First and foremost, the climate is fantastic. Not to mention diving off the world’s second largest barrier reef. And the many eclectic cultures, mixing freely, reflect the history of the region as it has been passed like a plaything between the worlds. Amazing fauna and flora, wildlife, a zoo with a biologist’s dream of creatures all native to the country. And even real touch-it-if-you dare ruins from long lost cultures? Yep. Sure, loads of other countries have got these things. Very few have got them all, all within an afternoon’s travel, all under the same high jungle canopy roof. And more. The possibility for adventure is almost limitless.
Belize is situated in a geographically rich area but amidst a politically fraught arena. The words “Central America” can conjure some of life’s less pleasant images but all this has seemingly passed Belize by. Not for Belize the troubles of Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west or Honduras to the south. Belize is a tourist’s paradise.
So you like your adventure extreme?
If you’ve ever seen a giant turtle on land they can seem ungainly, awkward creatures. Definitely not built for speed. But should one come up to you to say hello while you’re a meter or two underwater, and they do, then the difference will take your breath away. You may have set out hoping to see a shark or a barracuda, and you might, but it is the speed and elegance of this once-delicacy – mock turtle soup tells its own story – that is true nature in its truest form.
As close as 300m off shore in places in the north is the Belize Barrier reef, a World Heritage site, and Belize boasts a third of its 900 km, second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The statistics boggle the mind. Over 100 species of coral, 500 species of often very colourful fish. Some 90% of the reef as yet unexplored. Then 70 km off the coast is the Great Blue Hole, 124m deep, an almost perfect 300m in diameter circle of deep blue sea made famous by the legendary Jacques Cousteau.
If you like your water sports less extreme, the opportunities to take the kids snorkeling are almost limitless. In the almost countless places the reef pops above the still surface of the Caribbean, the cayes in this part of the world (pronounced ‘Keys’) provide easy access from sandy beaches into the peaceful translucent aquamarine sea.
Want to keep your feet on terra firma?
Should you prefer your adventures away from the water, solid ground provides a multitude of activities. The capital of what was once called British Honduras, indicative of its colonial past, is not actually Belize City but Belmopan (the state assets were shifted inland owing to the risk of hurricane damage to the coast), located on the stunning and beautifully named Hummingbird Highway (yes, these astonishing birds are one of about 590 species in the country, of which two are endangered, fancy re-tweeting that?) almost half way between the border and the coast, just off the less-prosaically named Western Highway, just down from the Zoo. There aren’t many zoos in the world that can list such a range of animals that are native to the country the zoo is located in, down to the Belizean rattlesnake that unless you can get to Miami in a hurry you don’t want to be bitten by.
Continue on down the Western Highway almost to the border with Guatemala to see one of the most stunning sites on earth. The Mayan Temple of Xunantunich is thought to date from before its period of growth and importance in AD600. The result is a truly great cultural monument that reveals insights into one of the world’s great cultures, pre-Spanish Colonization.
And further afield there’s more
But what else? What if you don’t want to stay in one place? Belize’s coastline gazes out onto the Caribbean. Is there a greater place to relax? If Belize is the ultimate do-it-yourself destination then the Caribbean is the ultimate let the “tour operators take the strain” destination. The Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, the West Indies. Redolent of sun, sea, sand, and history. With a multitude of carriers flying into many of the islands and cities, modern jet travel has made the 700 islands the go-to destination for today’s sun seekers.
So take your pick, water activities or toasting in the sun. The laid back easy paced life of the Caribbean, trekking and camping in the jungle and a biological history that attracted Darwin. Thick jungle or pine ridges, stunning waterfalls, Mayan history and culture. Geo-politics, Spanish and British colonialism. A traveler’s paradise, a holidaymaker’s dream. As a destination it is second to none and its variety of activities outstanding.
This is a freelance article sent in by site reader Sally Burns