The Jungle Cruise on steroids

The tiny town of Monkey River in Belize

DAY THREE: The termites tasted minty.

This is no Disney Jungle Cruise!

For one thing, our guide, Doyle Garbutt is driving the boat way too fast. Jungle Cruise on steroids, my husband jokes. The two little boys on the boat love it. For another, the animals don’t pop out on cue.

We are cruising up the Monkey River after about a 45-minute boat ride from the Inn at Robert’s Grove where we’re staying. Our mission: to look for crocodiles, howler monkeys and other wild life.

Before 9 a.m. we’ve already seen monkeys high in the trees and heard them screeching. We’ve seen turkey vultures, yellowtail orioles, egrets, bats, blue herons… and more. But no giant crocs pop up in the water, though we do see a couple of juveniles. We head off the boat for a hot hike in the jungle past giant bamboo — they grow up to 80 feet (did you know bamboo can grow a foot a day?) — and all kinds of trees and plants that our guide tells us alternately are medicinal or poisonous. Some in our group take the opportunity to taste termite and report it does taste minty — probably from the tree where the termite nest is located. There’s one palm, our guide tells us, that’s called the “give and take palm” because the spikes are dangerous but the leaves can prove a balm.

“WHEN IS THIS GOING TO BE OVER?” one of the boys finally asks. Enough about trees!

“Soon,” his mom promises.

And she was right, we head back to the boat and head to the tiny (just 310 people) town of Monkey River — just a few simple houses and a restaurant, it seems — where we chow down on a delicious lunch of fresh fish and red beans and rice. Local children are outside, trying to convince us to buy their beads — unsuccessfully I’m afraid.

Then we’re back on the lookout — this time for manatees. But the huge, 1,500 pound creatures prove elusive. We barely spot a couple of them surfacing for air. They’re too quick for our cameras. Then – Dolphins! A mother and her calf appear out of nowhere and more than make up for not seeing much of the manatees as they frolic and jump near our boat.

So different than Sea World or Disney World!

When we get back, we can’t wait to jump in the pool. But that’s the thing about Belize. There’s the option to head into the jungle or see Mayan ruins as well as to laze by the pool or on the beach. It’s a great combination.

The pool is blissful.

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