The ship docked at 7am and at 7:30am we departed by tender to the town of Belize City to board our coach for the tour. Because of the size of the ship and depth of the harbour we were anchored 8 kilometres off shore and tendered into the city.
With passengers having to board a smaller vessel to take them to shore to meet, on time, their tours required a great amount of organization. And organized it was. As we had booked this tour through Royal the night before we were given a time to meet on deck four with our tour coupons. At the designated time we were herded down to deck one and onto the tender. A walk along the pier, no stopping for shopping, to the waiting two busses. Here we handed over our tour coupons and boarded the buses to head off on our journey. No muss no fuss. Just show your ship pass to have it scanned when you leave and scanned again on reboarding.
We wound our way through the city and then out onto the highway to head off to New River Lagoon to board our speed boats that will take us to the Lamanai Ruins. We were greeted at the restaurant/drop off point, Tower Hill, by the staff and invited to sample the coffee, fresh orange juice and ginger snap cookies before setting off up river.
It was then into into separate boats, complete with a guide for the twenty-five mile trip to the ruins. Along the way the guide pointed out, iguana, proboscis bats, a crocodile and various birds.
Upon reaching the ruins we were turned over to an official guide at the information office who would lead us through the ruins and inform us about the history and culture of the Mayans. Not only was this gentleman very informative and easy to talk to we found out that he was in fact part Mayan.
The following site details have been extracted from various web sites as well as information from our guide:
(“The Lamanai (Submerged Crocodile in Mayan) site is one of the oldest located occupying 950 acres (the site's core is about a 12 square miles, with a population exceeding 35,000 at the height of the cities power it is one of the largest Mayan sites in Belize. Lamanai was continuously occupied from about 1500 BC when maize was being grown at the site, to 1680 AD. Only about 5% of the site has been investigated and much remains buried or covered by jungle and bush.
The Jaguar Temple (N10-9), is named for its boxy jaguar decoration. The Temple rises in 9 tiers to about 65 ft. and on the north side is a wide basal stairway. Next to the stairway on the lower level is a mask of a jaguar with a protruding nose. The Jaguar Temple was original build in the sixth century.
In the long lasting occupation of Lamanai, the Temple was redesigned in the thirteenth century. It was an ongoing process of modification, the last one where tiny shrines made around the year 1400.
Lamanai's ball court features a circular stone center marker, underneath which a ceremonial vessel containing liquid mercury was found. The 9,7 cu cm mercury came probably from Honduras. It was the first reported discovery of mercury in the Maya lowlands.
The ball game, which was a common activity of all Mesoamerican peoples and originated about 3,000 B.C., had a ritualistic function for the ancient Maya. Two teams (the number of players depended on the region where the game was played) faced off on courts whose measurements could vary. Most ball courts had two sloping parallel walls inset with three round disks called markers or a single stone ring, at right angles to the ground.
Players would attempt to bounce the ball without using their hands and only touch the ball with their elbows, knees or hips through stone hoops attached to the sides of the ball court.
As far a we know, the winners of the game were treated as heroes and given a great feast. The penalty for losing a game was unusually harsh: death. The leader of the team who lost the game was killed.
HIGH TEMPLE (yes I climbed to the top)
The High Temple "El Castillo" (N10-43) is the largest Pre-Classic structure in Belize with a height of 33 meter (108' ) from the plaza floor. It was first built in 100 AD establishing its full height and its final modification was to the front in AD 600-700. On the south front side, the stairway has been partially consolidated.
There is a fantastic view from the top of this temple and well worth the climb.
The Mask Temple (N9-56), adorned by a 13-foot stone mask of an ancient Maya king. Build in Early Classic and Late Classic Periods with final phase of construction AD 550-650. This west-facing structure is decorated with two masks that date to the late 5th or early 6th century.
The mask to the right (south) of the stairway on the lower level is 15' tall with a human head and crocodile headdress.”) We were told that one mask was that of a male and the other a female.
We booked this tour through the Royal Caribbean web site and this is their write up in the brochure about this excursion:
Lamanai and The New River Safari - BE62
Board a riverboat for a cruise of the New River, with its spectacular rainforest, mangroves, orchids and birds. Disembarking at the northern end of the New River Lagoon, you'll enjoy a Belize-style lunch. Then begin your tour of Lamanai, once the largest Mayan ceremonial site in Meso-America and occupied as early as 1500 B.C. The first stone buildings appeared here between 800 and 600 B.C. Please kindly note that the driving time is approx. 1 hour each way.
Embark on a riverboat adventure and travel through the rainforest to the famous Mayan ruins of Lamanai. Encounter exotic wildlife, mangroves and orchids on a safari voyage of the New River. Explore Lamani, once the largest Mayan ceremonial site in Meso-America. Your guide will point out the copal and ramon (breadnut) trees, of great importance in ancient times amid the chatter or birds and haunting calls of howler monkeys. Conclude your experience with a tasty Belizean meal at Tower Hill.
• New River Cruise: Enjoy a splendid 90-minute riverboat cruise encountering exotic wildlife, mangroves and orchids along the way.
• Lamanai: Explore these ancient Mayan ruins through one of the largest ceremonial sites in Meso-America.
- Lunch: Sample the delicious culinary flavors of Belize.
Total time: 08:51 hours
Total distance: including tender 263.42 Kms
River distance: one way 25 miles (speed on way back 45 mph)
At no time did we ever have the impression that the guide was hurrying us along or that he did not have time to explain things in more detail to interested parties. The site was not only well maintained but spotlessly clean. In fact on several occasions I noticed someone, a gardener?, raking or sweeping leaves off of the pathways.
When we made our way back to the dock is was back on board the speed boats for a very speedy ride back to Tower Hill. And a speedy ride it was - our boat guide told us that at one time we were travelling at 45 miles per hour. There was only one kind of scary moment when we came around one bend in the river at full speed to meet another boat coming down river at speed. The wake from the other boat and our speed sent water crashing over the sides of both boats to the delight of most passengers.
Back at Temple Hill we were once again greeted by the staff and a buffet of, chicken, two kinds of rice, beans and vegetables, more fresh orange juice and cookies. Once everyone was fully satisfied it was back onto the buses for the trip back to the city and tenders
Without a doubt this excursion lived up to our expectations and both Wendy and I would highly recommend it to anyone taking a trip to Belize. I am not afraid to say that the whole experience was excellent and rated 5 stars.
It was a long day but enjoyable - boarding the tender at 7:30am and arriving back on board at 4:30pm.
We even made it to the Masquerade Theatre for the show another delight for the day.
Bill: Grilled Garlic Tiger Prawns (our waiter said that because I liked shimp he brought me a double portion of prawns - I had ordered shrimp as a starter before)
Wendy: Chicken Marsala
Both meals highly recommended…
ooppss didn’t write them down.