Livingston/Nana Juana/Quirigua

Mar 12, 2018 - National Geographic Quest


We awoke to an early 6:00 a.m. greeting from our expedition leader, Rab, and found ourselves docked at Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala. We packed our bags full of camera gear, sunscreen, bird books, and snacks before boarding expedition landing crafts accompanied by local Guatemalan guides. The waters of the Atlantic Ocean were surprisingly calm as we made our way towards Livingston, a town only accessible by boat, but full of Garifuna culture.  Livingston lies at the mouth of Rio Dulce and was once called La Buga (mouth). On the river, we enjoyed cruising through the mangroves, bird watching, and getting a glimpse into local fishing culture. Great egrets, cormorants, and magnificent frigatebirds were plentiful and the keen eye could spot northern jacanas walking on the water lilies. At the end of the Rio Dulce, we were able to visit San Felipe of Lara Castle at the mouth of lago Izabal. A spectacular morning!

Though the lack of breeze had beads of sweat dripping down our foreheads, it made for incredibly calm water as we cruised to our riverside lunch destination at Nana Juana. We refueled on local dishes and, of course, local beer. Nothing like a gold Gallo on a hot day! We were able to see beautiful weaving and accessories made by local artisanal l women.  After lunch, we eagerly made our way to Quirigua-our first taste of Maya culture.

Quirigua is known for its stellae, which are currently the largest found in the Maya world.

As we wandered through the field of stellae, it was fun to imagine lives of the past, how the stellae were carved, and all of the stores they hold. We learned to interpret the ancient markings from our guides on these intricately carved stellae. We were able to see the ruins of the acropolis, palace, ball court, and Great Plaza.  We tried to picture the buildings fully constructed and rulers with decorative headpieces. It was great to have such a drastically different day than our day in the water in Belize yesterday. We enjoyed our introduction to Mayan culture and look forward to learning more about it when we visit Tikal later in the trip. For now, back to the sand and sun in Belize!

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About the Author

Shaylyn Potter

Undersea Specialist

Shaylyn was born and raised in small-town Oregon, which she credits for her unwavering love and respect for the natural world. Her passion for the outdoors and exploration began at a young age, and she spent her childhood taking full advantage of what Oregon had to offer—waterskiing, snowboarding, hiking, and camping.

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