We headed out this morning around eight with our two tour guides, Major and Minor Tom to begin the long journey to Lamanai. We first had an hour long van ride to get to the boat launch. In order to get to Lamanai, an archeological site of Mayan ruins we took a boat 26 miles up the New River, known to the Mayans as the River of Strange Faces. Along the way, we viewed much flora and fauna including Medusa flower, Cattle egrets, Bullet trees, Snake cactus, Cowhorn orchids, king fisher birds, insect bats, and even a huge Morelet's Crocodile! Despite a torrential downpour we still managed to have an enjoyable time.
Upon arrival at Lamanai, our tour guide, Amir, showed us a large Ceiba tree which according to to the Mayans, roots represent hell (xibalba) and branches heaven. We were also lucky enough to see a brightly colored male Trogon bird, which are rare to see. Again, as we started out it started to rain, but it wouldn't be the "rain" forest without a little bit of rain right?? The Mayan ruins that we saw today were once a considerably sized city of the Mayan civilization. We saw three different temples today. The Jaguar Temple was first up on our tour, you can see we all viewed it from the shelter of the trees so as not to get too wet! On our way to the second temple, we were able to see some howler monkeys. These monkeys are pretty small, generally only growing to be 15lbs at their largest stage but they make a tremendous amount of noise when two groups fight over territory! I've linked a short video clip here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4pJFAnVJHQ) which doesn't quite do the sound justice, but hopefully you can gather a sense of how incredible it was to hear in the forest.
The second temple we saw was the 33 meter High Temple and we were able to climb to the top of this one. Our guide told us that in the Mayan culture, human sacrifices were willingly made by the most elite members. If you were sacrificed at the top of one of these temples, it was said that the gods would help you through the seven rings of Xibalba (the underworld) so that you would be able to enjoy a spirit life away from the terrors of the underworld. From the top of the High Temple you could see the top of the canopy, and we were able to see more of the howler monkeys from here as well.
The last temple on the tour was the Mask Temple, so named because it features two beautiful masks of an ancient Mayan king on its surface. These masks are over 15ft tall and feature a face surrounded with more decorative elements.
Overall, an exciting day for all of us here in Belize! Tomorrow we are heading out in the morning to Altun Ha to see more ruins.