If asked where Belize is, few people could answer correctly. It is a precious find, for those few that have found it. Hugging the Caribbean Sea, it is the only English speaking country in Central America, bordered to the north by Mexico and to the west and south by Guatemala and is home to the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere.
Belize is rarely in the world’s headlines but was in 1968, when Dr. David Pendergast of the Royal Ontario Museum of Canada, discovered a large jade head at Altun Ha, one of Belize’s many Mayan archaeological sites. Another time was in 1972, when the great marine ecologist Jacques Cousteau explored The Great Blue Hole, an almost perfect circle surrounded by reef. This is situated at Lighthouse Reef Atoll, one of the many cays, or low elevated sandy islands, dotted along the length of the 300km reef.
Being a relatively small country, approximately 22,960 sq km, making it slightly smaller than, the US State of Massachusetts, does not make it small in diversity. From the coastline scattered with mangrove swamps and lagoons, you go westward, where in the north, you will find tropical pine savannas and hardwood forests and in the south, heavily forested, low laying Maya Mountains. Formed from limestone, these mountains are peppered with sink holes, many of which have not yet been explored. In the district of Cayo, to the west, you have 1000ft falls, the highest waterfall in Central America.
The population of 330,000 also offers diversity. They are a friendly mix of Maya, Mestizo, Kriol, Garinagu, Mennonite and East Indian which ensures that any visitor, will not only get to see different cultures but will be able to delight their taste buds, with an assorted array of traditional foods. Belizeans refer to their country, as the Jewel, and are rightfully proud of its natural beauty.
For a long time, the cays and coastal areas of Belize, have offered an assortment of water sports, including fishing and diving. More recently, there has been an increase in Manatee and Whale Shark watching. Whilst inland, eco-tourism is encouraged. The Belize Zoo is probably unique, in so far as it only has indigenous animals in its ranks but houses them in their natural habitats.
Among its popular guests are the Tapir or mountain cow, the national animal of Belize and the Toucan, the national bird of Belize. Belize is also home to a Jaguar sanctuary, one of the few for this third largest member of the cat family. There are also adventure activities offered, including river tubing and caving.
Belize truly is a Jewel, a precious find for those that seek a holiday that is different from the norm.