No matter how you arrive at Lamanai Outpost Lodge, you will appreciate its unique, remote setting atop a hill overlooking the New River Lagoon. Situated in the Orange Walk District, northwest of Belize City, this lodge is only one-half mile (a 20 minute walk) from the Maya archaeological site of Lamanai. As soon as we got there, we sat on the deck, with its sweeping view of the lagoon, enjoyed a cool rum punch and planned the activities for our stay.
A partial list of available activities includes historical sites, nature walks, river trips and birding tours by boat or on foot. One of the best birding locations in Belize, the lodge is in the midst of five distinct habitats which are home to over 300 species. Lamanai Outpost Lodge also boasts Belize’s only “Spotlight River Safari.” After a fine evening meal, guests board a pontoon boat, designed with special seating, that provides each participant with an unobstructed view of nature’s wonders of the night. Guests will experience the sights and sounds of the lagoon’s night life, both with and without the spotlight. Creatures viewed the previous night had included crocodiles, kinkajoo, porcupines, raccoons, iguanas, kingfishers and a boa.
Your Aussie hosts, Monique and Mark Howells, have been managing the lodge since 1993. Built by Mark’s parents, Lamanai Outpost Lodge opened in December 1992 with 7 cabañas, and now has 18. The thatch-roofed, natural wood structures are scattered along the hillside, among brilliantly colored tropical flowers and foliage.
Each cabaña provides guests with comfortable accommodation, well screened ventilation, ceiling fans, private baths with hot water, and 24 hour electricity. As a general rule, they suggest that you spend at least two or three nights here, in order to have ample time to explore the area. All-inclusive packages are available which provide transfers, meals, lodging, tours and more.
The following morning, a walk to the Lamanai ruins provided us with the chance to explore the jungle. We walked along canopied trails, seeing several species of birds along the way, including a personal favorite, the Montezuma Oropendola, with its haunting, flute-like song. Indeed, each of the activities you engage in here will offer its own unique experience and wildlife surprises.
In the evening, guests gather at “Bushy’s Place”, the open-air bar and restaurant, for refreshing Belizean rum drinks or the local “Belikin” brew, and share stories of the day. Soon follows a delicious meal with such dishes as herbed potato soup, chicken with twice-baked potatoes and vegetables; all of this topped off with flan for dessert.
By then, we were well set for a peaceful night’s sleep, except for possible interruption by the sounds of the jungle…frogs, howler monkeys and the like.
Your journey to Lamanai Outpost Lodge is an adventure in itself. The options are:
By Road & River: This recommended method includes transfers from Belize City, which can be arranged with the lodge, beginning with a road trip to the village of Shipyard, from where you complete the journey by boat via the New River. (Self-drive vehicles may also be driven to this point and kept here while visiting the lodge.) During the boat ride, you will view a myriad of Belizean flora and fauna including exotic birds and orchids. Most guests choose to arrive in this manner, but another option is to arrive by air.
By Air: Charters can be arranged, on request, from Belize City or other locations in the country, to the airstrip about a mile from the lodge.
By Road: Guests with vehicles can drive the entire distance via all-weather roads. Having travelled to Lamanai by boat on a previous trip, this time, we opted to drive. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended as the last 15 miles are very rough. It takes about one hour to drive from Orange Walk town, and about two and a half hours from Belize City. You will pass through numerous small villages and many sugar cane fields, providing an insight to Belizean life. Finally, you will pass by the Mennonite village of Indian Church (pop. 400), which provides much of the food (and labour) for the lodge. Just a short distance further brings you to Lamanai Outpost.
A visit at Lamanai Outpost Lodge promises many unique experiences, and by the time we left, we had seen our share. To make the most of your trip, don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera.
Attention students, young and old: Lamanai Outpost Lodge also hosts a variety of “education adventure programs,” and many student groups visit here to research both nature and archaeology. Lecture halls and research labs are also available. We saw a group of students during our visit, studying the howler monkeys. A pair of injured and orphaned howlers are being raised here and Monique says they are currently being acclimated to the wild for eventual release. The orphans have been spending time with some young, wild monkeys and interacting well, which has been encouraging. There is currently a group of 22 researchers living full time here and guests can and do get involved in the projects underway.
Attention newlyweds: Many honeymooners have enjoyed staying here, and Monique says she would love to host weddings, as well. She can make all of the necessary arrangements for you. Why not do something wild-ly different?!