Monkeys and dessert, what more does one need in life? Oh yea, a Belizean beach!
The tour began at 8:00am on a crisp Belizean morning. We all gathered on TIDE’s wooden wharf and one by one we boarded the boat as our captain, Carlos Ramirez (Cash), and tour guide, Martin Ack, held the vessel steady from the soft currents lazily hitting the rocks on the coast. As we each snapped on our life jackets, Martin began to explain the itinerary for the day and cautioned us about the seats we had chosen; seats closer to the stern provide a smoother less jarring ride whilst seats toward the bow are more rough and quaking. A few individuals shifted around opting for the seat comfort of their preference; once we were all settled down, the engines roared, the buoys were retracted and the adventure began.
The boat ride to the town of Monkey River was an hour long, however, it was an hour filled with picturesque landscapes, constant cool and refreshing winds, and a rising warm welcoming sun. We soon entered the Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR) passing by large island like groupings of mangroves and shortly after, arrived at our destination. As we approached the wharf we had seen a man standing just at the edge waiting for us to pick him up. He was a town local and was to be our guide for the first half of the tour. He hopped into our boat and introduced himself as we began our journey up the calm Monkey River towards the opening of the rainforest. Along the way we spotted many different animals living in their natural habitat: birds perched upon trees, iguanas relaxing on branches, crocodiles disguised as fallen tree branches in the water, turtles sunbathing, and proboscis bats camouflaged into a tree trunk. We reached the opening and ventured deep into the jungle, spotting (and hearing) howler monkeys high up in the trees. The trail showcased the living ecosystem and the many different flora and fauna inhabitants within it. After walking in awe of the rainforest, we boarded the boat, thanked our guide, dropped him off at the wharf, and set course for Punta Negra for a much needed lunch.
After a short 20-minute boat ride, we arrived at the small village of Punta Negra. Waiting for us at a small restaurant was our host for the afternoon, Ms. Paula Jacobs. She hospitably informed us that lunch would be ready shortly and invited us into her kitchen to watch her cook our traditional Belizean meal. Once finished, Ms. Paula began preparing our dessert: coconut fudge! It was made of young coconut which she had picked from a tree in her back yard, condensed milk and brown sugar; our mouths watered and our appetites grew as we watched this demonstration. Shortly after, we set the table and began eating our meal all eagerly anticipating the dessert. The entire meal was divine and it showcased the distinct flavor of Belizean cuisine; a worthwhile culinary experience! With bellies full, we made our way a few meters from the restaurant to the beach sands to wade in the warm waters and take in the beautiful landscape, appreciating this beautiful country. As the tour came to an end we graciously thanked Ms. Paula for preparing our delicious meals and set course back to Punta Gorda and our respective accommodations.