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Belize - Lamanai Outpost Lodge

Lodge and Activities

I was greeted outside the airport in Belize City by a representative from the lodge (along with probably a dozen other lodges--I forgot it was still Spring Break...), and once everybody was through customs we all piled in a bus and headed to the place where we would be taken right to the dock of the lodge by boat!  (I didn't time it, but it felt like it was about a half-hour drive...)  You can drive there, but the boat is one of the best parts of the stay:  George was our pilot, and he stopped for anything interesting, which in our case included Boat-billed and Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Northern Jacanas, Snail Kites, roosting Proboscis Bats, a Morlett's Crocodile, and my personal favorite dream bird, a Black-collared Hawk! 

Devil's Gut Cactus

   

I think they called this "Lobster Tail Cactus"

The Landing

We were welcomed by Karen and shown to our cabañas while the guys brought our bags up; the one they had assigned for me for my nine-day stay was occupied at the time, so I stayed in a three-bunk cabaña for two nights up on the hill and next to the restaurant, which was handy when you wanted to grab an early morning cup of coffee!  But they eventually moved me to #10, which was fabulous:  it was part of a four-room building, but you had plenty of privacy, and mine was right on the end where I had a wonderful view of the lagoon and could keep an eye on who was coming and going at the dock from my "perch"! ☺  The cecropia trees were at eye level as well, and while relaxing in the afternoons I had visits from Black-headed Trogons and Howler Monkeys!  The cabaña I was initially in (#2) didn't have much of a view, but the local Bright-rumped Attila did pay me a visit there!

   

My cabaña (#10)

View from my "perch"

Lineup of hammocks...

The grounds were very lush, although I was disappointed in the lack of butterflies (caveat:  I was advised to go in the fall for that...).  It was quite a climb (for me, anyway) to get to the restaurant:  all the paths are gravel with occasional stairs, but I discovered a dirt "back trail" that led up to the maintenance shack, the researchers' quarters, and the back of the restaurant, which was gradual and therefore much easier!  Their guard dog spooked me a couple of times (he was on a chain), so I found a shortcut next to one of the cabañas that got me on a direct path to the restaurant's front deck; otherwise you had to go around the whole building from that direction.  This trail was also good for skulkier birds such as Dusky Antbird and a gorgeous Blue-crowned Motmot that posed on a pole!  The attila also put on a concert back here, and as I was heading up the trail, the VENT group was heading down to get a look; we nearly collided! ☺  On those days where I went straight to the restaurant from the dock, there was an old overgrown road that paralleled the gravel walkway, and I would usually take that rather than climb the stairs; I ended up finding an interesting dragonfly and a dead bat going that route!

Heading to the "Back Trail" from my front steps (you can see where it turns to dirt)

The "normal" path to the restaurant...

...and the road I usually took!

General view of the grounds

There was also a small pond in the middle of the grounds I dubbed the "Garden Pond" (I neglected to get a lot of "scenic" pictures because of the type of lens I was using most of the time), which I would check periodically in the hopes of spotting some dragonflies.  Most of the time I spooked a big Basilisk Lizard, but one day I hit pay dirt with something that looked like a Flame or Needham's Skimmer (but was probably something else), and my pictures revealed a male damsel of some kind perched right beneath him that I hadn't noticed!  The best critter that ever showed up there had to be the Plumbeous Kite that sailed in while I was talking with Lynzy, one of the guests on honeymoon from Britain with her photographer hubby!

I'd always visit the dock before breakfast:  there you could always find a pair of Social Flycatchers guarding the boats (Reuben was rather nonplussed with them because they liked to leave their calling cards...) and the Mangrove Swallows would always be perched on the edges!  A Northern Waterthrush regularly made his presence known with his loud pinking, and a Mangrove Vireo (another lifer) would always be singing down the shore, as well as plenty of Green-backed Sparrows (which were ubiquitous throughout the property).  My first morning there I had a Prothonotary Warbler, but there was always a Yellow hanging out in the trees.  Once in awhile a Green Kingfisher would show up, but we had a pair of Ringed that always hung around and were quite noisy!  Brown Jays were ubiquitous, and on more than one occasion we were all awakened in the middle of the night by the local Howler Monkey family!  The only night birds I heard from the grounds were Pauraques, besides the things waking up across the lagoon.

View of the dock and canoes which were available for exploration; the airboats were used in the Crocodile Encounters

As per usual when I visit these kinds of places, I like to plan a routine that includes a pre-breakfast poke around the grounds, a four-hour post-breakfast bird hike, post-lunch siesta, and then a shorter afternoon bird hike before dinner, after which I'd shower, catch up on the bird list and journal, and play some cards! ☺  That kinda flew out the window here, as the advice from the folks on the VENT tour (they were leaving just as I showed up) was, "Do everything!!"  If you get the all-inclusive package, you have two activities per day you can sign up for, and there were additional excursions at an additional cost.  The only "extra" I signed up for was the Savannah Birding Trip, as they said you'd get birds there you get nowhere else, and they were right!

Before I get to the activities, though, I have to say a word about the food:  "Donnie" is the head cook, and their meals were to die for!  As one reporter put it, if you go away hungry, it's your own fault!  Three-course meals every day, (along with juice--the best was Hybiscus) and because most people stay only four days, they have a menu that cycles around every four days, so if you're there longer they fix something different for you so you don't have to repeat anything.  I wouldn't have minded that at all, however:  my favorite dish was the Grilled Red Snapper, and the Cheese Enchiladas came in a close second!  Because we got in late on Saturday, they had Potato Soup ready for us, and that was fabulous!  Usually the appetizer was tortilla chips with some kind of salsa (sometimes complete with shrimp), but occasionally they'd have this yummy spinach dip.  Desserts ranged from Coconut Cream Pie to Decadent Brownie with Ice Cream, and when they served something I couldn't handle (like cheesecake or Key Lime Pie), they'd gladly whip me up a chocolate sundae!  Breakfast usually consisted of some kind of egg dish and sausage (spicy--yum!), but on my "extra" days they offered me pancakes and French toast along with the bacon and eggs, and that was outstanding!  I soon discovered that one of the many "ranch cats", this one named Tollroad, liked to come up to you if you sat at the corner table overlooking the landscape, and put his little paw on your leg!  (One dark evening the couple next to me didn't notice Tollroad, and the lady nearly shot through the roof when he put his cold nose on her bare leg!)  Needless to say he suckered me out of some of my eggs on occasion... ☺  I didn't see a whole lots of birds from the restaurant, but I did spot my only Bat Falcons of the trip feasting on bats themselves one evening!

They also had a very relaxing bar area with a library and soft seats, and I would usually retreat here after my morning hike to cull pictures before lunch.  Each room has a fridge with two bottles of water supplied, but since extras are charged to your room, they recommend filling your empties with their ice-cold filtered water, which worked just fine.  One of the more exciting moments was when a Giant-type swallowtail got caught in the downdraft of the ceiling fan and was madly bouncing around the dining area; I thought it was a Broad-banded at first (as it showed a very wide median band), but the pictures showed a puzzle, as the ventral view best fit Giant (Jeff Glassberg's "broken line" trick), but the dorsal view best fit Thoas (with the square as opposed to pointed median spots).

There were three primary birding guides: Reuben (who was their best birder--definitely the one you want to nab if you're hard core), Mauricio (who was also very good), and Raul, whom I had a lot of fun with as we teased each other a lot (he was young enough to be my son...)!  As on all these types of trips, I had prepared myself to bird on my own, but the guides turned out to be indispensable, as they were much better at spotting things than I was, and there were a lot of strange vocalizations that weren't on the CDs ☺ that Reuben straightened me out on!

Activities (only the ones I participated in are listed here):

Jungle Dawn

Lamanai Ruins

Nature Walk

Sunset Cruise

Night Walk

Spotlight Safari

Savannah Birding

Critter pages:

Birds

Butterflies

Odonates

Mammals

Herps

Miscellanea

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