Belize's marine activities are so extensive and varied you could easily occupy your entire vacation on - or under - the water. But there is much to do onshore, as well! Mayan Ruins, virgin rainforests, caves with ancient artifacts, exotic plants and animals -- there is so much to explore on mainland Belize. Please note that a licensed Belizean tour guide will accompany every inland excursion. Food is included in our onshore excursion.
Mayflower Jungle & Waterfall Hike
Just a short drive from Hamanasi are two thrilling hikes through the rainforest leading to waterfalls. The Antelope Falls hike is a rigorous, steep trek to a 100-foot waterfall with an incredible top view all the way to the ocean. The Three Sisters Falls hike is less difficult. These falls hurtle down the dense jungle mountain face into cool pools perfect for dipping. Nearby are the remains of the ancient Mayan city of Mayflower. Archaeologists are still excavating and piecing together the history of this modest Mayan ruin, which is over grown by the jungle. Orchids, birds and lush vegetation abound.
Cave & Jungle Adventure
Attention cave lovers, hikers and birders - you won't want to miss this adventure! Traveling past citrus orchards on the gorgeous Hummingbird Highway you will reach Blue Hole National Park, one of Belize's oldest jungles dense with large, hardwood trees. The park's namesake is a large, sapphire blue, 30-foot wide sinkhole fed by crystal clear underground streams. Also featured is St. Herman's Cave, a mile long cave into which visitors may hike. A hike around a mountain lake while birding leads to a scenic overlook. The park hosts many plant, animal and bird species.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary & Jaguar Preserve
Near Hamanasi is the world's only jaguar preserve, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Ringed on three sides by the Maya Mountains and towering Victoria's Peak, the Basin's 120,000 acres is also home to jaguarundi, margays, ocelots, pumas, deer, howler monkeys and tapirs. This trip begins with a stop at the traditional village of Maya Center where Mayan arts and crafts are for sale. The park offers a wide variety of hikes, including to Ben's Bluff, which has a spectacular view of the entire Basin, and to a waterfall where you can dip in the refreshing waters. Our knowledgeable guides identify the numerous plants, birds and fauna of the pristine rainforest. With over 290 recorded species of birds this park is ideal for birders. Bring your binoculars - as you trek you'll see a plethora of birds and perhaps an elusive jaguar!
A 45-minute ride will take you to the outskirts of a traditional Mayan village in the foothills. Here you will hike through the jungle viewing and hearing some of the 500 species of birds found in Belize. You may decide to take a quick dip in the river or just quietly relax on the riverbank to observe the many species in the area. During December through February we have the unique opportunity to see the endangered Scarlet Macaws that migrate to the Red Bank hills. Seasonally, we may go to the Serpon Sugar Mill for this birding adventure.
Jungle River Canoeing & Kayaking
From its origin deep within the Maya Mountains, the Sittee River snakes its way to the sea with its mouth just south of Hopkins. Our trip starts near the Creole village of Sittee River and slowly heads towards the ocean. Spot green and orange iguanas lounging in trees and maybe a crocodile resting at the water's edge. Parrots, toucans, motmots, herons and egrets often can be seen - and heard! We have seen stingrays, manatee and crocodiles far upriver. If you are adventuresome you can navigate up Boom Creek, a dense, vine draped tributary to Sittee River.
Magical Mayan History Tour
If you ever wanted to learn a lot about the Maya here is your chance. First explore the Mayan ruin of Xunantunich (pronounced Shu-nan-tu-nitch), or Stone Maiden. Located near the Guatemalan border, a hand-cranked ferry will take you across the river to this major ceremonial center situated high on a limestone ridge with a panoramic view of the Cayo District. The main pyramid, El Castillo, has detailed stucco friezes. After a full lunch we make our way to Cahal Pech, or Place of the Ticks. Cahal Pech was the royal family's residence around the same time that Xunantunich was at its height of power, as well as the second oldest structure. This medium-size Mayan center comprises 34 structures compacted in a small area covering slightly more than 2 acres. Cahal Pech was first developed during the Preclassic period (1000 BC to AD 200) and abandoned around 800 AD.
With over 500 species of birds in vast tracks of wild land Belize is a birder's paradise! Hamanasi's unique mainland location makes these diverse habitats easily accessible to serious and novice birders alike.
Wake up to the call of Plain Chachalacas, nature's alarm clock. On an early morning stroll down the beach you can see several different coastal birds like Pelicans flying in formation, Sandpipers running on the beach, Laughing Gulls and Magnificent Frigate birds riding the wind. On a short bike ride through the savanna towards Sittee River you may encounter a Great Egret, Blue Heron, Collared Aracari Toucan, Limpkin and Wood Stork. A kayak trip down the river offers the ideal opportunity for spotting Amazon King Fisher, Keel-billed Toucan, Emerald Toucanet and a variety of Flycatchers.
Further inland we visit the rainforest with its array of colorful birds. Olive Throated Parakeets, Slaty Tailed Trogans, Royal Flycatchers and Montezuma Oropendolas are regularly spotted. When we visit Red Bank in the hills of the Maya Mountains and during the months of December through February, we have the unique opportunity to see flocks of endangered Scarlet Macaws, which migrate to the Red Bank Hills.
The lush tropical coastal forest around Hamanasi grounds is home to several different Orioles, House Wrens, Warblers, Lineated Woodpeckers, Yellow Winged, Blue Gray and Summer Tanagers and Black-headed Trogans. A variety of hummingbirds can be seen feeding on the flowers around the resort. It is a delight to watch these tiny little birds with wing beats of more than 50 per second, darting about. We also have several birds of prey, including Roadside Hawks, Aplomado Falcons, Vultures and more.
About 30 minutes offshore lies Man-O-War Caye, commonly known as Bird Island, which we usually visit on a snorkeling trip. This caye is one of the 7 crowned bird sanctuaries in Belize. This magnificent caye supports one of the 10 largest colonies of frigate birds in the Caribbean. There are approximately 325 to 350 nesting birds. Seabirds patrolling the Southern Barrier Reef gather here and the resulting raucous is an incredible sight to see and hear!
Belize boasts the Western Hemisphere's longest continuous barrier reef, approximately 185 miles of coral formations with a large variety of marine life. The Southern Barrier Reef offers several different snorkeling sites for both beginners and experienced snorkelers in a pristine environment. With visibility ranging between 60 to 100ft, snorkelers often have close encounters with eagle rays, southern stingrays, octopus and even dolphins.
The majority of our snorkeling takes place in the South Water Caye Marine Reserve where conservation and safety are the two key words. A certified Belizean Tour guide who would love to share his passion and knowledge of the ocean with you accompanies all snorkelers. For safety reasons we never dive and snorkel at the same site. Hamanasi includes snorkel gear with our snorkeling trips.
Southern Barrier Reef
Hamanasi is ideally located and equipped to access all three atolls by day trips with the added bonus of having the pristine Southern Barrier Reef in our front yard. Dives on this section typically produce sightings of spotted eagle rays, turtles, moray eels, southern stingrays, large grouper, barracuda, king mackerel, dolphins and several shark species, as well as almost every kind of smaller tropical reef fish in regular profusion. These sites are typically wall drift dives interspersed with sand channels and adorned with multicolored sponges and gargonia corals.
Glovers Reef Atoll
In Southern Belize and directly offshore from Hamanasi is Glover's Reef Atoll. Named after the 17th century pirate John Glover, who used the remote islands as the base for his raids against Spanish galleons heading to and from the Bay Islands of Honduras, Glover's Reef is the most remote island group in the country. Rising out of the blue from a depth of well over 2,000 feet this well defined oval shaped coral formation surrounds more than 700 patch reefs inside its 100 square mile crystalline lagoon. Of the three atolls Glover's Reef sees the least amount of human contact and is largely unexplored. This atoll was designated a National Marine Reserve and, in 1997, a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Turneffe Islands Atoll
The Turneffe Islands Atoll is the largest of the trio and also the closest from the Belize coastline. Mangrove ranges, both offshore and coastal, make Belize diving special as they are the nurseries on which marine life depend to insure juvenile protection and biological productivity. Although the atoll is best known for its walls, there are many shallow sea gardens and bright sand flats inside the reef excellent for scuba diving. Undoubtedly, the highlight of Turneffe Islands diving is a spot called the Elbow located at the extreme southern tip of the atoll. Here at the convergence of several ocean currents you may dive through enormous schools of permit, snappers, eagle rays, Atlantic spadefish, grouper and jacks numbering at times in the thousands.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll
Lighthouse Reef Atoll is known worldwide in SCUBA Diving circles for its spectacular diving, but it is most famous for a site called the Great Blue Hole. Originally, a cave whose roof collapsed thousands of years ago and filled with water, the Blue Hole forms a perfect 1,000 foot diameter circle on the surface then plunges vertically to a depth of 430 feet. At 130 feet depth, one can find the world's largest underwater dripstones ever found. Also at Lighthouse Reef, you will find Half Moon Caye, a National Park managed by the Belize Audubon Society. Half Moon Caye is home to a bird colony of rare Red Footed Boobies that can be observed up close by visitors. This Atoll is 50 miles out to sea and is the furthest out of the Belize Atolls.
Hamanasi is a PADI 5 Star Gold Palm Resort. Experience Belize's best diving combined with personal service touch. Professional, PADI certified staff will help you explore miles of the pristine Southern Barrier Reef or three of the Caribbean's four atolls. Dive the Southern Barrier Reef, Glover's Reef Atoll, Turneffe Islands Atoll, the Elbow, Lighthouse Reef, the Blue Hole, Half Moon Caye and more. Seasonally, dive with the largest, perhaps most awesome, fish of the sea â€“ whale sharks! Please note the Discover Scuba diving courses are not included in the Hamanasi package prices. Additional fees apply for the Discover Scuba diving course.
Here is a sampling of offered dive trips:
Southern Barrier Reef
These trips will explore from just north of Tobacco Caye to a cut five miles south of South Water Caye called Grand Channel. The pristine southern section of the Barrier Reef sees few divers and is typically a wall dive that is interspersed with sand channels and spur and groove sections. With literally dozens of dive sites Hamanasi Divemasters will show you a wide variety of this area. See turtles, moray eels, barracuda, king mackerel, eagle rays and southern stingrays, as well as little Pedersen shrimp, colorful gobies cleaning stations, and Spotted Drums. Divers have seen manta rays, hammerhead sharks, jew fish and dolphins up close. Some common dive sites include Jason's Wall, Elsie's Aquarium, Carrie Bow, South Water Wall, Trick Ridge, Hell Hole and The Abyss. These trips often stop by a "postcard" coral isle, such as South Water Caye, perched right on the Barrier Reef.
Glovers Reef Atoll
Due east of the dock this remote island group is a UNESCO world heritage site and probably best represents the incredible diversity and pure diving potential that Belize has to offer. If visibility is good dive a site called "The Pinnacles", which has big coral heads rising up 40 feet or more from the bottom. Second and third dives are on the East side of the Atoll where the water depth quickly drops off to more than 2000 feet and visibility is usually over 100 feet. Dive several sites on this side of the Atoll and usually dive Long Caye Wall; a world class dive that is always memorable. Drop onto a big field of bright white sand at 40 feet, home to southern stingrays and garden eels. While descending you spot garden eels slowly dropping into their holes. Just as you crest the wall the sand appears to be running like small rivers down through the coral into mini canyons. With the usual 100+ feet visibility, the view down the wall gives the impression of limitless space, in reality the wall is a 2000+ foot drop-off into the deep blue.
Turneffe Islands Atoll
This 3 tank trip heads northeast cruising past remote fishing camps and idyllic cayes before punching out of the protective Barrier Reef for a short crossing to Turneffe Islands Atoll. The first dive is one of Belize's most famous dive sites, "The Elbow." This has a convergence of several ocean currents passing by canyon-type formations. Here swim through enormous schools of horse-eye jacks, Atlantic Spadefish, snappers and permit, as well as sharks, turtles and eagle rays. During surface intervals go into the sheltered lagoon surrounded by mangrove islands. On the next two dives experience sheer walls for which Turneffe is famous. It is common to see moray eels, turtles, rays, big barrel sponges and large coral formations while drifting along over the edge of the abyss. End the trip with the shipwreck site Sayonara, a broken wreck sitting at less than 60 feet depth on top of a steep wall.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll & Blue Hole
Start this trip bright and early and head 50 miles offshore to the Great Blue Hole. Once there go down 130 feet to view the largest underwater dripstones on the planet. There are two Blue Hole dive profiles. Only experienced, comfortable divers will be permitted to dive to 130 feet. Other divers will enjoy a comfortable, 60-foot Blue Hole dive.
After the Blue Hole, head a short distance to Half Moon Caye Bird Sanctuary, some of Belize's clearest waters and finest beaches. This 45-acre island managed by the Belize Audubon Society was declared a natural monument in 1981, largely because of its Hawk's Bill and Loggerhead turtle nesting sites, as well as its 4,000 red footed boobies. These rare birds are a glistening white color with bright red webbed feet. The birds nest in the heavily wooded west end of the island where there is a viewing platform allowing visitors an unbelievable view of both the reefs and the trees covered with booby and frigate birds.
The second dive explores the Half Moon Caye wall, a unique topography of swim-through channels. Immense coral buttresses are decorated with black corals, gorgonia, sea whips and a variety of brightly colored sponges, as well as a profusion of reef fish and cruising pelagics. Divers then return to Half Moon Caye for a picnic lunch and a relaxing surface interval before heading out to Long Caye for a third and final dive site. Perched on the edge of the cobalt blue abyss The Aquarium starts in only 15-20 feet of water before plummeting downward. This site offers what is arguably some of Belize's most prolific and high energy diving. Depart for a 2-hour journey home with the wind at your back and the sun setting over the Maya Mountains before you.
* All divers are required to complete a Scuba Diving Liability Release Waiver and sign off on PADI's Safe Diving Standards.
* All divers must have certification cards and all major certifications are accepted. No one is permitted to dive without a valid certification card, unless he participates in a Discover Scuba Diving or Open Water Course.
* Certified divers who have not had the pleasure of diving for over a year are strongly encouraged to complete a short Rusty Diver Course.
* Trip minimums apply. If there are not enough divers for the trips, especially atoll trips, trips will stay in the Barrier Reefs.
* Gear storage is available in the Hamanasi Adventure Center. Hamanasi staff carries all gear to and from the boats, assists with preparation and washes all equipment in fresh water every day. Hamanasi is not liable for missing or damaged equipment.
* The nearest recompression chamber is on Ambergris Caye. Hamanasi is a paid member of the group managing the chamber. A portion of our dive fees is paid over to the Recompression Chamber. This contribution supports the chamber and reduces your fees in the unlikely event that you would need to use the chamber.
* DAN insurance is strongly recommended, which can be purchased at Hamanasi Adventure Center.
With its abundance of marine life the Belize's Southern Reef is an angler's paradise! The Belize coastline offers the ideal ecosystem for a wide variety of marine life. There are many rivers, mangrove lagoons and islands that serve as nurseries to aquatic species. With the addition of abundant flats and the barrier reef game fish thrive.
Your experienced guide will show off his skill catching bait in round cast nets near the mangroves. Let him know what you would like to catch for the day and he will do his best to help you accomplish your goals. Trolling is popular along Belize's Great Barrier Reef drop-offs where you often can catch king mackerel, barracuda, grouper, jacks and snapper. Belize is renown for hundreds of flats and cayes, many within an one-hour boat ride of Hamanasi, that will challenge even the best angler's skill. About one mile south of Hamanasi is the mouth of Sittee River. This tranquil river is good for tarpon and snook fishing. As an added bonus you may spot a host of birds and elusive crocodiles on the riverbanks.
Hamanasi has a catch and release policy. All permit, bonefish and tarpon are always released. Some fish like snapper, grouper and barracuda may be kept for the table.
A typical fishing trip will leave at 7:00 AM and return back to the resort at about 4:00 PM, but a half-day fishing can be arranged. Snacks, lunch and juice are provided on all day trips and snacks and juice on the half-day trips. The not-so-serious fisherman may decide to take mask snorkel and fins along to explore some of the beautiful reefs in the area. Trolling, spinning rods and fly fishing gear are available. Fishing is either done from our 25-ft boat or with one of the experienced local guides from 23-ft skiffs.