Birding the Route of the Maya: Part 1

Birding the Route of the Maya: Part 1

Jul 15, 2014| by administrator

Preliminary Day One: February 16, 2014

Today I left on my first official Road Scholar birding program!  I have always loved watching birds but had never officially taken a birding tour. The non-stop flight from Atlanta was 2.5 hours and I read a National Geographic intro to birding book to pass the time.


Belize City airport (Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport) is small and does not have jet ways, so you deplane on stairs and walked to the terminal.  There were several other planes parked – United and American -- and USAir was pulling in as we were in line for Customs.  The line was outside the building and we walked to the very end of the building to enter the terminal for Customs.

Standing outside in the line was humid and warm, but there was nice breeze and once in the building, there were large industrial fans blowing that kept the line of people somewhat comfortable. There are three custom stations for Foreigners and two officers at each station.  It moved adequately. I was given the choice to go to the station that is reserved for Belizean Nationals and I was not asked to enter my fingerprint.  I wonder if taking fingerprints is a random thing, so don’t be surprised if you are required to give your index fingerprint.

By the time we made it to baggage claim, all our bags were randomly scattered off the carousel and on the floor.   My bags were not together and for a minute, I feared that I had lost one!  Thankfully my fear was unfounded; they had just been placed on either side of the carousel. I gathered my bags and moved to the “nothing to declare” line with my customs form in hand.  I past this check point without any problems.

Every day of the week, there is a person at a podium (to the left as you exit) where you pre-pay for taxis but on some Sundays the person takes his/her day off.  This was one of them, so getting a taxi was negotiated directly with the taxi driver.  But there is no negotiating because the cost for one to two people is $25 USD.  I felt it was expensive but after asking around, found that these are the going rates for one party of one to four people.

The drive to Belize City takes you along the Belize River and at this point, the river doesn’t have a lot of natural debris in it.  It almost looked like a manmade canal. Belize City on Sunday is SLEEPY and boarded up.  From my view in the car there was hardly an establishment opened.


After getting to the Radisson at approximately 1 p.m., I checked with the front desk and my room was not going to be ready until 3:30 pm.  So I stored my bags and had some lunch in the bar/grill overlooking the gardens. With about two hours to explore I walked out on the pier and saw Brown Pelicans. I then walked up to the new cultural plaza that is open whenever the cruise ships are in.  Here you will find crafts people in stalls open to sell souvenirs. There is also a stage for local performances.   After that, I past the Belize Audubon offices and then went further into town.  People out on the sidewalks were very friendly, but as I stated earlier, most of the stores were closed.  There were a few open, but nothing very inviting for a tourist.


With not a lot to do in town, I returned to the hotel and sat by the pool near the grill.  There was an entire battalion (300 or so soldiers) from the British Army there and it was amusing to hear some of their conversations! They too were waiting to check-in, but thankfully I got my room before them.


At check-in I was given a room overlooking the garden with a distant view of the ocean.  This room is not the type normally used for Road Scholar, but if we have a large group, these rooms are used as back-up. The room was very nice and the bonus amenities of robes and slippers were a great touch; I used them both.  Some of the walls are rough around the edges and the closet door is a bit weak, but it works.  The linens and bed were very nice and there was a nice feel to the room that opens to a water view with old trees where many birds frequent.  There is a patio as well that puts you under the canopy.


The bathroom had more than the usual amenities: including a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, a wash cloth and mouthwash.

After checking in on work, I went to the pool for a quick dip in the cool water.  I quickly got out to dry in the late afternoon sun.  This main pool area has a hot tub and a private spot for massages.  If not there, you can arrange for a massage in your room.

After swimming and showering, I revisited the marina pier and saw more pelicans and frigate birds and then had dinner at the pool bar and grill. This is a hot stone restaurant that serves food that you cook on hot stones after you receive it at the table.  So, basically you order the food and it comes out on the very hot stone.  You then cook your meat and veggies to your liking.  In the evenings, there is a local musician who is very good — playing Hendrix, Petty and other rock tunes.

After dinner, I took a walk along the waterfront to the lighthouse where I found a very active park with families.  It is a Sunday day and evening tradition with a trampoline set up just for this gathering. There are three to four different grills and people selling barbeque plates.  On the way back to the hotel, I saw the full moon; it was large, looming, and orange reflecting off the ocean.  It was hard to get a good picture with my camera, but it was really beautiful!  And so ends my first day in Belize.

Preliminary Day Two: February 17, 2014

This morning for breakfast, I met Pat Lamb, the sales manager for the hotel. I was taken on a tour of the hotel and saw the conference rooms where our groups meet for dinner and lectures, as well as the guest rooms located in the annex.  The annex rooms are lovely; they have access to the coffee shop, workout room and the second pool.

At 10 a.m. I took a taxi to Discovery Belize and was there for a short while.  They gave me a ride back in one of their vans and I asked to be dropped off at the swinging bridge just down the road from the hotel. It was very hot, but I was interested in buying quite a bit of the famous Belizean hot sauce, Marie Sharp, made from carrots and habanero.  I was told that the best prices were at the local grocery store, Brodie’s.  I walked over the swinging bridge, took a left, and walked up the street. It veers to the right and I stayed right. I could see my target and was there in a short time.  Since it was Monday, there was interesting street life, much livelier than Sunday and made for an interesting walking excursion for me.  Brodie’s is a larger than normal chain store that sells groceries and household items. I found lots of great Marie Sharp sauces and some other interesting food items.  On my walk back, right at the foot of the bridge, I found an authentic BBQ restaurant.  For $5 US I got a big piece of chicken, rice and beans, and potato salad with a cold and refreshing Beliken Lighthouse beer. The dining area was built over the water and was a nice spot to watch the river traffic.

After lunch I walked to the Radisson, which was a good hike with my rolling briefcase and heavy load of sauces.  I was HOT when I got back!  I had one hour before my next meeting, so I went for a swim at the annex pool.  Both pools at the Radisson are made with polished tile and can be quite slippery, so please be cautious with getting in and out.


After a refreshing dip in the pool, I walk over to the Belize Audubon Society to meet with the director. Belize Audubon Society’s office was three blocks from the Radisson across from the new cultural park, so I walked.  Amanda Acosta gave me the background of the organization and explained how they worked with the Belizean government to protect eight different parks, reserves, and habitats.  BAS receives the entrance fees from all of these protected areas in order to operate the Belize Audubon Society.  The government has given them authorization and provides enforcement officers.

We had a nice talk and I walked back to the hotel for a lovely dinner down the street from the hotel.

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