We booked the all-day kayak trip on Belize's Mopan River through Pacz Tours, a San Ignacio outfitter, hoping for a mix of exciting whitewater and serene jungle riverbanks. We were not disappointed. We checked in the day before at the Pacz office on Burns Street. Owner Bob is a character. They also offer caving, Mayan ruin trips & more, but we were there to kayak.
Our aptly-named guide ("Link") & a driver met us at our hotel and we drove to the Guatemala border. Link made necessary arrangements for us to launch on the Belize side of the border. Our small inflatable kayaks looked a little beat-up, but the gear seemed OK.
The Mopan was pretty clear and had a good current. We could see the first rapids from the launch, the first of about 15 rapids we traversed. Link sort of laughed off the "Class" categories of measuring rapids. "Some rapids get you wet, some come in your boat, some come up to your chest..."
We paddled by Mayan villages where women washed clothes, a nasty highway run-off drain, dugout canoes and the infamous hand-cranked ferry at Xunantunich. We saw howler monkeys playing high in the trees (Link does a convincing howler imitation). We saw huge iguanas, bats, noisy kingfishers, snowy egrets, mariposas.
Sometimes we would run one set of rapids and immediately see or hear another one just around the bend. Sometimes we could just drift in our dreamy green tunnel, listening to the birds; other times we had to paddle like mad while asking ourselves why we risk drowning or cracking our heads open like melons on the rocks. We flipped a few times, but Link was very cool and fished us from the rushing rapids with no problem. He clearly knew this river, briefing us before each set of rapids as to what to expect and how best to navigate. He also was knowledgeable about the trees/flora, critters, Mayan history & Belizean culture.
Despite the misty rain we had for much of the trip, water levels were too low to do the full 16 miles to Paslow Falls; we did about 10 miles, and returned to San Ignacio by 3 pm. A full day's paddling. Lots of fun. I told Link that Mopan River kayaking is kind of like beisbol: periods of blissful serenity punctuated by panic.