Tuesday, January 27th – Roatán, Honduras
Our first port of call was Roatán, Honduras. Roatán is a less widely traveled destination for cruise ships, but one that is becoming more and more popular. Roatán is a small island that is part of a chain of five islands known as the Bay Islands of Honduras.
My previous visit to this island was in 2005 and a great deal of new infrastructure was apparent, including a complete renovation of the Port of Roatán. Actually, the day after our visit, the Honduran President was coming to officially dedicate the new port.
Unfortunately, this was still the rainy season and the skies were overcast (okay, the picture above is from later in the day!). Our shore excursion was a trip to Gumbalimba Park and the Tabayana Beach Party. Gumbalimba is a small park where you can see various parrots including the military and red macaws and interact with monkeys. Of course, upon arrival we were greeted with a downpour. This was the first time I’d used the belt system from ThinkTank (I’ll do a mini review in the next few days) and they have built-in rain cover for their pouches. A nice feature that was very useful this morning!
When the rain stopped we had a short walk to see the macaws. I’ve always been a fan of parrots. Their intelligence and beauty are fascinating. When looking in the eyes of these birds, you can sense their intelligence. After a couple quick shots, it was off to see the monkeys.
In this area, there were a number of monkeys freely jumping from tree to tree, but also a few “naughty” ones on leashes. Peter, a capuchin monkey and the baby of the group, was also on a leash. Some guests were given hyacinths to feed the monkeys. Peter, not shy at all, ran from guest to guest, pausing only long enough to eat the flowers.
I’d never been close to monkeys before and this was a neat experience. The little hands were very soft and gentle, not what I expected. Photographing these little fellows wasn’t easy as they constantly ran around grabbing treats from people. Yes, I could have a number of shots with a monkey on someone’s shoulder, but I wanted pictures of just the monkeys, not the guests. I was able to grab a few. This one was my favorite.
The rest of this park was a short history of the island and walk through the grounds before boarding a bus for the beach party. To my surprise, the sun was shining with bright blue skies and white puffy clouds.
Tabayana Beach is a private beach attraction where most of the private tours end up. Hundreds of folks were at the beach, but it never appeared crowed or difficult to get food, drink or rent any of the equipment available. It was a nice day to swim, soak up the sun and relax.
I did take a short walk down the beach and found a few marine iguanas. These small, black iguanas live in the old coral walls that are now part of the landscape. When it’s sunny, you can almost always find them basking in the sun.
Of course, I couldn’t just end this section without a quick mention about my good friend Tim. Tim decided he wanted to sing with the reggae band and they were more than willing to have him! Great job, Tim!
It was back to the ship and a slow trip to our next port.
Wednesday, January 28th – Belize City, Belize
In Belize, our ship needed to anchor a good way out and we had to tender into the port. You’d think this would take a lot longer than walking off, but you’d be amazed at the number of boats coming to take passengers into the city. Once arriving in port, I thought about stocking up on various pharmaceuticals before our excursion. It’s amazing what you can buy!
In Belize we signed up for a cave exploration, a Land Rover tour through the jungle and a boat ride down the Sabun River. What sounded like a fun day turned out to be a most excellent adventure!
An hour school bus ride through Belize City and into the surrounding jungle was narrated by our guide giving us a history of the island and overusing the phrase “Seeing is Belize-In!”. Nevertheless, it was informative and entertaining. When my butt had just about had enough of the bouncing down dirt roads, we came to a stop in the jungle camp.
Strapping back on the ThinkTank belt system, we showered in bug spray before heading off to the caves. Fortunately, we weren’t lite on the spray as we were quickly covered in mosquito’s. Hundreds if not thousands. It was nasty.
Now I’ve been in caves before. In fact my gallery contains a nice picture of an underground lake from Indian Echo Caverns in Pennsylvania. I’ve been to at least two other PA attractions with caves. This was nothing like I’ve ever seen and something that would never have been allowed in the states. Pictures aren’t going to do this justice.
Suffice it to say, I’m not a small guy. At 6’1″ and… well, a couple pounds more than the most liberal weight charts, this was going to be a test of my ability to fit into tight places. Entering the caves meant squeezing though a narrow entrance and through small crevices. At one point, I removed the ThinkTank and camera, slid them through to Jen and, on my hands and knees, crawled through to the next section of the cave. It was very cool! Here’s a shot of Jen entering the cave.
The Land Rover tour was even more of an adventure. The previous few days had spilled a lot of rain on Belize. After boarding the Rover with another couple and heading into the jungle we realized this wasn’t the best day to be on these trails. With mud over the front bumpers of the vehicles we bounced, bopped, jumped and nearly flipped our way through the jungle. In this shot, you can see one of the Rovers stuck in the mud. Definitely, an extreme trip!
At this point I think we were running a little behind on the schedule as we were supposed to break for lunch hours previous. I finally got one of the guides to admit (with a laugh) that it was probably a good day to have canceled the Rover part of the trip. They didn’t know how bad the trails were until it was too late. Hey, it was a blast!
After a short respite with a traditional lunch of chicken, beans and rice (and a few glasses of rum punch) we got ready to board the boat for our trip down the river.
I love boats so I was looking forward to this cruise down the river looking for wildlife. While we were traveling too fast and furious for shooting the egrets and other birds taking off from the riverbanks, we did stop to see some of the larger iguanas living in the trees. The large male iguanas were orange in color and fairly easy to spot in the green treetops. The green females took a little longer to spot.
A few minutes later, we stopped to check out another denizen of the river – a crocodile.
The rest of the trip was pretty quick. In fact, we were so behind schedule that we were almost too late to board the ship. So, our guides decided it was easiest to run straight back to the ship instead of to the port for a tender. So out of the river and straight into the ocean we shot making a beeline for the Pearl. It was the perfect end to a blast of a day…