Lillipads over the lovely Rio Dulce

Deciding whether you should stay a night in a place you haven’t seen yet can be difficult.  Especially if you’re short on time and you need to come back to the point of origin anyway to get an onwards bus. I knew I would be experiencing lots of Garifuna culture and cuisine in the Cays of Belize, and the only other attraction I was interested in was the Seven Altars: a series of 7 freshwater pools cascading through the jungle into the ocean.  I decided that the extra 60 quetzales for two one-way tickets might not be worth it.

Turtle sunning itself

I opted instead for the return day-trip which gives you just over three hours to explore Livingston.

The boat ride itself along the Rio Dulce was far more interesting than I had imagined.  We saw abundant bird life, turtles and thousands of lilies decorating the river’s inlets where locals still had their homes built on stilts.  On the approach to Livingston, the river narrowed with 800 foot cliffs covered in lush vegetation stretching up from the river’s edge on either side.  The brisk wind as we sped along on the power boat made the journey very refreshing and enjoyable.

Once in Livingston, knowing these vital facts would have allowed us to actually enjoy the Seven Altars in the limited time that we had:

  • Getting a box lunch the night before and taking it with us.  Even a “quick lunch” took over an hour to serve, eating into our three hour window.
  • Making sure we had enough cash withdrawn from the ATM in Rio Dulce, as the ones in Livingston were not working.
  • Knowing ahead of time that the Seven Altars is privately owned and therefore cost 15 quetzales per person entry fee.  Not having any money after paying for lunch left us with only enough to pay for the taxi ride there and back!
  • It’s a 45 minute walk each way, NOT 20 minutes as we were assured by our taxi driver, from the furthest point out of town that a taxi can take you on the way to the Seven Altars.

Finally at The Seven Altars

Needless to say, we didn’t get to enjoy the Seven Altars very much.  Arriving breathless, with barely 5 minutes left before we had to turn around to make the taxi back in time for the boat, I tried to explain how we didn’t have any money because the ATM’s were broken.  The entry guard did not buy our story and refused us, until we started walking away dejected and he realized we were telling the truth.

We dashed in to see the pools and were sadly denied the chance to dip in the inviting cool water because of time, being left only the chance to snap a few pictures.  Practically running back along the, I hate to say, litter strewn beach path, we arrived about 20 minutes late at the taxi awaiting our return.

Incredulously, the taxi driver was irate with us, berating our tardiness and complaining how long he’d had to wait.  Explaining that it was he who had given us inaccurate information with which to base our time estimate of the walk upon fell on deaf ears.  I was seething silently on the drive back to the boat which we made just in time.

However, getting out of the cab, I really lost it when the driver insisted we pay him more because we had taken 20 minutes longer than we should have.  I couldn’t believe it, and unfortunately my mouth let fly with the best Spanish expletives I could muster to sum up just how I felt about paying more because of his error.  I suggested that he go and take the walk himself and time it, because we would have had to do 7 minute miles, across trash mind you, for it to have taken what he’d said.

Awful litter situation all along the beach in Livingston

With a slam of the door, I was happily back on the boat, resolved to write this post to save future day-trippers from having the same experience.

Where: Rio Dulce to Livingston for the day

When: March 24

How: Boat