Coral Reef and Sea Turtle

Bird-watching, the Blue Hole, and a Barrier Reef – Why You Had Better Belize It!

It didn’t take more than a day in Belize for me to notice the phrases ‘Unbelizeable!’ and ‘Seeing is Belizeing’ on car-stickers, fridge magnets and T-shirts in every little shop. However cheesy these phrases may seem, I found the sentiments to be quite true. This tiny English-speaking Central American nation is home to just 360,000 people and is bordered by the better-known Guatemala and the sprawling giant of Mexico, but is very different to its Spanish language neighbours. With a strong Caribbean influence, pristine coastline and seas that contain the colossal Blue Hole sinkhole as well as the second-largest barrier reef in the world after Australia, Belize is the perfect destination for those who feel like a fish out of water and are looking to dive right back in.

Bird-Watching on a Lagoon

Bird-Watching on a Lagoon Bird-Watching on a Lagoon

 

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is a wetland area two hours north of Belize City which is home to nearly 300 species of migratory and resident birds. If you like spotting our feathered-friends in their natural habitat then you are in for a treat at this sanctuary, with the Jabiru stork, the northern cardinal and the roseate spoonbill all possible to spot on this peaceful lagoon. Canoeing and boat trips are available from the Bird’s Eye View Lodge, and as well as bird-watching, the Crooked Tree village itself is interesting as it is thought to be the earliest European settlement in Belize.

Diving and Snorkelling

Diving and Snorkelling Diving and Snorkelling

 

Belize has a 386km stretch of coastline along the Caribbean Sea, so it is natural that you will spend plenty of time in the water on any visit to the country. The 407ft deep Blue Hole is a must for any diver with the impressive cave-like hole housing remarkable stalactites in clear waters, with bull sharks and hammerheads sometimes spotted swimming amongst the array of fish. If you are more of a snorkeler than a diver however, the Belize Barrier Reef is home to colourful corals, timid turtles and tropical fish, and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in particular is a great place to see these marine creatures amongst manatees and nurse sharks on a snorkelling trip.

Water Activities in Animal Sanctuaries

Water Activities in Animal Sanctuaries Water Activities in Animal Sanctuaries

 

Wildlife conservation is important in Belize, and the Community Baboon Sanctuary is home to the endangered Black Howler Monkey, of which over 2,000 reside in the reserve’s treetops. Although gentle creatures, their howls can be heard for miles on end, and if you think they sound dinosaur-like, that’s because their calls were recorded as dinosaur roars in the Jurassic Park movies! The reserve is based on the Belize Old River and you can meander down here on a canoe after spotting the monkeys. Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is another beautiful nature reserve in Belize which is the leading site for jaguar preservation in the world. Jaguars are nocturnal so you are unlikely to spot one, but you can always just get wet again and go tubing down the calm river!

Wading into the Mayan Underworld

Wading into the Mayan Underworld Wading into the Mayan Underworld

 

Belize is home to several ancient Mayan monuments but the Actun Tunichil Muknal or ATM cave is perhaps the most exciting. Discovered in 1989, the ATM was once a sacred site to the Mayan people who believed that gods resided in the impressive chambers. Human sacrifices were made here and several skeletons and human remains can be found in this vast cave. The most striking is the Crystal Maiden which is the skeleton of a young woman whose bones have calcified to take on a glittering, shiny appearance. The cave is full of water until you climb up to reach the higher chambers, so swimming and wading through the lower chambers is an exciting way to explore this recently-revealed world.

ATM cave ATM cave

 

Belize may not be the first or even second country that comes to mind when you think of Central America, but it has so much to offer visitors. From discovering Mayan ruins to diving at one of the most impressive sites in the world, there are countless things to see and do, and if the idea of dipping in refreshing waters such as serene rivers and the clear Caribbean sea, then Belize is your answer.

Alice spent two weeks on the Adventures in Belize trip, which includes a full day snorkelling at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve as well as a day exploring the ATM cave. Laid-back, full of natural beauty and almost undisturbed from tourists, Belize opened her eyes to a world full of stunning marine life and a friendly population of people waiting to welcome visitors to this beautiful country.

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