Pontoon on the Vaca Lake – an awesome Belizean experience
An early summer morning in August 2013, seven friends and I, went on one of the many tours offered by Chaa Creek, the Pontoon on the Vaca Lake.
The day started out early, as we had a bit of drive and a long day ahead of us, but the sun was shining and the mood could not have been better. Our driver and guide from Chaa Creek, Alexi, picked us up around 8 a.m. in San Ignacio. After a quick stop at one of the supermarkets to buy water and snacks, we made our way to the Upper Macal River Valley. We were greeted with a warm welcome by Ms. Lazaro Martinez and his nephew, both owners of the property. Mr Lazaro is the owner of the mechanized pontoon, taking tourists on a both relaxing and adventurous trip on the lake. The lake is man-made, caused by the Vaca Dam, creating a great opportunity to experience the nature in the mountains and get close to some amazing waterfalls.
We had a small hike ahead of us before reaching the lake, but seeing that it was mostly downhill and the mood was still enthusiastic and full of anticipation, it went without any problems or delays. Along the way, Mr Lazaro would stop and explain about some of the trees and plants. After about 30 minutes, we reached the lake, got comfortable on the pontoon and the tour began. We first sailed to one of the largest waterfalls in the lake area, and along the way enjoyed the spectacular scenery with the calm lake, beautiful surroundings with different plants and trees and of course the Maya mountains creating an interesting depth of field effect.
We had to hike for a few minutes to get close to the biggest waterfall and the natural pool below. It was quicker than I had imagined and the sight was incredible. Coming from a country where we do not have big waterfalls and never been close to one before, it did not take much to impress and amaze me.
The males on the tour were the first ones to jump in the water and swim close to the waterfall, but after a few minutes of convincing and reassure that there would not be dangerous animals in the water and it really was not that cold after jumping in, we – the females, decided to have a take on it!
We spent a lot of time climbing the rocks next to the fall, taking turns in going into/behind it and thanks to the awesome technology of waterproof cameras; we got a ton of pictures. When everyone had seen enough and taken enough pictures, we headed to the pontoon again and continued the tour around the lake. Along the way, Lazaro told us stories and anecdotes, and we were all sitting around having fun and enjoying the time and the great weather. We sailed close to a couple of waterfalls called, the twin falls and after yet another picture round, we had lunch prepared and packed by Chaa Creek. When everybody’s stomach was happy and full, we made our way to the next stop, a smaller fall and pool created above the Twin Falls. Here we again got a chance to swim in the water (luckily it was a bit warmer than the previous) and we again took a lot of pictures.
The final stop of the tour was at one of the cascading waterfalls, it was not as big as the other ones and due to the rainy weather the previous days, we were not able to climb all the way up through the different pools. This waterfall was tucked away under the large trees and bushes, but in my opinion, it was still one of the most beautiful waterfalls I had seen so far on my journey in Belize.
The water here was so clear, you could see everything! Unlike the other ones where the water was a bit murky due to the rapid currents and force of the waterfall. This was a serene and beautiful location and everybody enjoyed spending time in the crystal clear water and of course take a lot more pictures. We then returned to the Pontoon and sailed back to where it all started and to the dreaded hike back to the van. After spending the entire day in the sun, swimming and hiking the waterfalls, the hike back, even though it only took 30 minutes (give or take), felt really long and tiresome. We were all happy when we finally reached the car and on the drive back to town, people were still happy but the energy level was low after that adventurous day full of new impressions.
I would highly recommend everybody visiting the Cayo district in Belize to do this tour. It is a full day trip and you have to be ready to get some exercise and hike up the Maya mountains in warm humidity to get to the waterfalls, but it is definitely worth it all and you will have plenty of time to relax when the pontoon is gliding from location to location. On this tour, you get a chance to see Belize’s nature in all its glory and the opportunity to capture this beautiful scenery on camera and forever in your memories. This is definitely a tour full of unforgettable memories you don’t want to miss.