Day 1. Owning your Experience; Belize Barrier Reef

Your students will be challenged to take charge of their experience over the next 9 days in Belize, encouraged to engage in active learning and personal growth, and to have open minds to make the most of this incredible opportunity.

Welcome to Belize and to the experiential learning adventure of a lifetime!  Our naturalist guides will meet us at the airport, and drive us to dock. Take a boat to Billy Hawk Caye, an island that began as a traditional Garifuna fishing camp and today is run by an incredibly hospitable and knowledgeable Garifuna family, the Sabals. Upon arrival, we settle in and get an introduction to our surrounding marine environment.  This evening we enjoy our first traditional island dinner while we discuss coral reef ecology.

Important Themes:

  • Your guides will introduce the Story Approach and the teaching themes that will cohesively link together the incredible wealth of information you will learn on the trip.
  • Your group will be introduced to the Expedition Mentality, our nuanced strategy for creating the strongest possible group culture.
  • Our first nightly circle and bandana ceremony will reinforce the Expedition Mentality and set the tone for the best possible experiential learning trip

Overnight: Belizean Cayes                

Day 2, 3, 4. Life on the Coral Reef; Belizean Cayes

During these days, we connect with the beauty and diversity of the sea, focusing on unique adaptations and relationships among species, as well as unique island cultures and traditions and conservation of marine ecosystems

During these days, we fill our time exploring the rich diversity of habitats with an emphasis on gaining a broad understanding of tropical marine ecology.  This includes fish and marine invertebrate identification and learning basic skills on the sea such as marine navigation and sea kayaking. Much of our time will be spent snorkeling the surrounding patch reefs, fringing reefs and venturing to the channels to experience deeper water snorkeling – including the fore reef environment on the seaward side of the main reef.   On land, we are immersed in the island culture of the Garifuna people of Belize. We will enjoy cultural activities including traditional music and stories of the sea. Snorkel, paddle or go fishing with the local fishermen. Bring in your catch and learn to clean and cut your fish for your dinner. Husk a coconut, race some hermit crabs, taste cassava. On our last night, enjoy an island finale with colorful Garifuna drumming, dancing, and storytelling.

Important Themes:

  • Endangered Ocean species and threats to survival
  • Protecting Marine Habitats: Strategies and challenges
  • Garifuna history, culture, and traditions: contrasts and comparisons with other Belizean ethnic groups

Overnight: Belizean Cayes 

Day 5. Mayan Worldview: San Ignacio Area

Today we plunge into the complexities of Mayan religion and rituals, visiting a sacred site in the Mayan “Underworld”

Today we leave the cayes and head to the mainland- a new environment and culture. Upon arrival, we take a stunning journey into the depths of the Mayan cosmology and world view. After a nice hike through the rainforest, we visit the cave at Actun Tunichal Mucknal. We wade, swim, and climb in the cave in order to see stalagmite and stalactite formations.  Marvel at Mayan pottery from ceremonies performed inside the cave as well as skeletal remains of Mayan sacrifice victims.  Discuss our day at our family-run lodge in this rural area.

Important Themes:

  • Mayan religious beliefs and systems
  • Mayan sacred spaces and land use
  • Comparing and contrasting world religions

Overnight: San Ignacio Area 

Day 6. Mayan Civilizations: Xunantunich

Today we have the chance to learn about the heights of Mayan civilization, its social structures, and impact on other cultures in the Mesoamerican region

After breakfast we visit the nearby  Xunantunich, the first major Mayan ruin in Belize to be excavated. We cross the Mopan River on a hand-winched cable-ferry to visit the “Stone Maiden,” a late Classic Mayan site, built during A.D. 600-900. It contains three ceremonial plazas surrounded by small house mounds, and “El Castillo”, the tallest Mayan structure in Belize. After lunch, get ready to cool off in the clear blue waters off Caves Branch River.  On our tubing adventure, we explore the limestone caves, learn about the unique rock formations, and take a quick swim in this amazing river.

Important Themes:

  • Mayan civilization centers and their influence
  • Regional trade and conflicts among Pre-Columbian civilizations
  • Mayan daily life and social structures

Overnight: San Ignacio Area

Day 7. Rural Village Life;  Indian Church Village

Today we explore the unique cultural differences of inland and coastal Belize, and important local traditions

We drive towards northern Belize to the town of Orange Walk, originally named for the citrus plantations that used to surround the town. Upon arrival, we take an hour-long boat ride up the New River.  Keep your eyes peeled for many exciting bird species along the river, such as Kites, Egrets, Jacanas, and Herons.  We arrive in the small village of Indian Church, where we settle in and get an introduction to the community and their way of life.

Important Themes:

  • Habitat Shaping Culture
  • The map of Belizean Culture: Variations throughout the country
  • Who were the Maya?

Overnight:  Indian Church Village

Day 8.  The World of the Maya; Indian Church Village

Today we have the chance to learn about the heights of Mayan civilization, its social structures, and impact on other cultures in the Mesoamerican region

After breakfast, we visit the nearby Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, a Mayan ruin that was inhabited into the 17th century.  Lamanai features the second largest Pre-Classic structure in the Mayan world. From the tops of this temple, take in amazing views of the New River Lagoon and surrounding jungle.  Keep your eyes peeled for the families of howler monkeys living in the park!  After lunch, we enjoy a cultural exchange with the local school — activities may include games, crafts, dancing, and likely a game of soccer or swim in the river.

Important Themes:

  • Modern-day Maya: traditions and heritage preserved
  • The education system in Belize
  • Sharing cultures: connecting with our hosts

Overnight:  Indian Church Village

Day 9. Community Service: Leaving a Positive Trace

Today we have the chance to give back to the community of Indian Church by participating in a service project, working hand in hand with the locals to make a positive impact on a local school in need

Today we continue a day of cultural engagement and working together with our new friends on a  service project that meets local needs.  Projects include working with local schools on construction and repair, installing gravity water systems, setting up gardens, building sidewalks, reforestation projects, and many other sustainable ventures. Tonight we go on a special night spotlight safari, exploring the New River and its tributaries by boat.  Along with an incredible view of the stars, we also keep our eyes peeled for Morolet’s Crocodiles, vibrant birds, and even manatees!

Important Themes:

  • Why community service? Who benefits?
  • What makes a successful service project?
  • Service in your home community

Overnight: Indian Church Village

Day 10. Home with Inspiration!

On our final day together we’ll enjoy a last breakfast and head to the airport.  Be sure to notice the traditional Mennonite community along our drive.  The Mennonites grow a good portion of the food supply for much of Belize, including fruits and vegetables, cream, eggs, chicken, and other farm-fresh items.  We bid our guide a fond farewell and return home with memories of our Belizean Adventure that will last a lifetime! We hope to inspire all those who travel with us to gain a greater appreciation for the many natural treasures Belize has to offer and reflect upon the choices we all make at home to help preserve this precious culture and environment.

Why settle for less?

Audrey Ziomek

Audrey Ziomek

Operations Manager at Chill Expeditions

Audrey believes that educational expeditions that expand perspectives and challenge students can be life-changing experiences.

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