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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

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

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

 

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MAYAN WORLD ADVENTURE

12 DAY FUND RAISING TRIP: January 16 - 27 & March 20 - 31, 2025 
Total price, excluding airfare: $1680
HIGHLIGHTS: 
Explore the ancient Mayan cities of Copan, Honduras and Tikal, Guatemala.
 
Experience the largest rainforest north of the Amazon Basin - The Mayan Biosphere Reserve.
Delve into the culture and history of colonial Antigua, a UNESCO world heritage site surrounded by volcanoes and home to indigenous markets. 
Full immersion in the culture of a Q'eqchí Mayan village
 
Hike jungle trails in Guatemala's newest protected area, the Reserva Natural Cañón Seacacar. 
Enjoy river tubing between towering limestone walls.
 
Swim under a hot springs waterfall. 
 
Enjoy sunset drinks and dinner in stunning environments, from the smoldering Fire Volcano near Antigua, to the jungle lodge overlooking the Rio Sauce, to the view deck and the Tocuan Express on the shores of Lake Peten Itza. 
Most important, your participation provides funding for educational opportunity, including accepting more boarding girls to our school. You also help us protect an inspirationally beautiful river ecosystem. 
Arrival and Departure city and country: Guatemala City, Guatemala - Aurora International Airport / Group size: 12 maximum, 6 minimum  / The trip down payment will be paid with a $680 tax deductible donation to the Guatemala Tomorrow Fund. The total trip price is $1680, with the balance of $1000 payable six weeks prior to the departure date. 
  

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Mayan World Adventure Itinerary:
January 16 - 27 & March 20 - 31, 2025 

Days 1 and 2: Arrive Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City on by Thursday evening. Transfer to our hotel in Antigua, a beautiful colonial town and UNESCO national heritage site surrounded by volcanoes. It's also a center for indigenous markets, international cuisine and worldwide travelers. 

 

 Upon arrival at the airport, proceed to customs with your CARRY ON LUGGAGE (more than carry on is not necessary) clear customs and proceed to terminal exit doors. I may be arriving in the airport on the same flight, but if not, you will see a large number of drivers waiting outside the exit doors and holding up signs. Your driver will have a sign with my name written in large bold letters - Paul Heesaker. If possible, we want to have everyone on the same flight and will send information on a recommended flight.  We are leaving Colorado in winter, so there is always a chance of weather delays. For that reason, the first two days of our trip will be within an hour's drive of the airport. We stay at the HOTEL VILLA COLONIAL, well-known for its romantic environment and proximity to  attractions. We share a group meal, then rest from our travel day. The Villa Colonial has beautiful gardens, it's own restaurant and a heated outdoor swimming pool.  

The following morning begins with breakfast on your own at the Villa Colonial, then a three hour walking tour led by an expert local guide. We delve into the history and culture of the most beautiful colonial town in Central America. The afternoon  is free time to bargain for handicrafts in indigenous markets, experience the chocolate museum, hike to cerro de la cruz for a view of Antigua and it's surrounding volcanoes or just people watching in the parque central. We will gather together in the evening to share a typical Guatemalan dinner and witness the smoldering Volcan de Fuego (Fire Volcano).  

Included: All transport, double occupancy lodging, walking tour of Antigua led by an expert guide, dinner day 1 

Excluded: meals after day 1 dinner, drinks, tips

Day 3:    

Following breakfast at the Villa Colonial, we depart for a six hour drive to Copan, Honduras. For many years, the town of Copán Ruinas has been famous for its magnificent Mayan ruins, declared by UNESCO as Archaeological World Heritage Site in 1980. Copán is considered the Paris of the ancient Mayan world in Central America and features intricately carved stelae, tombs hidden beneath the temples and flocks of scarlet macaws.  We cross into Honduras by mid-afternoon, so keep your passport handy.  Our lodging for the next two nights is the La Casa de Cafe. Copán's highly rated bed and breakfast Inn that's housed in an attractive colonial inspired village residence and just four blocks from Copán's Central Park. We will enjoy an evening meal near the central park. 

Included: All transport, double occupancy lodging

Day 4:  

After a good night's rest, awake to a rich, flavorful cup of organic locally sourced export quality coffee. The Casa de Cafe grinds their beans fresh every morning. Top it off with a hearty, homemade breakfast. Tropical fruits, fresh baked bread, vegetarian omelette, pancakes, crepes & french toast. Afterwards, we visit Macaw Mountain, a sub-tropical bird rescue and recovery project located on ten acres of forested terrain in a stream-fed valley. The multifaceted eco-tourism project is only 10 minutes away by vehicle. We will enjoy a true immersion into the richness of Honduran bird diversity while wandering in the wonderful botanical garden filled with endemic plants and towering hardwood trees. We return to La Casa de Cafe by mid morning, then leave for the archeological site by 12:30 PM.  Copán is one of the most important sites of the Mayan civilization. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, Copan is known for its intricate stone sculptures, in particular the enormous and impressively carved stelae representing the 17 Mayan leaders. Copan rises from a forest with clearings of exposed ruins including the carved stelae and an amazing hieroglyphic stairway. Flocks of scarlet macaws are often seen right before the park closes, so we will time our visit accordingly and leave right before closing time. at 4:00 PM. The evening is free to relax and people watch in the central plaza or enjoy a drink and dinner at La Casa de Cafe.  

Included: All transport, lodging, breakfast, guided tour and entry to the Copan archeological site, entry to the Sculpture Museum  

Day 5: 

Following an early breakfast at the Casa de Cafe, we visit one of the world's best archeological museums at opening time, 8:00 AM.  We enter the Sculpture Museum through a dramatic tunnel meant to mimic the experience archaeologists had while exploring the site. Inside, we experience a near immersion in the Classic Mayan era and see originals (and a few replicas) of Copán’s very best finds, including a full-size replica of the vibrant Rosalila structure. Afterwards, we depart by van for the Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve, a five or six hour drive to a traditional Q'eqchí Mayan village. Keep your passports handy as we will cross back into Guatemala. 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, but a solar heater is in the plans.    

Included: All transport, entry to Copan's Sculpture Museum, entry to the Seacacar nature reserve, dinner, lodging (drinks excluded)

Days 6,7, 8 and 9: 

Full immersion in a traditional Q'eqchi Mayan village and a protected nature reserve.  Excursions include the Jungle Trail & River Float between towering jungle walls, hikes to view platforms overlooking 40 mile long Lake Izabal and swims in natural swimming pools. We will visit homes little changed over the centuries, learn how to make tortillas, swim beneath a hot springs waterfall and observe traditional Mayan ceremonies. See more information regarding the lodge, restaurant, school and village on other pages on this website. 

We will also create opportunities to build relationships with the local students and community. Trip participants can engage with the local students (and potential student recruits) by showcasing your hobbies or passions. For example, artists on one trip taught a group of six students how to work with watercolor paints. Another led an exercise class. Others taught an introductory English class. We will have visiting parents and girls from upstream villages, so this is an opportunity to showcase Seacacar. Bottom line - Your interactions can change a life. 

Included :  All inclusive apart from beverages -  transport, meals, excursions and lodging

Day 10:

After our riverside breakfast,  we continue to the 17th Century Spanish Fortress, San Felipe de Lara, located at the mouth of the Dulce River and Lake Izabal, Guatemala's largest lake. This fortress had three functions: to be a military fort, a prison and also a customs center. In addition to these functions, the castle has multiple wineries that served as a commercial exchange center between Guatemala and Spain.  Our travels continue into Guatemala's Peten Department, including a lunch stop at Finca Ixobel, one of Guatemala's ecotoursim destinations. Afterwards, we continue to La Casa de Don David, overlooking Lake Peten Itza.   One of Don David's most remarked about features is the beautifully landscaped garden, a great place to relax and enjoy the surroundings.  At the center of the garden guests find our 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: Breakfast, all transport, all entries,  lodging

Day 11: 

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 12:

 

Travel day determined by individual trip participants. Options include flying to Guatemala City from the nearby Mayan International Airport. just 30 minutes away in Flores. TAG offers one way flights to Guatemala City for approximately $100 US dollars. Their departure times begin at 7:20 AM and continue to an evening departure of 8:20 PM. The flight is one hour. For travelers returning to the United States, ther early departure is your best option. For that reason, we will provide a shuttle to the airport from the hotel at 5:30 AM. The trip is just 30 minutes and the airport is small.

 

Flights from Flores to Guatemala City: https://www.tagairlines.com/en-us/

Another option is to extend your stay in Guatemala or cross into nearby Belize. Long term volunteers can return to Seacacar with me on public transportation. 

Included:  Early shuttle to the airport in Flores, Guatemala

                 

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 and guide 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.  We will hire expert guide in Antigua and in the archeological sites of Copan and Tikal.

 

The Seacacar lodge is located in a remote Mayan village and has limited solar power. Other en route 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 (December through April) is in the eighties while night lows typically drop about 10 or 15 degrees degrees.  Antigua and Copan will be 10 to 15 degrees cooler than Seacacar and the Peten Deparment. Pack for cool evenings and mornings in the highland areas and warm / humid days in the lowland jungles. 

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 nor plumbing. 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 warm water is not available. We will construct one shared bathroom with solar generated warm water. 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. 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 you purchase 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 Honduras 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 $780 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 six weeks 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 in case of events beyond our control. 

 

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 can be paid during the border crossing into Guatemala and is not included in the trip cost. 

 

Registration: After paying your deposit / donation, I will speak with you on how to prepare for departure. 

 

Remaining balance payment: We only accept personal checks and do not accept credit card payments. 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 or text me with your contact information.  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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