Hands up who’s heard of Belize! Be honest! I know I hadn’t until I started researching Central America for our 3 month trip. I don’t know if that’s complete ignorance on my part or maybe I was distracted in Geography class that day. I had heard of the word ‘Belize’ but couldn’t picture what the country looked like, what the people looked like, what language they spoke and where in the bloody world it was located. It’s in Central America by the way, next to Mexico and Guatemala, it’s the only English-speaking country in Central America, Belizeans are predominantly black. Oh and it’s insanely beautiful, like honeymoon-brochure pretty, google it seriously, I nearly had a heart attack when I google-imaged it the first time.
Even though its in Central America it definitely has more of a Caribbean vibe, and the locals even admit they identify more with Caribbean culture than Latin (Central American culture), they speak creole (think Sean Paul), they love a good barbecue. Honestly, walk down the beach in Placencia and food stall vendors will be shouting “baby back ribs, get your ribs here” from all corners. Belizeans were the biggest characters from our travels, loud, passionate and full of love and life. My boyfriend will tell you I wanted to be BFF’s with all of them. They were my kind of people. Oh and their ribs are the best in the world.
Even though Belize has picture-perfect beaches you don’t want to spend your whole trip lying on the white sand drinking rum or a Belikin (the local beer) – we didn’t mind the beer but a local man once told us it tastes like “rusty water” and he recommended a Dominican beer instead. So just be warned.The best beach in my opinion is Placencia, but during rainy season there’s lots of seaweed on the shore so if you want to avoid the black stuff be sure to visit from May until October.
For the adventure nut – Belize is heaven. There’s lots to do from diving the famous Great Blue Hole (http://greatbluehole.net/) to swimming with Whale Sharks. We were meant to dive the Blue Hole but heard lots of horror stories from fellow travelers. One Norwegian girl we met (who was a dive-pro might I add, and had completed something like 100 dives) passed out down there and had to be quickly brought to the surface. To make a long story short she essentially died and had to be brought back to life. Eeek! After hearing that and countless others’ feedback we decided against doing it. Mainly, because it’s really expensive and we were backpackers on a budget, also I’ve never dived before (my ears hurt too bad down there) and there are hammerhead sharks in the hole. Sharks are my greatest fear by the way. It was off-season for us to swim with the Whale Sharks – this is something I want to go back and do though. However, two once-in-a-lifetime things we done whilst in Belize were 1. Exploring the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) caves and 2. Diving the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
The ATM caves (http://www.cavesbranch.com/atm-cave-tour) is a 7km cave system that was used as a Mayan burial site, so there are lots of skulls and skeletons inside. The caves are uber-important to the local people so you cant just rock up at the cave and go in yourself, you have to book a tour with a registered tour guide (there are only 15 guides who can do this tour so be sure to book ahead). We got lucky because the owner of the camp site we were staying at was friends with one of the guides and so we booked on his tour quite easily. Otherwise, you can book the tour at any travel agency in San Ignacio (the nearest town to the caves). Most of the cave system is filled with water, really deep water like a swimming pool and you must hike 2km through the jungle to get to the entrance of the cave. So being fit is highly recommended. The caves are really dark so you have to wear a headlamp at all times. Once inside the cave it’s surreal, like you’re in an Indiana Jones movie or something. There are different chambers inside with skulls and bones and old Mayan artifacts scattered everywhere. Everything is left exactly how it was when the first explorers found it. You also aren’t allowed to bring cameras into the cave because once upon a time a tourist dropped his camera on one of the really important skulls and made a massive indentation. Damn tourists. Honestly ATM caves has to be seen to be believed.
HOL CHAN MARINE RESERVE:
Diving the Hol Chan Marine Reserve – think the Great Barrier Reef but better 🙂 I’ve dived Australia’s Great Barrier Reef three times and this dive in Belize trumps it massively. Sorry Australia! The best way to do the tour is from the island of Caye Caulker. I highly recommend staying a couple of days on the island, it’s backpacker-central but looks like your own slice of paradise. There’s also lots of yummy food places here. Anyway, we completed our dive with Carlos Tours who doesn’t have a website unfortunately. I’m going to use photos to explain what words can’t about how amazing this experience was. As soon as we jumped into the water we saw this –
Belize Zoo Night Tour – We also stayed the night at Belize zoo, actually stayed at the zoo in a wooden cabin. And done a night tour. Because the animals come to life at night and because we live on the edge 🙂 It’s not like a normal zoo because most of the animals here have been rescued from crazy Belizean owners who decided one day they wanted a pet Jaguar for example, and then didn’t know what the hell to do with it so gave it to the zoo. Read more about this amazing place here (http://www.belizezoo.org/) It’s known as the best little zoo in the world and I have to agree 🙂
Getting there – we came from Guatemala into Belize via a tiny speedboat. But you can fly from London Heathrow to Belize (via Miami) for £900. That’s the best deal I could find. It’s with American Airlines.
Pros: did I mention its picture-perfect, lots of adventure tour options, not many people have been there so you will have bragging rights, the locals are cool as, everyone speaks English.
Cons: it’s expensive – you wouldn’t think it because it’s in Central America but it’s definitely Caribbean prices here, if you don’t like fried food you might struggle here, hard to get to from Ireland.
Hope you enjoyed this one, it’s a long one I know so, if you stuck with it thanks a bunch.
Thanks for reading,
Aimee & Paul x