Day Trips & Fund Raising Trips (10 days)
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
FUND RAISING TRIPS
Arrival: Guatemala City
Group size: 12 maximum, 4 minimum
Price: $1190 (10 days)
Trip dates: March 14 - 23, April 11 - 20 and flexible depending on groups
Two Purposes of Fund Raising Trips
First, raise funds for project efforts and gain a sense of your personal legacy options at the Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve. Investigate how you can help establish a sustainable tourism project, boarding school for Mayan youth and a protected nature reserve. Our stay in the Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve funds education and other efforts to end extreme poverty while also protecting and restoring the Rio Sauce watershed. Be an Amigo of the Rios Fund, change lives and protect the natural world.
Second, experience the Mayan World's natural, cultural and historic treasures and return home with new or deeper friendships, cherished and unforgettable memories and the inner peace that comes from knowing that you made a difference.
Flights: Most major US airlines have flights or connecting flights to Guatemala City. There is an additional internal round flight from Guatemala City to Puerto Barrios. This flight (TAG airlines) is approximately $180 trip and only runs Monday through Friday. Trip participants will make their own round trip flight reservations from Guatemala City to the Puerto Barrios airport. I will help with these reservations if necessary. Flights are not included in the trip price. TAG: https://www.tag.com.gt/en/
Day 1: (Sunday) Arrive Guatemala City airport and transfer to the Hotel Barcelo, Guatemala City, just 10 minutes from the airport. The Barcelo is TripAdvisor's 2019 Traveler's Choice and has a shuttle from the airport. Meet Paul Heesaker, the trip leader and project founder, near the hotel reservations desk at 6:00 PM. We will have a trip meeting and dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. https://www.barcelo.com/en-us/barcelo-hotels/hotels/guatemala/guatemala-city/
Included: Hotel double occupancy, shuttle from airport
Day 2: (Monday) We will depart the hotel at 5:00 AM, just in case traffic is bad. Coffee is available in your room and you may want to bring a snack if we don't have time for a breakfast on your own at the airport. It's a 10 minute shuttle to the airport and a direct flight with TAG airlines from Guatemala City to Puerto Barrios. The once daily flight departs Guatemala City at 7:00 AM and arrives in Puerto Barrios at 7:45. Transfer by van approximately 2 hours from Puerto Barrios to our reception at the mouth of the Boquerón Cañón. The group has adventurous options at this point. One option is to go with one of our local Q'eqchí guides and for a 2 mile long hike on our new trail along the rim of the Boquerón Cañón. This requires good physical condition because the trail gains about 800 feet of elevation, continues to view platforms along the cañón rim, and then descends to our riverside lodge in Seacacar, a Q'eqchí Mayan village. Another option is to travel upriver by cayuco (canoe) to our trailhead 1/2 mile from the lodge. Towering walls rise hundreds of feet directly from the river and you may be serenaded by howler monkeys. Travelers will need to exit the cayuco several times and walk along a rocky shoreline. The final option is to go by 4-wheel drive truck for about 4 miles on a rough dirt road. You will be in the back of a large flatbed truck and holding onto rails, so a sense of adventure is also mandatory for this option. Luggage will go by truck for all options. Arrive at our tourism center by midday, check in and enjoy the stunning natural and cultural setting! Lunch will be served on our riverside deck. Following a little siesta time after lunch, enjoy a student lead tour of area homes.
Included: Transport from Puerto Barrios to Seacacar, entry to the nature reserve, lunch, dinner, lodging (The flight from Guatemala City to Puerto Barrios is not included in the trip price.
Days 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8: (Tuesday through Saturday): Full immersion in a traditional Q'eqchi Mayan village and a protected nature reserve. We have several morning options:
One - Relax in a hammock, read a book and enjoy some solitary time at the stunning riverside setting.
Two - Spanish Classes: One long-term goal is to develop a Spanish language school. Volunteers can help develop this program or just take classes from our teacher trainees. Four hours instruction per day allows time to pursue other interests, relax or help with other project initiatives.
Three - Teaching English to our Mayan students. No experience is required and we have user-friendly books to help guide your instruction. Each teacher volunteer will work with from one to four or five students and no more than 4 hours daily.
Afternoon Excursions include the day trips described at the top of this page, including Jungle Trail & River Float, The Paradse hot springs and Lake Izabal beach
Included (all inclusive apart from beverages): All transport, meals, Spanish instruction, lodging and guides
Day 9 (Sunday) Following brunch, we leave our new Q'eqchi friends behind and travel 1 1/2 hours by van to Rio Dulce National Park. We board a motor launch and travel downstream to our riverside lodging across from Ak' Tenamit, our affiliate vocational high school. Our solar powered and rustic jungle lodge is only accessible by river. Students that graduate from our intermediate school can choose career paths in either rural community development or sustainable tourism at Ak' Tenamit.
Included: Brunch in Seacacar and all transport, riverside lodging at Finca Tatin,
Day 9 (Monday) Tour of Ak' Tenamit, including classrooms, sustainable agriculture program, artisan shop and other facilities at this internationally acclaimed educational facility for indigenous youth. We will meet students who graduated from Seacacar for the tour of Ak' Tenamit. We then travel by motor launch between the verdant jungle walls of Rio Dulce National Park. We arrive at Ak' Tenamit's vocational restaurant in Livingston, a Garifana town on the Caribbean Sea. Shop for handicrafts in Livingston, then continue by motor launch to Puerto Barrios. After arrival in Puerto Barrios, we board a van or taxis and travel another 20 minutes to the Puerto Barrios Airport. Our return flight to Guatemala City departs at 5:30 PM. Hotel Barcelo. NOTE: Flights are not included in the trip price.
Included: tour of Ak' Tenamit, boat transport to Puerto Barrios, Hotel Barcelo in Guatemala City
Day 10 (Tuesday) Van transport to the Guatemala City Airport
At this point, travelers have options to continue travel on their own. Antigua, a colonial gem surrounded by volcanoes, is just an hour from the Guatemala City airport.
Trip Style, travel conditions and weather: This is not a tour, but an experiential and shared experience among old friends and new. While the trip is not physically demanding, we do visit remote locations and walk on jungle trails. A decent 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 jungle lodge that opened for business on November 12, 2015. 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 October, we can expect continued rainfall, often heavy. This rainfall usually occurs in the evening or at night. The average high temperatures from November through January are in the low eighties while night lows typically drop about 10 degrees.
Founder and trip facilitator: The Rios Fund, Guatemala is a mission driven social enterprise 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.
Keeping the trip affordable: We don't sell Adventure Trips via magazine ads or any other costly marketing approaches. Word of mouth rules the day. This keeps marketing costs down and allows us to maintain our focus on the Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve, rather than on running a full time travel business. If Paul Heesaker has not made a one on one connection, then in all likelihood, it’s another person who knows Paul and is sponsoring a group.
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. This happened on our inaugural trip in November 2015. Unseasonably high rainfall caused a cancellation of an inner tube float through the Boquerón Cañon and the necessity to modify plans when a river washed over the top of a bridge. Power outages in major towns can occur as well.
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. We have limited solar power in the Jungle Lodge and in our intermediate school. 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 we have cool water showers. You will find that hot showers are not really needed in a rainforest environment. We also have two spacious and furnished cabin tents on a covered platform. Consider your own health, fitness and expectations carefully before paying your deposit.
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 the Boquerón Cañon Project 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: Our guests are required to carry travel medical insurance and sign an assumption of risk liability waiver.
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 Chikungunya 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.
• 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 accommodation - based on double rooms for couples or triple occupancy for individual travelers - A single supplement of $30 daily trip (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. At this time, our lodging capacity is somewhat limited, so single rooms may not be available.
• Meals as described in the itinerary
• Services of driver and Seacacar Cañon Natural Reserve staff
• Personal clothing and equipment
• Beverages, apart from our own Jungle Lodge and 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 balance is due 60 days before the departure date. In case of late bookings, full payment is required at the time of reservation. In the case of cancellations, your deposit will be donated to the US based non-profit, the Guatemala Tomorrow Fund. 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 Guatemala are required to pay a departure tax, which is normally included in you airline ticket price.
Registration: After paying your deposit / donation, you will receive a registration form, sign a waiver of liability, 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:
355 North Chipmunk Circle
Silverthorne, CO 80498
More Information: Send an email to email@example.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.