Day 4 Title, Belize

Shooting rapids
Shooting Rapids

The weather continued to hold fine. But there was a hint of high cirrus early in the morning. Directly below camp, the river plunged underneath a huge rock. We decided to rope the kayaks down empty, and portage the equipment to below the rock. This was only the second time in 4 days that we had unloaded the kayaks and portaged. The other time being at Morpho Falls.

The river was beginning to widen as more and more feeder streams poured into the main river. This allowed us to spend more time in the kayaks shooting rapids, rather then getting out and hauling or pushing them over the rocks. Fortunately, the vegetation was also opening up so there was no more chopping our way through thick bush.

“ we rounded a bend, we spied a tapir swimming across the river. We were able to watch him for at least 10 minutes...”

The vegetation was definitely changing. The upland forests were starting to give way to lowland broadleaf forests. Paddling from the river, we sensed the change in both the types of trees and the amount of wildlife that we see. On the hillsides, we started to see tall emmergents, majestically towering above the rest of the forest.

Rainforest emmergent
Towering rainforest emergent

It was near one of these emmergents that we heared our first Howler Monkeys. What sounded like a large troop began to howl as we coast by. We couldn’t see them in the dense vegetation, but they sounded close enough to touch. The howling continued for 15 minutes - at least three different individuals from the location of the calls.

Around the next bend, Jim spied a tapir swimming across the river. He motioned for Ed and I to pull up even with him. The tapir seemed completely at ease with us and we were able to watch him for at least ten minutes. The large creatures lumbered out of the water, turned and looked at us before moving into the bush. We heard him stomp up the hill.

“...the steep cliff across the river from where we camped had swallow nests and a big, sloppy herons nest on it...”

A little later, Jim saw a Crested Guan slowly climbing to the top of a river side tree. Again, we slowed down, drifting with the current while watching this turkey sized bird watch us. The wildlife did not appear alarmed at the presence of humans, indicating that we were in a location that hasn’t been hunted or visited for some time.

Crested Quan
Crested Guan

We camped on a sandy bank along a bend in the river. A steep cliff rose across the river with mud packed swallow nests and a big sloppily built heron’s nest on it. The cliff was heavily undercut as if a huge scoop had gouged the bottom of the cliff from the surface of the water, up 20 feet. The bend was sharp and the gouge was evidence of the force of water and time on rock.

A well worn game trail led down to a little bay just south of the camp. Parakeets flew overhead, and the delicate and speedy pigmy kingfisher continually darted up and down the river. The forest was absolutely alive with birds, insects and mammal sign. This transition forest between the upland vegetation and the broadleaf forests of the lower elevations appeared to be a favorite of wildlife. This was born out a few hours later.

We were all sitting around the camp fire enjoying the stars and night sounds and chatting about how lucky we were to be where we were. A loud snap brought our heads up quick. Looking to an area just behind the tents, we strained in the dark to see what was there. Tony slowly brought up his flashlight, still turned off, and pointed it in the direction of the sound. Flicking it on, we saw eyes glowing like a cat, not 20 yards from us. Everyone froze, eyes glued to the glow. Then the creature moved. It was a huge tapir, acting as if it could care less about us. After 5 minutes of sniffing and moving its head back and forth, the beast turned and slowly wandered back into the darkness.


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