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Belize Trip

My wife, Joan, and daughter, Stephany, accompanied me throughout the country. Although Belize is a relatively small country, in the 13 days we spent their, we saw only a small portion of the country. I will have to return to Belize to see the southern part of the country. I would also like to thank all the tour operators, resorts owners and transportation companies for their hospitality and patience with all our questions.

Belize is a Central America country of approximately 311,000 people with the land mass of 22,963 square km (half the size of Nova Scotia). English is the main language, power is North America standard (110V/60 Hz) and the Belize Dollar is fixed to the US Dollar at $2 BZ = $1 US.

Day 1 - Our journey began in Montreal.

At this time of year, the best flight was out of Montreal. Although it leaves at 6:00 AM, it allowed us to arrive in Belize just before noon. There was a connection in Miami, that allowed for a two hour stop over and breakfast at the airport. Although you should always be at the airport 2-3 hrs before departure for an international flight, US customs does not open until 4:30 AM, so you can sleep in a bit. We stayed at the Sheraton Montreal Airport; we have a special rate with them that allows us to leave our car there for the duration of our trip. From American Airlines, on our particular departure date, there were 2 flights from Montreal to Miami and 2 flights from Miami to Belize. Our total flying time was 5 hours. The Belize International Airport is small and you are required to use stairs to exit the plane. Immigration & Customs in Belize was quick and simple. We opted to head directly from the airport to our hotel in Belize City – Ramada Princess Belize City. In order to move things along we had a private transfer waiting for us.

The Ramada is Belize’s largest hotel having about 170 rooms, 2 restaurants, bar, night club, movie theater, pool, salon, exercise room and casino. The hotel is on the water front close to downtown. We did not walk around the area much as we had a tour scheduled later in the week.

Day 2 - Our grand adventure begins.

We opted to start our visit to Belize in the jungle (sub-tropical rain forest). We had a private transfer to the Cayo region. Our guide pointed out many interesting things on the journey. We had a little stop in Belmopan, the capital of Belize. The drive from Belize to our next hotel takes about 2 hours. We stayed at the Mariposa Jungle Lodge. This place swept us off our feet. It is about 7 miles off the main highway in the dense jungle. The lodge has a number of villas for differing sleeping accommodations (2 to 6 persons per villa with one, two or three rooms). Meals are served in a common lodge that houses a dining room, bar, reading room and relaxation room. The resort has a wonder full pool area with an outdoor bar. They also have some jungle trails and a 30 foot lookout tower for bird watching or star gazing. The staff members are very warm and welcoming and tend to your every need. One of the recent upgrades is air conditioning – you can opt to have A/C in your villa or depend on nature to provide the cooling. The Mariposa Jungle Lodge is also a fully licensed tour operator and all our tours over the next few days will be guided by the lodge staff.

Our day was not quite over, while Joan relaxed at the pool at the lodge, Stephany and I took a short trip and toured Bols Cave. After a brief hilly jungle hike, we were guided by a member of the Bols family through a 1 metre diameter opening in the jungle floor into a cave that over 1000 Maya artifacts were discovered.

Day 3 - Maya ruins of Caracol.

The ruins are 37 miles south east of the lodge. We passed from jungle to a pine forest back to the jungle. The flora and fauna along the route was spectacular and our guide pointed out interesting trees, plants, animals and insects! On our way to Caracol we stopped at Rio Frio Cave for a fantastic view of this very easy access cave (with a wonderful fresh water beach).

Caracol was discovered in 1938. At its peak in 700AD the site had numerous pyramids, 5 plazas, 2 ball courts, and an astronomic observatory. The site is currently under excavation and restoration. Caracol is the largest know Maya centre in Belize. The largest pyramid in Caracol is “Canaa” (Sky Place) which stands 143 feet high thus making it the tallest man-made structure in Belize.

After our tour of the Maya ruins and lunch, we started our journey back to the lodge, stopping at Rio On Pools for a swim. This unique site, on the Rio On River, has a number of pools carved out the rock. A great stop to cool off in.

Day 4 - Less adventure and more culture.

We started off at the Green Hills Butterfly Farm. This unique farm raises butterflies. In the farm’s enclosure, we saw 11 local species of butterflies – so plentiful that there are sometimes multiply butterflies on us and more flying around! We were also educated in the life cycle of the butterfly – from egg to caterpillar to pupa to butterfly. The farm was also home to a number of wild humming bird species. Sit back and watch the humming birds zip around you.

We then proceeded to get an education in ancient Maya traditions at a women’s co-op in San Antonio. We had a hands-on lesson in making their staple food – corn tortilla. We then moved on to pottery making. The clay used for potty making is locally dug, dried and then mixed for potter making. We all got a chance to show our hands at making potter. We were then severed a wonderful homemade lunch. We also had the chance to purchase their potter products and their handmade embroidered cloths and household items.

Our final stop for the day was Barton Cave. This unique cave is explored by canoe. Unfortunately, it had rained the previous day and night and the river was too high for us to enter the cave.

Day 5 Grand adventure – Zip Lining and Culture.

We ventured about 5 miles down the road to Calico Jack's Village. Stephany and I did the Ultimo Explorer. This 2 hour tour is for zip line enthusiasts, over 2,700 feet of zip line comprised of 9 runs and 15 platforms that take you over and through the jungle. Calico Jack’s Village is a small resort with high adventure activities.

We then ventured into the second largest town in Belize – San Ignacio. It is a busy town with a wonderful farmers market, shopping district and restaurants. There is a lot to see in the area. We visited the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, not to stay or play at the casino, but to visit the Iguana Project. The Green Iguana Conservation Project is a continuous effort that aims to conserve and look after the endangered Green Iguana species in Belize. The Project uses interactive exhibits and programs to help educate visitors and create awareness among the general public. Here, visitors are given the opportunity mingle with these wonderful reptiles and also, learn the about the incubation, hatching, rearing, and releasing process.

Day 6 - From the deep jungle to coast.

On our transfer we visited Mystic River Resort. Mystic River Resort is beautifully set beside a river. This resort boasts 11 villas, a dining hall, bar, and a significant number of hiking and horseback trails. An oasis in the jungle! We made a few stops at craft/art shops before heading to the Belize Zoo. The Belize Zoo was founded in 1983 and is fondly know as the best little zoo in the world. It is home to over 125 animals of 48 species. The zoo was built in the natural environment of Belize and the animals, with dense natural vegetation. We were able to get up close to jaguars, tapirs, monkeys, crocodiles, toucans, and Stephany’s favourite, the Ocelot.

After lunch at the zoo, we continued on to our next accommodations – the Black Orchid Resort. The Black Orchid Resort is a modern, moderately priced resort with either garden view or river view rooms. The resort has a pool, bar, restaurant, screened in porch and is also a tour operator.

Day 7 - Baboon Sanctuary and city tour.

The sanctuary was founded in 1985 to protect a small population of the endangered black howler monkeys inhabiting the area. Approximately 20 square miles of dense jungle, pasture and farmland makes up the sanctuary. The baboons are the loudest and largest animals in Latin America growing up to 4 feet tall. The monkeys usually live in a group of 4 to 12 individuals with a male baboon dominating the group. Male Howler Monkeys use their loud voice to defend their turf. They are strictly vegetarian eating with their diet containing a wide variety of leaves, fruits and flowers.

After the sanctuary we took a tour of Belize City. Unfortunately for us, it was Sunday and the museums and some other attractions where not open. However, we did stop at an Anglican church that was built over 200 years ago from the ballast of a ship. It is very unique as St. John’s just happens to be the only Anglican cathedral outside of England where real kings were crowned. The kings in question headed the Mosquito or Miskito Indian tribe found along The Mosquito Coast, which today consists of parts of Honduras and Nicaragua. Between 1815 and 1845, four Miskito kings were crowned in St. John’s, each receiving full ceremonial pomp and circumstance on a level one might have expected back in London at the time.

Day 8 - A new adventure – a journey to Ambergris Caye and the town of San Pedro.

Although you can take a quick flight from either the international or municipal airport, we elected to go by water taxi. The flight is quite short and the taxi ride about 1.5 hours (with a stop at Caye Caulker). Upon arrival at the pier in San Pedro our hotel transfer was waiting for us. Now, having not been to San Pedro or doing much research, I was surprised to see our transfer was in a golf cart. The caye is so small that most common mode of transportation is a golf cart. There are some vans and trucks, but the vans are generally taxis and the trucks belong to warehouse companies. You can rent a golf cart (hourly, daily or weekly) but we opted to either walk or use a taxi ($5 US got you to where you needed to go!).

We checked in to Ramons Village Resort – jungle setting on the beach. Ramons Village Resort has 59 villas of different size, configuration and location (beach, pool or jungle). The resort also had a restaurant, bar, pool, dive centre, gift shop and beach.

After check-in we visited two other properties by boat. The first location was Las Terrazas. This amazing resort is made up of luxury condominiums. The one, two or three bedroom units come with full kitchen, dining room, living room, laundry and start at an amazing 1600 square feet. This is an excellent place for a family, reunion or a multi-generational family (mom, dad, kids and grandparents travelling together). Although we arrived by boat it is only about 3 miles from town.

The second resort we visited was El Secreto – a 15 minute boat ride from Las Terrazas, no road. This is a great resort for a honeymoon, anniversary or special occasion. They have a number of luxury villas designed for two! Beach, pool, bar and restaurant are available on site. It is truly a place to relax and get away from it all (cable and A/C is available!).

After all the travelling we returned to our villa at Ramons, ready to relax and enjoy some down time. I figured I would relax in the A/C of our room and watch the news. However, no TV, thus pool time!

Day 9 – Sea day for Stephany.

The Ramons’ dive shop took Stephany on a 2.5 hour snorkeling adventure. They snorkelled at two sites: Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. Stephany saw sharks, sting rays, turtles, eels and other marine life.

After lunch we journeyed to another resort – Victoria House. Victoria House is small and exclusive and has retained the casual ambiance and outstanding staff that makes it a true Belizean experience. The resort has a number of villas with its largest being a 5 bedroom house! A wonderful resort with an English charm. The resort has numerous pools, dining hall, bar, and Fantasea Dive Shop.

Day 10 - New resort.

We moved from Ramons to the Blue Tang Inn. The Blue Tang Inn has 14 suites with a full kitchen. This 3-story resort has beautiful views from the 3rd floor balconies or the 4th floor sun deck. This small and charming resort is right on the beach with Di ‘Vu restaurant out on the dock in front of the resort. The resort is located within an easy walk to a number of shops, restaurants and stores. The staff members at the Blue Tang Inn are incredible. One of the staff climbed a coconut tree and opened a fresh coconut for us!

This evening we decided to take a sunset cruise on the Blue Tang’s sail boat. This 3 hour cruise was very unique and special. Stephany and I even got to pilot the sailboat! We were fortunate to see the sun set and the full moon rising – both exceptional views.

Day 11 - Time to relax.

Just strolling up and down the beach and streets looking at shops.

Day 12 - Return to Belize City via the water taxi.

It seemed like a quicker journey returning to Belize City, but maybe it was the fact we knew what to expect. Although we passed some interesting sites along the way, it is not recommended you stand up as the boat bounces around a bit.

We returned to the Ramada, our starting point for our last evening in Belize.

Day 13 – Home.

Morning came and we took an afternoon flight from Belize to Montreal via Miami. The airport was a lot busier than our arrival. There were 4 planes at the gates when we arrived and another two landed before we took off. We arrived in Montreal around 11:40 PM and by 12:20 AM we were in our car heading for home.

What a grand adventure!

Some information on the Catholic faith in Belize. Belize has about 130,000 Catholics in the country. There are many churches throughout the lands. Catholic schools are associated with each church. As I understand the government only pays the teachers’ salaries and the church provides the rest. We were close to two churches when we stayed at the Mariposa Jungle Lodge – one in San Antonio and one in El Progresso. There was also a church, Sacred Heart Church, about 5 minutes from The Black Orchid Resort. These churches only had mass on Sundays. The Catholic Church in San Pedro was just a short walk down the beach from the Blue Tang Inn and a slightly further walk from Ramon’s Jungle Lodge. The church has English mass every morning at 7:00 AM, has an Adoration Chapel open from 7:30 AM to 7:00 PM and multiple masses on Sunday.