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.

***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 28, 2024
Km’s Paddled: 34.5 kilometers
Tonight’s Destination: Belize City

Life in the Jungle: We got started at 8:45 AM but then we needed to get water from another Burrell Boom land access a mile down the river.  That being said, the day kind of went slow.  We saw our fifth Baird’s tapir near the Belize International Airport.  We canoed the last 26.5 kilometers to Haulover Bridge near the mouth of the Belize River.

This mornings views from last nights camping spot

Burrell Boom Bridge

A huge Provision tree seed pod and flower

A common sign as we got into brackish water. I have been told manatee’s swim up the river as far as my place.

Haulover Bridge – old one and new one

The Caribbean Ocean is just over there.

Leaving the Belize River and entering Haulover Creek was like entering another world.  The creek was quite narrow and the water was calm as ice.  Massive trees and mangroves towered over us and enveloped the sky above us.  Large aquatic birds flying in front of us.  Only a few minutes after entering the creek a Manatee exploded right beside our canoe.  I thought the creek bottom below us had exploded and it was like a massive whale swam under us.  It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  If that wasn’t amazing enough, we saw our 6th Baird’s tapir of the trip.  Imagine a tapir practically in the city.  Haulover Creek was an amazing experience.  When peering through the mangrove into the neighborhood of Belma Phase 3 and even further along the creek through Phase 2 and 1 it seemed that is where the most run-down homes in Belize City are located.

Haulover Creek

Admittedly the closer we got into the city the more unsure I was about where we were going to sleep.  But I ended up finding a vacant lot (with owner permission) on the creek that also offered security from the streets to set up camp.  And we were able to have fried chicken for supper.  Not too bad for our last night out.  It’s barely 5 kilometers tomorrow to the Swing Bridge in downtown Belize City and the completion of this amazing canoe trip.

This evenings camping spot


Tonight’s destination and millage. Also according to Strava we paddled 3.5 km per hour

May 29, 2024
Km’s Paddled: 5.5 kilometers
Tonight’s Destination: Final destination – the Swing Bridge in downtown Belize City

Life in the Jungle: I did not sleep well last night with all the noise pollution of the city, the heat and humidity, and my allergies acting up.  But truthfully, I didn’t really care much.  Soon enough I would be showered and sleeping in my bed (with a fan if necessary).

This mornings view from last nights camping spot

The Belcan Bridge in Belize City

The Belchina Bridge – Belize City

Belize City

I don’t even remember what time we started but it was only five and a half kilometers to the Swing Bridge and the end of this canoe trip.  We did a quick backtrack to the Belize City Civic Center as there was a public boat launch and then we called for our ride home.  Because we had a little time and about to load our gear into the back of a pickup truck, I headed to the hardware store and purchased a sink and toilet for Andy’s apartment.  (Our ride home from this trip was going to save me a ton of grief trying to get a toilet and sink home on the bus.)  I was able to catch a ride back to the canoe with a delivery guy and as soon as I made it back to the canoe our ride to bring us home showed up.  We were loaded up and on our way home before 10 AM.  The ending of the canoe trip from yesterday afternoon to today could not have gone any better with a secure camping spot, fried chicken for supper, enough time to buy a toilet and sink and not having to wait two minutes to start loading our gear into the back of a pickup truck.

The Finish Line – The Swing Bridge

And we are out of there.

A few observations about the Belize River and canoeing the river

Until this canoe trip, I was really only familiar with my little piece of Belize River.  I didn’t know that there were (easy to paddle) rapids.  I didn’t realize that many areas of the river are quite shallow and have rocky bottoms with fairly clear water.  My little section of the river is mud and the water is quite murky.

I hadn’t been on a canoe trip in over 15 years and my guess is that in the handful of canoe trips that I had done, I doubt I paddled more than 15 kilometers in a day.  A 300 kilometer, 7 day trip is way beyond anything I had ever done before.  I remember being in a lot more physical pain during those past canoe trips when I was a lot younger.  I just turned 51 a week earlier and with the help of a proper canoe seat, I generally was pain-free most of the time.  I do give credit to the amount of bags of cement I had mixed with a dirt shovel over the last year as being the perfect exercise in preparing for a canoe trip.

For myself, I would not consider paddling the whole Belize River as an overly difficult adventure to accomplish.  That being said I was the guy paddling in the front and not the back.  The back paddler should probably be experienced though you definitely don’t have a “Belizean guide” to take on such an adventure (as long as you are wearing your life jacket).  One of the biggest challenges is to find a camping spot right before dark.  Most of the bank sides of the Belize River are steep with spiny impenetrable bamboo.  I would consider paddling the Belize River in the dark as high risk.

A few notes on some of the items I brought along for this trip

  • Bring a sharp machete for preparing your campsite area or emergency land travel
  • I brought a tent. And on the first night, my tent was swarmed with ants. In the future in Belize, I will be bringing a hammock.
  • Sunscreen, a good hat, bike gloves (for paddling), and sandals. I purchased and wore sandals for the first time in 51 years. I’m glad I did even though I hate sandals.
  • A first aid kit. Not a lot of people will be seen along the river and visible houses or villages can be few and far between.

A list of some of the more unique wildlife spotted

  • Lots of Morelets crocodiles
  • Lots of Black Howler monkeys
  • 6 Baird’s Tapirs. Apparently, there are approximately 3,300 tapirs left in Belize
  • A West Indian Manatee exploded under our canoe
  • My first-ever Barn owl
  • My first-ever Neotropical otter
  • 1,000’s of Green Iguanas
  • Wood storks, and many species of herons, including lots of Boat-billed, Bare-throated Tiger and Green.
  • Lots of Muscovy and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
  • Great Curassow
  • Osprey’s and Snail Kite
  • Tons of Kingfishers
  • A few Masked Tityra’s

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 #1 May 23 to 24

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


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