Hi family and friends! We are happy to see you again on our blog! First of all, we hope that you all had a great end of the year! We currently are in Guatemala enjoying the volcanic landscapes and the friendly people here, but let’s not be too fast because today we’ll inform you on something else. After our unforgettable time in Mexico we first went to Belize a tiny country positioned at the Caribbean mostly famous for its blue hole, a diving spot which became extra famous when our hero Jacques Cousteau went there somewhere in the 60s (or 70s).
Although we have only spent five days there, we have been very pleasantly surprised. For us there are two reasons for this: first the people. Belize is a truly mixed country with people from Mexico, Guatemala, Mayas, Mennonites (Descendents from the Dutch living traditionally which have settled in Belize in the 50s after roaming the earth for several hundreds of years) and many Creoles (not to forget there is also a considerable Chinese community). What is interesting to see is that all these cultures get along very well and that all share the same Belizean spirit. The people are incredible friendly and it was nice for us to see that they were happy. Although we had met a lot of friendly Mexicans, we observed that very few Mexicans are smiling. The second reason why we had such a great time here was because of the nature and all of the animals we have seen (both in the wild as in the Belize Zoo – do not be confused by its name, this place does not really resemble a traditional zoo). We have seen howler monkeys, nurse sharks, eagle rays, more big turtles, toucans, jaguar, a cougar, a puma and many many fish.
So after this long introduction I can imagine that you are curious for what we have done there. Well after crossing the border we first went to a city called Orange Walk from where people generally take a boat tour to visit the ruins of Lamanai. As this was costing 100USD, for both of us, we decided to go there by car, although everybody advised us not to do so as the road was in to bad of a condition. It turned out to be no problem for us at all, even if it was raining heavily. The ruins were spectacular, even if we have seen many before, as they were located in a jungle setting. We did hurry up a bit because the mosquitoes were very hungry and ate about 15% of our meat. At the end we returned to Orange Walk where we camped at one of the agencies that organize the boat tours to Lamanai. Our host also lived there and had nothing to do instead of listing to music very loudly, which was funny as he was very keen on reggae. As the end of the year was approaching it was therefore time for some Reggae Christmas music!
From here we went in the direction of Belize City, the former capital of Belize (because Belize City was often the victim of storms). But before arriving there we visit the Baboon Sanctuary, consisting of a cooperative which tries to reinstall the natural habitat of the howler monkey. Here we had the great opportunity to feed a totally wild howler monkey, which was rather cool but also a bit unethical –not sure if the monkey was totally wild. From here we could continue to Belize City (passing by the totally disappointing Altun-Ha ruins) where we installed ourselves in the local Radisson hotel. The city itself does not have so much to offer and most of the buildings are in a bad state, nonetheless, it had some charm to it. From here we could take a watertaxi to Caye Caulker, one of many islands Belize has. The place was very nice with only basic houses and dirt roads, but with enough tourism to ensure a good variety of hotels, bars and restaurants. There is not much to do as the inhabited part of the island is maybe 3 kilometers long and maximum 200 meters wide and therefore it is a perfect spot to relax. Here we took a super snorkeling tour along the Belizean barrier reef, the second largest reef in the world Caulker (in the tour we meet the first Catalan girl of our trip, Marta and her boyfriend john). Our guide, Shaun, takes us past several spots. The main attraction is the Shark Ray Alley. Here you can swim with dozens of nurse sharks and even more eagle rays. Apparently they are centralized there because fisherman used to clean their daily catch at that spot, attracting them. Another stop was the coral gardens where we could swim with ‘aquarium type’ fishes and some turtles. Another nice place we went was entirely filled with conches (please have a look for a picture on the internet). The ocean in general is filled with these shells and fisherman search them for the meat inside. As with the shark ray alley, the fisherman came to this exact spot to remove the meat from the conches, throwing the shell itself in the water. The result is quite spectacular, as the entire bottom of the ocean is covered by the shell, you do not even see anything else on the ground.
After having had a good time at Caye we had to go back with the watertaxi, the rest of Central America was waiting for us and our time in Belize was limited as it is a pretty expensive country. From the city we headed direction the Guatemalan border, passing by the Belizean Zoo. We are not really big fans of zoos in general but this one was rather spectacular. To start, you can only find local animals and although they are living in closed areas, these areas resemble their natural habitat a lot (but when we say closed area don’t think of your traditional zoo – here you could easily lose a hand to a jaguar if you are stupid enough). In addition, the majority of the animals here are rescued and the staff is super friendly and very willing to improve your experience in the zoo.
From the Zoo we went to San Ignacio, one of the last villages before Guatemala. Here we met Paul and Amanda, an American Couple on holiday in Belize. We share a good meal and some drinks with them, before going to sleep and leaving Belize. Our experience here has been very positive although it is an expensive country.
Soon we’ll inform you on our experience in Guatemala. Now we can already say that it is truly worth to come here – beautiful landscapes and very nice people who enjoy the simple things in life.
|The jungle ruins of Lamanai were well worth the dirt road|
|Belize only started the excavation of Maya ruins 40 years ago when they decided to focus more on tourism|
|One happy howler monkey|
|One very happy howler monkey|
|The good life in the Radisson in Belize City|
|Going to Caye Caulker we take the bikes in order to move easily|
|Although we had some rain during our stay in Belize, the weather did clear up from time to time to provide this beautiful shot from our hotel|
|Can it be more idyllic to have a beer?|
|Man sitting nearby the water|
|Many areas of the island do not have beaches and are filled with mangrove filled with crocodiles. For swimming people install docks so they can jump immediately in deep water.|
|Spider monkey at the Belize Zoo|
|A cougar (for those who have a camera, we use a 17 - 55 mm lens. You can therefore imagine how close we have been to the animal)|
|A Toucan family bird - pretty hard to spot in the nature|
|Mr Jaguar taking it easy...|
|.... 'I am so tired'|
|Beautiful fish spotted in the barrier reef|
|Please pay attention to the nurse shark and the large turtle - this is no photoshop|
|Whenever we are hungry Alex goes to fish - this was a particularly good day|
|This beautiful spot was filled with eagle rays|
|We even got the opportunity to hold them|
|Many fish together!|
|Look at all the shells together, a truly spectacular sight for us|
|And again we see a large turtle. This one was very funny as it was very used to people. It was always approaching us, and obviously we didn't want to be to close to it and tried to keep distance, but it was impossible!|
|Another eagle ray|
|The coral gardens were the perfect location to spot beautiful fishes|
|A sneak preview of Guatemala: the legendary site of Tikal|