Belize: Aside from the well-trodden routes

Natalia Laidinen -
October 2010
Few of our countrymen would at once find Belize on the world map – this small tropical territory, lost in Central America. Meanwhile, Belize as a magnet attracts travelers and seekers from all over the world. Here you can see “in one set” ancient antiquities, and unique nature reserves, you can go scuba diving and snorkeling, and in addition – to relax on the beach with white sand, sipping a local cocktail with rum and enjoying the music of reggae ... In addition, Belize is cozy, comfortable, relatively safe, and the local black population good-naturedly and excellently speak English.

Belize, until recently, was part of a list of the British overseas territories of the Crown in the Caribbean and was a true gem in the necklace of the Cayman, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos. Continental Belize is the realm of tropical rain forests, land reserves and ancient Mayan pyramids. It was very interesting for me to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Caracol, located in the south-western part of Belize's border with Guatemala. Once it was a huge Mayan city: there were about 20 squares! Above the city rises the pyramid, which is one of the tallest buildings of the Maya empire, its height is 43 meters. It is here where the discoveries were made, important for the study of ancient history, in particular – a stela with inscriptions that tell of the victory of Caracol over Tikal was unearthed, located in the territory of Guatemala. At Caracol ceremonial burial grounds with samples of hieroglyphic writing have also been found.

Altun Ha Mayan Site
Lamanai Mayan Site

But most of the Mayan ruins in Belize have not yet been excavated, not cleared from the covered tropical vegetation. A traveler can experience a rare feeling – to stand on the ruins of the great civilizations of the past, which is not yet explored to the end by scholars, to feel its deep vibration.

In the towns of Belize one can see ancient examples of colonial architecture, reminiscent of the British colonial rule.

Town park of agricultural scale in the country's capital, Belmopan
Pupils of Belize

The reserves are waiting for nature lovers, where at a short distance you can see and photograph the rare jaguars and other predators. The protected areas cover nearly half of the country! Here you can feel not only the zoologist and ornithologist and botanist: in the jungle of Belize you can find dozens of unique for the region's plants, butterflies and birds.

Mangrove tree - the memory of centuries
I was fortunate enough to visit the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, an area of about 800 square km. The nature here is really cherished and protected. Pine and tropical forests are rich in flora and fauna. A traveler can only look at special corners of this tropical kingdom reserved for tours. On the territory of the protected area there run small rivers with picturesque waterfalls, you can see mysteriously looking ancient caves in which Mayan priests used to conduct their ceremonies. Especially beautiful is the chain of waterfalls Thousand Foot Falls, whose height is 305 meters. This is the highest chain in Central America. And there are a lot of birds – exotic parrots, toucans ... and mangroves of the coastal zone, where crocodiles and raccoons live, immediately set up romantic travelers to a Caribbean mood.

The town of Placencia, located on a small peninsula, opens Belize from the other, not dense at all, forest side. The peninsula is known for its beautiful lagoon, along which five miles of magnificent sandy beaches stretch. The Placencia embankment, which runs along the beaches, has been entered in the Guinness Book of Records as the narrowest embankment in the world. Along it are numerous bars, restaurants and shops. But it is boring to stay long on the beaches in Belize! Especially if you are keen on diving.

Island of Caye Caulker - heavy weekend weekdays
Perfect island vacation

For me it was a discovery that the Belize Barrier Reef is the longest in the Western Hemisphere. Its flora and fauna is unique! In the azure surrounding waters there live more than 70 species of corals and 400 species of fish, including large groupers, stingrays and whale sharks. Belize is a diver’s paradise! There are dozens dive sites, including extreme, along the islands. The diversity of the underwater world strikes you – exuberant multicolored corals, sponges, various fishes and other inhabitants of the coral reef. Near the atolls you can observe the life of spotted stingrays, moray eels and sea turtles. Sometimes dolphins swim up to divers. Also, the place is famous for excellent fishing, so fishing tackle will help lovers of thrills!

Divers usually stay on the islands of Belize, a land flowing with a very special life. Many of them do not have cars – only electric cars and bicycles. Time suddenly slows down, the space around – is changing, there is more color and new experiences.

Caribbean sunset before the storm
Port of Belize City view from the Bay

And of course, in Belize one must see the main local landmark – known for its perfect shape and beauty Great Blue Hole, one of the world’s best dive sites. It is good to reach it on a catamaran from one of the neighboring islands or from Belize City. If you take to the road on a high-speed boat, in three hours this miracle of nature will sparkle to you by a rare sapphire. Great Blue Hole, probably once a cave, which has fallen under the influence of the advancing water. It was first explored and measured by the French explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, in 1972 on his ship Calypso he was in the waters of Belize. And today, having dived, you can see the massive stalactites and stalagmites reminiscent of the past of this unique natural phenomenon.

Those who decide to just dive snorkeling, there are no obstacles. The funnel of Blue Hole lets through quite a little sunlight, so scuba divers need to have a diving torch. The reef, at the surface of Blue Hole surface, amazes by its beauty. And in the depths, divers can see several species of fish, including the giant grouper, nurse sharks, and several types of reef sharks such as the Caribbean reef shark. Diving into the dark abyss of Great Blue Hole is truly memorable for both new and professional divers!

Hair from growing high fashion
In between studying history, boat trips, diving and observing the rare birds and animals, be sure to try the local cuisine! It is unusual and exquisite, European fusion is unlikely to compare with it. The Caribbean cuisine of Belize is a mixed dish of Jamaica and Mexico, the UK and Guatemala, a masterpiece of international cuisine. A traditional dish is rice with beans and spicy seasonings. You can try a thick soup with beans and spices, which is usually served with tortillas. The Caribbean highlight of the table is fried bananas. But the most delicious thing in Belize – is seafood, fresh, cooked by special recipes! Fish cuisine can conquer any gourmet. Lobsters, clams, and a variety of shrimp ceviche is something fantastic! I especially liked the seafood soup. But, tired of the exotic, in the restaurants and eateries of Belize you can also find familiar to Europeans pasta with spicy sauces. Or Chinese cuisine with a Caribbean accent. Be sure to try Chicha (local drink based on fermented corn) and taste the local rum!

Belize it! – the motto of the small country, where everything is slow, colorful and amazing. Once you try to join the Caribbean reggae rhythm of life – and the metropolitan bustle of cities will immediately back down, and your heart will be filled with a warm and gentle sea of incomparable Belize.

Entrance to Belize City
House in Belize

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