Why Belize is the ultimate carribean destination
Stunning Caribbean Beaches
Belize - Crossing the divide
Mention Central America to people and most will talk of Mexico, the famous Aztecs, Guatemala and perhaps the Panama canal. Discuss the Carribean and our thoughts turn to Cuba libres, golden beaches and tropical islands.
In which of these categories does Belize lie? The answer is undoubtedly both. From one of its many cayes you could be mistaken for thinking you were relaxing in the Bahamas, yet move inland and expect to find strong evidence of this countrys Mayan past.
From Mayan civililisation to British Honduras
From 1500 BC onwards the Mayan Civilisation spread to Belize and flourished right up until its decline in 1200 AD. Yet it would be over four hundred years till a settlement of shipwrecked European settlers would appear on the records in 1638. A sustained period of piracy, logging and skirmishes with native settlements then commenced.
It wasnt until the late 18th century that Belize would recieve its first official representative and a further half century passed till it was officially termed the colony of British Honduras. In 1964, full internal government was granted and this led to it receiving its current name of Belize in 1973.
What makes Belize so Special?
Belize has a rich history that can be traced through its people; The Mestizos settled in Northern Belize after fleeing Mexico during the Yucatan Wars. In contrast the Kriols are descendants of the baymen slave owners and slaves that were bought to Belize for the logging industry. The other significant group to be found in Belize is of course the Mayans, many of whom fled from Guatemala to evade slavery after originally being displaced from Belize by the British. Whilst English remains the official national language only 5 percent choose to use it at home.
With such ethnic diversity across such a small country. as a guest you can experience a range of both caribbean and Latin American cultures in just one trip, perhaps fishing from a quiet Caye in the morning and moving inland to visit ancient Mayan ruins in the afternoon!
Squeezed into the east coast of Central America between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize offers the best of caribbean coastline and inland jungle. The north consists mostly of heavily forested coastal plains, yet as you move southwards this gives way to the low Maya mountains. The inland jungle areas offer locations such as mountain pine ridge reserve and Cockscomb Basin Sanctuary reserve. Either of which offer fabulous opportunities to get up close and personal with the jungle flora and fauna of Belize.
Running alongside the Belize coast is the second longest reef in the world stretching to over 320 kilometres. The Belize Barrier Reef also contains over 450 islands (Cayes) several of which are inhabited, and also the divers paradise of the Great Blue Hole.
BBQ Lobster on Caye Caulker
It would be hard to describe Belize as having a specific national dish, but there are several dishes that any past visitor would instantly associate with their visit to Belize and its cayes. A popular breakfast typically involves either johnny cakes or fry jacks. Johnny cakes are basically fluffy biscuits that are cut open and either served hot with butter or stuffed with ham and cheese. Fry jacks are similar but are fried and commonly served with sugar as a sweet alternative.
Lunch is the most important meal of the day in Belize. As with much of Central America, rice and beans is a staple meal for much of Belize, served either on its own or with chicken or meat stew. In large cities BBQ chicken served with rice, beans and coleslaw is very popular and not surprisingly the cayes are popular for seafood and, in particular lobster. Personally I think you'd have to go a long way to better the experience of sitting at the end of a pier, feet dangling in the warm Caribbean water and a plate of BBQ lobster on your lap. Not to mention a cold bottle of Belikin beer of course!
Spend more than a few hours in Belize and you'll quickly realise time has little meaning and that life in this country definitely happens at a different pace to the rest of the world. Running late for the 1pm bus? Don't worry, it probably wont leave till 3. Yet if you are not prepared to go with the flow there is plenty to keep you occupied.
Jungle trekking with a guide can be had from one of the main national parks which also offer river tubing or canoeing. Extensive work has been undertaken to open up trails for visitors, incorporating dramatic landmarks such as the Rio Frio caves.
Out on the reef, Caye's such as Caye caulker offer a range of activities. Fishing, sea kayaking and sailing are all easily accessible in the quiet Caribbean waters. Needless to say, such a prestigious reef attracts scuba divers and snorkelers. Several dive companies exist that can offer from single dives to complete diving courses. Even Snorkeling you can expect to see an abundance of fish as well as rays, dolphins and sharks.
Has Belize convinced you yet?
Hopefully this brief guide has given you a little insight into the jewel of the Caribbean that is Belize. Whether you have a few days or a few weeks there is plenty to keep you occupied and plenty to make you fall as in love with Belize as every visitor before you.Finally it seems only appropriate to leave the final word to the people of Belize;
"Arise! Ye sons of the Baymen's clan,
Put on your armours, clear the land!
Drive back the tyrants let despots flee-
Land of the free by the Carib Sea! "
(The Belize National Anthem)