Our third port of call was the amazingly wonderful and wild Belize. I was the most excited for this stop because our shore excursion included a trip to the Mayan ruins Altun Ha and a boat ride down the Belize River. In my elementary school gifted program we studied the Mayans for a year and ever since then I have been fascinated by the people and the culture. My entire family has been to various ruins but this was my first time at any ruin and their first time at Altun Ha. Belize has become a hot spot not just for their amazing Mayan ruins but also for eco-tourism. The government does a great job at protecting the country too, during debarkation we were heavily warned not to take any non-prepackaged food off board in order to avoid a fine up to $5,000. Their strict guidelines and regulations pay off, the boat trip down the river was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced. Click through to see pictures from the ruins and from the river ride.
The picture is a little blurry but the ruin site covers about 5 square miles. Our tour guide said that a thorough tour of the site would take about 6 hours but we only had 2, so we got to see the main part but not the entire place. No one was even aware of the site until 1963 when a pilot flying overhead spotted the ruins. They began excavation in 1965 and found one of Belize’s national treasures, a jade head representing the Mayan sun god Kinich Ahau. It is no longer stored at the site so unfortunately I do not have a picture of it.
This is the main temple of the site. According to our tour guide they have not found evidence of human sacrifice at Altun Ha but they have found evidence of another bloodletting ritual. A female priestess would take a sharpened stingray barb that was etched with different symbols and pierce her nipples. A male priest would then take the barb and pierce his genitals. Interesting huh?
This is not the original altar where the sacrifices were performed. Some time ago looters accessed the temple through the altar and so they built this one covering the hole on the original.
After narrowly escaping death on the highway leaving the ruins, we ate lunch at a little resort where our boat was docked on the river and had a little time to look around at the flora.
Quite literally as soon as we got on the boat we saw some of the local wildlife. As you will see in the next picture there were monkeys hanging out on a tree right next to our boat dock. They were the only monkeys we saw, but I was super excited to see them, monkeys are one of my favorite animals and I had even said earlier in the day how I hoped to see some wild ones.
Funny story about the next iguana picture; we were cruising along when all the sudden we see this guy sitting there. He was outside a rehab facility so there we are taking pictures while the nation’s drug addicts are inside. A lady comes out thinking that us stupid Americans are taking pictures of her and her friends. We finally explained to her that no, in fact, we are just taking pictures of the big ass iguana under the dock. We point to where he is and she bends over to take a peek. Well Mr. Iguana was not to happy about that and jumped at her and then scurried under the dock. She jumped back and landed right on her butt. It was definitely the funniest part of the day.
Our tour was just about over at this point. We ended up back in a bay where there were a lot of manatees but since they only come up for seconds at a time it was impossible to get a picture of them.
I absolutely loved the part of the country I saw and would love to be able to get the chance to go spend some real time down there. It’s so cool to see all the diverse wildlife and a country that is practically untouched by capitalism, not to mention all the Mayan ruins the country has. Like I said earlier, I have always been fascinated by the culture and I loved having the opportunity to step back in time a little and walk where they walked.
Please, if you use my photos credit me and link back to this post.