The historic Mound House is offering Fort Myers Beach and Southwest Florida residents an exciting environmental and educational adventure to Belize, in cooperation with Holbrook Expeditions & Travel, from June 6 through 13.
Participants will explore the magnificent archaeological sites of Lamanai, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, and Tikal, while enjoying abundant birding, lush rainforests, unique wildlife, breathtaking Caribbean beaches, and coral reef snorkeling with vibrant marine wildlife. Experience current Mayan and Garifuna culture, visit museums, speak to local experts, and enjoy the best of Belize. Highlights include rich pre-Columbian history; an archeological lecture on Maya history and Belize cultural heritage; a snorkeling excursion at the South Water Caye Marine Reserve on Belize’s Barrier Reef to see colorful fish, sea sponges, stingrays, and other marine life; and the Community Baboon Sanctuary, a small grassroots project to save the Black Howler Monkey habitat.
The weeklong itinerary includes trips to the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, Tanah Maya Art Museum, Cahal Pech Ruins, Maya Organic Farm, Chaa Creek Preserve, the Peten Lowlands of Guatemala, Tikal National Park, Belize Barrier Reef, and South Water Caye Marine Reserve.
“When I worked for The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, I went on numerous trips with Holbrook Expeditions & Travel,” related Penny Jarrett, the part-time Mound House Education Coordinator who will be the Tour Leader. Penny has over 25 years of environmental educational experience with wildlife conservation, field work, and archaeology, including numerous travels to Belize and Guatemala for manatee research, local village educational programs, medical missions, and exploring Mayan sites and Belizean wildlife. She previously traveled to The Republic of Congo to research the Western Lowland Gorilla, forest elephant, and other wildlife. Prior to the Mound House, Penny was with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, monitoring nesting shorebirds, and is a longtime avid birder.
The concept of a Mound House Belize trip originated through Penny. “When I worked for The Cincinnati Zoo, we did educational and fun travel programs to places like Kenya, Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands that people could visit on planned trips led by knowledgeable local guides, and I thought that would translate well to the Fort Myers Beach area. The Mound House is a great mixture of archaeology, history, and the environment, and since I have been to Belize six previous times, I know there are a variety of sites there that offer excellent comparisons to the Calusa Indian culture of years past and the Mayan heritage of their history through today. Belize is small, easy to travel, its native language is English, and they use United States currency, with excellent archaeology and birding, so it is an ideal location to visit. A typical trip is for roughly 10 people, so this is very doable for the Mound House.”
If the Mound House secures at least 10 participants, the per-person cost in $3,595. This price ensures accommodations, non-alcoholic beverages and bottled water, entrance fees, all itinerary activities, private vehicle transportation, full-time guide, carbon offset, and Mound House donation. It does not include international airfare, gratuities, or personal items. The fee is for double-occupancy; for a single room, add an additional $485. Roundtrip airfare from Miami on American Airlines is $398, excluding baggage fees. Enrollment forms and a $200-per-person downpayment is due by Wednesday, March 6, with full and final non-refundable payment to secure your trip space by Thursday, March 7. If there are between 7 to 10 participants, the price will become $3,759. Mound House members receive the initial opportunity and a trip discount, then it opens up to the general public. For more information or to enroll, contact Penny at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When contemplating what she is most looking forward to in Belize on the Mound House tour, Penny summed it up in one word: “Everything! It is mind-boggling all that we will experience and see, from the stone temples to the native cultures to the former slave workshops to the coastline and wetlands and rainforests and reefs, so I can say with all honesty that it will be a trip full of highlights!”
Penny believes that the Belize trip participants will “bond in deep friendship through a totally unique experience that will expand their perspectives, and you will acquire a better understanding of different cultures, as we often discuss at the Mound House. You will also enjoy the security of traveling overseas in a group, with pre-planned activities, including a pre-trip orientation meeting where we all meet each other and go over the itinerary in great detail, including asking all the questions that you want, to make everyone comfortable. The ultimate goal of the Belize trip is not to just be a one-off deal, but the first adventure in a Mound House international educational series!”
By Gary Mooney