ATVs are the latest in jungle adventure
The buzz in tourism might be centered on cruise tourism these days, but some Belizean entrepreneurs are going against the grain, designing adventure packages aimed squarely at residents and overnight guests. And as the News 5 team found deep in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, one such idea has four wheels, can go just about anywhere and loves getting wet.
Mario Lara, Co-owner, A.T.V. Adventure Tours
“The bikes are Honda Recon 250. They are very rugged and they have quite a kick to it. They have quite a punch. “
Janelle Chanona Reporting
They are among the newest contenders for tourism bucks in Belize...ATVs are or All Terrain Vehicles.
In the driver’s seat are Cayo businessmen Miguel Choco and Mario Lara. At a time when most tourism based entrepreneurs are catering to cruise passengers, Choco and Lara are banking on overnight guests.
“The Cayo District can become kind of a Mecca of the adventure seekers, overnight tourists here in Belize and that’s what we are targeting. We are keeping our groups very small. We are concerned about the environment; we’re concerned about a lot of different things. We are targeting folks who are looking for a little bit of adventure and who want to spend some time to get to know Belize a little bit. This is a hundred percent Belizean owned company and we are very proud of that. Like I said, we are combining adventure with some education and you know it’s a different market that we’re targeting.”
The adventure looms ahead but it’s not until we’re done with the paperwork that we can move on to the practical.
Miguel Choco, Co-owner, A.T.V. Adventure Tours
“You put on the ignition, hit the start button and this is the accelerator or gas.”
“As in all, biking, mountain biking, going on the hills you go up a little further up so that your balance is upward. Going downhill, you go bank and lean back so that the weight is on the rear so don’t either flip up or flip forward.”
“You don’t ride or drive this bike, beyond your own skills. You try to maintain below that okay. Don’t think you can try do stunts or anything like that. Don’t practice anything like that.”
Using approved logging trails, our guided tour will take us through more than twenty-eight miles of pine and broadleaf forest and is guaranteed to include butterflies, birds and a waterfall as well as geological and archaeological points of interest.
Our first stop is to one of the area’s many bird and bat filled caves.
“I’m not sure if there are any remains of pottery shards or any sort of activities that have been going on long time ago. I am not so sure because this area was populated by the Mayan people so it could be. The cave is sacred to those people back in the past.”
Back on the bikes, we continue east, deep into the Elijio Panti National Park, in search of the Five Ladies of the Forest waterfall. Our hike over fallen trees...across streams...and along the river...does not disappoint.
But all that water was a sign of things to come. The heavy downpour is bone-chilling, but it does little to dampen the excitement of splashing through the mud.
The trees of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve have been hit hard by the deadly bark beetle, and there have been questions about the future of tourism here. But now, ATVs might be just enough incentive to bring guests to newly developed areas like the Elijio Panti National Park.
Miguel Choco, Co-Owner
“The more people know about it, the more people will come in. We will pay an entrance fee to get into the national park which goes to the community also, if any sort of illegal activity going on in the national park, we will report it to the society that runs the national park. Also they are about to train some guides or wardens and I mention to them, I can help them in training and conducting proper interpretive tours in the national park.”
Just a month into operation, ATV Adventure Tours introductory rates are a hundred Belize dollars for citizens, while the price tag is a hundred and thirty U.S. for international visitors. According to Lara, now that the idea has an engine of its own, they’re eager for everyone to jump on.
“It’s taken a lot of work, we did have to do quite a bit of research in terms of picking out some of the nice trails and that sort of thing. That took us quite a bit of time to get off the ground as well as just getting the equipment here but we’re ready to go and we’re excited about offering this.”
Well, after three hours of hiking through the bush, riding through the rain, and splashing in the mud, I am convinced that this venture is drenched in potential and will one day race to take its place among Belize’s most popular destinations.
The only requirement for taking the ATV Adventure Tour is that riders must be sixteen years or older. Remember, no previous riding experience is necessary. For more information, please contact Miguel Choco and Mario Lara at 610-2728 or 604-2563.