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January 24, 2010

Luxe Birding Trips at Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

King VultureBlack Hawk EagleDouglas Da Silva, Belize – Reported by Elite Traveler, the Private Jet Lifestyle Magazine

Francis Ford Coppola’s luxurious eco-lodge Blancaneaux is nestled in the northwest corner of the vast Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and adjacent to the moist broadleaf forests of the Noj Kaax Meen Elijio Panti National Park. The lodge’s spectacular location along Privassion Creek allows easy access to uninhabited and varied eco-zones and the region is a haven for many rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. These five new birding trips provide breathtaking looks at the best that this natural wonderland has to offer.

Rare Birds of Western Belize (3 nights / 4 days): The shortest of the three multi-day trips, this itinerary packs a lot in, particularly in its two full day trips.

-Day two focuses on the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve with a visit to the Baldy Beacon observation point, offering dazzling 360 degree panoramic views and a chance to spot the rare Solitary Eagle.

-Day three includes a trek through the broadleaf moist forest of the Noj Kaax Meen Elijio Panti National Park to the raptor hot spot of Howler Hill.
Birds of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and the Chiquibul National Park (4 nights / 5 days): Adding to the two full day trips of the Rare Birds of Western Belize trip, this is supplemented with a day of birding in Chiquibul National Park and the Caracol Archaeological Reserve.

-Caracol is the largest Maya archaeological site in Belize and a haven for wildlife including spider and howler monkeys.
-variety of Belize wildlife can be sighted on the logging roads while driving to and from Caracol.

The Birds of Western Belize and Tikal (5 nights / 6 days): Splitting overnights between Blancaneaux Lodge and Coppola’s Guatemalan resort La Lancha, this trip offers the chance to experience a wealth of wildlife and habitat diversity.

-The scenic La Lancha is perched above the second largest lake in Guatemala, Lake Petén Itzá, and the adjacent Biotopo Cerro Cahui offers exceptional wetland birding.
-Time in Guatemala includes exploring the majestic Maya temples and plazas of the Tikal National Park, at which over 300 species of birds can be spotted.

Monitoring the endangered Scarlet Macaw and the wildlife of the Chiquibul National Park (1 day): This action-packed day trip is run in conjunction with the Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD), co-managers of the Chiquibul National Park.

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-Guests get the unique opportunity to accompany and assist two national park rangers on their monitoring of Scarlet Macaws’ numbers and behavior along the park’s Chalillo Reservoir, Upper Macal and Raspaculo Rivers.
-This spectacular uninhabited ecosystem is only accessible with special permission for scientific research and is the core breeding area for the approximately 200 Scarlet Macaws left in Belize.
-The monitoring trips are limited to four guests per week and will only run on Saturdays with a percentage of proceeds going to FCD to help protect and monitor the Scarlet Macaws.

Expedition Raptor (7 nights / 8 days): A raptor research workshop hosted by Ryan Phillips, founder of the Belize Raptor Research Institute.

-Two workshops will be hosted annually by Blancaneaux Lodge in August and December to raise funds for the Belize Raptor Research Institute.
-The workshops are a mixture of classroom lectures, field observation and exciting raptor expeditions.
-Expeditions will cover a wide variety of raptor habitats in the Mountain Pine Ridge, Noj Kaax Meen Elijio Panti National Park and the Chiquibul National Park.

Further information on the trips:

-The trips require at least a moderate level of fitness, due to the hilly terrain and humid conditions.
-The multi-day birding trips include overnight accommodations at Blancaneaux Lodge (4 and 5-day trips) or Blancaneaux Lodge and La Lancha (6-day trips). Packages are fully inclusive including transfers, tours, accommodations, meals and guiding services. Prices are per couple and range from $1980 for the 4-day trip in summer season to $3655 for the 6-day trip in winter season (prices US dollars plus tax and service charge).
-The one-day Scarlet Macaw monitoring expedition includes lunch. Price is $150 per person for a trip with 4 guests (prices US dollars plus tax).

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