I can’t tell you how much I love this place. It is actually one place in all the 50 states and over 30 international cities that I have traveled that I have visited more than once (here and Rome) and loved it every time. The two times I have visited Belize have both been while I was on a cruise with a friend, but after touring around the city several times I know I could easily go back and thoroughly enjoy myself and feel completely safe on my own (hmmmm, maybe my next vacation). The first thing I noticed when we arrived in Belize was has truly beautiful the water was, so blue and clear and the sun was shining and everything felt wonderful. How could you not feel wonderful on vacation though, honestly. The next thing I noticed is that it was super HUMID, but please keep in mind I was coming from Las Vegas at the time, the driest place on the planet (in my mind). I don’t do well with humidity, and I wore the wrong clothes for the activity we were participating in (boats and ruins). So first things first, when you visit Belize, wear either as little clothing as possible, or a big T-shirt with leggings, or a nice flowy short dress with a big hat (maybe some shorts if you want to avoid chafing, or use body glide like I do -its amazing stuff). When we got off the boat, we had to take a sort of Ferry thing into the island, make sure to pick the bottom half of the boat because otherwise the sun will beat down on you for about 30 min and you will end up being sun burned before you even reach the touristy areas. I liked the seat in the back of the boat next to the engine, I like looking at the wake, its mesmerizing and then makes me feel like the scene in dumb and dumber where he hangs his head out the window and says ‘I feel like I’m running at an incredible speed!’ , so yeah, its pretty exciting for me. So when we got to the mainland, we were greeted by our guide and shuffled onto a large bus. Now I’m not a fan of large crowds (more than 10) or feeling like I’m just cattle being herded everywhere, but our guide was entertaining and jovial enough I soon forgot that I was surrounded by people & was looking out the windows. We drove through the town as he told us the history, and that English is pretty well spoken here, as well as a sort of Creole like you would find in New Orleans, so if you speak French it is probably a good thing here. I was amazed at how modern the houses looked, and he explained that there are actually a lot of Americans in their country that build homes here because of how relaxed and friendly people are, and it becomes their retirement home. We made our way to their basecamp, where they were under construction and building huts for people to come and stay by the river, there were dogs, children, workers, and boats on the river. We had a brief snack provided before getting on the boats to go and view the wildlife along the river, and the nests of birds in the trees that looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland. He pointed out the birds, types of trees, how to navigate, the local populations that still did things the traditional way (such as fishing) and anyone we came across they interacted with us like we were family. The boat ride was quite long and I was glad I picked a seat near the back and on the side because the breeze from the natural velocity of the boat was SO NICE because it got quite warm after about 45 min on the boat. After the boat ride we arrived at the wooden dock where the locals helped us off the boat individually (need to have good footing for this as you step on the edge of the boat to disembark — no waivers sort of thing). We were guided along a path in a group while they explained to us the different trees, their uses to the locals, how they use to be used etc. Something to note here, is that they did not use a microphone, and when you get into a larger group it makes it really difficult to hear things they are saying. I am one that really likes learning about the local cultures and customs, and how things use to work ‘back in the day’ ; so being able to hear these things is very important to me. Back to our story, so among those trees we were shown, was an allspice tree….I had no idea that allspice grew in a tree, so that was really neat to see some of these spices that end up on our tables being grown here. We arrived at the ruins and boy was it super neat to see them, they are not very well known, but if you have someone who can show you the history of these people and what different areas were used for, it makes it completely fascinating. Like how when they played basketball and how they played it was a little more brutal, like to the death sort of thing. These Mayan ruins are also one of the very few ruins left that you can climb to the top of. Let me tell you those were the steepest stairs my short 5’4″ legs have every climbed, I was very grateful for the rope that helped me to the top, it felt more like scrambling than walking up steps, I was using all four limbs. But the view at the top was amazing, you can see how people could wander in the wilderness and be lost for days, because of all the trees and everything looking the same. It suddenly made sense to me why people would climb trees to look for the river, and then follow the river and flow of it back to the sea so they wouldn’t get lost in the dense tropical forest. I couldn’t believe how massive the trees were, and the way that they grew was fascinating, like veins in the arm of a body builder reaching up to the sky only to burst forth in a canopy of green, or bury into the ground and create a network of roots that bubble up to the surface every few feet & would trip even the most avid double dutch jump roper. I really like these surrounding trees next to the ruins, without all the fencing, security, ticket booths and souvenir shops, ancient history in its natural surroundings. Even the mounds of dirt covering large, yet to be excavated ruins, left me with a sense of mystery and excitement. To see how the people of theses ancient cities would fortify themselves with massive ditches, be able to place these stones on each other so high, and where they actually got the stones from to build things like this were the best parts.
After the ruins we got back into our boats and headed back to the local guides base camp, where we had a wonderful meal cooked by his wife and children who helped serve us. Family is very important in Belize, and this connectivity is what makes them all feel and behave so friendly. This was the first trip to Belize and I loved every sweaty second of it, I found that once you embrace the fact that you are just going to be drenched in sweat and push aside the embarrassment of having taco arm pits that, it actually end up feeling quite cool.
This brings me to my second trip to Belize, and probably my favorite excursion, to the Rio Secreto, where you literally go Spelunking. It was a small group, we got to be blessed by the locals with smoke for entering the sacred cave of the Gods, so that the water and we would remain pure. I didn’t realize that drinking water was hard to come by in Belize, and they rely heavily on the underground water to supply the city. So just be aware that before you go into these tunnels they ask you to wash yourself in a cool (aka cold) shower, including your hair – and to be respectful I didn’t wear any makeup. Also, please make sure you go to the bathroom BEFORE hand, no one likes to drink contaminated water 🙂 Our guide was so friendly, and so cute (again, my thing for foreign men), probably one of the kindest and most gentle and helpful people I met in my life. I wish I could have taken him home with me, lol. I later found out from one of the other workers, that he was respected as one of the best people in town, because of how good he was despite having come from such a terrible background; when I asked what background that was, no one really wanted to talk about it, but I could see empathy and sadness reflected in their eyes for their friend before they broke eye contact with me and advised I continued on with the group. I quietly let that one rest, and continued to enjoy my time. I would caution that if you have easily torn, scratched skin, or are on blood thinners that you be very very vey careful in the cave, it is so well preserved that its like little knives if you bump into the rock with any sort of force. They actually ask you to only touch the areas that they ask you to touch, and were very good about showing us where to place our feet in the uneven surface of the mineral clouded water. They have waterproof flashlights that help you to see where you are going, and a photographer will follow you where you travel taking pictures you can purchase afterwards (around $35 per person if you split the price of the CD they give you and send each other the digital copies of it). Some people complain that this is overpriced for pictures, but they really do a nice job, and this is the livelihood. I definitely want to go back and do this again, they have short tours and longer 2 mile tours, I think of all the options I have experienced so far this was my favorite. If you happen to go to Belize, please send pictures to us! I have a very special place in my heart for this country and its wonderful people.
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Janiel Green is a Travel Guru with 21 years of National travel experience in the USA, and 17 years of International Travel experience. She is a highly educated, courageous, driven and dedicated individual to both her professional and personal life. She is the Founder of Culture Trekking LLC, and is dedicated to bringing a celebratory passion for humanity into her writing to make meaningful, useful, and heartfelt recommendations for a culturally enriched travel experience. For inquires please contact her at email@example.com