Our first full day in Belize began very early with a bird walk at 5:45 am. We were rewarded for rising early with coffee, and then we headed off to explore the land surrounding the lodge. In addition to seeing Belize’s national bird, the keel-billed toucan, we saw a white-necked jacobin, a golden-fronted woodpecker, a spiny-tailed iguana and giant grasshoppers that were similar to our lubbers back home. And the plant life did not disappoint either. We saw starfruit and avocado trees, lobster-claws, and got to taste a velvet apple, a type of fruit that looked like a fuzzy peach with the leaves of a persimmon, that tasted reminiscent of a floral pear.
After a delicious breakfast, we loaded into the bus and drove to the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve where we hiked along the road and then through the jungle — up what we now lovingly refer to as “death hill” due to the steepness and narrowness of the path, the low-hanging branches we had to limbo underneath, and the ever-present heat and humidity — to the entrance to Domingo Ruiz Cave. Once in the cave, we saw stalactites and stalagmites, bats, spiders and kissing bugs; then we sat for a minute in perfect darkness and silence to fully appreciate the majesty of the space.
The next cave we visited was named “Rio Frio” (cold river). This is where Late Preclassic and Classic period Maya may have performed sacrifices and other religious ceremonies. Unlike Domingo Ruiz Cave, this one was open on both ends, so we had natural light to aid us as we climbed over rocks to reach a sandy beach along the river running through the cave.
After a lovely picnic lunch outside the Rio Frio Cave, we headed to the Rio On Pools to cool down after a taxing morning of hiking. We changed into our swimsuits and then got to play like children, clambering over smooth granite rocks, sitting under small waterfalls, sliding into the different pools and swimming around the crevices.
We returned to Sweet Songs Jungle Lodge where most of us spent our free hour enjoying the infinity pool, and we then had our daily meeting where we discussed highlights of the day and what we learned from our experiences and our top notch tour guides, Nathan Forbes and Zhawn Poot.
After our fabulous dinner, we are headed off on another night hike. Fingers crossed we find some new creatures to observe.