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Day Trips & Fund Raising Trips 

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 Jungle Trail & River Float

 

Difficulty: level:  Moderate with a 30 minute hike and a one-hour river float. We stop to take photos and hear stories from our Q'eqchí guides. 

Highlights: Some of the most stunning jungle scenery in Guatemala and Latin America, ceremonial cave, howler monkeys in the overhead treetops

Included: Guide, lifejacket, tube, dry bag for shoes or other clothing

Season: All year, with the exception of very high water. Alternative plans are made for an extended hike if the river is too high. 

Price: $14 (Q100) without return transport, $26 (Q200) with return transport, 2 persons minimum one way, 4 persons minimum with round trip 

"The Paradise" hot springs & Lake Izabal beach

Difficulty level: Easy, with a 1/2 mile hike 

Highlights: Hot springs waterfall, bat cave, limestone cave and cool stream, hot water massage, lush vegetation, Lake Izabal beach at Finca Paraíso  

Included: Round trip truck transport from lodge (1/2 hour each way), entrance fee

Not included: lunch at Finca Paraiso

Potential extensions: El Estor & the Bocas del Polochic Wildlife 

Season: All year, but best avoided on weekends

Price: $30 (Q225), minimum 4 persons

El Estor market & Bocas del Polochic Wildlife Refuge

Difficulty: Easy, with a boat tour and casual stroll through El Estor's market.

Highlights: Visit El Estor, the major settlement on the northern shore of Lago de Izabal, Guatemala's largest lake, lunch at the Hotel Ecologico, boat tour and wildife viewing in the Bocas del Polochic, a highly biodiverse wildlife reserve. A visit here provides great birdwatching and howler-monkey observation.  If we're lucky, we will spot alligators or manatees. 

Included: Round trip truck transport from lodge, 2 hour boat tour, lunch on your own at the lakeside Hotel Ecológico 

Season: All year. El Estor's market days are Tuesday and Saturday. 

Price: $50, minimum 4 persons  Option: El Estor trip only, $25, minimum 4 persons

 

11 DAY FUND RAISING TRIP: March 10 - 20, 2024
Arrival: Belize City, Belize - Phillip Goldson International Airport / Group size: 10 maximum, 4 minimum  / The trip down payment will be paid via a monthly $40 tax deductible donation to the Guatemala fund for one full year, and hopefully, you're on board with continuing donations in subsequent years. This is not an expectation at all however. We understand that there are countless worthy efforts to bring about change in harmony with the natural world. The total trip price is $1480, which includes the $40 monthly donation. 
Check for more attactions and inclusions on Tuesday, March 12, including visiting the Mayan archeological site of Xunantunich, dinner at La Casa de Don David and about two hours less driving time over two days.  

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Days 1 and 2: Sunday & Monday, March 10 & 11: Arrive Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City on Sunday, March 10.

 

Meet Paul Heesaker, the trip leader and project founder. I arrive on United Airlines at 2:30 PM and will wait for everyone to arrive in the Sun Garden Restaurant in Terminal 2. We want to be on our way by 5:00 PM if we're going to arrive at our lodging before dark. Avoid booking a flight with an evening arrival. 

Transfer by shuttle by 4;30 PM to the Belize Tropical Education Center. This location provides us with some flexibility in case of cancelled or delayed flights. We are just 40 minutes from the airport. If you arrive late, just arrange for a tazi. 

 

The Belize Zoo is the oldest wildlife rescue and rehabilitation facility in Belize. In keeping with its origins, the animals here are rescued, confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade by law enforcement, or transferred from other rehab and zoological facilities. The habitats designed for the animals reflect natural settings, and provide an immersive educational experience for visitors.

Monday, March 11:  

Half-day canoe trip down the Sibun River with a licensed tour guide. Launch off sandy river banks to navigate through the riparian forest while learning about the cultural and ecological value of the river. This is also a great birding opportunity, and other wildlife such as iguanas, monkeys, hawks, and even crocodiles are sometimes spotted!

We will take an “after hours” tour of the Belize Zoo for a fantastic nocturnal wildlife experience. The Neotropics comes alive at night, and the Zoo is no exception. Learn about the natural history of these native species when they are at their most active and have memorable interactive encounters guided by our highly knowledgeable Zookeepers.

Included: Shuttle from the airport to the Belize Tropical Education Center. Dinner day 1, breakfast day 2, dinner day 2, breakfast day 3 "After hours" tour of the Belize Zoo, Half day Sibun river canoe trip with lunch

Day 3: Tuesday, March 12:  

Depart at 9:00 AM for one hour shuttle to the Mayan site of Xunantunich, reached by crossing a cable ferry on the Mopan River. Xunantunich is an Ancient Maya archaeological site in  is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, well within sight of the Guatemala border – which is 0.6 miles (1 km) to the west. It served as a Maya civic ceremonial centre to the Belize Valley region in the Late and Terminal Classic periods. Xunantunich's name means "Maiden of the Rock" in the Maya language (Mopan and Yucatec combination name Xunaan (Noble lady) Tuunich (stone for sculpture)), and, like many names given to Maya archaeological sites, is a modern name; the ancient name is unknown. The "Stone Woman" refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site, beginning in 1892. She is dressed completely in white, and has fire-red glowing eyes. She generally appears in front of "El Castillo", ascends the stone stairs, and disappears into a stone wall.

Following our guided tour of the site, we stop for lunch at a local restaurant, then continue to the Guatemalan border crossing. 

Keep in mind that Belize charges a departure tax of $35 US. This is not included in the trip price.

 After clearing customs, its one hour to a "one-of-a-kind piece of paradise. La Casa de Don David guesthouse & hotel in El Remate. Located on the shores of Lake Peten Itza, Don David is located just 15 minutes away from the entrance of Tikal National Park. One of the hotel's most remarked about features, is their beautifully landscaped garden, a great place to relax and enjoy the surroundings. We have a variety of exotic plants and fruits from the Petén jungle, several of which are listed in the Garden Guide (PDF download). At the center of the garden you will find a Maya-inspired circle, formed around the sacred Ceiba tree. In the corner, the Cahui observation deck has the best lake view on the property, as well as drink service via the Toucan Express."

Included: All transport, breakfast, guided tour and entry to Xunantunich, dinner, Hotel

Day 4: Wednesday, March 13

6:00 AM departure and a 30-minute drive into Tikal National Park, the Mayan World’s most spectacular archeological and jungle site. Tikal encompasses 575 square kilometers of jungle and thousands of ruined structures. The central part of the ancient city alone contains 3,000 buildings and covers about 16 square kilometers. Tikal is also part of the one-million-hectare Maya Biosphere Reserve created in 1990 to protect the dense forests of the Peten, which started to disappear at an alarming rate due to population pressures, illegal logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices. We will have a chance to see rare and endangered wildlife, such as the scarlet macaw or jaguar, howler and spider monkeys, toucans, oscillated turkeys, tapirs and scores of colorful bird species that also find habitat in Tikal and the surrounding Maya Biosphere Reserve.

 

Included: All transport, entrance and guided tour of Tikal National Park, lodging at the La Casa de Don David

Day 5: Thursday, March 14

9:00 AM departure by van for the Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve, a five or six hour drive to a traditional Q'eqchí Mayan village and the project site. We stop for lunch at Finca Ixobel in Poptun, a two hour drive from the Villa Maya. We have another three hour drive before coming to our turnoff to Seacacar. 

Depending on the road conditions, we may board a four wheel drive truck for the last three mile drive into the Santa Cruz Mountains. You will be in the back of a large flatbed truck and holding onto rails for the twenty minute drive. We arrive by late afternoon and enjoy the stunning view from our riverside lodge. Keep in mind we're now off the grid and the only power in the village is supplied by solar panels at our lodge. Most rooms do not have hot water.   

Included: All transport, entry to the nature reserve, dinner, lodging (drinks excluded)

Days 6,7 & 8: Friday through Sunday, March 15, 16 & 17

Full immersion in a traditional Q'eqchi Mayan village and a protected nature reserve.  Excursions include the day trips described at the top of this page, including Jungle Trail & River Float, The Paradise hot springs and Lake Izabal beach. We will adjust our schedule depending on weather conditions. 

Included (all inclusive apart from beverages): All transport, meals, excursions and lodging

Day 9: Monday, March 18

10:00 AM departure for El Castillo de San Felipe, a old Spanish fort guarding the entrance to Lake Izabal and a UNESCO World Heritage site. After lunch at a nearby restaurant, we travel by motor launch through Rio Dulce National Park and to our riverside lodge at Finca Tatin. 

Included: Breakfast, all transport, entrance to Spanish fort, lodging, family style dinner.

Day 10: Tuesday, March 19

Visit Ak' Tenamit, our affiliate vocational boarding school. Ak' Tenamit is within a five minute motor launch trip from our lodge. AT provides a quality educational experience to over 500 indigenous boarding students from throughout Guatemala. Afternoon options include sea kayak rentals, a hike to a ceremonial cave or relaxation at the riverside lodge. 

Included: All transport, lunch at Ak' Tenamit, family style dinner at Finca Tatin, lodging

Day 11: Wednesday, March 20

 

Travel day determined by individual trip participants. Options include flying to Guatemala City from the nearby Puerto Barrios Airport. Transportation to Puerto Barrios includes taking a 20 minute motor launch from Livingston to Puerto Barrios, then a taxi from the Puerto Barrios boat dock to the airport. TAG Airlines offers a one hour flight to Guatemala City at 8:30 AM and 5:15 PM for approximately $96. Another option is a one hour ($60) motor launch to Punta Gorda, Belize, just one hour from our riverside lodge. Tropic Air and Mayan Island Air provide multiple daily flights to other destinations in Belize, including the international airport in Belize City. I will help with your connections. 

Included:  Transport by motor launch to Livingston, Guatemala

                 

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Trip Style, travel conditions and weather: This is not a tour, but an experiential and shared experience among old friends and new. It is a private trip, not a commercial trip. While the trip is not physically demanding, we do visit remote locations and walk on jungle trails.  A good level of health and fitness is mandatory. This trip is for you if you want to build new or deeper friendships, make a difference and enjoy travel a bit off the beaten path. It is not for you if you are demanding, inflexible or expect an upscale resort or cruise style experience. During transit days, your driver will be courteous and helpful, but will not provide a running commentary. When we visit the Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve, we will stay at a rustic jungle lodge.  The lodge is located in a remote Mayan village and has limited solar power. Most hotels we use have air conditioning, but we do not have air conditioning at our jungle lodge in the Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve. While the rainy season typically ends in late November, we can expect some rain.  The average high temperatures from during the dry season (March through mid-May) are in the eighties while night lows typically drop about 10 or 15 degrees degrees.  

Founder and trip facilitator: The Rios Fund, Guatemala is a mission driven effort founded by Paul Heesaker, a retired high school teacher and principal. Paul also led kayaking and rafting trips to Guatemala from late 1993 until the spring of 1998. Paul's work with the Q'eqchi Mayan people of Seacacar and Ak' Tenamit has resulted in the establishment of the first ever intermediate school in Seacacar and in Guatemala's newest protected area, the Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve. Paul and his wife Catherine, a school psychologist, reside in Summit County, Colorado. 

Flexibility Required: Although every effort has been made to make this trip run as smoothly as possible, road conditions, weather or other circumstances beyond our control may necessitate a change in plans.  

 

Lodging: Our hotels are not luxurious, but these mid-range hotels are comfortable and immediately adjacent to cultural, historic or natural attractions. The Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve is located adjacent to a remote Mayan village with no electricity. Almost all of the local people are subsistence farmers who live in poverty or extreme poverty. We have limited solar power in the Jungle Lodge and in our intermediate school.  WIFI is now available at the lodge. While every effort has been made to make the lodge rooms as comfortable as possible, they are rustic and immediately adjacent to the natural environment.  Shared bathrooms have flush toilets and cool water showers. We do have some rooms with private bathrooms, but hot water is not guaranteed. Consider your own health, fitness and expectations carefully before making your deposit via a donation to the Guatemala Tomorrow Fund.

 

Travel: When traveling on paved highways, we travel by mini-bus. We will also use covered motorized boats while traveling on the Rio Dulce and Lake Izabal. The access to Seacacar is a 30-minute drive on a rough and steep road. We often use double cab four wheel drive pick ups, but guests may be standing and holding rails on an open flatbed truck for this segment of our journey. 

 

Travel Medical Insurance: It's recommended that to carry travel medical insurance. You will not sign an assumption of risk liability waiver because this is a private trip.

 

Access to Medical Care: While we will never be further than an hour’s drive from local medical clinics, Guatemala City has the nearest advanced medical care.  There are small airports in Rio Dulce, El Estor and other communities along our route. International airports are located in Flores, Belize City and Guatemala City. 

 

Malaria and Immunizations: Malaria and dengue are endemic to some areas we visit. Discuss travel to Guatemala with your doctor or consult the State Department of Health prior to departure to determine which immunizations are currently being recommended. 

Inclusions: 

• All transport in Belize and Guatemala. If you arrive early or depart after the trip has finished, transport to and from the airport is on your own.  Trip participants will be encouraged to arrive on the same flight.

• All hotel accommodations based on double rooms for couples or two to a room for individual travelers - A single supplement of $50 daily  (minus the departure day) will be added to the trip cost for individuals who want a single room. This option may not be available at our Jungle Lodge in the Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve. See the itinerary for all inclusions. 

• Services of driver and Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve staff

 

Exclusions:

• Flights

• Personal clothing and equipment

• Beverages, apart from  unless otherwise indicated, are not included with the meals 

• Alcoholic beverages

• All personal expenses

 

Return Policy: A $480 donation to the Rios Fund (affiliated with the Guatemala Tomorrow Fund) is required to reserve a space on the trip. The payment balance of $1000 is due 30 days before the departure date. In case of late bookings, full payment is required at the time of reservation.  Keep in mind that this is not a traditional tour, but an effort to raise funds and create other support for project efforts.  Payment is in U.S dollars only. We recommend that all trip participants obtain travel insurance.

 

Passport Required: Passports are required for all travelers entering Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. All tourists exiting Belize and Guatemala are required to pay a departure tax, which is normally included in you airline ticket price. The most recent departure tax from Belize is $35. This will be paid during the border crossing into Guatemala and is not included in the trip cost. 

 

Registration: After paying your deposit / donation, you will receive a registration form and obtain information on how to prepare for departure. 

 

Remaining balance payment: We only accept personal checks and do not accept credit card payments at this time. This helps us keep our trip price as low as possible. Make your check payable to Paul Heesaker. If you live outside of Summit County, Colorado or do not have an opportunity to meet with us personally, send your check to the following address:

 

Mailing address:

Paul Heesaker 

355 North Chipmunk Circle

Silverthorne, CO 80498

 

More Information: Send an email to paulheesaker@yahoo.com with your contact information and Paul will be in touch with you. Keep in mind that our budget doesn’t allow for office assistants, and that we are often out of the country.  We may not be able to connect by phone immediately. 

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