12 Top Jungle Rivers
Central America:
The Upper Moho, Belize

Even the most open-minded archaeologists have a hard time envisioning ancient Mayan Indians standing around chewing gum. Nevertheless, deep in the jungle of Belize--especially along the banks of the Upper Moho River--lie giant gum-producing Sapodilla trees, responsible for satisfying the chewing needs of the entire allied forces during World War I. The river, of course, offers far more than a chance to discover the origin of chicles.
Located in the foothills of the Mayan Mountains near the Colombia Forest Reserve and Blue Creek Wildlife Sanctuary--the only biological research station with a steel-cabled walkway hung high in the rainforest canopy--the jungle-draped Upper Moho offers a chance to spend four days running whitewater in one of the most remote parts of Central America.

To get there you have to fly south from Belize City to Punta Gorda and then take a short ride to the Blue Creek sanctuary where you'll learn about the rainforest and take a stroll high overhead on the canopy walkway.

A two-hour drive then takes you to a remote Mayan village where Mayan cowboys--members of the Mopan and Kekchi Maya peoples--load you and your gear on horseback for a half-day trot to the put-in. Only then does the river portion of your trip begin, as you take off on a Caribbean-bound waterway fed by more than 150 inches of rain each year. "It's definitely about as remote as you can get in Belize," says Tim Boys, who ran the first descent of the river in 1995. "There's not a lot of people down there." But there is plenty of emerald-green whitewater: stair-stepping through a jungle-filled gorge are more than 60 rapids, including several 18- to 20-foot drops--like aptly named Monkey Falls--that cascade into deep pools as green as the jungle walls. Camping takes place in the heart of the forest among indigenous birds, jaguar tracks and howler monkeys. If you're lucky you might even spot a monkey eagle or shadow-casting whitehawk eagle--the largest neo-tropical bird of prey in existence--catching thermals rising from the river up the canyon walls. And, of course, there's plenty of time to relax at camp, hike and practice blowing bubbles with indigenous tree sap.

--For more information, contact Island Expeditions, 368-916 W. Broadway, Vancouver, B.C. Canada V5Z-1K7; (800) 667-1630 (phone); (604) 452-3433 (fax); island@whistler.net (e-mail). --edb