Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gary, Bonita, Olivia – continuing their jungle experience with MRF

Gary, his wife Bonita, and their daughter, from Massachusetts, arrived here on the farm driving a rental car. Their first three nights they spent at Caves Branch doing tours like Black Hole Drop and cave exploring. They arranged with us to meet Gonzo in Teakettle so that they could do Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) on their way here instead of using that day for moving between lodges. They met the guide with no problems and were really happy to save some driving around and fit in as much touring as possible while here in Belize.

The family arrived here late in the afternoon after their ATM tour and were happy to relax in their hammock prior to eating dinner. They were all a little tired after 3 full days of jungle tours and they knew they had more full day adventures ahead of them while they were staying with us. We were happy to see that they loved their previous tours and knew that they would be up to the itinerary they had set up with us.

The next day we set out for a tour at Ka’ax Tun under the supervision of Julio. I (Tom) went along since I love going to this site. Ka’ax Tun is an educational center for kids here in Belize as well as for tourists. You can get some more information at their website at Since Olivia was especially up for more cave exploration, climbing up rock formations, and swinging on the vines, Julio tailored the morning to capture all we could of these features of the park. We also learned about strangler figs, give and take trees, sapodilla trees, poison wood, pacaya, orchids, and many other plants and trees. We heard toucans, trogans, mot mots, and many other birds and we caught a rare sight of a coral snake off the side of the trail. Coral snakes are very pretty but also very lethal here since there is no antivenin but the good thing is they are not aggressive and try to just get away from humans.

We ventured into some caves that the Maya used for ceremonial purposes, climbed the limestone chimney and descended with the help of the strong jungle vines, crossed a ravine on a fallen tree, and then we slithered down into a cave with some spots we had to crawl through on our bellies (Bonita decided to pass on the crawling cave section). Then we had to hike out through a ravine and scramble up the rocks to get back to the main path.

After Ka’ax Tun, we headed to Julio’s house where his wife Janet made us a wonderful local meal of rice and beans, chicken, macal, and we had banana pudding for desert. After lunch the family drove themselves up to Big Rock to go for a swim and relax in the river for a while.

The next day they were off to Caracol on their own. Gary had contacted us while planning their trip and asked about the options of going to Caracol. There are basically 3 ways to do the trip:

1. Go with a guide in the guide’s vehicle, all food is provided by the guide, and you usually stop at Rio Frio Cave on the way to Caracol, then drive to Caracol, tour the ruins, eat lunch, and on the drive back you stop at Rio On Pools to go swimming. This is the most expensive way to do the trip but provides you with a very comprehensive tour with everything setup for you and you don’t have to worry about anything. Most tourists choose this option since the drive is over 45 miles on rough dirt roads, not like driving in most areas of the US or Europe.

2. If you have your own vehicle you can hire a guide for a day rate and do the above. Hiring the guide helps a lot so that you know exactly where to go in the Pine Ridge, what the timing is for stops to and from the sites, and the guides provide excellent information regarding the ruins and the natural resources.

3. Or, if you have your own vehicle and are adventurous you can do the trip on your own. We can pack you a lunch (there are no restaurants near Caracol) and we can give you some directions to help you out as well as approximate times for where to be when for the day.

After researching the trip quite a bit, Gary chose option 3, driving themselves without a guide. He felt confident that they would be okay since he’d read our blog about another family who successfully toured Caracol and the Mountain Pine Ridge on their own from Moonracer Farm. He did his homework, got good advice from all of his sources, and had a great time exploring Rio Frio Cave, Caracol, and Rio On Pools as a private family. One other advantage of doing it all on their own was they decided to try to get to 1,000 Foot Falls as an added side trip. Unfortunately, they got there too late and the park was closed.

The following morning, they packed up and left around 8:15 so that they could tour the Butterfly Ranch one mile up the road and visit the zoo before returning their rental car and heading out to Caye Caulker to do some snorkeling.

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