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The San Pedro Sun

Conch shell souvenirs require a permit for exportation
Conch shell souvenirs are in abundance in Belize and they are among some of the most beautiful keepsakes found at local artisan booths and gift shops on Ambergris Caye. These souvenirs are purchased by hundreds of tourists who want to take a piece of Belize's craft pieces back home. However, they face the possibility of having their conch shell souvenirs confiscated by Customs Officers because of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulation. Recently, tourists have been complaining that their conch shell souvenirs are being confiscated at Phillip S. W. Goldson International Airport upon leaving Belize. According to the complaints, upon leaving the Belize Phillip SW Goldson International Airport in Belize, visitor's conch shell souvenirs have been taken away.

Belize Rural Development Project II
As part of its effort to improve access to strategic infrastructure as well as strengthening policies and institutional environment, the BRDP II project through the EU has organised two market groundbreaking ceremonies which was attended by the European Union Ambassador, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Minister of Works & Transport, Minister of State (with special emphasis on Transport), senior officials of the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Rural Development, as well as Area Representatives, the Town and Village Councils, special guests and other representatives from various groups and organisations. - The first Ground Breaking ceremony has been organised for Monday 16th December from 3:00 to 5:00 PM in Independence. The market plan consists of 2 main buildings having approx. 1, 332 square feet each. Each building has four (4) permanent and secured stalls (2 stalls 15' 8" by 17' 9" and 2 stalls 16' by 16' 6") each available for rent on a long term basis. There is also a parking lot measuring 231' 9" by 80' 9" with two entrances. The parking lot can be used for the market and/or any other specific events.

Delta Airlines inaugurates new flight from Belize to Los Angeles
On Saturday, December 21st, Delta Airlines inaugurated their first non-stop flight from Los Angeles (LA), California, USA to Belize. The historic flight marks yet another great leap for the Belize Tourism Board (BTB). LA has a large concentration of Belizeans, so this new flight taps into a large market of travelers. BTB, along with Delta Airlines, hosted a short conference for the press to witness the remarkable launch of this in-demand service. The first flight arrived at the Philip SW Goldson International Airport shortly after 7AM and returned to LA at 10:30AM. Passengers were given an official certificate of travel as part of the inaugurate flight. When asked about their flight experience, many passengers were pleased with the "Great Service and "Convenience". Even a couple Belizean American families arrived on the flight. Delta's LA-Belize flight seats 160 passengers and takes approximately seven hours. The flight departs from LA in 12AM and arrives at Belize at 7AM, then returns to LA at 10:30AM on Saturdays. The flight is not only aimed to increase tourism but also should give Belizeans living in USA an easier means to travel home.

Ambergris Today

Belize Listed in Top 20 Best Designed Tourism Websites in the World
The Belize Tourism Board invites visitors from around the world to "Discover how to be, Belize" with its newest marketing campaign that was launched at the beginning of this year. With that came a strong advertising campaign both locally and internationally and plenty of exposure in magazines, websites, blog and travel websites. This week Belize hit another milestone in recognition which speaks of its great efforts in marketing the country. just listed the Belize Tourism Board's website for Belize at #4 in the Top 20 Best Designed Tourism Websites in the World. In an era of high tech information sharing and essential online marketing, this is a great nod for Belize. Here is what Skift had to say about Belize's website: " immediately pulls first-time and repeat site visitors in with an embedded Vimeo video. This is an advanced technique that few other tourism websites employ. The website continues to engage visitors with a scrolling homepage that uses large graphics and warm colors to highlight the activities at and tropical culture of the destination."

Delta Inaugurates Non-stop Service Between Los Angeles and Belize
With much fanfare Delta and Belize held the celebratory inauguration of Delta's direct flight from Los Angeles to Belize this past Saturday, December 21, 2013, at Belize's Phillip Goldson International Airport. There was much to celebrate as the direct flight is being hailed by Belizean resort owners as a great boon for the local tourism industry. This new services opens a new market of travelers to consider Belize as a viable vacation. Los Angeles also has one of the largest Belizean American populations in the United States of America and this new flight will make it easier for them to visit family, friends and spend holidays in their country of origin. Before this new direct flight to Los Angeles, travelers had to take a connecting flight to either Miami, Houston, Dallas, or Charlotte, and then fly from those cities to Belize.

Celebration Week in San Pedro by Sagebush and BWO
Sagebrush Community Church is proud to announce they will be teaming up with BWO (Believer's World Outreach) for a 5-day community outreach, "Celebration Week". During this time over 40 volunteers from the United States will be coming to the island, led by BWO's project director Debbie Tietsort, to team up with Sagebrush Belize Campus' volunteers. This will be the fourth consecutive year that BWO has brought a team to Ambergris Caye; their primary goal being that through their service, the light of Christ will touch the hearts and lives of the individuals here on the island. Sagebrush teamed up with BWO last year and greatly looks forward to hosting the team here again this year, furthering Sagebrush's vision of "Knowing Christ & Making Him Known". This year they will be providing a Hip Hop Camp (Lion's Den), Sports Camp (Boca Del Rio Park), Kids Planet (VBS) in Central Park, Cosmetology (Paradise Theater), Movie in Central Park , & New Years Day Festival (Central Park). Hip Hop, Sports, and Cosmetology will run from 8:30a.m.-11:30a.m. Saturday December 28th, Monday December 30th-Wednesday January 1st. Kids Planet in Central Park will run the same dates from 3pm-5pm.Sunday December 29th Sagebrush Belize invites everyone to join them at the Paradise Theater for the church service (kids have a blast in Kids Planet each and every Sunday!) at 10:30a.m. and then at 5:30pm in Central Park for the movie, Home Run. Celebration week comes to a close on Wednesday, January 1st after the New Years Day Festival in Central Park from 3pm-5pm.

Misc Belizean Sources

Canadian missionary reported missing from Valley of Peace village
The family of Canadian national Brian Townsend is in a frantic search for the missionary who has been reported missing from his home in Valley of Peace village, Cayo district. According to an internet post by the family, Townsend was discovered missing from his house on Christmas morning. The online post which goes under the heading of "Brian Townsend Missing Belize" says that "what we do know is there were signs of an aggressive struggle in his room that carried out the door and across the lawn to where his truck was parked. Brian's phone and computer are missing as well. It goes without saying that we have been unable to contact Brian by any means at all."

Christmas dinner and fellowship at the Community Centerin Toledo
On Christmas Day, I had the honor of visiting with some of the elderly folks from the beautiful village of San Felipe in rural Toledo. 18 men and women sat down to Christmas dinner and fellowship at the Community Center. A big thank you has to go to Miss Myrtle Jones who prepared the food, and to people like the owner of Bismillah Store and Mrs. Nazette Burns of Hode's Place whose kind contribution went a long way to make it all possible. Thanks also to Mary Cariddi and Mahogany Hall Resort, Jennifer Conorque of Georgeville, Marley Brown of Belmopan, Kenishia Sutherland of Camalote and Alma Delia Frutos of San Ignacio who all chipped in to help make Christmas a little bit brighter for the children in San Felipe and for the Tobar family in Mafredi. Together we made it happen and I offer a public: thank you! God Bless.

An alleged rape reported in San Ignacio
An 18 year old woman from the Belize district was the victim of a rape on Boxing Day in San Ignacio town. Information received say that the woman exited a local casino around 5:30 am on Boxing Day after clubbing and went to her vehicle to wait for her friends who remained inside partying. The victim was reportedly followed by three men, who accosted her inside her vehicle. Preliminary information suggests that two of the men held the woman down, while the third raped her inside the vehicle. Three suspects have been detained for questioning in connection with this crime.

BEL Statement on PUC Initial Decision on Amendment to Electricity Rates
On December 10, 2013, Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) applied for a 3 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) reduction in electricity rates, to come into effect on January 1, 2014. The application was a result of an increase in hydroelectricity production in Belize and Mexico and subsequent reduction in the Cost of Power. The proposed rate reduction is intended to save customers approximately $15 million in 2014. On December 18, 2013, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) announced its initial decision for a further 1 cent reduction in rates. BEL has reviewed the PUC's initial decision and has determined that, with the efficiencies achieved over the last two years, the Company can maintain quality service and supply to customers even with this additional $5 million reduction in revenue. The Company, however, has notified the PUC that whilst it has no objection to the intended Mean Electricity Rate (MER) of 44.65 cents, it is objecting to the proposed tariff basket, which would further erode BEL's operating margins. The projected revenue from PUC's proposed tariff basket is $23.5 million below the revenue expected from the current MER. This would also significantly impact the Company's ability to finance its operations and the quality of service delivered to customers.

Education in Belize: End of Year Notes
As we approach the end of 2013 I would like to thank readers of and my Guidance Counselor column for their loyalty and participation/comments, or sharing my articles. I am thrilled to note that, this year, readers from Belize as well as 32 other countries in six continents read my blog and Guidance Counselor articles; many readers, including Belizeans, expressed their concerns (via blog, email, and various media outlets) regarding Education in Belize as well as in other countries. Despite the fact that the Belize Education System classifies me as a "retired" educator, I still look forward to tackling and discussing many more challenging topics on Education, including some that many powerful people would prefer not to discuss publicly.

6 Things to Know about the Garifuna people of Belize
Every year on November 19, Garifuna Settlement day is observed which marks the arrival of the Garifuna people in Belizean territory in 1802. The holiday was created by Thomas Vincent Ramos, a Belizean civil rights activist and is celebrated for a whole week with major festivities that include parades, live music, drumming, dancing, prayers and pageantry in Garifuna communities. Here are 6 things to know about the Garifuna people of Belize: 1.) In 2001, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized the Garifuna language, music and dance as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. This designation means that it is an important culture that should be preserved, promoted and celebrated. 2.) According to Historians, the Garifuna resisted British and French colonialism in the Lesser Antilles and were defeated by the British in 1796. Because of a violent rebellion on St Vincent, the British moved 5000 Garifuna across the Caribbean to the Bay Islands off the north of Honduras. From there, they migrated to the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. By 1802 about 150 Garifuna had settled in Stann Creek (present day Dangriga) area and were engaged in fishing and farming.

Fishing Report, Dec 16 - Dec 21, 2013
We had some wonderful families here this week. Dave, Carol, Toni and Scott - thanks again, we always love to see you guys. I'm most impressed with Carol and Toni's casting and I see a family casting competition in the near future. Carol, the permit will be yours next time! It was also great to see Sasha, Sabrina, Laurie and Norah again. And Archie came back this year and brought his friend James. Archie, it was great to see your smiling face. Donald and Chris we look forward to seeing you here next time. Mike was the ultimate patriarch and made sure his wife Jayne, sister Jo and daughter Shannon all had fishing time. We want to thank you all for a fun week. You had some tough weather, but you persevered. Fish blessings.

Channel 7

Christmas Tragedy: 4 Killed In Traffic Accident
22 year old Ladyville Resident Hector Gongora was home from university for Christmas Holidays. And on Christmas day in the afternoon, he went into the city to pick up his friends, 20 year old Henry Gabourel Reyes, 17 year old Dulce Yanira Cobb and 23 year old Shakir Shamir Monima. They were headed back to Gongora's Ladyville home in his father's D-Max pickup when they had a horrible accident - one of the worst of the year. It left all four of them dead. Here's what happened:.. Jules Vasquez reporting Four young bodies with cloths draped over them - the terrible toll of an accident that almost defies description and comprehension The top of the cab was crushed right down to the floor of the truck - first responders say the pickup was wrapped around the nearby tree. Today the tree is still standing only slightly scarred. While the truck is a mangled wreck - the only thing intact are the tires - all are inflated, so we know it wasn't a blowout - but not much else is known:

Another Knocked Down And Killed On Christmas Eve
There was another fatal traffic accident over the holidays - and the victim is also a younger person. This one happened on Christmas Eve in San Joaquin Village in the Corozal District. At 8:40 pm, 22 year old Armin Nair Rodriguez was riding a bicycle between miles 79 and 80 when he was knocked down by 34 year old Luis Noriega who was driving a Ford Ranger pickup. Noriega was heading in the same southbound direction that Rodriguez was, when he says the cyclist made a u-turn across the road. Rodriguez sustained major head injuries and died on the spot. Noriega was charged for Manslaughter by negligence, Causing death by careless conduct and Drove Motor Vehicle without due care and attention.

Canadian Missing In Cayo: Foul Play Suspected
64 year-old Canadian Retiree Brian Townsend has been missing since Christmas Eve, and based on the evidence found, the residents of the Valley of Peace suspect that foul play has taken place. Townsend, a sort of benefactor of Valley of Peace asked his cook, Norma Rivera to come in early on Christmas Day to prepare the Christmas dinner, and when she and her family showed up, they couldn't find him. His disappearance was very unusual so, she reported him missing to Belmopan police. Investigators visited his home and found blood in front of his house and a blood trail leading to the area where his Chevy Silverado pickup is usually parked. That vehicle is missing, so investigators suspect that he may have been injured or killed, dragged to his vehicle, and taken away from his property. They are conducting an intensive search in and around the village areas in hopes that he can be found alive, but they are expecting the worst.

Senior Citizen Drowned In PG
This evening just before 2 o'clock, police retrieved a body in Punta Gorda, and at this time, they believe that the person drowned. The body, confirmed to be 67 year-old PG resident Arturo Vasquez was seen just off the coastline of the town in the vicinity of the Nazarene Church area. No signs of violence was found on the body, and PG police does not suspect foul play.

He Died Of A Fright?
On Christmas day a 15 year old fell and died while running from police. Stephan Ovado lives in the PIV area of Lake Independence - and right now there's beef between that gang and a rival group. So, on Sunday when he and his friends heard the police coming, they did what they always do; the ran away to avoid being detained for the holidays. That's when he fell and died - some say it was a heart attack. His father told us today that he never could have expected such an end to a day that he had spent mostly with family:.. Mario Ovado, Stephan's Dad "He was conversing with his friends right in front of the yard here, but due to a rise in violence with the rival gangs the GSU Unit were patrolling even on Christmas, so the guys didn't want to get locked up because they will not let them go even if they were not doing anything. When the unit was patrolling, the guys ran and they jump a fence behind my house to get on the adjacent street; Berry Street. He was with them, they ran and jumped the fence on Berry Street and as he reached the street he collapse and they tried to revive him, but he did not respond."

BEL: Rate Reduction Too High
Last week we told you about the PUC's proposal to lower light rates by an average of four cents per kilowatt hour. That's a little more than BEL had suggested - when they asked for a reduction of 3 cents per kilowatt hour - which would save customers approximately $15 million dollars in 2014. The PUC proposals would save consumers another five million dollars. That's 5 million less in revenues for BEL, but the company issued a release today to say it can manage even that. But what the power company does have problems with is what's known as the proposed tariff basket, which the company says in a release today would further erode its operating margins. The company says the projected revenue from the tariff basket as it's set up by the PUC will generate $23.5 million dollars less in revenue than what's expected from the current electricity rates. BEL says this would "significantly impact the Company's ability to finance its operations and the quality of service delivered to customers."

Port Accident: Crane Fell On A Ship
There was a major accident around noon today at the Port of Belize when the crane buckled and the boom crashed unto the ship it was offloading from. Very fortunately, no one was hurt, though the ship may have experienced damage to its hatch. The Port of Belize confirms that the crane was offloading a container from the ship named Palencia. But while maneuvering the container out of the ship - the container got jammed on a rail that it slides out on, it got stuck and that jerked the boom causing the container to fall back unto the deck of the ship, and the boom to crash unto the deck. Very fortunately, the stevedores already knew something could go wrong, and they had cleared out the area. CEO of the Port, Tux Vasquez says their priority right now is to remove the boom with another crane and continue offloading the ship. That work to remove the fallen boom will commence at 7:00 tomorrow. The Palencia is just under 400 feet long.

Salvadoran Shakedown May Not Be Investigated
On Tuesday night we told you about a group of Salvadorians who got a serious shakedown from police who robbed them of a thousand dollars. Well, tonight more is known about the incident. A credible source tells us that it was a group of women. The first set of police dressed in black searched their luggage and took all their money. The second set - just a few miles up the road - allegedly also demanded money, and when they couldn't get it, they locked up the Salvadorians overnight in Benque Viejo. They then called their sister in Belize who is naturalized and she called in the Salvadorian Ambassador. That intervention got Salvadorians out of jail and cleared to cross the border. It turns out they had entered Belize legally but had stayed more than the 7 days allotted to them. Acting commissioner of police Mike Segura told us that the relative who is a permanent resident in Belize should come forward and give an official report - because the others have gone on to Guatemala and there is no one to make a report. He says until a complaint is made from someone in Belize nothing can be done.

Guatemalan Offensive Maps Made It To Australia
In March of this year, 7News told you about a very offensive map which was being circulated by Guatemala. The way it was drawn suggested that Belize, which is a sovereign nation, as simply a part of Guatemala's land mass. The border between the 2 countries was only denoted by a dotted line, which was shown as being under dispute. Since Belize's Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington, registered an official complaint, all such maps seem to have gone away. Well, Representatives of the Belize Diabetes Association went to Australia to represent the country at a Congress meeting, which is held every 2 years. They found hard copies of the offensive map being circulated at the forum. Today, 7News spoke with Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer, who is also the Vice President of Belize Diabetes Association, and she told us that Guatemalan representatives at the Congress meeting used that opportunity to spread this propaganda at the Global Village. She said she came upon it by accident: Sharon Frazer, Senior Magistrate "We were in Australia representing Belize, representing all the best that Belize has to offer and next door sits Central and South American countries of which Guatemala fall. Low and behold as we normally do as we go to these conferences are that you walk around, you look, you listen and something prompted me actually to go to the Guatemalan booth. They are our neighbors and here is this brochure "Guatemala...we have it all." On the surface it gives you a fact detail and turning the brochure over is where this map of Guatemala is. So, I look at the map and you can imagine, the anger, the offensive feeling I got when in fact that map include not part but all of Belize as a part of Guatemala. There was no line dividing. It was one big drawing with Belize including as "Guatemala...we have it all.""

Major Floods In Eastern Caribbean
We've had months of heavy rain in Belize, which has caused untold losses in agriculture, damage to streets and roads, and at least one life lost. But recent flooding in the Eastern Caribbean islands of St Lucia, St. Vincent and Dominica have cost the loss of at least a dozen lives, while more are injured and many more are displaced. So far the damage has been greatest in St. Vincent where flooding and landslides caused by heavy rains have killed at least eight people and injured five. According to international news reports, a cousin of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is among the eight confirmed to have been killed. Cassian Gonsalves died Tuesday night when a landslide crashed through his house. In northwestern St. Vincent, a family of five was killed when a house was swept into their home.

How Was The Christmas Sales?
On Monday and Tuesday, 7News hit the streets to sample public opinion on how the Christmas shopping was going. most shoppers seemed to be bargain hunting. So today, as we do every year, we went around speaking with retailers to get their sense of whether Christmas spending was up, down or in-between. Here's what they told us: Unicomer says that they will be having 2 post-Christmas promotions, both of which start in January. One of these promotions will continue for 3 months.

Fisheries Crack Down On Sea Cucumber Market
Most of us don't even know what a sea cucumber is, much less that you can eat it. But it's a much sought after delicacy in Asian markets and while it's been fished out in most parts of the world, it's still being extracted in Belize and exported legally and illegally. But now, the Department of Fisheries wants to slow things down. And so, the season which should open next week on January first has been postponed. A notice from the Fisheries Department says that no Sea Cucumber fishing license or Sea Cucumber export license will be issued since the Sea Cucumber fishery will quote, "remain closed until further notice." Our information is that Fisheries wants to carry out an assessment of what it considers a very vulnerable species before it opens the season. They don't feel comfortable opening the season without being satisfied that the populations are robust enough to withstand another year of exploitation. Dried sea cucumber attracts a higher international market price than conch or lobster and Guatemala has huge demand. The illegal trade with that country is considered robust.

Channel 5

4 killed in road traffic accident on Christmas Day
Christmas Day, for most Belizeans, is a time to celebrate and show love and appreciation for family. But for four families, the spirit of Christmas may never be the same, [...]

Canadian missionary living in Valley of Peace goes missing; foul play is suspected
The last murder reported in the small community of Valley of Peace, just outside of Belmopan, was in September 2009. But there has been one brutal murder recently and now [...]

Stabbing in Orange Walk leaves 2 men hospitalized
Christmas Day is a time for cheer and goodwill, but it's also a time of excessive alcohol consumption by many. Frequently, that alcohol consumption leads to altercations and bloodshed. That's [...]

Police investigate rapes in Sarteneja and San Ignacio
Details are sketchy, but tonight there are reports of two rapes - one in Sarteneja and the other in San Ignacio. On Boxing Day Corozal Police received information of a [...]

57 year old U.S. national goes missing while snorkeling in Belize
A U.S. national has been missing at sea since Monday and tonight, the Belize National Coast Guard has called off search and rescue efforts. Fifty-seven year old Dieter Kruger and [...]

Still no sign of group of men gone missing
The Belize National Coast Guard has formally aborted a search and rescue mission for a group of fishermen who went missing near Dangriga earlier this month.� �Forty-nine-year-old Thomas Young, along [...]

Injured Cyclist remains in critical, but stable condition at the K.H.M.H.
Twenty-two-year-old Geon Hanson, a well-known Belizean cyclist, remains in stable condition, following a near-fatal road traffic accident on Christmas Eve.� The young rider was training for the upcoming New Year's [...]

The 24th Annual Krem New Year's Day Cycling Classic
The Twenty-fourth Annual Krem New Year's Day Cycling Classic is less than a week away and cyclists from all over the country are preparing diligently for the upcoming tournament.� While [...]


Police Search Lands Four in Court for Drug Trafficking
Four persons, three of them adults and the fourth a 16 year old boy, were charged with drug trafficking when they appeared today before Senior Magistrate Sharon Fraser. The adults are 28 year old Candice Castillo, 31 year old Kareem Eagan and 22 year old Kendra Smith. They pleaded not guilty to the charge. Senior Magistrate Fraser offered the adults bail in the sum of eight thousand dollars each. She offered the minor a bail of five thousand dollars on the condition that he is indoors between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. She told the minor that if he violates the condition he will be sent to Youth Hostel. They all met bail. They are to return to court on February 28. The bust occurred yesterday. The police reported that they went to a residence at Set Site and when they searched the premises they found a plastic bag underneath one of two houses which contained 772 point seven grams of cannabis. As a result, the four defendants who were present in the house at the time were arrested and charged.

Fatal Road Accident on Christmas Day
In this red Isuzu D-Max pickup which has been totally destroyed, bent in two, were four youths who all lost their lives in a horrific Christmas Day accident. It happened in the afternoon of December 25 between miles 7 and 8 on the Phillip Goldson Highway. Behind the wheel of the vehicle was 22-year-old, Hector Daniel Gongora; in the passenger seat was 20-year-old, Henry Reyes and travelling along with the duo were 23-year-old, Shakir Shamir Monima and 17-year-old, Dulce Cobb. The group was travelling back to Ladyville when something happened that caused the driver to lose control and with, undoubtedly, great speed, the vehicle veered on the opposite lane and was catapulted unto thick trees. Father of Hector Gongora, Rafael Omar Gongora, explained that his son and Reyes had just left home to pick up two of friends, Shakir Monima and Dulce Cobb.

Caye Caulker Chronicles

Meet The Island With A Student
I believe this is a different way to get to enjoy the island while creating a positive impact. These kids know these waters like the back of their hand.


Christmas Eve and Christmas day with ReefCI
Lots of photos....

International Sources

The Queen's 2013 Christmas Broadcast
Her Majesty speaks of striking a balance between action and reflection, and looks back at the birth and Christening of Prince George and the 60th anniversary of her Coronation in 2013.

Belize Project Report
A group of 20 construction volunteers from Grass Valley, Sacramento and Montana spent Thanksgiving, Nov. 23 to Dec. 5, in Belize pouring concrete, metal and electrical work constructing a Bible training center for students from countries in Latin America with agriculture and trades training. The Family, Health and Education Association is recognized as a Belize and U.S. nonprofit organization. It operates totally with volunteers who pay their own way and work free for two weeks on these trips. FHEA completed the first high school for the Maya Indians in the country of Belize in 2012 and elementary school in 2008.

Most popular TripAdvisor destinations in 2014
Eager to escape in 2014 but not sure where to go? You might find inspiration from the TripAdvisor community, which recently voted on the best destinations to travel to in 2014. TripAdvisor's new Travelers' ChoiceAwards for Destinations on the Rise picks 54 places across the globe based on data collected from millions of the Newton-based company's user searches and reviews. These were the places that have seen the "greatest increase in positive traveler feedback and traveler interest," according to TripAdvisor. Top 10 destinations on the rise in the world: 1. Havana, Cuba 2. La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica 3. Kathmandu, Nepal 4. Jerusalem, Israel 5. Cusco, Peru 6. Ambergris Caye, Belize

Collared Aracari
We zagen deze Collared Aracari met een groepje bij elkaar al plukkend en smullend van groene boomvruchtjes. Deze vogels met hun majesteuze snavel zijn toch wel heel bijzonder om te zien. Ze hebben vaak een hoog "Cheep-EEP 'roep als ze vliegen Het menu bestaat voornamelijk uit fruit, maar ook insecten, hagedissen, eieren, en andere kleine prooien laten ze niet staan. De mannetjes en vrouwtjes hebben hetzelfde uiterlijk.

A gloomy time
The announcement on December 13 by the government of Barbados that it will lay-off over 3,000 public servants in January as a first step in cutting back expenditure and reducing national demand for goods and services has rightly rattled other Caricom members. Concern has been greatest in neighbouring eastern Caribbean countries, particularly the six independent ones that, with the British overseas territory, Montserrat, form the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). While the economic recession that began in late 2008 has abated in North America and Europe, its effects have been prolonged in those Caribbean countries whose economies are highly reliant on services, the principal one being tourism. From the start of the recession, policies were required to cut government spending on anything but economically sustainable projects, scale back borrowing to finance only infrastructural development that would lift the tourism product, and prepare the economies to take immediate advantage of a return to economic health of their main markets. Instead for many countries, it was business as usual. The net effect is large debt-to-GDP ratios, significant fiscal deficits, and in many countries little capacity by governments to pay wages and salaries without incurring even more debt. Only four commodity-exporting Caricom states-Belize, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago-have escaped the alarming prospect of implementing austerity measures in order to survive.

Guyana tops English-speaking Caribbean in road fatalities
Guyana has the worst road fatality ranking of all Anglophone Caribbean countries, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has said. According to the APNU, Guyana, at 27.8 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants is the worst ranking country by a wide margin. Rates for other countries are: the Bahamas with 13.7; Barbados, 7.3; Belize, 16.4; Jamaica, 11.6 and Trinidad and Tobago, 16.7, the coalition added.

Germany assists CARICOM water and wastewater projects, marine protected areas
The German-funded Caribbean Aqua-Terrestrial Solutions (CATS) program is active in eight Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states -- Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. In its first year, it has provided essential material goods worth 850,000 euros (US$1.167 million) to the marine protected areas (MPA) of Oracabasa, Montego Bay, Negril and Nepa in Jamaica and funded six water and wastewater projects in Belize and St Lucia with almost 2.4 million euros. These are: 1. Design of the Vieux Fort Water Supply Redevelopment Project, St Lucia, 2. Feasibility study on the Rehabilitation of the John Compton Dam, St Lucia 3. Implementation of the St Jude Hospital Water and Wastewater Project, St Lucia, 4. Design of the Placencia Peninsula Integrated Water and Wastewater Project in Belize, 5. Design of the Expansion of Water and Sewerage Facilities at Ambergris Caye in Belize, and 6. Building capacity for community-based wildfire management and freshwater quality monitoring in rural Belize.

It's So Easy To Be Seduced By Belize
It's been three years since my last visit to Belize and this time I'm on a five-day excursion to visit various parts of the country. As I get closer to arriving at my destination I feel a level of excitement growing. Much the same way one would anticipate the arrival of a loved one in a new relationship. A former British Colony, the landscape of Belize is bordered in the north by Mexico and Guatemala in the west and south. The eastern part of the country includes miles of white sand beaches and ocean beachfronts with hundreds of small and large islands. What makes this country so intoxicating? When arriving in Belize one of the first things that captures your attention is the diverse makeup of people. The population includes people from Maya, Mestizo, Garifuna, Creole, Mennonite, East Indian and Chinese culture and of course many expats - its unrivalled in Central America. The second thing you notice is how friendly and welcoming everyone is. No other country can match up to the level of responsiveness you experience here. On my travels throughout the country I met many individuals from all walks of life - farmers, taxi drivers, restaurant servers and business owners each person stands out in their own way. I met Elwin Ariola, a Garifuna gentleman, while being driven from Hopkins to Dangriga airport. Ariola runs "Ariola & Son's Tour Business" with his wife and son. During our commute, he recounted numerous stories about family, friends and Dangriga's Garifuna celebrations. He is most definitely the man to call, if you need assistance and advice for travelling around Belize