View Full Version : Belize trip in December

Hany Aziz
19-Jul-2006, 17:28
I am planning a birding trip to Belize in December (Chan Chich lodge for a week, flights are through Belize City). I am with a birding group and therefore will have limited opportunity for photography at Chan Chich. With photography my main focus is landscapes. I am not interested in bird photography. I thought of adding a day or two exra. Various options I thought of doing:

1. Bird an extra day in Chan Chich or Belize City (easiest option, I am heavily into birding).

2. Arrive a day early and photograph at Altun Ha. How easy is it to drive myself to Altun Ha or should I take a guide.

3. Arrive 2 days early and then fly to Tikal in Guatemala. Some companies apparently run Tikal trips from Belize City.

4. Photograph at Lamanai. I am not sure about geting there from either Chan Chich or Belize City.

Other questions:

Lightweight 4x5 camera (my main format) with 3 compact lenses and quickloads or for ease a compact medium format rangefinder plus two lenses? Remember this is primarily a birding trip and I don't want to lug along too much gear. Or should I ditch both and horror of horrors take my Canon 20D?

Any feedback or input regarding photography or logistics appreciated.




Louie Powell
19-Jul-2006, 18:16
Hany -

Had you planned on having a rental car? Driving in Belize is quite easy and relaxed - much easier that Boston! The roads are relatively easy to follow - mainly because there aren't all that many of them. They are all two-lane, but with relatively few amenities like lines painted on the pavement. Very few traffic lights outside of Belize City.

However, I must warn you that when you rent a car, you may be momentarily confused and think perhaps you are actually buying it. Prices are exhorbitant compared with rental car daily rates in the US. And you absolutely must reserve in advance - otherwise, it is highly likely that you will not find something available from one of the majors, and when you deal with the guys on the back streets, the prices are even higher.

Altun Hu is close to Belize City, and would probably require that you stay there at least one day. Xunantunich is also fairly easy to get to - out Western Highway to San Ignacio, cross the river on the hand-cranked ferry, and then walk about a mile. You can get there and back from Belize City in one fairly full day. Lamanai is en route to Chan Chich Lodge, and it might be more convenient to arrange with the Lodge for transportation there - that might give you the best timing relative to lighting for photography. Frankly, those three sites are the most interesting - Caracol is of course much larger, but accessibility is a problem.

You should have no problem getting cameras in and out of Belize. Inbound customs and immigration are very relaxed, and security on the outbound side is thorough but not treatening. I would suggest not asking for a hand inspection, not because they won't understand, but rather because there is only one check point and you don't want to be the cause of a holdup in the line. (Or at least, that's the way it was the last time I was there in 1999.)

Food is fabulous - some of the best seafood anywhere. Local fruit is good. The local beer (Beliken) is very refreshing, and since the weather will be warm and humid, a cold beer (or three) goes down very well. And be sure to try the key lime pie - its wonderfully tart, and they do something with rum that makes it to die for!

As to photography - keep in mind that you are in the tropics and the lighting will be dreadful during the middle of the day. Early morning and late afternoon will be better, and the temperature and humidity will also be more tolerable at those times.

I visited Belize 10-12 times during the nineties and enjoyed every trip. It's a delightful place to visit.

Ron Marshall
19-Jul-2006, 19:01
Don't forget silica gel dessicant.

Only you can decide how much discomfort you are willing to tollerate, and what to expect, based on the length of the hikes, the weight of your gear and the terrain.

I have a very light kit, because I don't like to leave it behind. But I might think differently if I had a medium format rangefinder.

Henry Ambrose
20-Jul-2006, 06:38
I'd contact the lodge and ask about adding a couple of days onto your stay there maybe with a guide to take you to some photogenic locations. They'll know the area like you never will. There is plenty of landscape right there where you're going. Otherwise you might spend your extra day or two roaming around looking for pictures and not getting one. Which might be fun in itself but may not lead to any pictures worth carrying your gear all the way down there and back.

20-Jul-2006, 08:40
Tikal is a truly magnificent place, especially at dusk from atop Temple IV (classic scene of endless jungle with three or four pyramids sticking out from the treetops.)

However, flying or driving from Belize for just 2 days will not leave you much time. The nearest airport from Tikal was still an hour or two from the ruins if I remember correctly, and it's at least a 3-4 hour drive from Belize. Caracol might be an option depending on the time of year - much more remote and less restored. When I was in Belize that was one of my big regrets, not going to see Caracol.

You didn't specify what subject matter you were interested in - ruins, landscapes, jungle, other. Belize has amazing cave systems and sinkholes hidden in the jungle that would make some interested photography - but you're a braver man than I - I can't imagine being under a dark cloth in that humidity!

Ask around in Eva's Restaurant in San Ignacio for neat places to go - its a great source of information. There's a ex-Brit named Pete in town (or was in '95) who leads trips in the jungle to secret caves with Mayan ruins and skeletons. He took us on a cave trip that was the highlight of my trip. See the article below:


And I agree - Belikin Beer is tasty good!

29-Jul-2006, 08:29
My knowledge of Belize is limited to a very short work trip and a weekend excursion. However, I'll try to provide a little input. I rented a car in Belize city (and yes, it was extremely expensive) and found the country very easy to get around. There are basically only three paved roads so you can't get lost. You could drive to Tikal, but since I had a limited amount of time I decided to stay in Belize. I went to Ridge Pine National Park which is on the road to Guatemala. It is accessed by a dirt road that is in pretty good condition. I drove it in a cheap little compact car all the way to Caracol. I wasn't terribly impressed with the photographic potential of Caracol, but I did find a couple spots in the Park that are worth a stop. The Rio Frio cavern is easily accessed and hiked and yielded some nice long exposure cave shots for me. I also stopped at another river (I can't remember the name but there aren't tons of places to stop so I'll bet you could find it) that flows down a rocky hillside from one granite rimmed pool to another.

Another place I stopped that was interesting is the Blue Hole NP. Not the big one in the ocean, but a spring that is in a lush rainforest. You'll have to take care with your compositions to avoid getting any man made walkways or signs in the image. But it is a short detour from Belmopan if you have the time.

By the way, make sure you have some cash. There are very few ATMs in Belize and most of them are not connected to allow international withdrawls. I had a hard time find a place to withdrawl money in Belize City and you might as well forget it anywhere else.

Hope that helps,