Better Belize It
Orange Walk District Travel Tale
By Doreen Kerby . . .
One of the most popular tours in Belize is the trip to Lamanai Outpost Lodge in the Orange Walk
District. It's a 40 km
cruise along the New River, a waterway which eventually opens up into a lake-like expanse
called the New River
Lagoon. The river teems with bird life,. We saw white ibis, blue herons, parrots, frigate birds,
parakeets and jacanas -
(the Jesus Christ bird which looks like it is walking on the water). No manatees, but we saw an
anteater which lives on
termites whose nests are huge balls of mud in the trees above the water.
Lamanai Outpost Lodge is a luxury resort situated on one and a half acres beside the New River
Lagoon. How could I
be so fortunate? The jungle was out there, but I had all the comforts of home. My cabana,
handcrafted of local
hardwoods with palm thatched roofs, had a private bathroom, hot and cold running water,
24-hour electricity, purified
water, daily housekeeping and a verandah surrounded by lush tropical gardens.
Testing a hammock, I watched the sun disappear and saw six red lord parrots leave the area to
roost for the night.
Chico, a howler monkey high above in the trees, was watching every move. Owners Mark and
Monique Howells fell in
love with Lamanai back in 1992 and decided to stay. They adopted two baby howler monkeys
that had been captured by
villagers. They refused to pay for the howlers because that would encourage the trade. Mark
convinced the owners that
the monkeys would die with such poor care. The two little bundles wrapped in baby's blankets,
one with a broken arm,
became day and night care for the new parents. Years of parenting resulted in two healthy
howlers being reintroduced to
Belize has a healthy family of howlers, 1500 strong. They make a terrible racket. Generated by a
powerful throat sac
that funnels sound into an unusually large resonating bone, they sound like a lion, only louder.
At 90 decibels they can
be heard more than a mile away. At the Lodge, Mark encourages Chico to talk to him. It sounds
apparently that isn't the case.
The staff at the Lodge includes a primatologist, an archaeologist and two botanists to conduct
tours. One morning I got
up when it was still dark to meet a guide for a birding trip. Dawn was just breaking when we got
to a country lane and
an open field. With Carlos' expertise and the high-powered birding scope, I was able to see a
parrots and other exotic birds.
The first night was set aside for a Spot Light Tour in the Night Tracker, a fishing boat
custom-designed for the job.
Carlos was remarkable. Birds and snakes picked up in the spot light were identified with detailed
The thrill of the night was a six-foot crocodile gliding by our boat with a snake in its mouth.
Later in the evening a
crocodile with a big piece of fish, slipped out of sight. A blunt headed tree snake came right to
the boat. Perfectly
harmless, Carlos encouraged us to handle it, which surprisingly, was a pleasant experience.
At the end of the evening we stopped beside a research boat where Thomas Rainwater, a
toxicologist from the
University of Texas, was busy catching baby crocodiles, trying to determine how they are
affected by pollution.
At night the spotlight makes the eyes of the crocodile glow like red embers. Thomas snares
young ones, tapes their
mouths, and back at camp takes blood samples. Before they are released, the vertical scutes on
the back are clipped in a
pattern that will permanently identify each crocodile.
Lamanai is unique in its approach to sustainable utilization of natural resources. Scientific
conservation and education are the mission of the Lamanai Field Research Center funded by
Lamanai Outpost Lodge.
Researchers are hosted and in return are asked to share their knowledge with their host
communities, school children and
Just a 15 minute walk away is the Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, a Maya site with 730
buildings but only 5% have
been excavated. The residential buildings were only for the elite. Ordinary people lived in
palmetto huts with thatched
roofs. It is estimated that 40-50,000 people lived in this city, one of 250 major cities throughout
Central America, in
Southern Mexico, El Salvador, Belize, Honduras and Guatemala.
The Museum is very small and unsophisticated but filled with treasures that should be under
glass and protected. The
oldest pieces date back to 800 B.C . The curator of the museum, Nazario Ku is a full blooded
Mayan, proud of his
ancestry. He is knowledgeable and interesting and as fascinating as the treasures.
As we were leaving Lamanai, the staff came down to the wharf to say "goodbye". Even Chico
came to watch us leave.
Mark got him howling, a rather touching finish to a wonderful experience. As we pulled away
from the dock, his howl
followed us, reminding us of the exciting things we had seen and done, memories that will last a
When You Go
Belize City: Radisson Fort George Hotel & Marina - Ph 1-800-333-3333
Lamanai Outpost Lodge - US$200.00/person/night during Nov 1-April 30.
US$170/person/night during low season
All inclusive in/out transfers, activities, meals, accommodations, taxes
and service charges.
Contact Monique and Mark Howells at P.O. Box 63, Orange Walk, Belize,
Ph 1-(888)- 733-7864 Website: www.lamanai.com
Web Site: www.travelbelize.org
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