Responsible tourism: La Ruta Maya vacation in Belize and Guatemala
Before the trip begins all travelers are educated on the "Do's and Don'ts" of responsible travel and how to be an active participant in preserving local ecology and culture. And as always, group size is kept to a maximum of 12 travelers to help minimize local impact. Both our guides and our travelers are all versed in and practice the “Leave No Trace” principles.
This trip begins with a visit to the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center is located on 29 acres of savanna and exhibits over 150 animals, representing over 45 species, all native to Belize. The zoo keeps animals which were orphaned, rescued, born at the zoo, rehabilitated animals, or sent to The Belize Zoo as donations from other zoological institutions. A visit to the zoo provides visitors with an introduction and understanding as to why it is important to protect the habitats that sustain the local wildlife.
We base our hotel selection on the following criteria: being locally owned and operated, built in a sustainable manner, having a desirable location, safety, cleanliness, and ranging in size from 12-20 rooms where possible. This helps to ensure small group size, which in turn helps minimize local impact. In addition to site inspections, we interview local agencies to determine which lodges have the best record of historical preservation and are active in contributing to local conservation. Lodges that use innovative practices to improve upon their sustainability and mitigate any environmental impacts, as well as those that are owned by or work in conjunction with indigenous populations, are given special preference.
For example, one of the places travelers will stay during this trip is Pook’s Hill. At the heart of the Pook's Hill property is a Maya residential complex dating mainly to the Terminal Classic Period (ca.830-950 AD). The site is being investigated and consolidated by Christophe Helmke and Jaime Awe as part of the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project. Adjacent to the 300 acre private reserve at Pook's Hill, is the 6,700 acre preserve of the Tapir Mountain Reserve. This is closed to tourism but access is available for research. This preserve is managed by the Audubon Society Belize. Researchers use these facilities and leave valuable information. This is available to all guests. There is also a well established High Rise Habitat for nesting birds.
Travelers will have the chance to explore some of the most significant historic and cultural centers of the ancient and modern Maya people. This includes Guatemala’s Tikal ruins, the thriving and historic city of Antigua and the cultural highlands of Santiago Atitlan. At Guatemala’s Chichicastengo market, visitors have the opportunity to buy local products directly from the artisans, supporting both the local economy and artisan traditions. In Belize, travelers will visit the ancient Maya sites of Xunantunich, Caracol and the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave. Throughout the trip, travelers are accompanied by our local guides. There is no better way to learn about a place than from the people who call that region home.
Our escorted trips use local guides and support staff exclusively. Guides’ training and background varies throughout our tours. But one thing remains consistent: their enthusiasm, professionalism, friendliness and knowledge of the regions. Many of the local guides we use hold degrees in their region's history, biology, archaeology or a related field. Certification programs are required; many also participate in an apprenticeship before they are allowed to lead tours on their own. All guides are thoroughly researched and hand-picked by our staff or a trusted affiliate.
To further support and give back to the communities and environments where we send our travelers, we have developed a grant program. Our ongoing grant program provides funding for small, grassroots projects in the countries we visit. This past year, we were able to offer $10,000 in funding to several different groups including a reforestation and home restoration project in the Andes; a Christmas fiesta at an orphanage in Costa Rica; building supplies for a school in Guatemala made out of recycled materials; funds to dig a new well for proper plumbing and irrigation at a historic Bolivia hacienda; and first-aid and hospitality training for the community-owned Secoya lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon. By traveling with us, you help support these projects.