Five Places to Explore Nature in Belize
While I do believe that every country and culture has some amazing things to offer, my favorite countries tend to be the ones where nature dominates. I prefer watching an elephant herd on safari than walking through a busy city any day. Throw in some friendly people and delicious food and I’ll book my flight now. Maybe that is why Belize has been on my short(er) travel list for some time.
This tiny Central American country boasts incredible diversity of people and languages (English is the official language- but you can often hear Kriol, Spanish, Maya, or Garifuna.) The eclectic mixture of people makes for a wonderful melting pot of cultures and food. But the people aren’t the only thing that is unique - the nature is truly one of a kind. Inland you can find dense jungles with toucans and on the Caribbean coastline you’ll find the second largest coral reef in the world (second only to the Great Barrier Reef). Ok, if I’m being completely honest it’s this reef that makes me want to go to Belize so bad. However, while researching for the dream itinerary, I found out there is SO MUCH MORE to see!
Picture from The Quirky Globetrotter
Okay, so bear with me on this. I’m not claustrophobic, but I do get lost a LOT, and the thought of getting lost in a cave freaks me out a bit. I will never, ever, go scuba cave-diving because I am positive I’ll get lost and run out of air. For Belize though, I’ll make an exception. National Geographic has named the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) as the most sacred cave in the world. It’s very protected, allowing only 125 people to visit daily and a hefty fee to tours in order to protect it. ATM is a sacred burial place and is the final resting place of the “Crystal Maiden” as well as 13 other sacrificed people. Cameras are not allowed in the cave because a tourist dropped it on a skull.
Photos from Mayawalk.com
Snorkeling with turtles
I’ve always had a fascination with the ocean and its inhabitants - dolphins and orcas are two of my favorite animals - but for some reason I’ve always wanted to swim with wild turtles. They always look so peaceful in the water, just minding their own business. Turtles can often be found (along with manatees) at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, not too far from Shark Ray Alley (named for the sharks and rays found there). Check out this video from Globeblogging of a beautiful turtle swimming peacefully.
I was lucky enough to visit some ruins in Mexico a long time ago, but there is a hidden gem in Belize called Caracol. The crowds are minimal since there are more-famous ruins in neighboring Guatemala (Tikal - featured in Star Wars), so you can enjoy peaceful moments looking over the dense jungle and on a clear day, you can see Guatemala. Bonus, right outside Caracol there are natural pools to cool off in! There are also the Lamani Mayan Ruins (below) which is one of the largest Mayan sites, holding over 800 structures deep in the forest.
Photos courtesy of Mackintosh Travels
The Southern Barrier Reef
The Southern Barrier Reef is the reason why Belize has been on my short list for a long time. The reef is second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The reef is home to 70 hard and 36 soft coral species, over 500 species of fish, and hundreds of invertebrate species. If that's not enough, about 90% of the reef still needs to be researched - so we could find more species of animals! However, as most natural wonders in the world, the reef is threatened by humans and global warming.
Check out this short video from one of my favorite bloggers - The Blonde Abroad . She was able to scuba dive the Southern Barrier Reef, the Blue Hole, and the Half Moon Caye Wall
The Blue Hole
Technically, the Blue Hole is part of the Belize Barrier Reef, but it deserves it’s own number for this case. The hole is circular in shape and over 1,000 feet (318m) across and 400 feet (124m) deep. You can go scuba diving in the hole, but apparently you don’t get a good view of the entire hole and there isn’t much wildlife to see. There are some huge rock formations at around 130 feet - so you’d have to be advanced scuba certified to get that deep and you can’t go deeper than that. Sometimes you can see a shark and some fish, but it’s more about the caves. You also need over 24 dives to dive the Blue Hole. To really get a good look at the hole, your best bet is a helicopter tour, which can be a bit pricey.
I often feel as though Central America is the forgotten about part of the world. It's small and when remembered, people tend to think about the beautiful beaches. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for bumming at the beach with a drink in hand, but there is so much more to a country than just it's waterfront.
So do yourself a favor and research a place before you go- get off the beaten path a bit. If you've already done your research - what's the best place you've been expected to find?
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