Marco Gonzalez Reserve is the only official Maya site on Ambergris Caye. The location is relatively remote – 5 miles south of San Pedro town and set back deep into the mangroved lagoon. It was “discovered” just 35 years ago – in 1984 – when a young local man, Marco Gonzalez, led two visiting archaeologists back to the hidden site.
You can read about the history here – and visit the Reserve’s official site. The area was made a national reserve in 2011 but is one of many Maya settlements on the island. One has been excavated in the middle of San Pedro town. There is another, a former trading post, in the Bacalar Chico Reserve on the north part of the island. It was the Maya who dug the channel between Mexico and Ambergris Caye hundreds of years ago.
Marco Gonzalez is the spot to see best how the Maya left their mark on our island. It’s absolutely amazing to think that at the height of the Maya people, there were over a million people in Belize, building immense cities, farming, traveling and trading. More than 3x the population today.
Here is a look at what I saw on my first visit to Marco Gonzalez. The drive south is part of the adventure – and the area is beautiful. Make sure to gas up your golf cart, bring some water and some hiking sandals or shoes. And bring bug spray. As you get farther south, there is more mangroves and bush and that means more mosquitos.
We went on a dry hot breezy day – ideal for the trip. I sprayed up as we got into the mangroves but didn’t see or hear one bug. If you are headed down in the wetter season, be prepared.
It’s also a fantastic area for birding. Wading birds, swallows, warblers, a mangrove cuckoo. Just keep your eyes peeled as you head down through this very distinctive landscape.
There were two guides working – Jerry answered all my questions when I finished. Here we go. Some cool carved signs as you enter.
And then a 10 minute walk back into the lagoon. It’s pretty cool – a totally different landscape from the ocean side.
And then you enter a clearing…a raised area…and there are pieces of pottery and shards of rocks – like chert and fleck of obsidian on the ground.
My friend Mike just happened to find some…human bones!
Different piles and displays.
Conch shells and beads and pieces that were used for fishing net weights.
We headed back out – I was super excited to tell Jerry about the human bones. He was not the least bit surprised. Apparently there are remains scattered all over the place back there.
We spent about an hour at the site – and I’m glad I went. It was more than I expected. And I REALLY enjoyed a cold paleta and jerk BBQ on the way home.
For more information check out the Marco Gonzalez website and Facebook page. And SERIOUSLY…don’t touch the Chem Chem (Poisonwood tree).
For my trips to other Maya sites in Belize – please see the links below.