A quick word or two to those who feel that visiting Florida is too humid and too hot:
Belize is the only "Latin American" country where English is the national language. Spanish and their form of Creole is also spoken; but English is the prime language. Some of the older generation, we were told, still speak Mayan - but rarely.
Belize does have its own currency. Two Belizean dollars = 1 US dollar. Our dollars are accepted everywhere with no issue. You will, however, get Belizean currency as change. In addition, "US" type electrical (i.e., 110 volts) is used throughout the country - no special converters is necessary.
There are food stands, souvenir "tables", etc. everywhere you look. Everybody HAS to work! But, no one in the least was pushy and everyone we met seemed happy. Awesome!
The food EVERYWHERE was delicious.
And, speaking of food, it seems the two main, local dishes are "rice and beans" and "beans and rice". Both are served with a salad and meat (chicken or pork or lamb). They are radically different meals even though the names would lead you to believe they are the same. We found this somewhat curious. HINT: choose the "rice and beans".
There is a rather large contingent of Mennonites in Belize. As in the US they make lots of furniture, prepared food, etc. Their products are well received and appreciated, it seems.
From Belize City it seems that all the spots one would like to see are 1 hour away. If they tell you it's a 30 minute drive, it's really an hour. If they tell you it's 1 1/2 hours away, it's an hour. This includes water taxi runs to the many cayes (pronounced "Key" as in Key Largo) just off the coast.
An hour's drive may seem a bit long just to drive to where you want to go. But, after traipsing about in the jungle so you can climb 5 to 11 story Mayan ruins in what feels like 100+ degree temperatures, an hour's ride in an air conditioned car is, indeed, welcomed.
On To The Actual Trip
We took a flight from Orlando connecting in Miami on our way to Belize City.
As prior experience has taught me, the airport in Miami is the most foreign-feeling and unfriendly airport in the world - and, almost no employee there has English as their first language. A miserable place - at best.
Cyndy had done her usual (excellent) amount of (excellent) research into places to stay and things to do.
We originally had decided on staying at the Radisson Hotel - but we didn't. And, were we glad we didn't! The Radisson was "rundown" looking and VERY noisy, as we found out.
Almost by happenstance Cyndy ran across a place to stay which had only been open for about 5 months - "The Harbour View Cottages" - also known as "A Boutique Hotel and Vacation Apartments". The cottages and the most wonderful restaurant are part of a business owned and operated by "Ms. Martha". An absolutely wonderful person and the hotel was just as wonderful. The members of the staff serving both the hotel and the restaurant (especially "Ms. Jasmine") were outstanding.
Associated with this hotel complex is a tour company, "TourBelize Ltd", located right on the hotel property. One of the very best "private tour" options we've run across - anywhere. It is run by "Mr. Franco". This guy was great - booking tours through him was a breeze
Each cottage has a kitchenette, A/C, porch with hammock, Internet connection equal to being at home, all the "American" TV shows (although shown 2 hours earlier than on the US East Coast), and is within easy/short distance from taking a "walking tour" of downtown Belize City.
As one might imagine there are lots of critters running about. We saw most of 'em. Below is a short video of one the birds at our hotel showing his/her displeasure at an iguana. The iguana wasn't doing anything to bother the bird, by the way. I called them "David & Goliath".
Our first excursion was to a Mayan site, Altun Ha.
Our guide for this trip was a "Mr. Harris". Tuned out that he was our guide for most of our "little adventures". One could not ask for a more pleasant and knowledgeable person.
Altun Ha was an occupied site from about 90 BC to around 1,000 AD.
We stopped at
Some outstanding "rice & beans" with chicken served here, for sure!
Upon leaving "The Road House" a small herd of cattle broke through whatever fence contained them and starting walking toward the restaurant.
I, of course, had to get a picture of this. As I approached the cattle, some of the herd kind of moved away, some just stopped to look. But, NOT the bull. He took a firm stance and faced me with the look of 'Clint Eastwood's' "Go ahead; make my day!". I believed him, by the way, and approached no farther.
Back in Belize City we decided to take a stroll around the city's business district. Hustle & bustle everywhere but not really all that much to see.
Here are a few of the pictures we captured.
Next, we head off to another Mayan site, Lamanai. This is a 2 hour trek. It's one hour driving and then another hour heading "Up River" - or South (the river runs South-to-North) to the site.
The site at Lamanai was occupied and in use from the 16th century BC up to the 17th century AD. It is much larger than Altun HA with buildings up to approximately 110 feet high. And, we climbed 'em all - just as we did at Altun Ha.
Here are some pictures, etc., from our visit to the site.
First, the ride up the river. It is like a snake with many twists & turns:
Next, the Lamanai Site - some pictures:
We decided upon Caye Caulter. It's close to Belize City, all things being equal, and it had lots of stuff to do - we thought.
And, here is where "what one knows is good, but who you know is often better".
You have to take a water taxi over to any of the cayes. Their is a fee, round trip, to Caye Caulter.
The night manager at our hotel saw us and inquired as to what we were going to do that day. We told her.
Her name is "Coleman" and she is awesome. She helped us get water taxi tickets - we didn't have to figure out how to actually purchase them.
And, off we went to Caye Caulker for the day.
We next contemplated seeing more Mayan archeological sites. One can spend weeks seeing all there is to see of the ancient Mayans in Belize.
But, we decided to do something different - We Went To The Zoo.
The animals are housed in spacious enclosures with copious and densely-grown native plants. It's almost like visitors are the ones in "cages" with the animals running free.
Our guide (again "Mr. Harris) was the best. As he led us though the zoo he knew exactly where to look to see any given animal. As the plant growth was so dense, it was not easy to find animals without help.
Here are some pictures and one short video of our visit:
If you look closely at the bottom part of the video you can see people's heads.
There is a fee to go into the cage and feed the Jaguar.
I found this tantamount to teasing this magnificent creature. But, "NO", said "Mr. Harris"; quite the contrary.
Most of the animals in the Belize Zoo are captured from the wild due to injury, etc. Once rehabilitated they are set free in the jungle.
This Jaguar was born at the zoo and was unable to be released into the wild. To him what you see in the video was a game - fun for the Jaguar. He had learned that by doing his "dance" on top of the cage would greatly increase his chance for some good ole raw meat. He actually would hang out near the cage waiting for people to enter.
That may be well & good, but the possibility of having Jaguar pee or poop rain on my head was enough to have me just watch.
And, so ends our visit to the zoo. We now head back to Belize City.
The two major reasons for visiting Belize were to experience Mayan ancient sites and to go "Cave Tubing".
So, for our final full day in Belize, that's what we did - ride down a river, through a cave, on an innertube.
We chose "Jaguar Paw" as THE place to go.
After the proverbial 1 hour drive we reached Jaguar Paw.
Once there one takes a leisurely 30 to 45 minute "stroll" through the hot & humid jungle to reach the actual place with the "tubing" begins.
I had seen pictures of people taking this walk carrying very large innertubes. (see example)
But, NOOOOOO. "Mr. Harris" had arranged that the innertubes would be waiting for us at the river's edge. Loved this guy, we did!
Upon our arrival at the site "Mr. Harris" introduced us to our guide for the actual tubing adventure, "Fernando".
He, as we walked the trail, explained about all the different plants, etc., we saw - which ones would heal you, which ones would kill you or be very painful if you touched them. They all looked alike to me!
He was great - (even if he did refer to Cyndy and me as 'Mama' & 'Papa'. - Do we really look that old?).
We chose the day we went as there were no cruise ships in port. When the cruise ships are in there are literally hundreds of people doing the cave tubing. Not my "cup of tea", as it were. On our little "adventure" there were only 6 of us. Very pleasant.
The cave is very dark; so pictures are nearly impossible. Here are a couple of pics showing scenes just before entering. As you can see the river is not in any way deep. Later inside the cave the depth of the water can get over your head; but, most often, no more than waist deep.
The total time inside the cave is about 1 hour.
I was able to get some video of the "tube ride" - not much, but a little.
But, the food was truly delicious. While we were there Belize's Prime Minister's Mother-In-Law stopped in for some lunch. No, I did NOT take a picture of her - that would have been rude.
Here's the inside - absolutely delightful:
The next morning we departed for home.
A super "mini vaca", for sure!
For those who might be questioning just how bad WAS the humidity - REALLY:
As we boarded the plane for home they, of course, turned on the A/C.
The below shows the condensation forming inside the plane.