We were driven to the New River dock to begin our tour by our driver from the Black Orchid Resort. Our guide, Nathaniel, was waiting for his four groups of people to arrive. I had already seen Nathaniel on a youtube video, so was excited to have this very eloquent guide. He proved throughout the tour that he was indeed an expert on the river, the Mayan site, and even taught us how to speak as the locals do. As we started up the river, Nathaniel gave us the background we needed about the history of the river and the people who live along its banks. He had a keen eye for any animals moving along the banks and in the water. We were able to see an amazing array of plants and animals as we toured the river on our way to the site. People who fly directly in to the site miss a great connection to the landmarks, flora, and fauna we were able to experience. One of the highlights of our entire trip was being able to feed the spider monkey by hand. He was not at all afraid of us; he even held the boat to the bank by his tail while he enjoyed half a banana from all of us. We also saw Mayan fishermen in the river fishing by hand with only the baited hook and the line.
When we arrived at the site, Nathaniel warned us about being prepared for mosquitoes and rain. He also made sure that we understood that this was an ecological site and we were forbidden to pick up anything from here. He was extremely diligent about educating us about every type of plant or animal we happened to see. We learned about the allspice, the largest palm fronds in the world, and a variety of other information just on the way to our first site. He showed us the easy way up this first ancient wonder. This way everyone in our tour got to climb at least one. We learned about the carvings and the artifacts found here. The High Temple was a much harder climb, but the view of the jungle from the top was amazing for those of our party that made it. Even the view from the high terrace was incredible.
Because it was rainy season, we were treated to a group of howler monkeys on our way to the ball court and the Jaguar Temple. Nathaniel was able to call the alpha male, who then brought his companions to converse with us. What a delight! We were also shown how to capture the jaguar carving on the front of the temple so that the photograph would show the jaguar face in 3-D. The resulting photo I got is one of my all-time favorites. I would highly recommend this tour to anyone traveling anywhere near here.
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