With the second largest barrier reef system in the world (number one being the Australian Great Barrier Reef) stretching for 300 kilometres off its coastline, several ancient Mayan ruin sites and swathes of dense rainforest located inland, Belize has huge appeal to travellers looking for excitement and adventure. Add to this a country size that is comparable to Wales making it compact and easy to travel in and a friendly, English speaking population and Belize certainly becomes one of Central America’s most straightforward countries to visit – once you’ve mastered the lilting accent, that is. Having remained relatively underdeveloped, Belize has established itself as an ecotourism destination, with excellently preserved natural resources to entice its visitors. Perfect for honeymooners, active travellers and those looking for a great combination of reef and rainforest, Belize can be visited independently or combined with Guatemala for a superbly balanced trip including Antigua, Tikal and the Caribbean coast.
Diving the Cayes
Said to enjoy some of the most untouched, peaceful and protected lagoons in the world, Belize’s dive sites are world-class and can be accessed from the picturesque cayes (pronounced ‘keys’) that pepper the landscape. The waters here are clear and warm with a visibility of up to 130 feet, making them ideal for diving and snorkelling alike. For those brave scuba divers, the ‘Great Blue Hole’ is one of the most infamous dive sites in the world, a giant underwater sinkhole over 120 metres deep and home to Caribbean Reef Sharks, Black tips, nurse sharks and giant groupers, as well as the odd bull shark and hammerhead. This crystal clear haven for divers is one of many throughout Belize’s waters, abundant with aquatic life.
Back on the mainland, mangroves, rainforests and savannah create the perfect habitat for wildlife in areas such as Orange Walk District, home to howler monkeys and over 500 species of bird. The Mayan archaeological sites of Lamanai, Xunantunich and Caracol are also easily accessible and close enough to combine with Guatemala’s Tikal, and there are some excellent eco-lodges on offer as well as established hotels.
As the only Central American country to have English as its official language, Belize was known as British Honduras until 1981. Geographically, she is squeezed in on Mexico’s heel, with the Caribbean Sea on one side and Guatemala on the other. Belizeans are laid-back and friendly, their country is one of the earth's least populated at approximately 350,000 and their culture draws from a mixture of Creole, Spanish, British and Garifuna influences. The Garifuna people live in small fishing villages along the Caribbean coast in Belize and also in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras, blending their original African slave roots and their musical and religious traditions with the Caribbean and South American cultures that they found when they arrived here over 300 years ago.
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