“If the world had any ends, Belize would certainly be one of them. It is not on the way from anywhere to anywhere else.”
These words by the popular 20th century author Alduous Huxley pretty much sum up this little country south of Mexico’s Yucatan and north of Guatemala in Central America. A lack of strategic importance to the world probably explains why, unlike its neighboring countries, Belize has remained so uninhabitable. It feels remote, and, for many of our travelers at Monroe Travel Service, that is exactly what makes it such a virtual paradise to visit.
The two lane road that spans the length of Belize is not even paved in some places. In a country which is about the size of Massachusetts, there are only a handful of traffic lights. Yet, don’t let the lack of progress fool you, because, on a recent trip, Rob and I discovered there is a lot to see and do in this little place!
Just a couple of hours from Belize City and, after passing through some of the worst poverty imaginable, we arrived into the back-country, a hauntingly charming place of rain-forests and serious jungles. These nature preserves are filled with all sorts of wildlife — monkeys, anteaters, parrots, ocelots, and tapirs, the national animal. The highest waterfall in Central America and the only jaguar reserve in the world can be found in this playground of nature.
Quaint little eco and adventure lodges are scattered throughout this area called the back country. We had chosen Ian Anderson’s Cave Branch eco-lodge as our home base for what we called an “off the grid” jungle experience. We knew amenities like wifi, hair dryers and curling irons would not work here. The Cave Branch was not a resort, a fact they made very clear when making a reservation. They reminded us accommodations would be clean and well maintained, but, sometimes, a creepy crawly will come to visit, there will be short bouts of intense rain, and hot water can be a luxury because everything operates off a generator.
We thought we were up for the experience, but it did prove to be a learning experience. Even in the jungle, we found there was a guest computer with internet access at the front desk where phones, cameras, tablets, etc, had to be charged as there were really no electrical outlets in the room. We quickly realized Cave Branch certainly lived up to its claim of “not being a jungle resort sanitized from its surroundings.”
Yet, whatever the lodge lacked in amenities, it made up for in adventures! We felt very comfortable venturing out with the lodge guides on jungle treks, river kayaking expeditions, and even a cave-tubing tour, which basically involved drifting in the dark cool water for what seemed like miles with miner’s lamps strapped to our foreheads into a land down under.
This was a surreal experience for us; bats hung within reach overhead while guides pointed out the cave markings and some very healthy looking cave spiders. The tour ended with everyone jumping from a 25 foot cliff into a deep pool of water—a really cool natural high too fun to miss.
We quickly learned jungle adventures are rated by sweat drops at the lodge, and, to be honest, we stuck with the three sweat drop trips — the ones rated moderate and suggested for kids 7 and up — so the extent of our adventure was a float trip, zip lining, horseback riding, caving, and snorkeling, as well as a wonderful day trip to the amazing Mayan ruins of Tikal in the neighboring country of Guatemala.
This three sweat drop trip is really not designed for the faint of heart or for someone who tends to get motion sickness, because the road trip is a killer. Yet, if you survive the journey and can make the climb, the views from the top of Tikal will absolutely take your breath away. Hearing the howler monkeys, while taking in all that beauty, gives you the feeling of being on another planet.
Just as it was so easy to get lost in the mystery of the Mayan world, it really was so much fun getting lost in the uniqueness of our jungle experience. The 9 to 5 world simply disappeared. We never got radio reception when driving in the back country. There was no TV at the lodge. The lights always seemed dim and the hot water for our outdoor shower was non-existent, but we did not really care. After all, Mother Nature provided the music, the light, and the entertainment.
We truly loved being “jungalized,” but, after a few days, we looked forward to heading back to civilization and a beach resort with hot water and electrical outlets! Now, when I talk about a beach resort, don’t envision a Cancun or South Beach style destination. .A beach resort in Belize makes Key West’s end-of-the-line-laid-back culture look wild and crazy.
There are very few beach destinations quite like those in Belize. Ambergris Caye is where we send most of our beach lovers who are looking for something different in a resort vacation, so this is where we stayed too. Ambergris is the largest of Belize’s 200 offshore cays, or islands. It has no paved roads and, as you might expect, no traffic lights either. Locals and visitors who come to the Caye, do so by water taxis or commuter planes from Belize City, then, use bicycles and golf carts to get from their resort to the restaurants and shops.
Pick a spot on any one of their beautiful white sand beaches that stretch for miles and, instead of the noise from planes or cars, you hear only the quiet rhythm of the Caribbean’s waves. When you do feel the need to move, I would suggest indulging in a snorkeling or dive adventure. After all, the second longest barrier reef in the world is just waiting out there to be explored.
We found life in these waters to be as amazing as some of the critters we had seen in the jungle! If you travel to Belize in May and June, you can actually swim with the largest congregation of whale sharks in the world.
Whether we were in the jungle or a Caribbean beach, we always felt there was “another world” waiting to be enjoyed and explored — if we would only step out and do it. That’s what makes Belize such a different vacation experience. The locals speak a type of Creole English and love having you visit their little corner of paradise where life is simple and easy going — definitely an escape from the norm.
From Monroe, we have great flight connections, so why not think about putting Belize on your radar for your next adventure? For more information, give me a call at Monroe Travel Service and let me send you a free brochure on this exciting destination.
If you go, I am willing to bet you will come home wearing one of those crazy t-shirts that says “You Better Belize It.” Dianne Newcomer is a travel agent at Monroe Travel Service, 1908 Glenmar, Monroe.