One of the outings offered by Lamanai Lodge was the "Sunset Cocktail" and surprisingly it involved Sunset, Cocktail and water. We assembled at 4.00 pm at the lodge’s pier and soon the four of us were clambering onto the pontoon. It hadn’t taken long for us to realise that we were on our own as there were only 4 seats on the vessel and we were happy that was the case as the previous night there had been 12 and I suspect that they would have been very restricted in movement and the photo opportunities would have been limited.
Soon we were being un-tethered from the security of the pier and our guide for the evening jumped aboard to navigate us through the lagoon. His first priority was to give us an idea of his plan for the evening "cruise" and then he placed two sets of nibbles on the tables between each couple. Next we were offered a choice of Rum Cocktail and as he started preparing these the pontoon powered off towards the centre of the lagoon. Now when I say powered off I’d hate you to think we set off at speed. It was a sedate speed with an almost silent engine, perfect I thought for "creeping up" on any wild-life in the vicinity.
As we set off Snail Kites were hovering above us looking for their preferred food of... Guess what? Of course, snails! We’d seen pretty big vacant snail shells close to the pier so it would appear that the kite is often successful in its search for gourmet food.
On the water’s edge strutted the Egrets, these are commonly seen in the area but not always alongside The Great Egret. The later can be up to one metre in height (the common egret is a much smaller and stockier bird) with a wingspan of around 150 cm (52 to 67 in). It looked magnificent as it took off and flew gracefully along the lagoon before heading off behind the deep foliage. Whilst the Great Egret had flown off the smaller Egrets continued to strut their stuff along the water’s edge. They showed no fear of us.
Another bird that seemed unfazed by our presence was the Cormorant. They were all the way along the lagoon many sitting quite contentedly drying out their wings. It was if they were playing a game of statues and it was hard to see which one would break cover first.
Our guide "grounded the pontoon" so we’d have a more stable base from which to view the local birdlife. All around us we could hear the sound of the Lipkin with its distinctive rattling scream. It’s a largish bird with a wingspan on over 3 feet and is the only survivor of its type of bird with its ancestry easily linked back to pre-historic times. We could almost have claimed to have seen a dinosaur!
Whilst focussing our attention on the Limpkin our guide suddenly became excited as he pointed to the far bank of the lagoon. Hard to see high in the trees was the Jabiru Stork and with the aid of our guide’s powerful telescope we could clearly see that it was nesting with two of its young. At 5feet tall this is the largest bird in Central America and its wingspan can be up to 9 feet. Despite its size the bird, we saw one returning to the nest, seems to fly almost effortlessly. This spot was truly amazing and we were advised, by our guide that we were very lucky to be witnessing the Jabiru in all its parental glory.
Just as it couldn’t get any better we spotted two different Herons –the Tricoloured Heron and the Blue Heron. We’d seen the latter before but the former stood so still and blended so well with the surrounding foliage that he was initially difficult to see. Once we’d spotted him it was hard to get a good focus on him for a photograph and I was convinced he’d fly off.
Our guide was confident that we could get closer without disturbing this beautiful creature and as we edged closer Grebe flew off at all angles and the mango swallow swooped towards the boat almost landing on the deck. Surely all this activity would disturb our tricoloured friend. Not at all! He remained absolutely still doubtless fully focussed on catching his evening meal. Finally we were close for some super close-ups and still the bird ignored us. What a privilege.
We had a couple of more cocktails and managed to spot another Blue Heron flapping easily as it skimmed the bank of the water, and two different types of Kingfishers. Surely that was a good night out and then...
The sunset came across the lagoon and transferring the previously blue sky to flame red and bright orange. It was nature’s own light show and a terrific conclusion to our Sunset Cocktail Cruise.