After arriving in the town of Orange Walk, we looked for somewhere to stay.
There were no backpackers hostels at all, so we settled for a place called Hotel de la Fuente.
Despite being worried it would be out of our budget, it was clean, wasn’t too expensive, and we were able to organise a tour to the nearby ancient city of Lamanai for the following day.
Lamanai is a Mesoamerican archaeological site and was once a major Mayan civilisation.
The name is a Mayan term for ‘submerged crocodile’, and the site is only accessible by boat via the New River.
Lamanai is renowned for its exceptionally long occupation spanning three millennia, beginning in the Early Preclassic Maya period and continuing through the Spanish and British Colonial periods, into the 20th century. Unlike most Classic-period sites in the southern Maya lowlands, Lamanai was not abandoned at the end of the 10th century AD. (wikipedia)
In the morning, we walked to the nearby New River with our guide and another young couple who would be taking the tour with us. We got on a small boat and made our way down the river through dense jungle for about 25 miles. Our guide was super knowledgable, friendly and pointed out heaps of different wildlife along the way with highlights being birds of prey, monkeys, and a crocodile.
The boat trip was so much fun and incredibly scenic. It lasted about half an hour, and aswell as pointing out wildlife, our guide also showed us a Mennonite community. Eventually, we pulled up to a dock outside Lamanai and headed in to the site.
Our guide took us around to different structures and ruins within the site, told us stories, and gave us heaps of information on the history of Lamanais civilisation. It was interesting to learn that Lamanai lasted so much longer than most ancient Mayan civilisations due to the abundance of water available from the New River, as opposed to other sites that were deep in the forests and jungles of Central America who suffered from a lack of sufficient water sources.
John and I climbed Lamanais tallest pyramid in the pouring rain, and the summit provided us with awesome views of the river, other nearby pyramids, howler monkeys and olive-throated parakeets!
Check out the video below – it’s not great quality but it gives you an idea of what Howler Monkey calls sound like.
We learned about how the ancient Mayans of Lamanai utilised different plants found in the area for different purposes, for example All-Spice trees for cooking and ‘give and take’ trees for medicine.
We were provided with a traditional Belizean lunch of rice and beans before heading back.
On the boat ride back we stopped by a particular tree and waited for a known wild spider monkey to show up so we could feed him a banana. This was an interesting relationship that our guide had formed with the monkey many years ago by habitually driving by and offering him fruit.
Overall, it was an awesome day despite the rain, and we learned so much.
Check out our video from the day 🙂