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Published: April 19th 2015
Dangriga is the capital of the Southern Region of Belize. It is a laid back, working town on the coast and doesn't itself have much to do. During the week that I have been staying here, the town has grown on me and shown a lot more character than I have anticipated. It's population is a varied culture of people, from Mayans, To Garfuna, Creol and apparently the ChineSE who run the supermarkets!
With regards to elective, We have been working in the Southern Region hospital which is a lot more developed that I expected- it has paeds, Obs and gynae, surgery and internal medicine as well as a polyclinic (which is basically GP). The populations main obvious problem is diabetes, which can be easily explained by the sugary drinks and cheap fried food available everywhere. The hospital serves the secondary care of the whole southern region, despite it only having 52 beds, these beds are often not even filled. Everyone there has been friendly and welcoming but the programme isn't very well set up and there isn't that much to do. So, this week we have done a few hours and then headed to the nice part of Dangriga to the beach.
We have been staying in Jungle Huts Resort, (basically with a Belizean man and his family) the resort (as it is not very busy) he has very kindly allowed us to use all the facilities of the resort such as the kitchen and the fresh water and has been very welcoming. However, as it is very quiet we haven't met many other travellers.
Dangriga gets worse reviews than it deserves and has so much potential to develop into a nice town but has no drive behind it because of the near by tourist towns such as Placencia and Hopkins. We have all the amenities close by and we have been careful.
Dangriga provides a fantastic base for travelling of the Southern Region of Belize Due to its transport system (ie 2nd class buses "chicken buses") which are cheap and easy to get and travel across the region.
Yesterday we went to Cockscomb nature reserve (the Jaguar reserve) which used to be Mayan, however, the Mayam people got kicked out of the reserve in 1986 when the reserve was founded, some families are now located in the Maya centre which is at the bottom of the reserve. In the reserve is nature walks and waterfalls and tubing- it is so brilliant as you basically dont really see many other tourists all day and we had the whole trek and waterfall to ourselves. We did the Tiger Fern trail which was up a steep hill, down a steep hill and ending in a double waterfall which is absolutely beautiful and full of fresh cool water. we then had lunch and went tubing- where we ended up walking to the river, through the jungle in bare feet (which according to the vistor guide is "ok) personally I think we should haven and shoes. But, the tubing was chilled and the river was shallow and went really slowly allowing us to admire the beautiful forest. so even though this is a jaguar reserve, we didn't see any Jaguars, but we almost did.
Today we visited the Tobacco Caye with a guy named "Doggy" who runs the business. It was such a fantastic day where we went out this morning, went bird watching, snorkelling at the caye and in the sea and then tried to find some manatees. And despite this being a manatee protected area we didn't see any manatees, but we almost did. Tobacco caye is one of the Central Cayes of Belize and is absolute paradise, containing only beach, Palm trees and a few places to stay and eat, having stunning blue, clear waters, white sand and awesome snorkelling.
Food here, has been good, we have tried burritos, garnaches, salbutes, tamales, tacos (all basically tortilla based with chicken, retried beans, hot sauce and shredded cabbage) delish. we have then been buying stuff to make our own dinner and plan on tryin gibnut and Garfuna dishes this week.
Finally, last weekend we went to Placencia, which is a laid back, Caribbean styley beach based peninsula about 90mins from Dangriga. It is a lot more touristy than Dangriga but is colourful and friendly. We are going back tomorrow so I can let you know more about it then.
Also, in Dangriga itself is a Garfuna museum which is right next to the hospital- I went to visit it and found it fascinating learning about the Garfuna people and theor traditions.
So in reflection, this week I have met some really amazing Belizean people who are really passionate for their country and culture and it is quite obvious that this time in 5-10 years Belize is going to be a completely different place and many peoples livelihoods are going to completely change. For example, I spoke to a Mayan gentleman at the nature reserve and he was telling me that he did not spend a dollar on food until he was 15 and did not eat shop bought chiken until he was 20. He relied on huniting and community, whereas now this is just not viable. He now drives a taxi in the Mayan centre. "Doggy" runs a small business transporting people to Tobacco caye, he used to be a fisherman, but now there are so many areas which are now protected by the government, it's not viable to fish in many areas. I know its all change and people don't like change but sometimes you forget how people's livelihoods have to completely change and its out of their control.
So, one more week of Dangriga then we are starting our other travels in Belize. Wish me luck.
Dr Megan Mackenzie MBBS BSc (Hons)
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