The Beautiful New River Lagoon in Orange Walk, Belize
While the New River has served as a path for visitors to the Maya settlement of Lamanai for over three millennia, the view that will greet upon reaching it is just as precious as it was in the beginning. In all the time that the area has been occupied by humans, the New River has maintained an essential part of life. Without this river, there would be far less trade and far less diversity in its local wildlife. The site known as Lamanai, meaning “submerged crocodile” in Maya, remains within the forest just after reaching the banks of the New River lagoon and vestiges of the logging camp that was reclaimed by the forest with only a boisterous collective of howler monkeys to call it home.
The New River was crucial to the country’s initial industry, supplying British settlers with logs. Settler lumberjacks would fell the many quality trees and send them downstream into the Caribbean Sea for ships to claim and transport for processing. Eventually, the winds of change would blow and the most desired crops changed from lumber to molasses and sugar. Notably, the New River remained a major artery in the trade that went on in the country then known as British Honduras.
Now that Belize favors the tourism industry, the New River has been less relevant for trade but quite appealing to people with an interest in Belize’s overflowing bounty of natural beauty and ancient history. Anyone with an appreciation for plants can find plenty to rave about over the many orchids, water lilies, and fruit trees.
The New River Lagoon is Belize’s largest lake and serves as a launching point for many rivers and waterways throughout the nation. Great black hawks, snail kites, night herons, squirrel cuckoos, and parrots are just some of the avian species that call this broadleaf rainforest their home. You can also find plenty of bats hanging out within the shade of hollow tree trunks and it is not uncommon to spy crocodiles and turtles hanging out by the banks.
Reaching that lagoon usually involves setting out from Orange Walk Town and hiring a boat or a tour. Just remember to pack a lunch and your swimsuit because the clear waters can be quite enticing to jump into. If you are feeling even more laid back, you might be able to join some fisherman in trying to snag a tasty meal.
Photo by Daniel Mennerich.