Mark Smith Nature Tours
Natural History   •   Birdwatching   •   Flora   •   Wildlife   •   Travel Photography

Birds, Ruins, Reef and Rainforest

March 11 - 25, 2015

The eight pyramids of Tikal tower above a vast rainforest that engulfs this largest of Mayan sites. From the heights of Temple IV one looks down onto the forest canopy and sees eye to eye with eagles, parrots and spider monkeys. Myriad paths wind through the tall forest connecting many small overgrown ruins. We'll have four days at Tikal, during which there will be ample time to study the ruins (with a fine resident archaeologist), pursue photography (as from the pyramids at sunrise and sunset), and search out spectacular rainforest birds and mammals. Tikal is the finest birdwatching site in Northern Central America. Toucans, trogons, antbirds, cotingas, manakins, puffbirds, and woodcreepers are all here. Even large species like ocellated turkey, great currasow and crested guan are still easily found at Tikal. Twelve miles north of Tikal in the remote Peten rainforest we experience another 1500 year-old Mayan city, Uaxactun, where we also visit the present Mayan village of chicle gum tappers, and have a traditional lunch.

Belize is a "Latin" American anomaly. There are only 300,000 people in this small English-speaking country. This low population density combined with the activities of conservation groups and a sympathetic government has resulted in Belize having an excellent system of parks and natural areas. During our 10 days here we'll visit many of the natural areas, including a boat trip on the forest-lined lagoons of Crooked Tree Sanctuary, rainforest walks in the San Ignacio region, exploring the Pine Ridge Mountains, and visit the Mayan ruins of Uaxactun, Altun Haand Caracol. Caracol is a huge, impressive ruin that once rivaled Tikal and has recently been added to this itinerary. There is also an opportunity to visit an undisturbed ceremonial cave with ceramics and other artifacts.

In each of these areas there will be different scenery and birds, including the mighty jabiru, spoonbills and parrots, and forest birds like motmots and toucans. Three days will be spent on Ambergris Caye at the north end of the Barrier Reef. Here we will have time to relax and swim, watch wintering warblers and waterbirds like Reddish Egret, shorebirds and terns, and snorkel amongst splendid corals and an endless variety of colorful fishes. Guides can escort beginning snorkellers in life jackets. The water is warm with great visibility.

This tour presents a unique combination of beguiling archaeology, enchanting avifauna, and relaxing tropical waters.

March 11- 25, 2015



LEADER: Mark Smith & Regional Naturalists

Belize, Tikal & Caracol Description Trip& Itinerary

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Northern Potoo, Belize, Photo by Diana Bradshaw

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