The adventure lover's dream
Tropical pine forests, palm covered mountains, treed savannahs, endless caves, Mayan ruins, waterfalls, exotic islands, and the largest living coral reef in the world. You better Belize it!
This is a country where the crystal clear Caribbean waters are teeming with life. The forests are alive with beneficial trees and medicinal plants. The old culture of the Mayans is still felt as the newer cultures of the Mestizo, Garifuna, and Creole people greet you with open arms. But the best news may be that there are so many reserves that nearly half of Belize is covered by protected areas. It is also an ecology and conservation lover's dream.
Most people that visit this once secret jewel of a nation arrive via cruise ship and spend less than a day ashore. Not only is that problematic for the environment, but those that fail to stay even overnight in this beautiful country are missing out on more than they could ever know. With the teeming biodiversity of both the reefs and the forests, vibrant and diverse cultures, excellent food & drink, and more adventures than you could experience in a year, Belize needs time to be appreciated. At TREE we make the most of our time. We get deep into the forests and the waterfalls. We get out into the reefs and explore with our fins and masks. We use locally owned and operated research stations, lodges, and restaurants, and explore protected areas that benefit from our usage. It's impossible to see all of Belize in less than 10 days. BUT we guarantee that you will experience more than you thought possible during your stay, all while learning about ecological connections and contributing to conservation efforts in the forests and in the reefs. You better Belize it!
Highlights of TREE Belize Trips
- Hike the Maya Mountains and learn about the many uses of all the trees and plants
- Explore Mountain Pine Ridge, an amazing expanse of natural mid-elevation tropical pine forests with major sites such as Big Rock Falls, Rio Frio Cave, Rio On Pools, and more!*
- Trek through Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the world's first and only jaguar preserve, and spot rare birds, float down one of the reserve's creeks, and hike to the magnificent Tiger Fern double waterfall!
- Overnight at the Tiger Fern peak in a tent or sleep out under the incredibly starry sky
- Climb ancient Mayan Ruins and view the forests from above
- Snorkel the largest living coral reef remaining in the world - glimpse many different types of fish, rays, eels, lobster, nurse sharks, and the invasive lionfish (and if you're lucky enough you may see dolphins and manatees too!)
- Search for dolphins and manatees aboard a research vessel*
- Kick back in a hammock and enjoy the Belizean way of life, both while in the jungle and while on one of the many sun-splashed islands
- Swim with whale sharks off the coastal waters (DEPENDS HEAVILY ON TIME OF YEAR)*
- Learn about the trees, plants, corals, animals, and ecological connections of Belize's biodiversity rich rainforests and reefs
- Experience the real contemporary culture of the Mestizo, Creole, and Garifuna, plus learn about some Mayan traditions that have survived until present day
- Explore tropical fruit gardens, complete with tangerines, sugarcane, bananas, cacao, breadfruit, oranges, and more
- Hand-pick cacao from the trees and then grind it on traditional Mayan stone - add locally produced sugar if you like or try it straight
- Enjoy rice & beans with bake chicken, potato salad, and a plantain - a meal that never gets old. Also feast on fry jacks, fried chicken, salbutes, papusas, tacos, burritos, fresh seafood, and the freshest tortillas
- Climb, swim, crawl, and wiggle through caves all over the interior of the country - if you dare*
*Subject to availability/seasonality
- Rountrip airfare (excluding short trips)
- Airport pick-up, drop-off, and all in-country transportation
- All meals and snacks
- All excursions, park entry fees, and guide fees
- All necessary equipment for excursions
- Expert-led discussions on sustainability and conservation
- Participation in local initiatives
- Immersion in local culture
- Country orientation
What´s Not Included:
- Travel/medical insurance (necessary for participation)
- Alcoholic beverages (TREE policy prohibits alcoholic beverages for anybody under legal drinking age and/or on school-associated trips)
Day 1: Arrive Belize City Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport and head into the Savanah for a relaxing introduction to the country at either the Monkey Bay Center, Community Baboon Wildlife Sanctuary, or St. Herman's inland blue hole (not the famous Blue Hole off the coast, but still beautiful).
*It is highly recommended to visit the rainforest first, and end the trip with the more relaxing island portion, but it can be done in reverse order if you wish. If you prefer to begin your journey in the islands, swap Day 2, 3, 4, & 5 with Day 6, 7, & 8*
Day 2, 3, 4, & 5: Head down the Western highway into the far west jungles of Cayo where we will see incredible flora biodiversity and learn about the many uses of these trees and plants. Hike through ancient caves, climb Mayan ruins, and go river tubing through villages. It is also possible to visit the Mountain Pine Ridge reserve, one of the most beautiful natural places on Earth - home to waterfalls, caves, pools, and tropical pine trees!
After getting our feet wet (metaphorically and literally) in Cayo, head down the Hummingbird Highway towards the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve - the world's first and only reserve dedicated specifically to jaguars - where we will have the chance to see incredible fauna biodiversity. Though the chances of seeing the elusive, nocturnal jaguar are slim, we will set infrared camera traps to try and catch a picture of one and we will sometimes see evidence of their existence through giant paw prints in the mud. Aside from the jaguars, there are many different species of birds, and howler monkeys are never far away. Watch out for snakes and tarantulas as you marvel at their captivating presence. Feel what it might be like to spend a night in the forest as we go on night hike, turn off the lights, and sit in silence for a few minutes. Swing on vines and learn how to survive in this abundant area teeming with termites, cohune nuts, and fresh water. Go river tubing through the beautiful reserve and feel the serenity. Slide down a natural waterslide at Ben's Bluff. Hike to the most amazing natural feature in the forest, the Tiger Fern double waterfall. Top off all of these nature experiences with a visit to Maya Centre, where we will participate in making chocolate from cacao fruit we pick from the trees - all while learning about the traditions of the Mayans from modern Maya people.
Day 6, 7, & 8: Depending on your preference, we will take a boat out to either Tobacco Caye, Caye Caulker, or Turneffe Atoll (if you wish to go to Caye Caulker a flight could also be arranged). On the islands we will snorkel in the largest living reef in the world while learning about species identification, ecological connections, threats to the reef, and how the reef provides numerous benefits to us on land. If we stay at Turneffe Atoll we will go dolphin and manatee watching, using the same protocols as the marine mammal researchers that frequent the atoll islands. Tobacco Caye will also feature manatee watches, with a chance of seeing dolphins, and is a unique island because of its proximity to a reef channel and its pirate history. Night snorkels are a very popular activity on Tobacco Caye that are not offered on the other islands. Caye Caulker is the largest of these islands and has the most variety of accommodations, restaurants, bars, and activities. Here we can visit Hol Chan marine reserve and swim with nurse sharks and stingrays at Shark Ray Alley. All islands will also feature mangrove exploration and experiential education on the importance of mangroves and identification of these species.
Turneffe Atoll accommodations are with the University of Belize Environmental Research Institute (ERI) and are very basic, but set in the midst of the most unspoiled nature. There are no bars or restaurants here, just excellent food cooked by some of the most talented Belizean chefs in the country. Nobody lives on Turneffe Atoll full-time.
Tobacco Caye has a selection of a few different accommodations, all locally owned and operated. It is the smallest island but still features two bars (for adults only) and endless coconuts (for everybody). About 35 people live on this island full-time.
Caye Caulker is the largest of the three destinations and features an abundance of accommodations, bars, and restaurants. This is the least nature-oriented island, but there are the most activities offered from here, and some are incredible! *It is recommended that student groups do not visit Caye Caulker
Day 9: Take one last dip in the Caribbean Sea before taking the boat back to the mainland to depart from Belize City Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport.