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Published: June 22nd 2016
Our 10th and last country on our journey: Belize. Another surprise. Before this trip, only beautiful beaches came to mind when thinking about Belize, but it has so much more to offer. Basically it has most of the Central American attractions combined in one - beaches, Mayan and other archeological sights, jungle, authentic villages, coffee plantations, and adventure tourism (zip lining, tubing, caving, horseback riding, etc) to name a few. The one thing missing is a volcano.
We decided to first spend a few days inland, in the Belize jungle, and then another few days on the beach. The first place we stayed at, was an amazing place near San Ignacio, Ka'ana Resort (we decided we could spoil ourselves somewhat the last week). We relaxed beside the pool, went horse back riding to Mayan ruin Xunantunich, and we visited the village.
The trip to the ruins was great. The guy who took us out on the horses was the owner of the stables. He was a soil chemist, lived, worked and travelled in several Latin American countries, and used to work for the UN before he inherited a piece of land from his family (some 120 hectares) and relocated
back to Belize. He was quite an interesting guy and on the way over to the ruins, which was a stunning ride, we discussed world politics in general and specifically those of Central America. Our guide at the ruins was great too and he did a much better job at explaining Mayan culture to us than the guide we had at Tikal, so this time we actually understood some of the complex mathematical, calendar and astronomical civilization. He also explained how to survive in the jungle and even had us taste termites! All in all, an amazing experience.
In San Ignacio, which has a Caribbean feel to it, we visited the Saturday farmers' market. The market is a multicultural blend of colours, sounds, flavours and foodstuffs. Most farmers from the Cayo district come to San Ignacio on Saturday to buy, sell, trade, gossip and generally catch up, speaking a mix of Maya, Creole, English, Spanish, and German, spoken by Mennonites.
We also went to see a Green Iguana Conservation Project. Apparently, green iguanas are almost extinct, because they are viewed as a delicacy by local people, who especially like to eat the eggs, as they think they are
an aphrodisiac. The program collects and hatches iguana eggs, raising the reptiles until they are past their most vulnerable age, after which the iguanas are then released into the wild. During the tour, we got to see, feed and cuddle with the reptiles. Michiel was much better at the latter than I was :-) What a great initiative!
After San Ignacio, we went to stay at Caye (pronounced 'key') Ambergris, also known as La Isla Bonita. Madonna even made a song about it: Last night I dreamt of San Pedro... tropical the island breeze, all of nature wild and free... this is where I long to be... La Isla Bonita. Can't disagree with her.
One day we went sailing, with two snorkel stops and lunch on Caye Caulker. The snorkeling was out of this world. The Belize barrier reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world. OMG! What an experience that was! We swam with sharks and sting rays. We saw sea turtles, more sting rays, barracudas, hundreds of small fishies in neon colours, and beautiful corals. Amazing! The remainder of the day, we basically spent drinking rum punch and listening to reggae music on the
deck. For lunch we had frozen mango mojitos and lemon margaritas, and street BBQ. You can imagine that the day ended quite early for us :-)
Caye Ambergris and Caye Caulker are quite different, both with their own distinct vibe. The one thing in common is the barrier reef, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. Unfortunately, in 2009, it was placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger. Since then, several measures have been put in place to better protect the reef. Let's hope these will help in conserving this stunning underwater paradise.
Belize was the final country of our Latin American journey. What an amazing adventure it has been! Was it long enough? Yes. Would we want to do it again? Absolutely! Can we recommend it to others? For sure! For now though, we're looking forward to going back home to family and friends and a great summer in Amsterdam! Before we get there though, we'll spend a few last days in Miami with our dear friends from Boston, who didn't mind spending a weekend at a nice, warm place...
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