So Close, Yet So Far Away
The country of Belize lies on the eastern coastline of Central America, below Mexico and next to Guatemala. It is a small, stable country covered with exotic rain forests and some of the longest white sand beaches in the world.
Just off Belize’s 280 kilometer Caribbean coastline is the second largest barrier reef in the world, along with a network of over 200 coral cays and atolls. Tropical Fish of every imaginable populate the placid aquamarine waters off the coast. Gentle Nurse Sharks average 4-6 feet in length and dive masters often feed them small fish. Rays, which have a “wing span” of 2-4 feet, swim directly towards the divers. Tourists will have great delight in the Manatee, Grouper, Snapper and all of the other marine life. Most of the creatures in this area have great tolerance for divers and seem to enjoy human interaction.
Visit the excavated remains of the ancient cities of Altun Ha and Lamanai, which attest to the wealth and sophistication of the Mayans’ glorious past. Near the Guatemalan border, the Cayo region encompasses nature sanctuaries, the majestic Hidden Valley Falls, the lively town of San Ignacio and many splendid Mayan ruins. Some Travelers have claimed to have experienced nirvana from the summit of the main pyramid of Xunantunich, which offers a sweeping vista of the Mopan Valley and Guatemala.
Like most of the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize was part of the Mayan Kingdom from 300 B.C. to 900 A.D. Close by in Belize’s Inland, ruins of the vast Mayan civilization protrude from the depths of the rain forests. Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the 16th Century but were lured away by the immense quantities of gold found in Mexico, making room for the British to move in. Though Belize gained its independence in 1981, English is still the official language and elements of the British culture are still intermingled with those of the Caribbean.
Getting to Belize is easier and faster than traveling to most any other major Caribbean destination. On the mainland, there is plenty to experience and explore in this eco tourism-friendly country – Mayan ruins, the Jaguar Preserve, countless birding expeditions, and world-class scuba diving and snorkeling. But with little effort – a 20-minute plane ride to Ambergris Caye and a 3-mile boat ride – you can bask in beauty and end-of-the-world-style luxury at Cayo Espanto resort.