Jaguar Belize

Travel Consultant Paul Winrow-Giffin describes one of the highlights of his trip to Central America with Journey Latin America.

I have recently returned from my first trip to Guatemala and Belize, which was packed with amazing experiences. Some reminded me of fond memories from previous travels in South America, and others were so very different that they carve out a niche in my mind just for themselves.

When asked what the highlights of the trip were, at first, all of the sites you would expect come flooding to mind: the vastness of Lake Atitlán, the thousands of Mayan artefacts at Tikal, the dense Belizean jungle and snorkelling along reefs in clear, warm, Caribbean waters. There was one aspect of the trip though that stands out despite not being listed as one of the 'must-sees' of the area. This was the journey to Chan Chich Lodge.

Half way through my stay in Belize, I was lucky enough to be moving on to this very secluded property. It is located on Gallon Jug Estate, which lies within the largest contiguous forest north of the Amazon basin in north-western Belize. The drive to Chan Chich is around 4 hours from Belize City along what are frequently termed ‘all weather’ roads, but from my past experiences in Latin America, this is really just a synonym for dirt tracks. Thankfully, there was another way!

Chan Chich has access to a small private airstrip. Opting to fly, rather than drive, my two colleagues and I arrived there, almost pulling up alongside the aircraft that supposedly seated five, plus luggage – it certainly didn’t appear this way from the outside!

We bundled ourselves into the plane, and due to an oversized piece of luggage occupying some of the rear seats, I got to sit in the front, hands and feet resting on the controls! Hold on to your hats. Our laid-back and friendly Canadian pilot Casey finished some last minute checks, started the engines and began to taxi to the end of the runway in preparation for our almost laughably short 14-minute flight. As the throttle was pushed forward, the aircraft began to shake and rattle which was a little worrying, but soon enough we were climbing steadily from the ground.

As we reached around 1,500 feet (our cruising altitude) we levelled out and the nervous faces in the back were calmed by Casey letting us know how many years he has been flying, relaxing the mood in the cockpit and allowing us to begin taking in the spectacular views. A panorama of jungle extended to the horizon in every direction; the contrasting lush green canopy with the royal blue skyline was stunning. Sailing deeper into the jungle between the treetops and the clouds felt like the part in the film Medicine Man when Dr. Crane first gets a glimpse over the forest canopy from the tree-top walk.

As we neared our destination, a small airstrip in a large area of cleared land now used for farming, anxiety began to rise once again between the passengers but the landing was smooth and went without a hitch.

When we reached a standstill we bundled out of the aircraft and thanked Casey for the flight. I had my sights set on spotting some of the rare wildlife Chan Chich is famous for, but in the back of my mind I was still excitedly reliving the journey there – all 14 minutes of it.

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Real Latin american experts

  • Ben
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

  • Lina
    Lina Fuller - Travel Expert

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Heloise
    Heloise Buxton - Travel Expert

    Heloise started her Latin American journey as an exchange student in Santiago, Chile. With extended summer holidays this was the perfect opportunity to backpack through Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.

  • Millie
    Millie Davies - Travel Expert

    Having caught the travel bug as a child, Millie has travelled all over Latin America before making her home in Buenos Aires for 3 years.

  • Hannah
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Juliet
    Juliet Ellwood - Travel Expert

    After graduating with a degree in Anthropology and History and having been fascinated by Latin America since childhood by the book featuring photos of Nazca, Juliet first visited the region in 2003. Since then, Juliet has visited the majority of countries in Latin America but has particularly extensive experience with Peru, a country she loves for many reasons but not least, its incredible archaeological richness and delicious food!

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