|Country Information & Lifestyle|
A rare and treasured jewel
Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, is the jewel in Central America and the Caribbean. To the west is Guatemala, Mexico is to the north, the Gulf of Honduras and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Less than two hours by plane from the United States of America Belize has long been undiscovered by the traditional tourist.
The climate is sub-tropical with magical easterly winds blowing in from the Caribbean Sea. The Belize-an people are known for their friendliness and Belize is a country that loves to party so expect to get involved in the various festivals.
The relatively low Maya Mountains of the south dominates all but the narrow coastal plains. Belize has more than 240 miles of coastline, countless islands, exotic Caye's and lagoons and just offshore is the 176 mile long barrier reef, the second only in size to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, is the largest coral reef in the western hemisphere. More than 50% of Belize is tropical rain forest; there are fertile savannas, flat and swampy coastal plains, and northern lowlands.
This small, peaceful country in Central America is simply beautiful from the Caribbean Sea to the jungle interior. In Belize you will enjoy awesome experiences; the interior hides Mayan ruins in the pristine rain forests, along with tall waterfalls and rivers, mystic caves and mountains. Near to Sittee Point is the jaguar reserve where you maybe lucky to see these graceful, elusive animals, along with the Scarlet Macaw, parrots, toucans and other wildlife in their natural habitat.
Belize City, located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, is the colonial capital and still the most populous place in Belize. It is the commercial, professional and entertainment capital of the nation and has colonial homes and other aspects of British architecture. The early 20th century Swing Bridge allows pedestrians and motor vehicles to cross the oldest and only operating manual swing bridge in the Americas. Altun Ha is a Mayan site that is very accessible from Belize City and offers the visitor a chance to climb Mayan temples and gaze over treetops of the jungle that surrounds the area.
The laid-back village of Placencia is the base of tourism in Southern Belize. It boasts the Narrowest Street in the World and is popular for fishing where avid anglers get a chance to sample some of the best waters in the Caribbean. A visit to the small village of Bermudian Landing in the Belize River valley is a must. The Bermudian Baboon Sanctuary is well known for its resident troop of Yucatan Black Howler Monkeys known locally as Baboons.
The largest island is Ambergris Caye and the town of San Pedro is only 15 minutes by boat to the Belize Barrier Reef, the longest living reef in the Western hemisphere. The crystal, clear, blue waters are perfect for swimming, snorkelling and sea kayaking, along with scuba diving.
Belize has beautiful, deserted beaches, Mayan villages, excellent cuisine from the many nationalities who have made this gorgeous country their home, night skies that are absolutely dazzling and the sounds of the creatures who inhabit the night are a stunning symphony you won't forget, it is an experience that will be indelibly etched on your mind and soul, a special place, special people and you will return again and again.
In Northern Belize Corozal was a refuge for the Maya and Mestizos fleeing the Caste Wars of southern Mexico and today still provides a safe haven for travellers en route to destinations in Belize and beyond. Sugarcane plantations surrounding Corozal Town provide livelihoods for many of the 10,000 residents. The old Aventura Sugar Mill no longer processes sugar, but its main chimney reminds visitors of an industry still dominating the Corozal District. Raw cane is now processed at La Libertad and Tower Hill from January to June.
Orange Walk, scenically set on the west bank of the New River, is the most populated town in the north, yet visitors to Belize rarely visit the district or town. Although the town has received little attention, some of the best archaeological sites in the country lie in the surrounding areas and the balmy tropical climate and fertile soils make the area a naturalist's paradise. Due to its location on the New River, Orange Walk Town is an excellent gateway to the mighty ruins of Lamanai, the picturesque New River Lagoon, and the Rio Bravo Conservation Area.
Although vulnerable to hurricanes, the northern tip of the Shipstern Peninsula (also called the Sarteneja Peninsula) has remained populated and prosperous for thousands of years. Sarteneja's fishermen sail on striking handcrafted vessels as far south as Guatemala and Honduras. The tiny sailboats sometimes transport as many fifteen fishermen as they travel along the coast fishing the barrier reef and the outer atolls.
Southern Belize has over thirty Mayan villages lying along riverbanks and creeks and surrounded by beautiful mountains and rain forests. The villages are linked together by winding gravel roads and well-worn forest trails. The people are friendly but shy, and tourism is a new industry in most villages. Electricity and central water supply have only recently arrived in some of the villages.
Come; take a trip with us to some of the Mayan villages with us where you will experience a different way of life.
San Antonio is the most developed village and is made up of about 1,000 Mopan Maya villagers. Thatched huts spread across the village high and low with tangled vegetation in between. Several gently-flowing streams crisscross the village. The village is the only one with a hotel.
Laguna is a Kekchi Maya village located about 10 miles west of Punta Gorda Town with a population of about 300 people. The village lies on flat land bordered on the east by limestone hills and on the west by Aguacaliente Lagoon. Laguna boasts one of the best entrance roads into any Maya village.
San Miguel is a small Kekchi village with a population of about 380 people. The Rio Grande River splits the village in two. As you cross the bridge in the middle of the village, you'll see women washing their laundry on the riverbanks and fishermen pull up their canoes further down the river. This picturesque village straddles a smooth, hilly, gravel road, with clusters of thatch roofed homes among flowering hibiscus and bougainvillea bushes.
San Pedro Columbia, made up of about 700 residents, is the largest Kekchi Maya village in Belize. The village is well known for its hand woven embroidery.
The Mopan Maya villages of Santa Cruz and Santa Elena lie a couple miles apart on a long stretch of hilly, gravel road. Together, they have a population of about 500 people. Before the villages were established, both areas were alkilos (people living independently in the forests far from each other). In 1950, a group of families came together to build a community and since most people were associated with the Catholic religion, they named their village Santa Cruz which means Holy Cross. Santa Elena began the same way.
The thatch roof houses in each village are spread out along the roadside. Livestock is plentiful - horses keep the surrounding vegetation low and chickens and pigs roam the village. The nearby Mayan site Uxbenka offers exceptional views of Southern Belize.
Pueblo Viejo was the first village founded in Southern Belize and has around 550 Mopan Mayas people. The village is widely spread out along the roadside on hilly terrain and is only seven miles from the border of Guatemala. The village does not have electricity or a central water system. A bucket must be filled with water pumped from a well and carried back to the home. Livestock is plentiful in the village and surrounding forest. Horses graze on the high banks of the road side, pigs and forage in the bordering jungle and turkeys and chickens run freely throughout the village.
The children are curious and have lots of questions but the adults are still not used to visitors. Star watching is beautiful at night because of the lack of street lights. Flashing fire flies dot the entire area during early evening. The silence is only broken by the sounds of insects, owls, and the jungle at night.
San Jose is a Mopan Maya settlement of about 700 people, lying adjacent to the Columbia River Forest Reserve at the end of a rolling, meandering road.The village was born when families from San Antonio and alkilos (Maya living in the forest alone) in the surrounding area came together to start a community.
Barranco is the southernmost coastal village in Belize situated on flat coastal land with large variety of fruits, including breadfruit. It is about 45 minutes by road, and 20 minutes by boat south of Punta Gorda.
Blue Creek Village is a Mopan and Kekchi village of about 270 people. Clusters of thatch huts border both sides of Blue Creek, a beautiful, clear stream emerging from the surrounding thick jungle. Upstream of the bridge is a wide blue-green pool where Maya women beat their laundry on the smooth stones. Telephone and electricity are still not available.
Punta Gorda is the gateway to and from Guatemala with immigration and customs office near the dock. The pace of life is slow and easy-going, friendly people, minimal traffic and a great waterfront for long strolls, with light constant breezes blowing in from the Bay of Honduras. The road into town follows the shoreline; five main streets run parallel inland. Most small homes are made of wood on stilts.
Monkey River Town is the northernmost village in the Toledo District. This small, sleepy Creole village of 200 people sits on the southern bank of the mouth of the Monkey River. Wide sandy beaches stretch out along the mouth of the river and the east side of the village. The village is only accessible by boat from a landing across the river about 100 yards away.
Monkey River is small and easy to get around. There are only two main streets, no cars, trucks, or bikes in town. The sandy, grassy paths are short and comfortable for walking throughout the entire village. While a few families have generators, the village does not have electricity. As a result, the villagers go to sleep at sunset and wake at sunrise.
Experience the jungle by taking a trip in a skiff on the river through mangrove channels where, as you glide by, you will see iguanas dive into the water, troops of howler monkeys race through the trees, and crocodiles sun along the banks of the river. If you are lucky you may see a deer, tapir or even a jaguar as you hike through the jungle.
And now for a Belize tale from the 1700s'- Morning Shore was likely born in the morning at the Mosquito Shore. Her father was Williams Tucker and she was born into slavery as was her brothers and sisters. She came to Belize in 1786 with the Mosquito Shore people and she met a man named John Clark and Morning Tucker became Morning Clark. They were jointly charged with murder in 1791 and the jury let her off as she argued that she had been acting under her husbands influence.
Clark was convicted and ordered to give up his property he was fined and banished from Belize for life. He died soon after and Morning Clark married a man named John Frost so became Morning Frost and got a license to run a grog-shop called Frost's Tavern at a place called Rogue's Point now the site of the House of Culture possibly.
Morning attracted a number of unattached girls to the place and Frosts Tavern became a notorious dive. During the war of 1797 and 1798 the sailors and soldiers frequented the tavern for its good times, bad girls and bar-room fights. Morning was on good terms with many officers and got a contract to supply the HMS Merlin with wet and dry rations in 1798.
John Frost died and Morning married a British soldier named Rampfdolph. How long she stayed with him is unknown. In 1802 a ship called the Leda wrecked on the reef and the magistrate ordered the goods salvage to be sold at public auction for the benefit of the settlement. Word soon came to the authorities that Morning was intercepting the goods and when her slaves told the provo marshal where to find the stolen goods she was arrested. Later that day came word came that Morning was going to kill her servants and a search of her premises disclosed her servants tied up and in a dory.
One man testified that Morning had told him she was going to cut their throats and feed them to the alligators. At her trial she cursed so often the magistrate told he she would be fined four postoles for every curse word she uttered, at the end of the trial she owed hundreds of postils to the court. She died in 1806 and her will showed she did not leave much besides eight slaves each one was worth more than her plantation at Muscle Creek which was assessed at 25 pounds.
Heavenly Belize small, yet so diverse! It is a very special place small, yet so diverse. No other country in Central America or the Caribbean has a more fascinating and elusive past than Belize with glorious Maya civilisations, English buccaneers and mahogany cutters, African slaves and Spanish conquistadors.
Belize's past is an intriguing array of epic tales seasoned with stolen treasures, stone pyramids, log-wood-cutting and multi-ethnic cultures, all ending with a peaceful, friendly and independent nation. Come and explore this gorgeous country and learn about her past first hand.