The day of our Lamanai Ruins tour didn’t look too promising. The temperatures were in the low 70s, which isn’t bad until the wind and cloud cover were factored in. We left the Jewel with a backpack stuffed with rain gear, light jackets, and anything else we would need might the weather change for the worse.
We took a small ferry across the choppy waters to the port. If that wasn’t stomach churning enough, we then hopped on a Cold War era Grayhound bus. I was expecting it to break down the entire time but it didn’t. Captain Chino (yes, that’s what he wanted us to call him) handled the details well and got us safely to our destination.
The first stop was a small, open-air restaurant that overlooked a small lake. We channeled through the restaurant and loaded onto a speedboat. There were a few older couples who were surprised that this was a speedboat tour–they were thinking a river cruise ship–so the cold winds, cramped quarters and lack of cocktails took them by surprise.
During the river safari, Captain Chino pointed out numerous plants and trees. That’s interesting and everything but I was most excited about the animals! We spotted a few bird species, two iguanas chillin’ in the trees, and a monkey. He was my absolute favorite.
Mr. Monkey had an agenda. I think he knew that the tourist come through that way because he was sitting on a low branch waiting on us. The skipper from the boat ahead of us handed him some fruit and the little monkey paused for his photo op. He was adorable though not as wild as I would have thought.
After a 40 minute ride through the winding channels of New River, we reached the Lamanai Visitors Center. It serves as a gateway to the three major points of interest in the Lamani complex. The first is the Jaguar Temple, which I think was the prettiest. The worn, moss-covered rocks were beautiful. I later learned that most of this temple is still underground. If fully excavated, it would be the tallest temple in the complex. (So dig it up already!) Only downside: I could’ve lived without the cheesy growling jaguar sounds looping from speakers.
Next came High Temple at Lamanai, the submerged crocodile. It’s nearly 10 stories high and is the best excavated of the three. It’s the one that most tourist want to climb. Once at the top, we were rewarded with stunning view of the New River, nearby lagoon, and lush jungle.
The stairs are incredibly steep and narrow, so many people crawled up like spiders and came down sideways. There was one older woman who slid down step-by-step on her butt, which was funny, and incredibly smart for anyone with weak knees.
The last stop on the tour was the Masks Temple, which is tiny compared to the other two but it has the best preserved mask carvings on either side. They’re about 8′ tall, I think, and quite fascinating.
I don’t have any photos of the ride back because it started to rain the second that we got on the speedboat. It was the longest, wettest, coldest boa tride that I’ve ever had in my life. So worth it! The ruins were beautiful and really spoke to the skill of the Mayans. They were inspirational for a book that I’m working on and the images will stay with me forever.