Astrum Helicopters - Cover in Southern Boating Mag
by Marty on 09/04/13 04:00 AM

One of Gustavo's pictures made the cover of Southern Boating Magazine.

http://southernboating.com/blog/2013/09/01/current-issue-september-2013/

“It’s unBelizeable!”

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 year round.

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