Maya Reef Explorer | Island Expeditions
Maya Reef Explorer Belize

Maya Reef Explorer

A Jewel of White Sand Cayes Encircling Belize's Richest Coral Reefs plus the Spectacular Maya World and Wildlife of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

A Jewel of White Sand Cayes Encircling Belize's Richest Coral Reefs plus the Spectacular Maya World and Wildlife of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Price

US: $2019 plus $330 taxes and fees.
Can: $2204 plus $395 taxes and fees.
Per person based on double occupancy.

When and Where

Durration: 9 Days / 8 Nights
When: Weekly, December through April
Starts: Belize City
Ends: Belize City

Group Size

6-22 people per trip.
2-6 guides per trip.

Accommodations

1 Night Biltmore Plaza Hotel, 4 Nights Lighthouse Reef Basecamp, 3 Nights Birdseye View Lodge

Activities

Adventure and Learning Rainforest River Travel Swimming Stand-up Paddle Boarding Snorkeling Sea Kayaking (Paddling) Sea Kayak Sailing Photography Archeology Natural History Interpretation Mayan Ruins Birding

Extensions

This trip combines well with the Rainforest Canopy Extension.

Visit our combining trips page for more suggestions and info.

The Maya Reef Explorer combines a three day inland adventure to Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary with five days at Lighthouse Reef Atoll, a remote tropical marine park and designated world heritage site fifty-five miles off the shore of the Belize Mainland. 

Ideal for those wanting to experience both reef and inland, as well as the local Creole and ancient Mayan cultures. Well suited for families and couples of mixed abilities, our Basecamp trips offer a choice of guided activities on the reef and the flexibility for traveling companions to do things together or separately. All abilities welcome! Includes accommodation on the mainland before and after your trip to Lighthouse. 

  • Discover the diversity of indigenous birds and wildlife at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary on a boat tour of Crooked Tree Lagoons. 
  • Check out Crooked Tree, one of Belize’s oldest Creole settlements
  • Journey to the ancient Mayan ruins of Lamanai and Altun Ha.
  • Explore and stay on remote and renowned Lighthouse Reef Atoll, with four nights in a tent-walled cabana at our all-inclusive Adventure Basecamp on Half Moon Caye.
  • Paddle and snorkel ‘the Aquarium,’ as well as Jacques Cousteau’s legendary Blue Hole.

Itinerary Summary

Day 1 - Welcome to Belize! You will be met at the airport and transferred to Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. Relax after your journey, meet your fellow travelers and visit Crooked Tree Village. 
Day 2 - Travel overland and by river to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai, returning via the New River to our lodge on Crooked Tree Lagoons. 
Day 3 - Enjoy the waking wilderness and the hundreds of birds feeding along the shores of the lagoon. Boat tour in the protected lagoons and a tour to the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha. 
Day 4 – Travel to Belize City and board a chartered water taxi for the scenic two hour journey to Lighthouse Reef. Upon arrival at our Basecamp, you will get an orientation and introduction to sea kayaking and snorkeling before heading out on your first reef adventure. 
Days 5-7 – Explore Lighthouse Reef. Choose from morning and afternoon guided reef activities or enjoy some time at leisure, walking the beach or relaxing in your hammock. Snorkel ‘the Aquarium’ and the renowned Blue Hole. Check out the red-footed booby colony from the Belize Audubon Society viewing platform. 
Day 8 – Savor one last swim, snorkel or paddle before lunch. This afternoon, your boat charter will transport your group back to the Belize Biltmore Hotel, your accommodation in Belize City. 
Day 9 – Day at leisure before your flight. 

Bird’s Eye View Lodge

Day 1

Accomodation: Bird’s Eye View Lodge
Meals: Dinner

You’ll arrive at the Belize International Airport where an Island Expeditions’ representative will meet you and welcome you to the country. You’ll be taken to Bird’s Eye View Lodge in the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. After checking into your accommodations you’ll have a chance to meet your fellow travelers, enjoy a fine meal and if time permits, explore Crooked Tree Village. Crooked tree Village is one of Belize’s oldest Creole Settlements. Airport transfers, dinner, and lodging are included.

Mayan ruins of Lamanai

Day 2

Accomodation: Bird’s Eye View Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

You will have a full day of exploration as you travel overland and by river to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai. With the very best guides you explore the many temples, plazas, palaces, and museums within the park’s boundaries. In the afternoon, you’ll depart Lamanai by riverboat and your guides will help you discover amazing opportunities for birding and viewing wildlife. Iguanas, parrots, toucan, aracaris, and Morelet’s crocodiles are frequently seen while traveling down the New River. You will return turn to your lodge along the banks of the Crooked Tree Lagoons.

Jabiru Stork at Crooked Tree Lagoons

Day 3

Accomodation: Bird’s Eye View Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Coffee is served at sunrise. With your binoculars in hand, you’ll enjoy the sounds and sights of the awakening wilderness. You’ll also have the opportunity to see hundreds of birds feeding along the shores of the Crooked Tree Lagoons. This protected area was created in 1984 primarily to preserve resident and migratory birds. It consists of a network of inland lagoons, wetlands, and waterways, which shelter one of the world's largest flying birds, the Jabiru Stork. On this day, you’ll enjoy boat tours through the protected lagoons and a tour to the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha. Altun Ha is considered one of the major Mayan ceremonial centres of Belize, and functioned as an important trading center between the people of the interior and the coast during the Classic Period (250-900 AD). Within the site, there are more than 275 structures and 250 to 300 unexcavated mounds.

Half Moon Caye Belize

Day 4

Accomodation: Lighthouse Reef Basecamp on Half Moon Caye
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning you’ll travel to Belize City, and board a chartered water taxi to Lighthouse Reef Atoll. Our route takes you along numerous white sand, partially submerged mangrove cayes until you cross Belize’s Barrier Reef. From there, you’ll enter the narrow passages within the Turneffe Islands before crossing the blue waters towards Lighthouse Atoll. Upon reaching our Half Moon Caye Basecamp, your guide team will orient you to your new setting and accommodations. You will receive thorough instruction on the fundamentals of sea kayaking, snorkeling, and safety on the Caribbean Sea. In the afternoon, weather permitting; you’ll have an opportunity to sea kayak and snorkel within this marine reserve.

Lighthouse Reef Basecamp

Days 5-7

Accomodation: Lighthouse Reef Basecamp on Half Moon Caye
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Early risers may want to go for a swim, do some yoga - or just grab a cup of coffee and watch the tropical sunrise. After a healthy Belizean breakfast everyone gathers to plan the day’s activities. The waters of Lighthouse Reef Atoll are exceptionally clear with a fabulously rich reef system, which offers some of the best kayaking, snorkeling, and diving in the Caribbean. Throughout your stay, you’ll have the opportunity to try a variety of activities as you explore this remote and magical part of Belize. Snorkeling at the ‘Aquarium’ is a favorite guest activity. The Aquarium has a profusion of tropical fish and towering coral formations, and is an unforgettable underwater experience. You’ll also be taken on a snorkeling excursion to the renowned Blue Hole, a site made famous by the legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau. The Blue Hole is an underwater cave and sinkhole in the middle of the Lighthouse lagoon. In the mornings and evenings, a favorite guest activity is to walk to the red-footed booby colony to watch nesting boobies come in from the sea to tend their nests and feed their chicks.

Lighthouse Reef Snorkeling

Day 8

Accomodation: Belize Biltmore Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

For your last day on Lighthouse Reef, choose from a variety of activities. Don a mask, snorkel, and fins and swim to a favorite patch reef. Circumnavigate Half Moon Caye by kayak or explore by Stand Up Paddleboard. Walk the trails, or beachcomb along the island beaches. Our water taxi typically arrives later in the afternoon to take everyone back to the mainland. The Belize Biltmore Hotel is your final destination for today, a comfortable hotel located on the outskirts of Belize City.

Belize Biltmore Hotel

Day 9

Accomodation: n/a
Meals: n/a

This last day is yours to enjoy at your leisure before you fly home or continue on your travels. Relax by the pool or investigate the optional tours offered by the hotel activity desk.   

Note: Dinner on day 8, and breakfast  and transfer to the airport on day 9 are not included. 

Start Date

End Date

2018-12-20
2018-12-28
2018-12-22
2018-12-30
2018-12-28
2019-01-05
2018-12-30
2019-01-07
2019-01-11
2019-01-19
2019-01-13
2019-01-21
2019-01-25
2019-02-02
2019-01-27
2019-02-04
2019-02-08
2019-02-16
2019-02-10
2019-02-18
2019-02-22
2019-03-02
2019-03-08
2019-03-16
2019-03-10
2019-03-18
2019-03-22
2019-03-30
2019-03-24
2019-04-01
2019-04-07
2019-04-15
2019-04-19
2019-04-27

Price

US: $2019 plus $330 taxes and fees.
Can: $2204 plus $395 taxes and fees.
Per person based on double occupancy.

When and Where

Durration: 9 Days / 8 Nights
When: Weekly, December through April
Starts: Belize City
Ends: Belize City

Group Size

6-22 people per trip.
2-6 guides per trip.

Accomodations

1 Night Biltmore Plaza Hotel, 4 Nights Lighthouse Reef Basecamp, 3 Nights Birdseye View Lodge

Activities

Adventure and Learning Rainforest River Travel Swimming Stand-up Paddle Boarding Snorkeling Sea Kayaking (Paddling) Sea Kayak Sailing Photography Archeology Natural History Interpretation Mayan Ruins Birding

Extensions

This trip combines well with the Rainforest Canopy Extension.

Visit our combining trips page for more suggestions and info.

In partnership with the Belize Audubon Society, Island Expeditions has established an Adventure Camp within the Half Moon Caye Marine Reserve, opening up for the first time this spectacular wilderness to kayakers, snorkelers, and adventurers. 

Lighthouse Reef - Our journey to Lighthouse Atoll takes us 55 miles offshore to Belize’s most remote and spectacular atoll. On our way to Lighthouse we weave our way through channels and picturesque islands within Belize’s Barrier Reef. Then, after crossing the reef wall, we enter a keyhole passage and wind through narrow mangrove lined channels to reach the eastern Coral Wall of Turneffe Atoll. Finally, we continue another 20 miles to the world renowned Lighthouse Reef Atoll and Half Moon Caye. One of only four coral atolls in the Caribbean, Lighthouse is home to the famous Blue Hole. In 1972, Capt. Jacques Cousteau and the intrepid crew of the Calypso explored and filmed this incredible atoll, exposing its amazing underwater diversity to the world for the first time.

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary - located northwest of Belize City, the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary consists of a large network of inland lagoons, wetlands, and waterways. The sanctuary provides both the abundant food sources and the safe resting areas necessary to support a large and diverse population of birds. Those visiting in the later months of the dry season (Feb – May) are treated to a concentration of wildlife, which congregate in the park’s shrinking lagoons, as freshwater resources across the country dry up. 

THE MAYAN SITES 

Lamanai – The ruins of Lamanai lie scattered along the banks of the New River covering an area of 950 acres of tropical rainforest in central Belize. The Mayan name Lamanai translates into “submerged crocodile”. Due in part to its location straddling a major trade route, Lamanai was one of the longest continuously occupied Mayan cities in Central America - from about 500 BC to 1675 AD. The first major excavation was undertaken by the Royal Ontario Museum starting in 1974. During a series of field seasons they mapped 718 structures stretching out along the shore of the lagoon. Lamanai's importance is reflected in the large imposing Late Pre-Classic temple-pyramids built over top of earlier temples. On one site researchers found, buried deep inside a temple dating back to 600 AD, a well preserved Pre-Classic temple estimated to be seven centuries older - that's 100 BC!


Altun Ha – Translates into “stone water” due to the ancient Mayan reservoir, or aguada, that Belizeans call “rock stone pond”. Altun Ha was an important Classic Period site situated to take advantage of the trading that occurred between the waters of the Caribbean and the deep interior of the Mayan Civilization. The entire city covered three square miles and the population is estimated to have been between eight and ten thousand people at its peak. Within the central portion of the site there are more than 275 structures. Altun Ha has become famous for a large jade head representing the sun god Kinich Ahau that was discovered in the main temple. This relic is the largest Mayan jade artifact ever discovered, weighing ten pounds. It is now the national symbol of Belize and seen on the corner of every Belizean banknote. 

Kory Keller

Trip Date: 2015-02

Lighthouse Reef was fabulous - away from the crowds and worry-free. From the moment we awakened, opened our tent and looked at the ocean yards in front of us the experience was unforgettable. Every good thing we had read about the trip was true, but none…

Mary and Robert Harding

Trip Date: 2015-03

The Bird's Eye View Lodge was welcoming, clean, had a lovely location, friendly and very hard working staff. I liked that we could walk out the door and see so many birds and get such lovely views. We were so impressed with the kindness, patience…

Nicki

Trip Date: 2015-01

One of the best trips (and best organized) we have ever been on, which is saying alot since we travel out of country twice/year. Very unique experience on the island. Staff was amazing, very attentive without being pushy. Chef Anna rocks! The food…

Lighthouse Reef Basecamp
Peter & Wendy

Trip Date: 2018-02

OMG!! What a fantastic trip and experience! A perfect balance between activities and downtime both at Half Moon Caye and Bird’s Eye View Lodge. The visits to the Mayan sites inland were a nice contrast to the nature-based activities at both locations. We…