When Discovery Expeditions invited Ambergris Today to a Lamanai Trip, Gerry and I were one of the first ones to jump up at the opportunity; since our last visit to Lamanai was when we were in High School. So we were anxious to go back and see what all has changed in one of the greatest Mayan ruins of Belize.
On Friday, February 11th 2011, we were on our way to Lamanai. At 8:45 am we left San Pedro on Maya Island Air (who collaborated with Discovery Expeditions), on our way to Tower Hill, Orange Walk. From the airstrip it was a ten-minute ride to the Smokey Mermaid 2 on Tower Hill.
Once there the “real adventure” began. We took a boat ride up stream through the picturesque jungles along the New River. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip as we got to see Spider Monkeys in their own habitat, as well as several types of Birds including the Great Black Hawk, Tanager, Grey-necked Wood Rail, Boat Bill Heron, Jakana (Jesus Christ Bird) and Limpkin, just to name a few. The ride was only between 30 – 45 minutes and it felt even shorter with all the excitement around us.
As we approached the site, we could see the tip of one of the ruin temples peeking high above the forest canopy. The City of Lamanai (the Spanish historic name for “Lama’ an/ayin” which means “submerged crocodile”) is one of the only sites retaining its original name and is among one of Belize's largest ceremonial centre. The name Lamanai helps to explain the numerous crocodile motifs at the site. Crocodile images appear on figurines, vessel decorations, and on the large headdress on a limestone mask at one of the principal structures at the site. Gerry and I felt jittery as we recalled our last visit. The guide, Randy, was very knowledgeable about the archeological site. We visited four temples which were even more amazing than we thought. Another amazing part of the tour was experiencing the Howler Monkeys in their natural environment; I never knew they were so loud!
The first temple we visited was The Jaguar Temple, named this way because of its boxy jaguar face of the side of the ruin. Next we moved to the Royal Complex; this neighborhood was once home to a large part of Lamanai's upper social stratum. Houses of thatch, and sometimes partly of stone, were spread over the slightly rolling land much as a modern village would be.
We then moved on to the Stela 9; this is the only monument found in its original location. The figure on the monument is known as “Lord Smoking Shell”. The dates on the Stela celebrate the conclusion of the tun (year) 7Ahau 3 Pop, and the anniversary of the reign of Lord Smoking Shell. The festivities took place at 188.8.131.52.0 or March 7, 625 AD. Last but definitely not least, we arrived at the High Temple, Gerry’s favorite, which was where the sacrificing took place. The High Temple is 272 feet above ground level and climbing it was AMAZING; the way back down was a challenge to me but to Gerry it was a breeze. Once we got at the top of the temple the view was breathtaking as we got to see the dense jungle from a bird’s eye view as well as a large portion of the New River Lagoon.
After all of the excitement it was time to head back for lunch at the Smokey Mermaid 2. The boat ride felt a little bit faster on the way back until we saw a Crocodile, which Randy had told us from the beginning that due to the weather we had that morning we would maybe see one. So I guess it was our lucky day. The Crocodile gave us enough time to snap a few pictures before he decided to jump back into the water. It was the cherry on top of the cake.
Arriving at the Smokey Mermaid 2, we were greeted by our waiter, Arnold. Lunch was served buffet style and included Rice & Beans or Yellow Rice, stew chicken or baked chicken, coleslaw, white or wheat bread and chips with salsa. Dessert was a fruit plate; the food was scrumptious.
On our way back home we were having fun, chatting away about everything we had seen and all the fun we had on our trip. To our surprise we were back on the island by 4:00pm. We had a blast and can’t wait to go on another adventure with Discovery Expeditions.
Discovery Expeditions’ office in San Pedro is located at Exotic Caye Beach Resort’s dock.
Phone number: 226-2882
Thank you Mr. David Gegg for inviting Ambergris Today to a phenomenal trip which Gerry and I enjoyed to the max. We highly recommend this “must do” trip with Discovery Expeditions. And when you’re there don’t forget to say that “Ambergris Today Staff” sent you.