Once you’ve traveled to several different countries, especially those within the same region, they start to blend together. For example, when I traveled throughout Southeast Asia, it seemed every country had the same temples and statues. This is why every country I go, I’ve tried to find 5 unique places or things that make that country stand out from the rest. This list is solely based on my experience and may not cover certain well-known traditions or tourist sites.
Language- While you will find plenty of people throughout Central America that speak English, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the OFFICIAL language. In fact, the further away from a border you go the less likely you are to encounter someone that speaks Spanish. In Belize, you can enjoy all the perks of being in Central America without the stress that comes with not being able to communicate with the locals if you don’t speak Spanish.
Blue Bird School Bus- Have you ever wondered where those yellow school buses after they retire? Well unlike your grandparents, they don’t go to Florida, they go to Belize where they are painted blue. While you can find variations of the yellow American school bus throughout the developing world, in Belize, they are the foundation of the country’s public transportation system. However, unlike your youth, you actually have to pay to ride these buses. On the bright side, a ride across the country will only run you a couple of USD. If you enjoyed riding the bus to school when you were younger, then you will have a great time traveling throughout Belize.
Actun Tunichil Muknal- Commonly referred to as the ATM Cave, it is located about 15 km outside of San Ignacio. Being a protected site and somewhat dangerous, the cave requires a guide for access. Many companies offer a full-day tour (with lunch included) for about $75 USD. As someone who doesn’t like to go on costly excursions, I thought the journey to the actual cave alone was worth the price of admission. Getting to the cave requires you to hike about 1.5 miles and swim across three rivers. Once you arrive, you will put your equipment on (headlamp, harness) and embark into the cave. Once inside the cave, you will find yourself in complete darkness and neck deep in rain water. After about 45 minutes, you end up on dry land where you can observe various archeological artifacts. Unfortunately, because a tourist dropped his camera on one of the skulls and chipped it, the government has banned cameras and cell-phones inside the cave. Although, I don’t think your iPhone would survive the journey as about 60% of it is underwater.
Iguana Sanctuary- The Green Iguana Conservation Project is located in the San Ignacio Resort Hotel in the center of San Ignacio. This is a must do for any traveler, regardless of their budget. For about $9 USD, you are able to take part in an hour-long tour of the Iguana Sanctuary behind the resort. Even walking back to the sanctuary, you can see iguanas as they roam their natural habitat. Once inside the sanctuary, you will encounter Iguanas of all sizes and colors. They are domesticated and don’t bite. In fact, they are so comfortable with you, that they may want to have sex with each other on your favorite shirt.
Blue Hole- Located about 70 km off of the coast of Belize is a giant submarine sinkhole known as the Great Blue Hole. Not only does it present a marvelous view from the sky, many scuba divers from around the world come to Belize specifically to dive it. As a certified recreational scuba diver, myself, I did not dive it, as 2 two-tank dives would cost around $300 USD. The visibility is also limited in the water so you should be an experienced diver if you plan on giving it a go.
After spending nearly a month in Belize, I take the opportunity to reflect on how blessed I am to be able to go on such adventures.
Wanting to end my trip with a bang, me and 5 other travelers set out to find a local waterfall. After hitch-hiking 7 miles to get to the park, we hiked another 2 through dense jungle before arriving at our destination. We were rewarded by having this beautiful waterfall all to ourselves.
While in Hopkins Village, I took Garifuna drumming lessons. I went ahead and transposed some of my knowledge to some local boys who turned out to be quick learners.
Hopkins Village is a small beach town about 30 km south of the Dangriga. Besides beautiful beaches and laid back atmosphere, it is home to the countries Garifuna population, a indigenous mix of West African, Central African, and Arawak peoples.