The Ease of Belize
Our trip through Mexico was fairly intense. After driving through Northern Mexico (including past a dead body on the side of the road), we made our way through the Central Highlands, Oaxaca, Chiapas and, finally Quintana Roo. We got used to being together 24/7. We learned how to be overlanders, including how to drive our rig off-road in the mud and the sand. And to “relax,” we went cave diving, cross-country paragliding and downhill mountain biking. So we were ready for some Caribbean Rum, English, and reggae music in Belize.
Belize is home to an amazing number of parks, reserves and sanctuaries ranging from marine reserves to virgin rainforest. In fact, despite its size, Belize has protected more of its land and sea (roughly 25%) than almost any other country in the Americas.
We have always found that amazing birds tend to live in primary forests which are also home to interesting mammals. So our first stop was the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the best birding destinations in the world. We camped on the lawn of an amazingly friendly Creole family in the town of Crooked Tree and spent our days boating and hiking through the forests, lagoons, savannas and swamps of the sanctuary. We spotted were cormorants, eagles, egrets, hawks, herons, kingfishers and storks along with crocodiles, iguanas and monkeys. Overall, our stay in Crooked Tree was an unforgettable experience and we’d recommend that everyone take a trip to one of the top birding destinations in Belize (there are a few) if they are in the country at the right time of year.
One of our goals in Belize was to dive the Belize Barrier Reef. There was just one problem. Leah wasn’t certified. So after Crooked Tree, we headed to Placencia, an on the beaten path Garifuna community in Southern Belize. Over the course of 5 days (including a rain day), Leah conquered her fear of the ocean, completing 4 open water dives on the caves of southern Belize and getting her PADI Open Water Certification. At one point, Leah had to swim from a spot in the open ocean where we dropped her off back to the boat. I joined her for the last part of the swim and, since I had a mask, informed her that there were a bunch of rays and sharks right below her. This didn’t deter Leah but in retrospect, perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut. Leah and I did not dive together as partners since she was diving with her instructor, but we have identified a few placed where we want to dive together during the rest of our trip.
The ease and magic of Belize is not just the caves, coral reefs, Mayan ruins, wildlife and other adventures, it’s the people. Belize is a diverse country consisting of Creole, Garifuna, Mayan and even Mennonite communities. During our journey through Belize, we had the opportunity to interact with and stay in many of these
communities. What we found is that despite their diverse ethnicities, Belizeans had one big thing in common. They embraced each other, and they embraced outsiders. To us, the result was a positive vibration that we felt throughout our journey through Belize. Here are a few candid street photos and street portraits of the amazing people of Belize.
On what was supposed to be our last night in Belize, we packed out truck and prepared for the Guatemalan border crossing. Yet there was something preventing us from moving on. We had too much unfinished business in Belize. We knew we didn’t have time to do much else, but we decided that one more day might make leaving Belize easier. So we spent one more day in San Ignacio, the highlight of which was an amazing trail run through a Mayan ruin through the morning mist, and more interactions with the locals, including men from a Mennonite community on the outskirts of town. On the next day, as we saw the border of Belize in our rear view mirror, we felt fortunate to have spent a couple of weeks in such an easy and magical country and knew in our hearts that we would return.