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#427554 01/12/12 08:42 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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We left from San Salvador, by bus at 8pm on the 25th December. If the bus ride was nice, I would write the name of the tourism agency, but since it was one of the most annoying rides I ever had in my life, I won't. I will start talking about it, for the sake of anyone who wants to ride in a bus in Central America. Be aware of uneducated people. Centroamericans, in special people from El Salvador, are really annoying and loud. We spent 14 hours, between San Salvador and Belize City, hearing loud conversations, loud laughs, and horrible taco music. The worst from all of these was the music ALL NIGHT LONG that the bus drivers were listening, loudly, even when the passengers were trying to sleep.

I definitely recommend if you want to rest on your way to anywhere in Central America to go in a bus with foreigners - non-Centroamericans. Sadly, but true. They probably are more expensive, but is worth the rest, because in Belize you'll have a lot to do, specially if you have an adventurer heart.

 Don't take me wrong, the bus was really nice. I think the problem with Centroamericans, in special from El Salvador, is so annoying that in Belize they have a law only allowing small buses to go from El Sal to there. I bet they don't want Salvadorenos messing up with their country...
TV! Peharps being a small bus, with capacity for only 30 people, it was a really nice one, with bathroom, AC and TV. The shitty is, when the TV wasn't on and loud, was the radio playing arranchera music(yuck!)
Not even Foster the People could save my ears - or my brain. Felt like I got dumber 50% more after 14 hours of bad music and TV.

But let's focus now in Belize. Wow, what a BEAUTIFUL PLACE! I got really surprised by the fact that they speak english there. And they sound like JAmaicans. I already told hubby that, after Belize, I'm ready for Jamaica!
The bedroom was REALLY sweet. Perfect for a honeymoon. We stayed at the Princess Hotel, which has a casino, bowling area( I LOVED IT! I AM A BIG BOWLING FAN!). I'm wondering if this will be the place that William and Kate, the Royal Couple, are going to stay, because is one of the best hotels in Belize City. I know that even being such a nice hotel, it has its cons: the first two days had no hot water at all and too expensive to do anything there. Specially internet wi-fi.

Well, there is not much to do or see in Belize City. The place is kinda ugly, dirty, so I didn't care of taking pics of that either. But in the video that will be posted, you can see a small city close to BC that was kinda sweet.

The next day, we took a boat and went to Ambergris Caye. What a magical little island where everybody rides golf cars. I really enjoyed my day there and walked around barefoot, haha!

 Really a cute little town, isn't it?
 And guess what?? Click in the picture!! Leo Di Caprio has an private island there and have lots of projects for helping the environment there. Such an amazing person, isn't he?

 We went to 8 golf cart rentals till we could find a place with avaible carts. Moncho's Cart Rentals had electric ones, which are way more quiet and doesn't shake as much as the other ones.
 I don't know why this warning still make me giggle. "Young drives increase chance of death".
 Then, we went to swim with Nurse Sharks!!!!!!
This was the most awesome thing I ever made in my life!
I wasn't scare at all and was really fun. I want to do it again, and I want to also swim in a cage with white sharks outside. I love DANGER!!
 Before swimming with sharks, the guides put some bait in this cylinder to attract the sharks. They got some fish and cut them and put into this thing full of holes and then they throw this thing in the sea. As soon as you can imagine, 4 big sharks were around the boat.

Me, before trying to be eaten by nurse sharks, haha.

 Me, in the center of the pic.
And me again. Big boobs also help you to float, but I needed some more support for it, haha.
After swimming with the sharks and snorkeling a little bit, I got so tired that we went back to hotel and we just slept. The dinner we had at the room...
The sea food in Belize is the best sea food I've ever had in my entire life. I really miss the food and the sharks.

And now a preview video of the big video of the trip. It is taking really long to finish editing this one, so sorry for it! This short video, that was uploaded on my Viddy has a SHARK!!!!

Marty #427855 01/15/12 07:40 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
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An un-Belize-able trip: Diving into a whole other world

As soon as I stepped off the plane into a bath of shining sun, the previous night of trying to sleep on a back-breaking pullout couch, listening to my dad's thunderous snores, was redeemed.

I had been hungry for some serious sun, sea and sand ever since our trip to Aruba, and the view from the plane window welcomed me with open arms.

While most people I know were back in the Midwest baking Christmas cookies and wrapping gifts, I was on my way to Central America with my parents, brother and girlfriend.

Last year, my family and I had started our "Alphabet tour," an alphabetical checklist of destinations to visit. Aruba was for A and Belize would be for B. We don't plan the next letter until the current trip is over and although we certainly won't get to Z, it keeps us motivated to cross off the next letter.

We left the Twin Cities on Friday and after three flights and an overnight in Dallas, we had reached our final destination, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Ambergris is the largest island of Belize, located northeast of the mainland in the Caribbean Sea. Off of the coast is the Belize Barrier Reef, the world's second largest reef system after Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and a tourist magnet.

We had landed in San Pedro, the only town on Ambergris, where the primary means of travel are golf carts, bicycles and walking. To get to most destinations outside of San Pedro requires a boat.

In San Pedro we picked up food and supplies and met up with our vacation home's caretaker, Ernesto, a Belize native who has been a tour guide since he was 9 years old.

After a 17-minute ride in Ernesto's boat, we pulled up to our home for the next week, 18 degrees North, a beautiful and private vacation rental.

At the pier, we were greeted by the home's three "security" dogs, Betsy, Rojo and Brisa, who would keep us company for the next week. After getting acclimated with the dogs and the house, we spent the rest of the day relaxing around the pool and the pier.

Even though we were on vacation, we weren't there just to lie by the pool. We had come with plans to take part in some of the activities that Ernesto and Belize had to offer.

Sunday, we went snorkeling.

"Who wants to try spear fishing?" Ernesto asked after dropping anchor. Without even asking my brain, my hand shot up. The spear was a long pole with three sharp points on one end and a bungee on the back. On the boat, Ernesto explained how to cock the spear by creating tension with the bungee.

My first few attempts were unsuccessful, spearing fish but losing them as they wiggled off. When I finally got one, I felt victorious. I felt like the man.

That feeling quickly subsided when I looked up and found Ernesto with a bag full of fish and a handful of lobster. This was his turf and he was "the man."

That night, Ernesto's wife, Samantha, cooked our catch for dinner the Belizean way.

I salivate just thinking about it. Monday consisted of traveling by boat and van as we visited Xunantunich, a Mayan ruins site, on the Belize and Guatemala border.

On the way, we passed through numerous towns and villages where we saw the poor living conditions of many of the Belizean people.

And as we drove by a small house with no windows, a woman was giving her son a a sponge bath from a bucket in the front yard. Suddenly, I was overcome with appreciation for all that I had.

At Xunantunich, we learned about the story of the "Stone Woman," which refers to the ghost of a woman that many people claim inhabits the site.

And we got to climb to the top of its tallest pyramid, "El Castillo."

From the top, we could see Guatemala as well as my dad, who didn't make it very far up before he needed to lie down on the pyramid steps and take a breather.

Later that day we visited the Caves Branch, where we hiked through the jungle to the Caves Branch River. We created a train of inner tubes and tubed through the caves, looking at stalactites and stalagmites by the light of our headlamps.

After a day of mainland fun, we returned to Ambergris after an hour-long boat ride through the dark.

When my dad asked Ernesto how he knew where he was going, he replied with his catch phrase.

"Iss all good."

Wednesday was scuba day. The dive shop picked us up on the pier in the early morning and by 11 a.m. we were diving the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

Hol Chan is Belize's oldest marine reserve and contains Hol Chan Cut, a natural break in the reef where marine wildlife travels through.

The current made the dive difficult on the way back, but schools of fish and numerous stingrays made it worthwhile. I could dive everyday.

We spent our last day bumming around San Pedro, buying Christmas gifts for friends and relatives, and hanging by the pool.

When Friday morning came, we said goodbye to Ernesto and the dogs, and left our "unbelizeable" adventure behind. There is so much to see and do out in the world, I can't wait for C.

We made it home just in time for Christmas. And it's a good thing, too, because if I wouldn't have been there, grandma would've killed me.


Marty #427962 01/16/12 07:40 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
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A group on a past MTSU Campus Recreation scuba diving trip gathers on the beach. Members of this trip include Nathan Young kneeling, and from left, Jim Jackson, John Michael Young, Ray Wiley, Bob Lamb, Pete Leske, Chelsea Smith, Derek Willis, and Melanie and Don Alexander.

Campus Rec invites public to take a dive

Scuba trips open to students, faculty, alumni and others

MURFREESBORO - Bob Lamb, of Exit Realty, Bob Lamb and Associates has been taking scuba diving trips with MTSU Campus Recreation for the past eight years, and plans on going on this year's trip, March 3-10.

"We've really had some great trips," Lamb said. "(In the Blue Hole near Belize) you can swim about 140 feet deep and see stalactites and stalagmites."

Lamb said last year the group stayed on a resort island near Belize and took a trip to the famous Blue Hole, which is approximately 60 miles off the mainland out of Belize City. According to, "It is a perfectly circular limestone sinkhole more than 300 feet across and 412 feet deep," and is "one of the most astounding dive sites to be found anywhere on earth."

The group took a day-long trip to the hole, dove into it and then returned to the resort following lunch.

"I got certified (to dive) about 10 years ago and have been going on trips ever since," Lamb, an MTSU graduate, said.

Ray Wiley, MTSU associate director of campus recreation, began leading the trips about 10 years ago.

"I thought, years ago, I was going to be a marine biologist," Wiley said. "I still love the ocean and aquatic life. I felt like students would enjoy it."

Over the years, MTSU students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends have experienced the wonders of the Caribbean by traveling with the Campus Recreation department during winter or spring breaks.

"We have really not been to a bad place yet. All of our experiences have been enjoyable and very unique," said Wiley.

Some of the locations visited include the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Roatan and Utila, Honduras, Cozumel, Mexico, Curacao and Bonaire.

"Highlights include swimming with whale sharks in Honduras, with pods of dolphins on multiple occasions and some spectacular wall and night dives in many Caribbean locations," he said.

Often, marine biologists serve as guides and are able to point out aquatic life that may otherwise be missed by the tour group of 12 to 15.

The 10th anniversary trip in March will be a return trip back to Cozumel, Mexico.

"The aquatic life is spectacular and the place we are staying is wonderful," Wiley said. "What makes the trip extra special are the people that you get an opportunity to spend a week with. Diving is a special activity that draws people together from all walks of life (who) share a deep appreciation for the aquatic world."

"Wiley and his student assistants do a wonderful job," Lamb said. "The water in the Caribbean is usually nice: 80 degrees."

The last day before returning home, Lamb said, the group members don't scuba dive, as you are not supposed dive 24 hours before flying.

"We have gone cave exploring on remote out islands, riding zip lines or snorkeling," Lamb said. Usually the dive master and crew have a cookout, too."

Wiley said there are sometimes open spots for members of the community to go with the Campus Recreation travelers on the trip.

"You need to be certified in scuba diving and have a passport," Wiley said. "Anyone who is interested can contact our office at 615-898-2104 in order to receive additional information."


Marty #427969 01/16/12 08:12 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
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Belize as a Local - A Great Stay Experience

When I was planning our trip to Belize, I heavily relied on Tripadvisor, as I'm sure many people these days do to see which hotels get good reviews. Sometimes, I wander off the main track to see what off-the-beaten-path options there are. That's how I stumbled upon Macaroni Hill View Hotel. I contacted Rodwell and he immediately answered stating he can't wait to have my family stay with them and eat like kings.

After looking over our schedule, we said let's go for it. Macaroni Hill View Hotel stands in Pomona a tiny town that is off Hummingbird Highway, which is one of the most scenic drives in the country. It's also the main orange grove industry area. The hotel is without a doubt the tallest building in the area and really gives you a sneak peak into Belizean family life.

Rodney and his five children run the hotel. But there are two things that stand out the most:

1. The food - his daughter's home cooking of traditional Belize food still ranks number one for us after tasting different styles throughout the country

2. The view that is from the Restaurant of the village and orange groves

I feel so lucky that we had the time during our trip to spend in this part of the country and enjoy it like the natives do!

Thanks Rodwell for a memorable stay.

Marty #428260 01/18/12 09:40 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
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VIDEO: San Pedro, Belize Pt.1 (inTransit: Episode 12)

Marty #428499 01/20/12 09:20 AM
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Posts: 84,392
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8 Green Ways to Experience Belize

As far as Central American countries go, Belize has not always been known as a “must-see” travel destination as compared to its more famous neighbors, Mexico and Guatemala. But over the last 10 years, Belize has built a reputation founded on its determination to protect the rainforests and farms of its land. With the rise in the popularity of ecotourism, Belize has positioned itself as a leader in the field, with the government protecting 40% of the land for conservation purposes.

It’s hard to find a hotel, lodge, or service that is not eco-friendly in Belize. Though it may be impossible to know how much the locals focus on “being green” in their daily life, connecting with indigenous Maya people through education programs or learning about sustainability efforts from guides indicates a commitment to protecting their land, even as tourism grows.

Here are eight of the ways you can experience green travel in Belize:

Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave

The epicenter of the spiritual history of the Maya, the ATM Cave may be the most authentic historical place you can visit anywhere in the world. This underground archeological site is where the Maya spiritual leaders submerged themselves to perform important rituals, often praying for rain to keep the corn crop, and the people, alive and well. It also became a human sacrificial site as drought took over around 900 AD.

Because the Belize Department of Archeology only allows a small group of trained guides to take groups into the cave – whose entrance is a 45 minute hike through the jungle – artifacts have not been looted as is common at archaeological sites. During a tour of the cave, you will walk and swim through water while viewing crystallized stalactites, view ceremonial bowls that were broken during rituals, and see sacrificial bones, including the entire skeleton of a sacrificed Maya woman.


Xunantunich is one of the most impressive of the Mayan ruins not only in Belize, but throughout Central America. Located about 80 miles west of Belize City on the Guatemalan border, the history of this Mayan settlement from the Classic Era (about 200 to 900 AD) is well preserved, with a frieze still in pristine condition on the side of one building.

The word Xunantunich refers to “Stone Woman,” stemming from the myth of a female ghost that inhabits the site who is dressed in white with fiery-red eyes. Some visitors claim they witnessed her disappearing into the stone wall of “El Castillo,” which is the second tallest structure in Belize.

As with many of the Maya ruins sites, much of Xunantunich has yet to be excavated. This is due in part to issues with funding, but also debates about the impact on the land and the breakdown of the ruins once they are unearthed.

Organic farm at Chaa Creek

Beyond the thatched cottages, pools, and outdoor restaurants, Chaa Creek resort prides itself on being a nature preserve. From visiting their butterfly farm to the night walk through the rainforest led by naturalist guides, they offer a multitude of ways to get to know the land right on their 365 acre property.

Possibly the best part is their sweeping organic farm, which provides most of the vegetables and herbs for their restaurants, along with food for the animals who live there. Owner Mick Fleming is enthralled with organic farming, relying mostly on traditional Maya methods to grow food and sustain the ecosystem.

Ride on horseback out to the farm, where you’ll smell the lemongrass used in teas as you watch the worms go to town in their worm bins, providing nutrients for acres of plants.

Cyrila’s Chocolates

An organic cacao farm that does it all by hand, Cyrila’s Chocolates – part of Sustainable Harvest International – uses no electrical devices to harvest their beans. Located in San Felipe, which is in Belize’s Toledo district, the entire farm is mostly run by Cyrila, her son Juan, and daughter-in-law Abelina.

When you visit Cyrila’s, you get to be a part of the process during the chocolate making demonstration. After the beans are fermented, you have the chance to crack the shells off and grind the beans on a traditional matate – or grinding stone – into a thick chocolate syrup. Experience what unsweetened cocoa tastes like, and the difference after they add a bit of honey.

Cacao farming is thought to be one of the most sustainable farming practices available, as cacao is grown under the canopy of rainforest trees, and is indigenous to Central and South America. Though cacao takes several years to produce viable seeds, once it does it can produce the food for up to 60 years, making it a sound investment for small farmers.

Lamanai Outpost

At the Lamanai Outpost, located in the Orange Walk district of northern Belize, you can stand in front of the second largest Pre-Classic Maya structure, where a small group of Maya lived among the ruins until 1991. Even better, if you take one of the night boat tours, you’ll see the red eyes of tropical birds, frogs, and crocodiles peeking up out of the water.

The lodge sits on a 28 mile long lagoon, which once fed the major Maya city located there between 2000 BC and 300 AD. Lamanai Outpost limits its number of guests on jungle tours to between six and 10, and provides less than 20 cabanas in order to preserve the land on which it rests. Staying here feels like being in the heart of the jungle, with constant insects, birds, and other animals making noises throughout the night, and the rain coming quick, hard, and fast.

Maya homestay

To actually get to know an indigenous culture and its people, it takes more than going to a museum or even viewing an archeological site. That’s the best part about the Maya Homestay program – the opportunity to stay with a Maya family and experience traditional village life.

Located in the village of San Jose, a bumpy van-ride about an hour from Punta Gorda’s airport, residents open their homes to visitors for about $10US a night. This includes a hammock to sleep on and homemade meals made up of freshly prepared tortillas and vegetables grown in their gardens.

The houses are made from simple wood planks and thatched roofs, most of which have an outhouse. The families invite you to be a part of their day, which usually includes farming, weaving baskets, and knocking down coconuts from a tree for fresh coconut water.

There is no electricity or running water in San Jose, so be sure to bring along bottled water or a portable water filter and a flashlight.

Splash Dive Center

With the second largest barrier reef in the world, many people visit Belize specifically to go scuba diving or snorkeling. But long-term use of diving in the same spots can hurt the reefs, as can tour operators who do not teach divers the importance of keeping hands off of the underwater habitat.

Several companies in Belize, including Splash Dive Center in Placencia, understand the importance of sustainable diving practices not only for the protection of the environment, but also for the future of their business. They are a part of several initiatives to protect local dive sites, including Placencia Mooring Masters project, and international ones that work to protect coastal zones and Whale sharks.

Splash Dive Center also runs the ‘Splash Kids Club’ project, which brings children from the local community in and trains them how to scuba dive sustainably, providing future career opportunities for the disadvantaged youth of Placencia.

Jungle tours

Besides the jungle tours offered at Lamanai and Chaa Creek, many of the other eco-resorts or hotels can set you up on a jungle tour that promotes conservation of the land and its inhabitants. Machaca Hill Lodge provides excursions in the southern region of Belize, while Chan Chich Lodge can set up a wildlife excursion in northwestern Belize.

The idea of an ecolodge includes using natural and sustainable resources for building materials and environmentally-friendly energy and waste systems. This extends out into tours of the rainforest, meaning a focus on minimal human impact on the land, from touching wildlife as little as possible to leaving no trash behind.

If you are up for creating your own itinerary in jungle trekking, here is a list of local companies that can help you set up your trip.


Marty #428749 01/23/12 08:11 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
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Family Travel to Belize: San Pedro Transportation, Accommodations, and Restaurants

Otherwise known as Ambergris Caye, or as Madonna sang out: “La Isla Bonita,” San Pedro Belize, with its warm Caribbean air and aquamarine water, is the perfect vacation spot for family travel, especially in the middle of winter during their dry season.

Transportation to San Pedro

To get to San Pedro, you must fly to Belize City and either take the water taxi or a puddle jumper air plane. The water taxi was a short hour and 15-minute ride and half the cost, so we opted for that route.

Travel Tip: The water taxi makes one quick stop at Caye Caulker before arriving at Ambergris Caye. Remember to stay on the boat at this stop.

Ambergris Caye Accommodations

We found Trip Advisor to be the most helpful resource for locating a hotel on the island. Depending on what you are looking for, the island has accommodations that can meet every family’s vacation needs. We stayed at Banyan Bay at the south end of the island.

Although it was a little ritzy for my taste, we loved our ocean view, that the hotel had a good restaurant on site with breakfast included, and that it was a one-stop shop, sporting golf cart and bike rentals, a full service spa, and a concierge who could arrange ocean adventures for you.

Travel Tip: If you want wi-fi, air conditioning, and TV in your hotel room, be sure to check ahead and ensure the hotel has those amenities as not all do. Also note that most swimming pools are not heated.

San Pedro Restaurants

San Pedro is known for its lobster. Lonely Planet books have never failed us in recommending the best restaurants when we travel. Located right on the sea, the Blue Water Grill lived up to the Lonely Planet’s recommendation and the Sea Grill was a perfect selection.

Getting Around the Island

Getting around town is fun. The island is only 5 miles wide and 25 miles long, so you don’t see too many cars.

Most people rent or own bicycles…

…or golf carts.

Travel Tip: I highly recommend renting a golf cart. It is a fun way to see the entire island and get around town. If you are staying for a week, I suggest the weekly rental. Otherwise, most places rent by the hour.

Grocery Stores

Eating out for every meal, especially in the peak travel season, can be pricey. Fortunately, Ambergris Caye sports a nice grocery store with lots of familiar US brands. I’m not sure what I’d use a cake mix for while on vacay, but it was nice knowing we could grab snacks and bug spray at a moment’s notice if we needed to.

Travel Tip: Most places in Belize accept credit cards, US dollars, and Belizean dollars.

Scuba Diving and Other Activities and Attractions

Belize is all about sea activities. With the reef a half a mile off the coast of San Pedro, most visitors explore via scuba diving, SNUBA-ing, snorkeling, or in a glass bottom boat. Companies like Ramon’s Village, organize trips to places like the Blue Hole and Sting Ray Ally for water enthusiasts.

Travel Tip: If you are looking for nice beaches and body surfing, head to Hawaii or other Caribbean beaches, like Magen’s Bay on St. Thomas. While San Pedro is surrounded by beaches, they are grassy with smooth water (no waves), and not ideal for playing in, especially for kids. The real water adventures are near or at the reef and beyond, further out or deeper down.

The Most Important Part of the Trip

Planning and taking a family vacation requires lots of work and can be stressful. My main advice is to plan well in advance and then let the Caribbean breeze get to you and unplug and relax while you’re on the island. Make time for moments with your kids and your spouse. Life at home can wait!


Marty #428767 01/23/12 11:21 AM
Joined: May 2000
Posts: 3,281
Maybe they sell cake mix because actual real people live on the island, and everything is not just there for tourists.
Some of these bloggers make me crazy!!!!!!!!!!

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