The boat picked us up as planned at 9.00am from our guesthouse in Orange Walk Town, Lamanai Riverside Retreat. Before booking the trip we’d looked on-line at the costs for the boat trip and tour of Lamanai Mayan Archaeological Reserve. Most tour companies seemed to be targeting cruise ship passengers doing it as a longish day trip starting from the Cruise Ship Dock in Belize City, with prices quoted as between $US75 – 100pp. But we’d also seen that you could get the same tour for $US50pp if booked through a local hotel or guesthouse. So, we booked through Lamanai Riverside Retreat for $US50pp.
Lamanai means ‘submerged crocodile’ and the site was occupied by Mayan people for 3,000 years from 1500BC to the 19th century AD. The site has over 700 identified structures, with around 70 having been investigated by archaeologists, but only 6 are partly restored and accessible to visitors.
Lamanai sits on New River Lagoon. We arrived after travelling for 1.5 hours from Orange Walk Town up the New River. We stopped on the way to see (and feed with bananas) a spider monkey (he seemed to know the routine), and check out bird life and the occasional crocodile.
Most of the boat trip was through jungle, with intermittent clearings revealing a rum factory and a Mennonite settlement. The Mennonites are a fundamentalist Christian sect that date back to the 17th Century in Germany and who have in the past emigrated to Canada, USA, Mexico and Belize.
Our boat captain and tour guide for the day was Ignacio from Lamanai River Tours. He was knowledgeable and very well organised. We also had the company of a family from Florida for the day.
We started with a visit to the on-site museum.
We then visited all the open temples/structures starting with the Jaguar Temple.
Next was the Stela 9 Temple.
We stopped to have a look at the small ball court near the main plaza.
On one side of the plaza is the High Temple.
Unlike some of the more famous Mexican sites, such as Chichen Itza and Tulum, you can climb to the top of the larger temples at Lamanai, including the High Temple, to enjoy the impressive views.
It was then onto the Mask Temple.
After around 2.5 hours we had visited and clambered up all the structures, so it was time for lunch (which, along with the entrance fee was included in the tour price), and some low stress souvenir shopping.
It was then back in the boat for our return to orange Walk Town. It was an excellent day trip and we’d certainly recommend Ignacio (Nacho) and Lamanai River Tours.
Ken and Cally