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Tony Rath's


Paddling the waterways of northern Belize may rank as one of the most relaxing activities you can do while in Belize. Traversing the isolated canals, rivers, and lagoons at your own leisurely pace while soaking in the sun and stumbling upon wildlife may silently persuade you never to leave.

Canoeing at Sunset in Shipstern

Certain waterways, like Laguna Verde, lend themselves to paddling adventures. This small spring-fed lake lies approximately four miles north of the Gallon Jug farm near Chan Chich. Its name refers to the emerald green hue of the water. Laguna Verde sprawls over a large expanse about the size of a football field. Two islands in the center of the lake support thick foliage and assorted wildlife and make perfect pit stops for the tired paddler. Rolling green hills, bird songs, and the wail of howler monkeys greet visitors as they approach Laguna Verde. A small boathouse along the shore has canoes, oars, and life jackets for rent. The fifteen-minute ride to Laguna Verde from Chan Chich passes through fields of sugar cane and a dense tropical forest.

Another popular river trip explores Dawson Creek and the New River Lagoon. The trip usually begins with a paddle up Dawson Creek from the New River Lagoon. The creek meanders through thick stands of reeds along the banks. Birds and river wildlife announce their presence as they thrash amongst the foliage. As the canoes carves a path through the dense carpet of water lilies on both sides of the creek and lagoon, it startles the fish feeding on the insects resting on the water’s surface. Visitors can access the waterway along the banks of the New River Lagoon. The entrance to the narrow creek sits only 150 yards from Lamanai Outpost Lodge.

Canoeing New River Lagoon

Another trip unknown to most guidebooks explores Fish Creek in Blue Creek Village. Perhaps owing to a plentiful fish population, this lowland tropical creek is a bird paradise; locals include the great blue heron, anhinga, green heron, bromeliad flycatcher, red winged blackbird, night heron, pigeon, cormorant, reddish egret, kingfisher, tiger heron, agaumi heron, pygmy kingfisher, boat billed heron, social flycatcher, amazon kingfisher, and fruit bat. After only an hour, you may record as many as twenty-five different species. Red mangrove and water lilies line Fish Creek and host a variety of invertebrate and juvenile fish species. Although a number of miles away, the cries of howler monkeys resonate in the area.

Canoeing the Rio Bravo

The Rio Bravo joins the creek a few miles into the journey and widens the channel. As the river bulges, smooth flowing currents gently pick up speed. In the upland portion of the creek, palmettos, red mangroves, and cocoplum trees adorned with bromeliads and orchids line the coast. The waterway again widens as it merges with the Rio Grande. Other than dodging the odd fallen tree, the steady current in the creek makes for easy paddling. The two-hour journey begins in a large drain, enters Fish Creek, winds through the Rio Bravo and ends with a swim in the green waters surrounding Blue Creek Village.

Sea kayaking has also gained popularity in recent years along Belize's coast owing to relatively calm, reef-protected seas. Most kayakers favor the waters around Chetumal Bay and the Hol Chan channel. Windsurfers, Sunfish, Hobie Cats, and water skis have also entered the water sport genre in the region. The leeward sides of the cayes provide the best conditions for wind-based water sports. Resorts and guides usually offer equipment rental and instruction upon request.

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