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I’ve visited Belize many times — you could say I’ve become a bit of an addict. This former British colony bordered by Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south may be a small country, but it has a diverse geography that includes the second largest barrier reef, a tropical rainforest that’s home to hundreds of species, ancient Maya ruins, miles of white sand beaches and hundreds of islands. How could one not fall in love with the intoxicating beauty of this country?

Warning, a trip to Belize may leave you never wanting to come home.

Belize Palapas

Welcoming People

The first thing I noticed in Belize was that the country is so diverse in its ethnic and cultural backgrounds, which include Maya, Mestizo, Garifuna, Creole, Mennonite, East Indian, and Chinese. I was also immediately smitten by how friendly and welcoming everyone people in Belize are. Each person I met in from farmers to taxi drivers, from restaurant servers to business owners, stood out in their own special way.

Elwin Ariola, a Garifuna gentleman who owns Ariola & Son’s Tour Business is one example. We got into a conversation about life in Belize while he drove me from Hopkins to the Dangriga airport. Ariola spoke about two Canadian girls who were robbed while they slept. Without passports and money in Dangriga, Ariolo helped them secure new papers at the embassy and provided funds for them to get home. They remain good friends to this day. Clearly, Ariolo is the man to call if you need advice about traveling around Belize and will lend a hand if you get into trouble.

Max Canelo (L), Splash Dive Center and Elwin Ariola (R)
Max Canelo (L), Splash Dive Center and Elwin Ariola (R)

Sample The Water of Life

The Belize barrier reef is one of the most beautiful places to explore the majestic ocean. One could say the reef is the sea’s rainforest. Whether you’re snorkeling in Hol Chan or around one of the Cayes expect to see the most colourful fish: Goat Fish, Snappers, Spanish Grunts, Reef Squids, Golden-tail Eel and Southern Stingrays are just a few of the sea life you may view. In the deeper depths, it’s possible to come face to face with a Loggerhead Turtle, as I did.

Belize Loggerhead Turtles
Loggerhead Turtle, Photo courtesy of Belize Tourism

On a snorkeling excursion with Splash Dive Center to Silk Caye (two deserted islands on the protected Belize Barrier Reef) my instructor, Max Canelo gave tips on how to snorkel and pointed out just about everything we encountered in the ocean. I was relieved to have him nearby when massive Nurse Sharks and stingrays were just a little too close for comfort.

Belize - Silk Caye a Snorkeling Paradise
Marine life, Photo courtesy of Belize Tourism

If you’re into diving then the Blue Hole is your prime destination. You will most definitely encounter a few sharks at the lower depths. But rest assured, they will leave you alone if you don’t disturb them.

Explore the Jungle

The Belize experience is only half-complete without a visit or stay in the tropical rainforest. There is nothing more fascinating than taking a hike through the jungle and coming across the various wildlife.

Monkey River in southern Belize, Toledo district, is a coastal river that rises in the Maya Mountains and feeds into the Caribbean Sea at Monkey River Town.  On a tour, you will see plants, fauna, mangroves, and beautiful birds indigenous to the area.

Listening to the Howler Monkeys is your jungle wake up call. You never know what you will encounter as you walk through the jungle fauna. Keep your eyes open when you see the Cahone trees and you may witness bats on a tree taking naps or see panther paw prints in the mud.

Cruising down the Monkey River
Cruising down the river
Fisherman cleaning his catch on Monkey River, Belize
Fisherman cleaning his catch on Monkey River
Birds of Belize
Birds of Belize, Monkey River

Lucky travellers may spot an alligator sunning itself on a riverbank or colourful turtles sitting comatose on logs.

Cohone Tree
Monkey River Turtles

Fall in love with food

The ancient Mayans, some of Belize’s first known inhabitants, have been growing and harvesting cacao for centuries. I tasted my first roasted cacao bean at Belcampo, an organic farm, and lodge located just outside Punta Gorda. The farm grows papaya, cassava, avocados, plantains, and bananas, along with vanilla, cocoa, and coffee. As a coffee lover, I was delighted to see firsthand how it’s grown and harvested. I was in heaven when Kelly Sayle, the resident coffee expert, gave a lesson on how to roast coffee and bag it for consumption. The Lodge’s kitchen, headed up by Rene Everett, uses ingredients from the farm and develops the menu based on what is available that day.

I devoured the most delicious chilled watermelon soup with cilantro.

Chilled Gazpacho Soup
Coffee Beans, Belcampo Belize.
Coffee Beans, Belcampo Belize.
Roasting beans for the perfect cup of coffee
Roasting beans for the perfect cup of coffee

Food adventurers can visit local markets all over the country and observe what is grown locally. In Punta Gorda, Mayan farmers twice-weekly set up stalls to sell their produce.

Just Be and Go Barefoot

Belize is a place where you can just be. Do nothing other than listen to the gentle swells of the ocean, lie in a hammock, and allow your body to relax. If you want to be a slacker, then you’ve come to the perfect paradise. You can master the art of idleness and walk around barefoot. Your biggest contemplation maybe “what to have for dinner.”

The beach at Singing Sands Resort, Belize
The beach at Singing Sands Resort

For such a small country, Belize has diverse geography; from the second largest barrier reef to a tropical jungle that is home to hundreds of different species not to mention many ancient Mayan Ruins. How could one not fail to be seduced and fall in love with the beauty of this country?

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Belize 5 ways to get seduced by belize

For more information about Belize Travel visit Travel Belize and discover what there is to see and do.