Venture off the beaten path for an unforgettable experience immersed in natural history and active adventures.
Omar Figueroa, a Cayo boy, is Belize’s first jaguar man, or to put it more properly, first full-time jaguar researcher. He is literally re-mapping what is known about jaguars in Belize. The study area is concentrated in the contiguous Peccary Hills and Runaway Creek Reserves in central Belize. So far 3 pumas and 3 jaguars have been collared. Your jaguar tracking experience begins the evening before where you will meet with Omar in the Frieze Lounge for an orientation and the chance to see how the jaguars are tracked remotely. The following day, travel into the jungle to a designated location with Omar where you will start to look for signs of the jaguar and learn more about the conservation process.
Exercise Level: High octane adventure, high level of fitness and agility and no fear of claustrophobia or heights essential.
Actun Tunichil Muknal
The Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave tour begins with a 45 minute trek that includes wading across 3 rivers to get you to the “Cave of the Stone Sepulcher”, one of the most impressive caves in the Maya Lowland. Located in the heart of the Belizean rainforest in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, this cave was a sacred place to the Maya of Belize, who first began to use the entrance during the early classic period. In later years the Maya traveled deeper into the Cave to conduct their ceremonies.
The ATM cave system consists of a series of chambers, ending in a large Cathedral where sacrificial ceremonies once took place. Here lie those individuals sacrificed to the gods of the underworld known as the Xibalba (pronounced shi-bal-ba). Visitors to this cave have the opportunity to travel into the Maya past and witness a living museum where the skeletal remains and artifacts can be viewed in their original context.
Exercise level: Moderate to High, includes one mile walk, crossing rivers, and caving activity.
Not only is this a unqiue way to experience a cave, it's also lots of fun and a great soft-adventure option. After being outfitted with the necessary equipment, begin the one mile trek through sub-tropical trails and wade across a shallow portion of the river before reaching a stunning lagoon surrounded by steep limestone walls. Along the way, your guide will point out various exotic flora and fauna native to Belize. Float along the cool waters illuminated by your headlamp, gently pushed by a current or led by your guide into two large chambers - both impressive sanctuaries used by the Mayas for sacrificial rituals. Plunge into darkness and listen to the sounds of the cascading waterfalls and bubbling rapids. Upon exiting the caves, continue floating along the jungle-lined river for approximately thirty minutes before returning to the starting point.
Exercise Level: Moderate, includes a one mile walk.
Crystal Cave in Belize is one of the most exhilarating caves in the greater region. The initial climb to reach the start of the cave tour is steep and heart pumping and the scenery is lush rainforest. After a 60 minute hike you arrive at the entrance of the cave and here the real fun begins. You will be descending up to 600 feet into a stunning cave system. Pick your way along sheer rock faces and slide down mud ramps. Crystal stalagmite and stalactite formations litter the caves and the cathedral cave sections are mind-blowing. If you are up for it this will be a highpoint of your Cayo adventure cave experience.
Exercise level: High octane adventure, high level of fitness and agility and no fear of claustrophobia or heights essential.
Caracol ruins ("snail") are considered to represent the largest Maya city in Belize and is home to the largest man-made structure in the country. Depart at 7:00am for an adventure deep into the jungles of the Maya Mountains, habitat to wild animals such as tapirs, jaguars, monkeys, toucans, and scarlet macaws. In the years past, it used to take 2 days by horseback to reach the Caracol Maya ruins! Thankfully the journey is now less than two hours and is filled with stunning scenery along the way.
Visit ancient courtyards, ball courts, residential complexes and a complete astronomical observatory. Over 100 tombs have been uncovered to date. One of the best preserved is that of an adult woman (believed to be the wife of Lord Water – the ruler who conquered Tikal). Carved stelae detail victories by Caracol over rival Maya cities of Tikal and Naranjo. Your expert guide will lead you from small relics through partial structures building up to the finale.
Caana (Sky Place) is Caracol’s tallest structure, standing over 140 feet 42 metres above the jungle canopy, where visitors can climb to the top and marvel at 360 panoramic views of the jungle, below. Simply stunning, the views from the top are incredibly unique and will represent the memory of a lifetime.
Afterwards you can enjoy a refreshing swim at Rio On Pools. Formed by granite boulders, this series of natural swimming pools is a popular spot to unwind and cool off.
Exercise level: Easy to Moderate – involves step climbing.
Tikal Maya Ruins
Tikal (“City of Echoes”) is the largest known city remaining from the ancient Maya civilization and was considered the greatest metropolis in the Maya Kingdom. It holds ruins comprising over 3,000 astounding structures set in 55 square kilometres / 21 sq miles and situated in Guatemala’s largest protected area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your tour day will begin with a 6:30am “Tikal Breakfast” and prompt departure at 7am. You will then get to compare the border towns of Benque Viejo in Belize and Melchor de Mencos in Guatemala. On the ride to the Tikal Mayan ruins in Guatemala you will already see the differences in the two countries. Views along the transition can vary from wild pigs and exotic birds in flight to Mayas dressed in traditional clothing and carrying over-sized water pots on their heads.
At Tikal your expert tour guide will impress you with an extensive knowledge of every aspect of Maya life as it existed from before 1,000 BC until it fell after 1,000 AD. Take a gentle amble through the rainforest primary growth and hear the famous Howler monkeys. Sightings of Spider monkeys are possible as well as Toucans and other exotic birds. Lunch is served in one of the local eateries before heading back to the luxury of Ka’ana Resort. The rewards of this phenomenal experience are absolutely worth the journey.
Exercise level: Easy / Moderate – involves some stair and hill climbing.
The ancient Maya ruins of Xunantunich ("Maiden of the Rock" pronounced: “Shoe-nan-too-nitch”) are accessed by a short crossing on the Mopan River on a hand-cranked chain ferry which leads to the temples, courtyard and museum held within the Belize rainforest. The hills were first occupied between 400 BC and 200 BC and it wasn’t until 600 AD that Xunantunich was first used as a ceremonial site making the entire site some 1400 years old.
The Xunantunich ruins are located on a natural limestone ridge offering outstanding views over the surrounding villages and into Guatemala. This major Maya ceremonial center features several major temples. The largest pyramid “El Castillo” has been partially excavated and explored, therefore your climb to the top is broken half way to admire the West Friese, a stunning example of Maya artisans at work. Your expert guide will explain in great detail the culture and beliefs of the Maya, and you will see the ancient ball court where the Maya warriors often lost their heads whether they were the victors or losers!
Once on top of the Xunantunich Maya ruins you will have a chance to take in the stunning views as a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding mountains and valleys opens up before you. The climb and descent are taken slowly and with caution but the efforts of the climb are well worth the rewards. Stop on the way back at a traditional market in Succotz on the Mopan River, offering local crafts made from cloth, slate, wood, fabrics and other natural products.
Exercise level: Easy – involves some stair and hill climbing.
Private Picnic at Big Rock Falls
Drive into the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve and away from most of civilization for an intimate experience at one of the most breathtaking sites in Western Belize. Led by your adventure specialist, hike down to the waterfall and climb over boulders as he shows you the best swimming spots as well as sets up your private picnic.
Exercise level: Moderate: Involves steep step climbing.
Ceramic Making in San Antonio
The San Antonio Women’s Group still makes ceramics by hand. It is a time-consuming process requiring great concentration and precision. They will demonstrate how this is done using the “coil method” and guests will be able to try their hands at creating something of their own. Following this, help to prepare your lunch by learning to make corn tortillas on a traditional fire hearth. Hear about the process of grinding the fresh corn and transforming it into the “masa” or dough that you will be forming into the tortillas. While the women finish preparing lunch, walk the rest of the property and learn about the sustainable processes used to fire the ceramic kilns and sustain an organic garden. Enjoy a specially-prepared meal starting with warm Atole, followed by roasted chicken pieces, fresh hand-made salsa and your recently prepared corn tortillas.
Exercise level: Easy.
Horse Back Riding
Experience a departure from the traditional horseback riding tour when you visit the private ranch of the Santiago Juan family. Ride across an open pasture towards the bank of the Mopan River and be led by your personal guide and ranch hand. An exciting river crossing takes you off the beaten path and on an eye-opening ride that reveals a different, slower way of life.
Included in the tour is a stop at a yet-unexcavated Mayan site on the ranch. Your guide will provide the history of the area while you dismount your horses and hike to the top of a Maya mound. From that vantage point, you will have a 360 degree view of the valleys and mountains as well as peek at the excavated Maya city of Xunantunich.
Exercise level: Moderate – involves horseback riding through jungle, river & mountain terrain.
Belize is home to the rare Orange Breasted Falcon and this expedition will take you to one of only 13 locations in all of Central America where you can witness these magnificent birds in their natural habitat. Whilst this is the highlight of your Belize birding experience your guide will also explain about the medicinal uses of the plants on the trail as well as pointing out a plethora of interesting birds, wildlife, flora and fauna including numerous species of Orchid which grow abundantly in the rainforest.
Hike trails vary according to the fitness level of the guests and the sinkholes can be as deep as 400 feet. The Falcon perches high on a dead tree or cliff and then swoops down on unsuspecting prey of birds and bats. The hunt and kill are dynamic to watch and include bursts of speed, swooping, short bursts of incredible accelerating to clutching prey in its talons before disappearing into the canopy below.
After the jungle hike guests get to relax at the convergence of two important rivers, the Macal and the Mopan. These two rivers combine to form the Belize River, the longest river in Belize. Your small group sizes mean a more personalized and flexible Belize bird watching experience for you and less impact on the fragile environment. Experienced guides have escorted hundreds of birders and nature enthusiasts over the years.
Exercise level: Easy to Moderate.
The Belize Zoo is a unique stop for animal lovers. Here one can see more than 125 different types of animals which are native to Belize. The zoo is set around 29 acres of tropical savanna and provides a natural setting for all the wildlife. One will learn about all the unique qualities of these creatures as well as the importance of protecting their natural habitat. With a chance to view Jaguars, Tapirs, Howler Monkeys, and Margays, this stop should not be missed. The Belize zoo is located an hour away from Ka’ana enroute to Belize City. And for a truly unbelievable experience, you can go into the Jaguar cage and hand feed “Junior” a young jaguar who was taken into the zoo when his mother was shot and who is fast becoming the star of the zoo. This has to be arranged in advance, and you will of course be in a cage within his cage and thoroughly safe.
Exercise Level: Easy.
You arrive at Barton Creek Cave after an enjoyable drive across rivers, jungle trails, orange orchards, through the Mennonite Community of Barton Creek – be sure to have a smile and a wave for the horse drawn buggies. Hidden within this small community are the remnants of an ancient Maya civilization silently waiting to be explored in the cool, dark watery underground caverns of Barton Creek Cave, which was a center for ritualistic activities including human sacrifices, fertility rites and bloodletting. Stretching nearly two miles underground, this ancient wonder can be explored only by canoe. Drift along and marvel at the glittering stalactites and stalagmites, some 50 feet (15 m) in length. Littered with the eerie remains of human bones, centuries old clay pots, some in perfect form, and tiny remnants of cultural Maya artifacts. Take a plunge in the cold underground river if you dare for a truly incredible experience.
Exercise level: Moderate, includes paddling.
Zip Line & Cave Tubing
Soar through the sub-tropical jungle canopy from treetop to treetop and gain a bird’s eye view of the rainforest below. A thrilling adventure, there are 5 runs at heights ranging up to 80 feet off the ground, culminated by rappelling down from the last treetop to the ground for that final adrenaline rush. Guests are “outfitted in seated cable gear” and helmets by their guide, and will be instructed on how to traverse from platform to platform and reassured of the numerous safety features implemented. The first run is the shortest distance, much like a test run, and if anyone does not want to continue they can exit at this point. Any type of sports clothing and most shoes are acceptable. Make sure and bring a camera to capture the enjoyment!
After being outfitted with the necessary equipment, begin the one mile trek through sub-tropical trails, wade across a shallow portion of the river and pass through two caves before reaching a stunning lagoon surrounded by steep limestone walls. Along the way, your guide will point out various exotic flora and fauna native to Belize.
Float along the cool waters illuminated by your headlamp, gently pushed by a current or led by your guide into two large chambers - both impressive sanctuaries used by the Mayas for sacrificial rituals. Plunge into darkness and listen to the sounds of the cascading waterfalls and bubbling rapids. Upon exiting the caves, continue floating along the jungle-lined river for approximately thirty minutes before returning to the starting point.
Exercise level: Moderate – involves some stair and hill climbing, and a one mile walk.