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Belize – “I Flourish in the Shade”

Belize is a true gem of the American Tropics. What this Central American country lacks in size, it makes up for in both amazing natural and historical treasures. Blessed with some of the world’s most fertile reefs, numerous coastal rivers and extensive flats, this Caribbean getaway offers terrific angling from Rocky Point just below the Mexican border, south to Punta Gorda near Guatemala. There’s tarpon fishing around Belize’s Outer Atolls, as well as excellent mixed-bag prospects on the shallows of the Inner Cays (islands located between the outer atolls and the mainland).

The Belize District is the heart of Kriol (Creole) culture and some of its villages are as typically Kriol as one can get: Burrell Boom, Isabella Bank, Rancho Dolores and Lemonal are some of the distinctive Kriol communities that exist in the heart of the Belize River Valley . Gales Point Manatee, the district’s southernmost village, still retains some of the typical Kriol cultural practices like Sambai dancing, Anancy story telling under huge mahogany trees, and bramming. Belize City itself originated as a logging camp and export center for mahogany in the 1600′s. Naturally, because it is the country’s largest urban area, one finds all cultural types and mixtures in the city – Kriol, Garifuna, Mestizo, (a mix of Maya and Spanish) commonly referred to as Spanish, Chinese, Lebanese, Hindu and the original East Indian descendants and Maya. One traveler had this to say as a first impression:

The Belize River meanders, and twice a day, the city’s swing bridge closes for about 20 minutes to allow sail boats to pass. There are many traditional street vendors selling fruits, vegetables, arts and crafts in the cities public squares. In recent years, the cruise tourism industry has changed the face of the downtown Fort George area on the north side of the river, particularly on weekdays when at times up to three or four ships dock. This area, already distinctive for its colonial architecture, now is also the bustling center for dozens of tour guides, craft persons and other vendors who have set up in the area around a picturesque tourism village which sits on the site of the former Customs Wharf area. This area has high security and is well-maintained with good food, trained souvenir vendors, duty free shops and the like. Tour operators whisk away interested tourists to day trips at surrounding sanctuaries and Mayan ruin sites and snorkeling sites.

Belize is an amazing and unique underwater paradise – a diver’s dream. There are schools of exotic marine creatures, pedestals and pinnacles of high profile lobular and branching corals, vibrant hues, sponge lined vertical walls and caverns filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites.

There is no shortage of dive operators in Belize. They can be found at most of the numerous resorts on the mainland as well as on the nearby cayes.

Barrier Reef
The barrier reef of Belize is the longest and largest mass of continuous living coral in this hemisphere, second in the world. With 185 miles of the Barrier Reef to explore, a diver has the opportunity to see coral, sponges, and marine life in its grandest fashion. Ninety percent of the Barrier Reef reef remains to be explored.

Blue Hole
There are two Blue Holes in Belize. One is located offshore and the other is a circular swimming hole located approximately 15 miles (25km) south of Belmopan. The waters at this hole come in from an underground river, hence the water is unusually cool.

The other more famous Blue Hole is located about 7 miles (11km) north of Half Moon Caye. The Blue Hole is the largest ocean sinkhole in the world, created by a collapsed underground cavern, hence giving the appearance of a dark blue circle amidst the turquoise sea. The Blue Hole is over 1000ft (300 meters) in diameter and 450ft (135 meters) deep. Below the shallop lip is a cavern filled with hugh stalactites and stalagmites. Diving the Blue Hole is usually reserved of experienced divers accompanied by a dive master.

The Blue Hole became famous in 1972 when Jacques Cousteau sailed his ship Calypso to the Blue Hole to film inside.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Hol Chan is located four miles southeast of San Pedro. Established in 1987, it is five square miles of underwater park with a thirty foot deep channel of known coral grottos and caves. Hol Chan is active with spotted eagle rays, moray eels, yellowtail snapper, parrotfish, and a host of other tropical fish, making it very popular among snorkelers and divers.

Things to do in Belize – A Rundown

• Hike or canoe under the shade of the rainforest canopy in the company of over 500 species of birds.

• Observe stalactites and stalagmites in caves that contain pottery and ceremonial remnants of the ancient Maya.

• Island hop by kayak between the cayes or around one of Belize’s three atolls.

• Witness a sunset from atop a Mayan temple.

• Snorkel with the kids and learn about the biology of the barrier reef.

• Take a refreshing dip beneath one of the many waterfalls.

• Exchange vows with the Caribbean Sea lapping at your feet.

• Swap stories back at the resort after a day of wrestling with permit, tarpon and bonefish.