BEACHES, MOUNTAINS, RAIN FORESTS, AND RUINS
lf you dread the icy breath and dreary skies of winter then perhaps a visual of soothing your soul in the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean on sunny palm fringed beaches may be enough to get your attention. But, what if I told you there is a place like this that ALSO has MAYAN RUINS and culture?
Oh, and by the way it also has some of the BEST SNORKELING opportunities in the world as well as mountains, jungles teeming with wildlife, sparkling waterfalls with jade colored rivers, ethnic diversity, only a 2 hour flight from Miami AND the people speak English? (Are you looking for flights now LOL!?). These are the reasons why I chose to visit Belize this Jan.
The following blog posts will be about my friend Otilija and my two week trip to Belize, our impressions, experiences, and how we organized as many adventures as possible in a way that would give us a feel for the country and its people, yet not exhaust ourselves. …..quite a challenge! Actually, I sneaked in a couple of extra days (which I don’t count) for getting to and from Belize so that we could spend at least two full weeks in the country. There is so much to experience in this wildlife and culture rich country that you can’t do it all in 2 weeks, but we made a pretty good attempt. Hopefully it will be helpful to those of you who are also traveling there for the first time.
After months of going crazy doing my usual number of researching every interesting place, plant, and animal I came up with an itinerary which I hoped would allow us to see as much nature, wildlife, and Belize culture as possible in the time frame we had. Looking back on it now I can say truthfully say that it did and then some! So, here it is :
OUR TWO WEEK ITINERARY IN BELIZE
FIRST NIGHT – Jan. 25 Belize City. We arrive at 4:40 pm
Nights 26, 27, 28th The island of Cay Caulker – for swimming, reef snorkeling/diving in the Caribbean & Island life. Close and very easy to get to from Belize City.
Nights 29, 30, 31 Tropical Education Center near Belize Zoo – See Belize Zoo, wildlife in their natural habitat, nocturnal animal night tour of zoo, Sibun River boat tour and swim, visit to Burrell Boom “Baboon (black howler monkey) Sanctuary”
Feb. 1, 2, 3, 4, Santa Eleana / San Ignacio in the Cayo – For exploring the Maya mountains, archeological ruins, rivers, cave tubing, Spanish Lookout Menonite community, private farm with tropical fruit trees, medicinal plants, and wild howler monkeys.
Feb. 5, Dangriga – A Garifuna town and jumping off point to other places of interest such as Tobacco Caye and Hopkins
Placencia Village – for the most beautiful beaches, culture, and boat tour of Monkey River.
Most travelers end up in Belize City upon arrival, or at some point getting from one place to another. Some people said it was unsafe, dilapidated, and suggested just getting out as soon as possible. Others found the Museum of Belize very interesting and used the City as a good base for making day trips to places like the BELIZE ZOO, the and the “Community Baboon Sanctuary.”
Most people agreed though that you need to keep your wits about you and avoid going out at night unless you absolutely knew the city’s safe zones. Since our flight arrived in the early evening and this was our first time in Belize I didn’t want to take chances. We reserved a budget Airbnb 15 minutes from the Philip Goldson airport with a plan to leave the next morning for the closest place where we could see the barrier reef and swim – the island of Caye Caulker.
Belize Time vs. US Time
The first realization that we were now in a foreign culture hit us as soon as we stepped into the Belize airport. Our Airbnb host who was to meet us with her taxi service was not there. “Oh well, this IS Central America” I thought, wearily taking a seat on a bench where we could rest in the shade and gaze at the palm trees of the new scenery that surrounded us. After about 15 minutes of waiting and still no show, I emailed and called our host, but nobody answered. After an hour of waiting Otilija had had enough and urged me to take a taxi. By this time I was seeing triple from having had to get up at 3:00 am so we grabbed one of the airport taxis and set off. There are no buses that go from the airport to anywhere so you either have to take a taxi for $25.00 or other (usually more expensive) ride service.
Our taxi driver was extremely friendly and found our Airbnb with no problem. We were greeted by our host’s husband who was very sweet and apologized saying that their car was being fixed at the mechanic’s and it took longer than they had expected (so why didn’t they call?) His wife didn’t get home til later on in the evening and also apologized for not getting to the airport. She claimed to have notified me by email, but it was sent hours after we had already arrived at their house!
We quickly came to learn that the Belizans, much like people elsewhere in Central America, are much more casual about time than we are. They don’t stress about it. Things will get done eventually and if not it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. It will happen later. From then on when scheduling something with people I always asked “Are you talking Belize time or USA time?” This would inevitably evoke some giggles, but it seemed to work. Generally we found that the tour operators and public transportation ran on the same time clock as we, but if you’re dealing with individuals or taxi drivers……well, they may or may not show up at the time you agreed upon.
Viewing Wildlife In and Around Belize City
We spent the rest of the late afternoon and evening slowly getting used to our new hot sunny climate, spying some colorful little birds and an iguana in the yard.
We had a pleasant enough evening, but being an animal lover who prefers to be out in the wilds this first night is probably the only thing on our itinerary that I would change had I known then what I learned a little bit later on: There are a couple of other Airbnbs listed under ” Belize City” where the hosts are actually located in or not far from the participating villages of the “Community Baboon Sanctuary” near Bermudian Landing and Burrell Boom . The term “Baboon” is how the locals refer to what actually are Black Howler monkeys and the sanctuary is a reserve that encourages people to live in harmony with nature in order to protect the monkeys and their habitat. If you stay in one of these Airbnbs you will get an opportunity to live in the forests that are home to many species of wildlife including the howler monkeys.
Sometimes the hosts offer free or discounted airport pick ups if you spend at least two nights (well worth the time) and they are also tour guides . One of these Airbnb’s is called “Log Cabin Monkey Reserve” and the host is Bruce. Another is “Pedestal Monkey Reserve Home”- Host’s name is Adrian. As always, it is important to read the reviews so that you know what to expect. These are not Hilton Hotels, but private homes where you’ll experience the area as a local and that can mean jungle, dirt roads, creatures, and insects! Not an Airbnb member? Joining is easy and free. If you use my invitational link you and I will both get $20.00 travel credit on our next trip! Just click : Join Airbnb
I will end this post here and follow up soon with a new one about our arrival and experiences on the island of Caye Caulker. Stay tuned!!!