Macal River Canoeing Tours
Canoeing in Belize
The Camp’s namesake, the Macal River, is a tranquil, beautiful waterway with a long colourful history.
Back in the days of the ancient Maya civilisation the Macal, Mopan and Belize Rivers were important aquatic highways linking the highlands of what is now Guatemala to the Caribbean coastal trade routes, and for thousands of years were alive with dugout canoes transporting people and goods.
The rivers’ importance continued with the arrival of the first Europeans and Africans, who used the waterways for exploration and exploitation, carrying explorers, and then woodcutters who floated felled timber down to the coast.
Next came settlers and missionaries, and, many years later, a young couple who established a farm at Chaa Creek and depended on the Macal for transport in and out of their remote homestead. When the only overland route into Chaa Creek was a dirt track, the river came alive on Saturdays as farmers like Mick and Lucy Fleming and their neighbours took their produce into town to return with a week’s worth of supplies.
The Canoeing Experience
Today, the Macal River delights locals and hundreds of visitors each year with swimming, tubing and leisurely canoe paddles down to San Ignacio Town where Chaa Creek staff collects guests and their canoes for delivery back to the Lodge.
It’s easy to understand the Macal’s popularity – usually gentle and tranquil, it’s easy on even the most novice paddlers, who are rewarded with unique views and insights into the flora and fauna inhabiting Belize’s jungle and riverine habitats. Birds and wildlife come down to the river to drink and bathe, and paddlers occasionally hear the big splash of frightened iguanas diving out of trees.
Along the way there are attractions such as Cristo Rey Village, which is definitely worth a visit, little beaches, and the Big Eddy Cave crammed with scores of sack winged bats.
When you see the historic Hawkesworth Bridge, an old suspension bridge imported years ago from Africa, you’re almost there. Paddling under the bridge as cars rumble overhead is always a treat and signals that you’ve left the wilderness and returned to civilisation. Tie up the canoe and let Chaa Creek take care of the rest while you enjoy the town and some refreshments. The Guava Limb Café, for example, is an excellent, tasty way to enjoy re-entry.