Belize is not only about amazing beaches, if you dare to explore its interior, you will be surprised by its jungle full of color and life. It’s important to know that more than 60% of the country is covered by tropical rainforest and many protected areas are waiting to be discovered.
To explore this very interesting part of the country we had the opportunity to travel to the wonderful Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge, located in a unique setting; literally immersed in the jungle, where you can feel in direct contact with nature.
Sleeping Giant is just next door to a large citrus farm that runs along a narrow valley deep into the Sibun Forest Reserve. This area between the jungle and the open citrus is a great attraction for a large variety of fauna and flora that are native in the area.
From the first moment we arrived at Sleeping Giant we felt at home, thanks to all the employees who are always willing to help and the fabulous manager of the Lodge, Eugene, who is always there to give you the best advice for an amazing tropical rainforest experience.
The best way to start your rainforest adventure at Sleeping Giant is to hike to the Gazebo situated 350 feet above the lodge on top of the adjacent hill. This was our first encounter with this pure and untouched nature.
While climbing up a narrow trail it feels as if you’re leaving civilization behind and all you perceive around you are the sounds of the jungle, as the wind moves the canopy and the rustling of fallen leaves under your feet. The forest begins to show us its secrets hidden beneath the tall trees with their huge roots protruding from the ground and long lianas expanding as far as the naked eye can see.
Duarte and I went along in attentive silence looking for signs of life that Mother Nature could provide us when suddenly... an extremely loud sound echoed through the hills. There were no words to describe it. When we look toward the treetops, we saw a family of Howler Monkeys. After a while watching them, we realized that they weren't afraid of us, they were just protecting their territory while feeding and swinging from branch to branch. We were lucky to also see some babies within the troop. Later someone told us that the Howler Monkeys are the loudest land animals in the world! No wonder!
This was only the first of the surprises that awaited us on this hike. As we approach to the summit of the hill we could hear the unmatched singing of Toucans. The Keel-Billed Toucan is the national bird of Belize. These birds always fly in pairs, so if you see one, you will find its partner close by. These birds are known for their huge beak with fantastic colors! This was the first time I saw them in the wild and it was amazing!
The last part of the hike was a challenge, climbing by the ropes that had been placed to help us. Going up some steps, sometimes slippery, we realized that we were reaching the top when we saw the base of the wooden gazebo built on the top of the hill above the jungle.
The views are indescribable! INCREDIBLE! You can see perfectly the famous Sleeping Giant mountain range from which the lodge gets its name. The mountain valley at our feet looks like a huge green carpet stretching into infinity. On the right we could see the lodge, which looked tiny from such a high place.
After the hike, all you can and should do on top of the gazebo is enjoy the view, fill your lungs with fresh air and think of how lucky you are to be in such wonderful place.
One of the best things is to come back and share your experiences with other guests and the staff, because in this jungle you never know what you'll find.. It is a grand jungle expedition!