Today started off with a smooth boat ride through the mangroves to the mainland. We boarded vans and crossed the coastal plain to Red Bank, a Maya village in the forested foothills of the Maya Mountains. Every year, Belize’s scarlet macaws (Ara macao cyanoptera) fly from their nesting grounds in the western forests of Chiquibul to feast on the fruit of the polewood (Symphonia globulifera) trees growing on the slopes and valleys near Red Bank.

We hiked up the hillside through a lush tropical broadleaf forest to a small clearing overlooking the slopes. At first, we could only hear the “craaaakk” sounds as macaws flew over the forest. All of a sudden, as a pair of scarlet macaws flew across the valley, everyone aimed cameras and binoculars towards them. Pair by pair, they streamed through…18, 20, 24, 30, 42 and the numbers continued to grow! As the macaws landed on treetops and disappeared behind foliage, we continued to hear more and more as flock after flock arrived in the valley. Red, blue and yellow adorned the polewood trees for hours. Just when expedition leader Shaun sadly announced we had to leave and gave us the 10-minute warning, every macaw in the valley took flight and rose up with a crescendo of incredible sounds. Imagine the cacophony that hundreds of scarlet macaws taking to the skies would make!

Our explorers returned to National Geographic Sea Lion smiling. After lunch and the required testing in preparation for travel requirements, it was time for a cultural afternoon with the Garifuna Collective, a dynamic and energetic multi-generational band that combines traditional instruments (drums, calabash shakers and turtle shells) with modern instruments (acoustic and bass guitars) to create their unique style and interpretation of Garifuna music. With the roots of their music in the west coast of Africa, music plays a significant role in everyday life and there are chants for farm work, sadness, fishing, hauling their canoes, making cassava bread, stories and numerous other everyday activities. There are also songs of remembrance and songs for fun and playful times, and today the guests onboard were treated to an awesome Belize experience to remember.