One of Gustavo's pictures made the cover of Southern Boating Magazine.
One of the Caribbean’s best, best-kept secrets
There is a lengthy list of sensible reasons
why Belize belongs on the must-do list
when it comes to Caribbean cruising. First, a two-hour flight
from the United States to Belize City makes it easy to travel
to, English is the official language and it is one of the most
affordable destinations in the Caribbean—the U.S. dollar
is widely accepted and is worth twice the Belizean dollar.
Second (or fourth, depending on how you count), electricity
is the same as in the U.S., and you can drink the water. (Visit
travelbelize.org for details.) But most of all, besides all of the
sensible reasons to visit Belize, the country’s overwhelming
draw is the natural beauty of its islands, waters and
rainforests, along with its intriguing Mayan culture, all of which
are wrapped up in an intoxicatingly relaxed way of life.
Belize is the pioneer of sustainable tourism and, proud
of its abundance of natural wonders, it pampers them and
shows them off well. Boating on ancient Mayan waterways
brings one close to water birds and crocodiles. The country
is chock-full of limestone caves and sinkholes to hike and
swim in, some of which even contain Mayan treasures. Belize
has a baboon sanctuary and one of the only jaguar preserves
in the world. Howler monkeys and toucans peer out of
its verdant rainforests. With hundreds of offshore islands,
beachcombing, diving, snorkeling, and boating are superb.
The more than 321,000 people of Belize come from eight
distinct cultures: Maya, Mestizo, Creole, Garifuna, East
Indian, German Mennonite, Arab, and Chinese, all of which
add their distinct seasoning to the dish of Belizean music,
cuisine and art. The Mayan culture is ever present. From
250-900 A.D. the mathematically brilliant Mayan civilization
flourished in Central America leaving 1,400 archeological sites in Belize. Day tripping to sites before or after cruising or island
hopping is easy since Belize is only 185 miles long and 75 miles wide.
Hotels and charter companies are happy to arrange excursions.
Boat travel up winding rivers to both Altun Ha and Lamanai in Northern
Belize is a treat. Altun Ha—Mayan for “water of the rock”—was a small
but important ceremonial and trading center located 31 miles north of
Belize City where archeologists found the largest Mayan carved jade
object, a jade head. Lamanai (“submerged crocodile” in Mayan) appears
out of the rainforest after a 26-mile boat ride on the New River. It is
famous for a stela of a Mayan ruler wearing a crocodile headdress. The
Mayans occupied this site for 3,000 years.
Landlubbers are content to stay ashore, but mariners come to life
on the water and Belize has plenty of that. Along its entire Caribbean
coastline lays the longest unbroken barrier reef in the Western
Hemisphere—a UNESCO World Heritage site. More than 100 species
of coral and 500 species of fish call the area home. Eight
protected marine reserves, including the famous Blue
Hole—a 1,000-foot-wide sinkhole in the sea—provide
SCUBA divers and snorkelers wondrous guided experiences
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