Sacred Earth Travel - Sustainable Nature and Adventure Travel

Belize (2K)

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toucan -belize birdingBelize is a green jewel of a country, wedged between Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south, it is largely covered with rainforest - a naturalist's paradise. Unlike many other Central American countries Belize has recognized early that its natural diversity is its greatest treasure. Although a small country, much of it has not been developed but is kept as reserves and national parks. The topography ranges from low mountainous rainforests to lowland rainforests and swampy grasslands, savannah and lagoons near the coastal regions and in the north of the country.

Belize prides itself of having the second largest Barrier Reef in the world which skirts the whole length of the country and supports a vast number of patch reefs, shoals and beadlike chain of over 1,000 islands known as "Cayes". Huge expanses of mangrove forests protect most of the coast and much of the Cayes. The Cayes are quite unique and offer a paradise for divers, snorklers, marine biologists and beach bums alike. Three large coral atolls, which lie outside the barrier reef itself are a mecca for divers. The continental shelf ends dramatically and the ocean beyond drops by over 10,000 feet. canoeing in the rainforest, BelizeThe central interior, with its rainforest covered limestone mountains riddled with caves, rivers and waterfalls, offers adventure of a different kind. Hiking, riding, nocturnal guided naturewalks, spelunking and canoeing are just a few possibilities. For botanist, biologists and birdwatchers the vast natural diversity of this country is a feast for the senses. Archeologists and history buffs can also enjoy many a field day exploring ancient Maya ruins and temples. For adventurers the Maya ruins of Belize hold a special attraction - their remoteness and inaccessibility has kept development at bay. The journey to get to them is often an adventure in itself.

The cultural mixture of Belize is unlike any in Central America. Once a British colony, the English influence is still quite apparent in some areas. English is one of the official languages, though the soft Creole accent makes it uniquely caribbean. Those who feel linguistically challenged when travelling in Spanish speaking parts of Latin America will feel relieved that they will be readily understood in Belize, if all they speak is English. Ethnically Belize is home to Mayas, Garifunas, Creoles and Mistizos. There is also a large community of Mannonites which has settled mostly in the northern regions of Orange Walk District and Cayo District. A percentage of Chinese, Indian, Arab populations, as well as white immigrants from various countries.

History

Maya ruins, BelizeBelize seems to be one of the most important centers of Mayan civilization - perhaps even THE most important one. The proximity to the coast with a good river system to the interior certainly would have fiven it some strategic importance. Fact is that there are more Mayan sites per square mile in Belize than in any other Central American country. Over 600 sites have been discovered so far - and new ruins, which had long been swallowed by the jungle, are continuously being discovered. A stelae found in the 1990th informs us that Belizes biggest Mayan City, known as Caracol, won a major battle against it rival to the north - Tikal,which up until then had always been regarded as the most important of all Mayan sites. Due to lack of funding most of Belizes archaeological sites remain quite undeveloped, which adds a great sense of explorer's excitement when visiting these sites. Many are not open to the public at all as digs are still going on. Many others are quite inaccessible - another factor that has contributed to leaving the spirits of the ancient Mayas in peace, where elsewhere they have been chased out of their ancestoral abodes by the glowing lights and fanfare of modern day commercialization. However, those that can be visited cannot fail to give a strong impression of this once mighty civilization.

REGIONS

For more information on the various districts, check out the links below:

COROZAL DISTRICT

CAYO DISTRICT

ORANGEWALK DISTRICT

STANN CREEK DISTRICT

BLUE CREEK

PLACENCIA

BELIZE DISTRICT

TOLEDO DISTRICT

NATURE RESERVES & NATIONAL PARKS

In terms of biodiversity Belize ranks among the richest in Central America. There are numerous reserves, national parks and marine reserves, making the scope of varied nature travel experience almost endless. Much of the country consists of remote and difficult areas to access which has kept commercial development largely at bay. Ecotourism is thriving and there are many possibilities.

Find out more about Belize rich natural heritage.

Or take a virtual tour of Belize's Nature Reserves:

  • SHIPSTERN
  • FIVE BLUES LAKE NATIONAL PARK
  • RIO BRAVO
  • HALFMOON CAYE
  • CROOKED TREE WS
  • GLOVER'S REEF
  • HOL CHAN
  • SOUTHWATER CAYE
  • BABOON SANCTUARY
  • LAUGHING BIRD CAYE
  • MANATEE LAGOON
  • SAPODILLA CAYES
  • SLATE CREEK
  • PINE RIDGE
  • GUANACASTE
  • COCKSCOMB BASIN WS
  • BLUE HOLE
  • BLADEN NATURE RESERVE
  • BELIZE MARINE PARKS
  • Ix Chel Farms and Don Eligio Panti Medicinal Trail
  • Belize Barrier-Reef Reserve System
  • ADVENTURE TRAVEL INFO

    DIVING/SNORKELING
    The little off shore islands, known as 'the Cayes' are a divers paradise. The near by barrier reef and atolls are said to offer some of the best sites for diving and snorkeling in the world.
    SPELUNKING
    There are numerous limestone caves throughout the Maya mountains and various guides and tour operators specialize in spelunking trips.
    RAINFOREST EXPLORATION
    The numerous nature reserves give ample opportunity to explore Belize rich flora and fauna in the rainforest. Various study programs as well as more casual trips with experienced guides are available.

    arrow.gif (1K) FEATURED BELIZE ADVENTURES


    FESTIVALS

    Belize is perhaps less well known for its cultural events and festivities, however, the Garifuna and Creole influence is strong and there is usually a party going on somewhere. In the southern parts of the country the Creole influence is particularly strong and religious festivals with strong voodoo connotations marked by intense drumming and spirit possessions are held irregularly in almost all villages. Check the events listing below for Belize's official public holidays.

    January 1 New Year's Day Everywhere
    March 9 Baron Biss Day Everywhere
    March/April Easter Week Everywhere
    April 21 Queen's Birthday not an official holiday anymore but widely celebrated
    May 1 Labour Day Everywhere
    May 24 Commonwealth Day Everywhere
    September Carnival Everywhere
    September 10 St. Georges Day Everywhere
    September 21 Independence Day Everywhere
    October 12 Columbus Day Everywhere
    November 19 Garifuna Settlement Day Especially in the south and Belize City
    December 25/26 Christmas Everywhere

    THE WEATHER

    In general the weather in Belize tends to be hot all the year round. The dry season runs from November to April/May, with May being the hottest month, and the wet season goes from about June to September /October. In the southern regions the climate is wetter the driest months being February and March. Whilst even during the wet season there is usually plenty of sun since it rarely rains all day, certain areas may be impossible to access during this time.

    VISA INFORMATION

    Most nationalities, including citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth countries, as well as most members of the European Union do not need a visa to enter Belize. A valid passport and an onward or round-trip ticket are all that is necessary.

    Chinese and Indian Citizens require a Visitor Permit. Consult with local Belizean Consulate, Belize Embassy, British Counsel, or contact the Department of Immigration and Nationality, Belmopan, Belize, Central America Tel (501-8-22611).

    Extension can be applied for at:

    Immigration Office
    Mahogany Street
    St. Martin Deporres
    Belize
    Central America
    Telephone : (501) 2-24620,
    Fax (501) 2-44483.

    Proof of sufficient funds an onward ticket is required. A moderate fee is also charged

    If you are crossing into Belize from Mexico by land, visas to enter Belize can be obtained in Chetumal at:

    Belizean Consulate
    Avenida Alvaro Obregon #226A
    Chetumal Q.R.
    Tel: (52) 983-22871

    Belize Embassy in the US:

    Embassy of Belize
    2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW
    Washington
    DC 20008
    (202) 332 9636

    USEFUL LINKS TO FURTHER INFORMATION

    BOTANICAL/CONSERVATION RESOURCES