Here is a great report of a recent trip to Belize from a friend...
After much planning and anticipation, we just returned from 12 days in Belize. The Forum has been such a wonderful arena --that I thought I would summarize our trip and post it for new visitors. I followed the Forum for months, subscribed to Lan Sluder's publications, bought travel books, devoured Internet sites --but the best was the Forum!
We began planning our first trip to Belize in September 1999-- for our June 2000 trip. "We" are myself and husband (Bill and Nina) in mid '50's, with our son and daughter-in-law (Bill and Lise). Of course, the Internet was the starting point. One travel site ---http://www.interlog.com/~nc/vacation/home.html-
caught my interest due to the fact that the connection was in California (where we live). Ramon Silva is the tour guide in Belize, and his partner Sue Hall is in California. You can contact Ramon at: email@example.com or fax at (413) 451-4800. His address is: International Archaeological Tours/West Street/San Ignacio/Belize. You can reach Sue at: SUEHALL1@aol.com or by phone at 1-707-778-8486 or fax at 1-707-765-1080. This was a terrific duo! I presented Susan with a list of places we wanted to visit and activities we wanted to do----she put the days together for us and made all the reservations. Ramon Silva and his associate, Sam, were the best while we were in Belize. They transported us from place to place, guided us for the trips, and drove the roads! We could go where we wanted at our pace. Since three of us are teachers, you can imagine all the hundreds of questions we had----Ramon and Sam answered them all----they were so congenial and fun!.
We left San Francisco, via Houston, to Belize City. Of course, the Continental flight was delayed --but we just made it in time for our 5:00 flight to Placencia. Our son and wife had left the day before (they wanted an extra day to scuba) on an American flight. The American flight was delayed so long that they missed the Tropic flight to Placencia and had to spend the night at the Embassy Hotel (right by the Belize airport---bugs on floor, brown water from the faucet, etc.--not a good start!!!) and fly out the next morning.
We met up with Bill & Lise at Kitty's Resort. We shared a beach cabana---roomy, clean, right on the beach. Due to the weather, though, we were only able to go out one day in the water--our son and wife did scuba, while we snorkeled---a fun day on Silk Caye. We rented bikes from Kitty's and rode to Placencia village and Seine Bight village. While in an Internet Cafe in Placencia, we casually started talking to the lady at the next computer. It turns out she was the owner of Rasta Pasta (formerly located in Ambergris) and was in the process of just moving to Placencia. We ended up at her house for dinner! What a treat to meet her husband Albert, and be entertained by both of them. Kitty's was a good place to eat --great location to be able to wander up and down the beach.
Ramon picked us up at Kitty's and drove us to Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge. We arrived in the afternoon ---since we had some time before dinner was served, we went to the Blue Hole (just across the highway from Ian's -in easy walking distance). What a magical place---Disney must have used this place as his model for the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland!!!! Lush, "jungly", with overgrown plants, light filtering in, a glittering blue pool of water, steep walls -- the perfect spot to swim in!!! Ian's place consists of thatch-roof rooms - we had the private indoor-bath lodging. But---we opted for the outdoor showers - it was fun to shower under a bucket with holes in it --- in the outdoors----within talking range of the neighboring thatched-shower area. Ian's is for those that want to "rough it" a little---no electricity --this caused a lack of water being pumped for an entire night and part of the day --no toilet flushing, etc. They warn you not to drink the water from the taps ---water in bottles were provided but they were not sealed --so we questioned it's safety as well. Dinner and breakfast is served at long tables --a great way to meet everyone else. We had 2 memorable evenings meeting Peace Corps workers, girl scouts, and a cave rescue team that was conducting training sessions. The adventure in the cave was so exciting----riding inner tubes into the opening, climbing all around the depths of the cave, eating lunch in the cave ---the group was small, the guide terrific --we felt the tour was safe and thrilling at the same time! Plan on getting totally wet and muddy! We also took the night hike at Ian's---didn't see any animals, but the experience of the jungle at night was appropriately spooky!
After two nights at Ian's, Ramon picked us up and took us on a tour through the Mennonite community on our way to San Ignacio. Ramon is an expert on the Maya culture ---and he constantly pointed out archealogical sites as we toured. We lunched at Eva's in San Ignacio, walked around the town, and then were driven to Crystal Paradise Resort. Ramon arranged for canoes for us, and we paddled from the resort to San Ignacio ---a 3 hour trip! Crystal Paradise was wonderful. The grounds are manicured lawns, with well-maintained thatched cabanas, and an outdoor thatched-roof pavilion where meals are served. The family feeling was wonderful--we had the chance to visit with Victor (the father) and Jeronie (the son). They were so attentive to making sure everything was perfect for us. They joined us for meals --made us feel as if we were guests in their home. Meals were served family style at long tables --again, the chance to meet others made the stay memorable. They accommodated our time schedule no matter what wanted to do---the day we left very early for Caracol, they were up with breakfast for us and had lunches already in a cooler.
Ramon's associate, Sam, took us to Caracol. The road there is not for the tender driver! We were glad we were not driving --but we loved the experience----you do not stay on your side of the road --you drive wherever there are NO potholes! The road is unpaved, rocky, curvey, hilly, etc. The trip there makes for the magical feeling of suddenly finding the Maya ruins. Sam made sure that we had the local guide--we would have missed much if we had toured by ourselves. We liked being there without any commercialism, no souvenir shops, very few tourists. We got talking so much to the local keeper, that he even loaned my husband a book about the site, and told him to just get it back to Sam and it would be returned----a nice feeling of trust and sharing. On the return trip, Sam took us to the Rio Frio Cave, and Rio On pools. We swam and had lunch. Sam has great stories to tell about growing up and working in Belize --he fascinated us with his experiences.
The following day we went to Xunantunich --more commercial with sourvenir shops, more tourists---but we liked its smallness ---again, we walked with the local keeper --and would have missed much without him! We were thirsty --so bought a drink --and noticed that those that did not want to pay the bottle's deposit --had their drinks poured into a plastic bag with a straw ----unique to see drinks served this way! We also went to the Guatemalan border town of Melchor------shopped for fabrics ---but were glad to return to Belize --felt a little testy seeing armed men walking around.
Ramon picked us up from Crystal Paradise and drove our son and his wife to the airport for their departure home; he dropped us off at the water taxi to Ambergris for our remaining 3 days. We stayed at Paradise Resort Hotel --a cabana on the beach. What a laid-back community---we enjoyed the slow pace, just walking around, sitting on the deck reading, listening to the music from the nearby outdoor bar/deli. Again the weather did not cooperate with our plans --we wanted to snorkel all three days, but only made it for one day. The much publicized trip to Shark Ray Alley was worth it! And the snorkel on the barrier reef at Hol Chan was awesome. One day there was a tremendous thundershower --sort of fun to experience with all the lightening and wind! We flew back to Belize city via Tropic Air and our departure home to San Francisco.
Why go to Belize? The people were so friendly --so willing to talk and share----so laid back---so nice to be in warm weather----so nice to be part of a blossoming tourist destination before it gets commercialized ---so nice to NOT see a fast-food restaurant---so nice to deal with "mom & pop" establishments----so interesting to be in a developing country---great to feel safe and crime-free in the places we visited -----saw few police and when we did were pleasantly surprised to find that they were not armed----did not feel as if we were herded around as tourists often are----the variety of adventures --- the attention to detail that Ramon, Sam, and Susan coordinated. We highly recommend that you contact them for your plans---not only did they make it hassle-free, but the cost was reasonable.
We hope you have enjoyed our travelogue. Our plans include visiting Belize again!---Bill and Nina, Bill and Lise.