On May 23, 2024, Jamie Madrill (from the village) and I embarked on a 300+ kilometer canoe adventure from the Macal River in San Ignacio to all the way down the Belize River to Haulover Creek reaching downtown Belize City on May 29th.  I have split up the story in three blog posts. All post links are at the bottom of this post.

***A note about any written down kilometers.  According to Google, the Belize River is 290 kilometers long.  We paddled at least 15 kilometers of the Macal River and probably the same for Haulover Creek.  I recorded the daily kilometers and our route via my Strava app.  The problem is that according to Strava the total amount of kilometers paddled is only 260 kilometers for the entire trip.  And I was using Strava as my recorder whenever I made any kilometer reference in my blog posts.  The point is I am not sure how accurate any of the numbers are other than I paddled over 300 kilometers.

 May 23, 2024
Km’s Paddled: 29 kilometers
Tonight’s Destination: the Village of Esperanza

Life in the Jungle: Our canoe trip was originally planned for April 7th but here we were on May 22nd.  I believe that it was sometime in February that Jamie Madrill joked that me and another Canadian living on my farm should canoe from my house to Belize City.  I thought it was a great idea but not to miss out on a way better adventure I proposed to him that both he and I should canoe the entire Belize River from San Ignacio to Belize City.  And an adventure was born.

Leaving in style

We were loaded up and, on the road just after 8 AM.  Jamie had secured a ride with Nelson Aguilar in the village to get to San Ignacio.  We decided to see about pushing beyond San Ignacio town and see how close we could get to a dam on the Macal River adding at least 15 extra kilometers to our trip.

Let the adventure begin

Black Rock Resort in relation to San Ignacio

We arrived at Black Rock Resort around 11 AM and we started paddling towards San Ignacio by noon.  The small section of the Macal River that we did was beautiful.  We grabbed a cold coke in San Ignacio and paddled on.  The Macal River flows through San Ignacio on the west bank and Santa Elena on the east bank.  The Belize River starts outside of San Ignacio as you come into Santa Familia Village.  We paddled on until about 6:30 PM reaching the village of Esperanza.  Setting up my tent for the first time in over a year I discovered that my tent is slowly being destroyed by jungle rot.

The Macal RIver headed to San Ignacio

The San Ignacio Bridges

We paddled through over a dozen easy rapids.  All things considered; the day went easier than anticipated.  Physically, I was feeling way better than I thought.  I think all the cement that I have been mixing by hand over the last year was the perfect exercise and workout for a canoe trip.  The one thing I had hoped for was to get more kilometers completed by the end of the day.  Overall, the weather was good.  The river was nicer from Black Rock to San Ignacio than past San Ignacio.

Tonights camping spot

Tonight’s destination and millage. Also according to Strava we paddled 4.8 km per hour

May 24, 2024
Tonight’s Destination: Bannan Bank
Km’s Paddled: 58 kilometers

Life in the Jungle: I woke up last night at 2 AM to thousands of ants in my tent.  It was total chaos and disaster.  Jamie was sleeping in a hammock nearby and heard me slapping ants.  He asked what was wrong.  I told him my tent was full of ants and he rolled back to sleep.  I had to put my clothes on still covered in ants.  As I went through all my gear I continued to kill ants on my body.  I managed to get rid of most of them and move my tent successfully to another area.  But any tiny sensation on my skin during the rest of the night had me squishing an ant that I had missed.

This mornings view from last nights camping spot

Today was a super long day.  We canoed from 9 AM until well past 7 PM padding over an hour in the dark to reach Banana Bank (just outside Belmopan).  We paddled through a fairly isolated area of the river through the Spanish Lookout Mennonite community.  We have seen lots of beautiful gigantic trees but unfortunately, in this area, we saw a lot of river sides that were absent of the large jungle trees.  Which was very disheartening.  I don’t think the Mennonite community is known for its sustainable farming practices.  It was unfortunate that the natural river habitat had not been preserved.  We also came across a lot of burned-out areas from intentionally started fires.  Leaving the Mennonite area, we paddle through Ontario Village, Teakettle, Roaring Creek, and Belmopan.

Along the Belize River

Today we paddled 58 kilometers.  That is exponentially further and longer than I have ever paddled a canoe in my life.  It was a long day and I would not have wanted to go much longer.  Overall, I was a little sore in the shoulders but overall, I felt good.  While Jamie definitely pushed harder than me, he was so beaten he said that today was physically the toughest day of his life, and fell asleep before he made supper.  I couldn’t help but be pleased with myself as at 20 years old Jamie was physically spent and at 51 years old, I was feeling pretty good.

Today I saw my very first (Neotropical) river otter.  We had an iguana leap off a tree branch 30 feet above the river and splash into the river about 10 feet from us as we watched.  We cleared another dozen easy rapids.

In regards to paddling into the dark, I would consider paddling this section of the Belize River at night pretty dangerous as there had been tons of dead trees just under the surface of the water all day.  And there would be no way to see them before it was too late (in the dark).  Basically, what happened is that we were determined to reach Banana Bank to get us on track to follow the La Ruta Maya canoe race (that happens every year in March).  Banana Bank is the staging area for the second day of the four day canoe race.  The other thing was that finding camping spots along the Belize River is very difficult much of the time.  The river has fairly steep sides and the dominant vegetation at the river’s edge is spiny bamboo.  We knew that a staging area for a canoe race would have easy land access.

Tonight’s destination and millage. Also according to Strava we paddled 5.5 km per hour

Check out video footage of this amazing trip on

Instagram @ the_original_safariarie

YouTube @ Safari Arie

TikTok @ safari_arie

Facebook @ Safari Arie

Belize River Canoe Adventure – Post #2 – May 25 to 27, 2024

Belize River Canoe Adventure – Post #3 – May 28 to 29, 2024

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