There are some places that win my heart as soon as I set foot on the land. The look and feel of the area awakens something deep inside, and I find myself feeling like I’ve come home to a place that I never knew existed. For me, Belize was one of those countries and thanks to the Carnival Cruise Altun Ha Mayan Site and River Wallace Excursion, I had the opportunity to experience the some of the beauty and history of the country up close and personal. The excursion lasted about six hours and by the end, I knew I’d be coming back to see more of the country some day.
Our adventure started before the excursion even began, as we enjoyed a boat ride from the cruise ship to the port in Belize City. Belize doesn’t have a dock for cruise ships, so we enjoyed the extra fun of being able to speed away from our ship towards the shore, enjoying the fresh air and splashes of water as we did. Once we reached the port, we met up with our excursion leader, a fun and friendly woman named Simone. She herded our group towards another boat and we hopped on board to enjoy a cruise down the River Wallace.
The river cruise has ample opportunity to enjoy both the countryside and the wildlife of Belize. Of course, there’s never a guarantee that the animals in the area will cooperate, but the cruise offered us the chance to potentially see howler monkeys, parrots and more. While the monkeys stayed hidden, I was intrigued to see some huge iguanas with bright orange colouring. Simone explained that the orange colour meant that it was mating season for the animals. We also had the thrill of seeing sleeping bats under a bridge startled into flight when our captain surprised them with a light spritz of water.
The animals were fascinating, but I found the people even more so. Seeing how friendly the citizens of Belize were as we boated past had me longing to be a part of that countryside. The homes ranged from simple huts to elaborate mansions, but every person we passed smiled, waved and called hello as we cruised down the river.
We ended our tour at the Black Orchid Resort and had a delicious lunch of bamboo chicken, rice and beans cooked in coconut milk and fried plantain. We knew that Belize was famed for mangoes, so Benjamin was a little disappointed that there weren’t any available during lunch. After I took a few minutes to explore the beautiful and relaxing resort, I took him on a walk to see if we could find a mango tree. When one of the employees noticed me and asked what I was doing, he led us to a beautiful tree on the outskirts of the property and found the perfect mango for us to enjoy. The man’s kindness warmed my heart as much as Benjamin’s smile when he took that first bite.
Then it was time to hop on our bus and take a ride to the Altun Ha Excavation Site. On the one-hour ride, Simone told us a bit about the history of Belize. We learned that Britain and Spain had both claimed the country as theirs, with the British finally fighting back the Spanish to create the only English-speaking country in the Caribbean. We learned about the country’s cashew trees and how the nut actually grows as a tiny seed pod at the bottom of a cashew fruit. And we learned about the country’s national tree, the mahogany tree.
After that, we had the chance to explore the stunning buildings left by the Mayans 3000 years ago. One of the things I loved most about this spot was that we actually had the chance to climb to the top of many of the buildings and look down on the area that the Mayans once used as a trading center and temple. The climb itself was a workout, but both boys handled it without a complaint and at the end of our exploration, we even climbed a final set of stairs that took us to the top of a building not yet excavated. Thinking about the tremendous amount of work and technology that went into creating the structures was enough to take my breath away.
When we left the ruins, we had just enough time to sample a bit of the country’s famous cashew and blackberry wines before hopping on the bus to head back to our port. As we pulled away from the dock to leave Belize, I knew that it would be a country I visited again one day. And I’d learned so much about what made the country so amazing thanks to our Carnival Cruise excursion.
Sometimes it can be hard to decide whether it’s best to purchase an excursion at a cruise port or just explore the country independently. In my opinion, this excursion in particular was the ideal way to go beyond the surface of the country and delve into its history, culture and personality. As Simone would say, visiting this gorgeous Caribbean country is sure to be an “un-Belize-able” experience!