamped and cross over to Guatemala where we meet Samuel Elias a very knowledgeable and local tour guide of Tikal.
The drive from the border to Tikal takes us 50 miles northwest of Guatemala through scenic farm lands and major landmarks of the region. One such landmark is Lake Peten Itza, which not only is the largest lake in Guatemala but was a main route of migration for the Maya. Our tour guide Samuel explained to us the importance of the lake to the people of the region today since the lake is home to a diversity of indigenous species of marine animals.
Once at Tikal, the immensity of the archeological site is fully revealed. Boasting hundreds of structures, Tikal is the largest site in the region. Tikal was discovered in 1848 by Coronels Modesto Mendez and Ambrosio Tut and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.Eager to get the adventure going we followed Samuel through narrow jungle paths absorbing the rich wildlife of the region. Samuel briefed us on the history of the Maya of the region and told us of a time when the Maya people were suppressed by colonial rule and slaughtered for their beliefs. The bloody past of Tikal has made it an epicenter for culture.
The structure of Tikal is unique to any other archeological site of the Mesoamerica. It has six large temples and several plazas where sacrificial offerings were made. Climbing Temple IV, the largesttemple of Tikal is not for the faint at heart. As we climbed the over one hundred steps to reach the top the altitude gave way to a more than amazing view. At over 200 feet high you get a panoramic view of the rainforest canopy and the tips of the other five main temples, the view had me both speechless and breathless!
On our way to the next stop of the tour, The Grand Plaza, we met a couple of furry friends. Several Coatimundiscurried cross our paths, apparently they have no fear for humans. The Grand Plaza is one of several plazas of Tikal and was once the epicenter of this world. Brave men used to play a sacred ball game, Pok-a-Tok, at the Grand Plaza where the captain of the winning team was sacrificed as an offering.
After a very productive and fun day it was time to hit the road once again and say goodbye to this land of the past. The experience is truly unique, you are transported to an ancient world, a world of great architectural design and astronomy, a world of rich cultural history. I would surely do it again without any hesitation!
You too can enjoy such an experience! To learn more about Amigos Jungle Tour or book a tour with the “big boys”, contact phone number 226-2706 or 600-1228 or email at [email protected] You can also visit the Amigos Del Mar Dive Shop located on the beach in front of Cholo’s Sports Bar. A big thanks to the crew at Amigos for inviting us in such a great trip!