Start this full-day air tour with a short 15-minute flight from the San Pedro Ambergris Caye Airstrip to Belize City. Relax on a scenic and informative 1-hour ride along the Northern Highway as you make your way to your first stop. When you arrive with your guide at Lamanai Landings, enjoy light refreshments before boarding a riverboat for your sightseeing cruise on Belize’s New River (Rio Nuevo).
As you pass small creeks and tributaries, keep an eye out for raptors such as great black hawks, kite birds and falcons, as well as herons, Jabiru storks and jacanas – dainty tropical birds that stride across the lily pads. Your guide may point out the spider monkeys that inhabit the broadleaf forest overhead, as well as crocodiles basking on sunny riverbanks.
From the entrance to the New River Lagoon, the largest body of fresh water in Belize, catch a breathtaking sight of the majestic temple ruins of Lamanai (Maya for ‘Submerged Crocodile’), nestled into 2 square miles (3.2 square kilometers) of the surrounding forest. Then, hop off your boat and gather at the museum to see original artifacts and learn more about this ancient Maya city – the largest and oldest in Belize.
As you walk around the Mayan ruins, you’ll encounter plazas and temples like Mask Temple, which dates back to 450 AD and is the smallest of three excavated main temples. Here, two 13-foot (4-meter) stone faces adorn each side. At the Stela Temple you’ll also see a stone monument depicting the Maya ruler Lord Smoking Shell in ceremonial dress.
Next, visit the Jaguar Temple, where a jade mask and jewelry were excavated, and pass the ceremonial ball court before ascending the High Temple, which rises 100 feet (33 meters) with spectacular panoramic views from its top. Listen to birdsong and the hooting of howler monkeys echoing among the strangler figs and vines.
On your way back to the New River Lagoon, your guide will point out medicinal flora such as the copal and ramon trees used by the Mayas. After returning by riverboat to Lamanai Landings, relax for a Belizean lunch at the Smoky Mermaid II, a restaurant located along the banks of the New River in Orange Walk. Afterward, return to Belize City by coach for your flight back to Ambergris Caye.