Crank Yanking

If you're driving or riding through the back bush of Corozal District from Corozal Town to Sarteneja, you'll wind up fording two rivers in a distinctly Belizean way - via hand-cranked ferries that run along thick cables strung from riverbank to riverbank. This throwback to the early days of industrialization owes its existence to the low traffic density plying the roads. With too few vehicles to make building a bridge feasible, the low-tech (and low impact) human-powered cable ferry was seen as...

Volunteering

There are a lot of opportunities for volunteer work in Belize, especially on environmental projects. In some cases, you may have to pay to participate (costs vary). Asociaci n de Rescate y Conservaci n de Vida Silvestre (p277) Located in El Pet n, Guatemala, ARCAS hosts volunteers to workwlth rescued and orphaned animals. Belize Audubon Society (www.belizeaudubon.org) Volunteers assist in the main office or in education and field programs. Volunteer birders are always required for the Christmas...

The War Of The Castes Comes To Orange Walk

Orange Walk Town was born as a logging camp in the 18th century, from where mahogany was floated down the New River to Corozal Bay. It began to develop as a town around 1850, when Mexican refugees from the War of the Castes arrived. These migrants, whose agricultural experience was welcomed by the British colonial authorities, started northern Belize's first sugar boom (which lasted from the 1850s to the 1870s). The complex War of the Castes itself reached Orange Walk in 1872, when a force of...

Getting To Guatemala

The Belize-Guatemala border is 1 mile beyond Benque Viejo del Carmen. If you are crossing the border on foot, it is advisable to do so in the morning, as onward transportation dwindles with the approach of nightfall. If you are traveling on a through bus en route to Flores, you will have to unload your luggage and carry it across the border, stop at passport control desks for both countries, then reboard your bus on the other side. Travelers leaving Belize must pay a departure tax of BZ 30,...

Top Picks Albums

Wattina (Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective) The last masterpiece by the late great one. Cult Cargo Belize City Boil Up (Various artists) Check out the funky blend of reggae and jazz that was coming out of Belize in the 1960s. Bumari (Lugua Centeno) Raw passionate vocals accompanied by traditional Garifuna drumming. Garifuna Soul (Aurelio Martinez) The quintessential paranda piece. Listen to a great sampling of Belizean music at the website of Stonetree Records (www...

Travelers With Disabilities

Belize lacks accessibility regulations and many buildings are on stilts or have uneven wooden steps. You won't see many ramps for wheelchair access. More difficulties for wheelchair users come from the lack of footpaths, as well as plentiful rough and sandy ground. With assistance, bus travel is feasible, but small planes and water taxis might be a problem. Visitors with limited mobility do come to Belize. Accommodations suitable for wheelchair users include the Radisson Fort George Hotel...

Belize Central Prison

Only in a country as laid-back as Belize could a fully functioning prison (Mile 2 Burrell Boom Rd, Hattieville) also be considered a tourist attraction. It's the only prison in Belize (the name 'Hattieville' is to Belizeans what 'San Quentin' is to Americans) and, as such, houses criminals of all stripes, from pickpockets to murderers. But don't come looking for some sort of American-style corporate-owned Supermax with imposing concrete walls topped with electrified razor ribbon and manned...

Maya Medicine

The Maya have not only long depended on the forest for food and shelter, but also for hygiene and healing. These days in Belize, tour guides are quick to recommend an herbal remedy for everything from stomach ills to sexual failures. But there are only a few remaining healers who are skilled and knowledgeable in the science of Maya medicine. If you are curious about this holistic and natural approach to medicine, consult a professional (eg at the Chaa Creek Rainforest Medicine Trail, p207, or...

Belize Archives

The Belize Archives Department ( 822-2247 www .bellzearchives.gov.bz 26-28 Unity Blvd S 8am-4 30pm Mon-Fri) has rotating displays on hurricanes, the Garifuna, Belmopan, Baron Bliss and other subjects. The extensive collections of photographs, newspapers, books, maps, documents and sound and video archives are also open to the public. El-Rey Inn ( 822-3438 www.belmopanhotels.com 23 Moho St r BZ 54 ) An affordable option for budget travelers is just outside the ring road, northeast of the green....

Caracol

Once one of the most powerful cities in the entire Maya world, Caracol (admission BZ 15 S 8am-4pm) now lies enshrouded by thick jungle near the Guatemalan border, a 52-mile, two-hour drive from San Ignacio. Sitting high on the Vaca Plateau, 1650ft above sea level, this is the largest Maya site in Belize, having stretched over possibly 70 sq miles at its peak around AD 650. Nearly 40 miles of internal causeways radiate from the center to large outlying plazas and residential areas, and connect...

BUDGET

Val's Backpacker Hostel ( 502-3324 cnr Mahogany Rd & Sharp St dm d BZS19 60 (D) Quite a find for the budget traveler, Val's is located right on the beach, across from Alejo Beni Park. Val's dorm rooms are fan cooled with a large porch facing the park and ocean, and have bunk beds and separate bathrooms with hot showers. The double room is more like a studio apartment, with its own separate bathroom (with hot shower), two twin beds, comfortable couches and easy chairs, a full dining room set,...

Bo Echoes

Gales Point Manatee is believed to have been founded over 200 years ago by runaway slaves from Belize City, of Nigerian Ibo (or Ebo) origin, and is probably the only place in Belize where the Ibo sambai dance rhythm - traditionally beaten out with drums under the full moon - survives. Creole rhythms such as the sambai are quite distinct from the Garifuna rhythms you hear in Dangriga or Hopkins. drum-makers, Emmeth Young. Young runs the Maroon Creole Drum School ( 603-6051, www...

Mayflower Bocawina National Park

This beautiful 11-sq-mile park of jungle, mountains, waterfalls, walking trails, swimming holes and small Maya sites lies about 16 miles southwest of Dangriga and 12 miles northwest of Hopkins. The walks are at least as good as the trails most people do at Cockscomb Basin (p235), and you'll encounter far fewer tourists. You'll see lots of birds, and the park is home to two troops of black howler monkeys. A 4-mile unpaved access road, leaving the Southern Hwy 2 miles north of Silk Grass village,...

Biking

The North Island is a wonderful place for a cycle. With the breeze off the ocean and the palms shading your path, you can ride all the way up to Matachica Beach Resort and beyond. Just follow the sandy path that runs along the beach from Reef Village. You have a few places to stop for a fruit smoothie or an ice-cold Belikin beer along the way. Rent bikes at the following places Calvio's Bike Rental (Map p127 661-7143 www .belizeextremeadventure.com Pescador Dr) Joe's Bicycle Rentals (Map p127...

Mountain Pine Ridge Area

South of San Ignacio and the Western Hwy, the land begins to climb toward the heights of the Maya Mountains, whose arching ridge forms the border separating Cayo District from Stann Creek District to the east and Toledo District to the south. In the heart of this highland area, 200 sq miles of submontane (ie on the foothills or lower slopes of mountains) pine forest is protected as the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Unlike the tropical broadleaf forests so prevalent in Belize, whose...

Bileez Kriol

While English is the official language of Belize, when speaking among themselves most locals use Creole, or Kriol. According to one local journalist, Kriol is 'di stiki stiki paat,' or 'the glue that holds Belize together.' While this patois sounds like English, most Anglophones will have a hard time understanding it. It is a language that 'teases but just escapes the comprehension of a native English speaker as one frustrated American traveler so aptly stated. Kriol derives mainly from...

Thatch Caye

This privately owned tiny island 8 miles off the coast of Dangriga is home to the newly developed HIU.INH Thatch Caye Resort ( 603-2414 www .thatchcaye.com all-inclusive 3-day 4-night packages per person from BZS1650, camping per person BZS30). The collective brainchild of Travis Holub, Steven Hewitt and Nancy Engel, Thatch Caye may well be one of the loveliest island resorts in Belize. What impressed us most about Thatch Caye is the way in which environmental sus-tainability has been built...

Between Belmopan San Ignacio

The 22 miles of the Western Hwy between San Ignacio and the Belmopan turnoff wind through verdant, well-shaded countryside, with a number of villages strung along the road. The road to Actun Tunichil Muknal (opposite) heads off south at Teakettle Village, midway between the two larger cities. About 6 miles from San Ignacio, at Georgeville, Chiquibul Rd (pl93) turns south off the highway heading to Barton Creek and the Mountain Pine Ridge. It joins with Cristo Rey Rd (pi94), which circles back...

Superlatives

See the biggest and best selection of wildlife - visit the Belize Zoo (pi 13) Watch the fieriest sunset - sit on the back dock on Caye Caulker (p141) Dive the deepest (and darkest) wall - take on the Blue Hole (pi 57) Explore the deepest (and darkest) cave - descend into Actun Tunichil Muknal (p191) in Cayo District Admire the wildest sculpture and art - don't miss Poustinia Land Art Park (p209) near Benque Viejo del Carmen Sleep in the sweetest camping spot - pitch your tent at Backpacker's...

Laughing Bird Caye Faro Reef System

Laughing Bird Caye appears to be all that is left of another submerged atoll, its approximately 2.5 acres of land seemingly diminishing with passing storms and wave action. The caye got its name from the many laughing gulls that once nested here, but most of their nesting areas have since been swallowed Dedicated to diving in Belize, www.scubadiving beiize.com is very useful for detailed information about specific areas and dive sites. by the rising sea. Pelicans and osprey still use the island...

The Ancient Maya World

The ancient Maya patterned their lives according to precedents set by their first ancestors. Nearly all aspects of Maya faith begin with their view of the creation, when the gods and divine forebears established the world at the beginning of time. From their hieroglyphic texts (see p53) and art carved on stone monuments and buildings, or painted on pottery, we can now piece together much of the Maya view of the creation. We can even read the precise date when the creation took place. In AD 775,...

In Belize

AVAILABILITY & COST OF HEALTH CARE Most doctors and hospitals in Belize expect payment in cash, regardless of whether you have medical insurance. If you develop a life-threatening medical problem, you'll probably want to be evacuated to a country with state-of-the-art medical care. Since this may cost tens of thousands of dollars, be sure you have insurance to cover this before you depart. Many pharmacies in Belize are well supplied, but important medications may not be consistently...

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Thirty-two miles up the Northern Hwy from Belize City lies the turnoff to the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary (CTWS Map p90 admission BZ 8). Quite possibly one of the best birding areas in Belize (perhaps even all of Central America), the sanctuary isn't merely a park for nature enthusiasts, but a living community of about 900 folks, mostiy of Creole descent, who were farming and fishing the area long before the word 'ecotourism' was ever coined. It is well worth a visit for anyone who loves...

Belize From The Seat Of A Kayak

If you want to see Belize with a paddle in your hands, a number of Belize- and North America-based firms offer recommended kayaking holidays Belize Kayak Rentals ( in USA 800-667-1630 www.belizekayaking.com s d per day BZS66 110, per week BZS420 700) If you prefer to go it alone on your kayaking expedition, this branch of Island Expeditions (following) rents out kayaks from its base camp in Dangriga. Also offers weekly packages, which include a boat charter out to the cayes. GAP Adventures ( in...

The Mennonites

It almost seems like an aberration, an odd sight inspired by the hot sun, or maybe just a blurry result of too much sweat dripping in your eyes. But the vision of women in bonnets and wintry frocks, and blond men with blue eyes, denim overalls and straw cowboy hats is not something your imagination has conjured up you're looking at Belizean Mennonites. The Mennonites originate from an enigmatic Anabaptist group that dates back to 16th-century Netherlands. Like the Amish of Pennsylvania, the...

Drinks

Delicious and refreshing fruit juices - lime, orange, watermelon, grapefruit, papaya and mango - are available throughout Belize. 'Seaweed shakes' sold by street vendors - a blend of condensed milk, a few spices and extract of Eucheuma isoforme, which grows underwater as a tangle of yellow branches - are claimed to have aphrodisiac and many other restorative properties. In recent years, Belize has started catering to coffee drinkers with its own homegrown beans. Although Belize lacks the high...

Drummedout Dangriga

In bygone days Dangriga was known for spontaneous explosions of Garifuna drumming, not merely around festivals such as Garifuna Settlement Day or Dia de los Reyes p222 , but also ad hoc gatherings in parks, on the beach or on the street. This seems to be happening less and less outside of festival times, according to local drum-making legend Austin Rodriguez opposite . 'Dangriga got kind of drummed out a few years back. Nowadays the kids seem lazier.' This might be the case, or it might be that...

Travel Literature

Belizean character Emory King wrote Hey Dad, This is Belize and I Spent it All in Belize. They are not exactly travel books, but more collections of amusing and insightful articles on the many quirks of a country that King has been chronicling since he bumped into it after being shipwrecked one night in 1953. Bruce Barcott is a contributing editor for Outside magazine and an author. His latest book, The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw One Woman's Fight to Save the World's Most Beautiful Bird,...

Tours

Hopkins is handily placed for day trips to some of southern Belize's top natural attractions. Cockscomb Basin p235 is the most popular inland trip tours usually include early morning walks to see birds and nature, followed by a waterfall hike and a river-tube float. Other good trips are to Mayflower Bocawina National Park p229 and Gales Point Manatee pi 15 . All these cost around BZS80 to BZS120 per person, usually with a three- or four-person minimum. Two excellent local guides for boating...

Water Sports

Like Dangriga and Placencia, Hopkins is a fine place from which to access some of Belize's best dive sites. The barrier reef is less than a 40-minute boat ride away, and Glover's Reef is about 1 hours away. Diving can be arranged at Hamanasi Dive amp Adventure Resort p234 . Hamanasi and Hopkins Inn p232 offer reef snorkeling trips, as does Noel's Fishing amp Snorkeling 523-7219, 609-1991 , outside the Watering Hole Restaurant. Noel charges two people BZS250 for a day's outing. He also rents...

How The Maya Calendar Worked

The ancient Maya used three calendars. The first was a period of 260 days, known as the Tzolkin, likely based on the nine months it takes for a human fetus to develop prior to birth. Traditionalist Maya priests still undergo a 260-day period of training before they are 'reborn' as priests worthy to interpret the ancient calendar on behalf of petitioners. The second Maya calendar system was a solar year of 365 days, called the Haab. Both the Tzolkin and Haab were measured in endlessly repeating...

Pop

In days of old, pirates and British sailors would stop and fill their casks with water from Fresh Water Creek in Silk Grass nowadays, the community has another attraction for travelers. MU'IM Crocodile Isle 661-1559,614-3328 www .belizecrox.com admission BZ 10, tents per person BZ 10 S 8am-dusk is a 100-acre solar-powered bird and crocodile sanctuary that also happens to be a backpacker's paradise, with one of the best little restaurant-bars in all of Belize. The brainchild of an Australian...

Spanish Creek Wildlife Sanctuary

Several miles past the Community Baboon Sanctuary sits this amazingly pristine 5900-acre sanctuary managed by the Rancho Dolores Environmental and Development Group RDEDG 220-2191 . Another of Belize's protected areas, Spanish Creek Wildlife Sanctuary is part of the biological corridor that runs through much of the nation, allowing once-highly endangered animals such as howler monkeys and pumas to roam and breed. The sanctuary runs 5 miles along the length of the Spanish Creek beginning by the...

Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary Map p90 s 820-3032 www.monkeybaybellze.org Mile 31V2 Western Hwy camping per person BZ 15, tent rental BZ 6, bunkhouses per person BZ 25, cabanas per person BZ 35 P D is a wildlife sanctuary and environmental education center offering lodging and activities for casual travelers, as well as internship activities for those with a more long-term interest in Belize see opposite . Established in the 1980s by Matthew and Marga Miller, the 1,7-sq-mile sanctuary stretches...

Recommended Vaccinations

Since most vaccines don t produce immunity until at least two weeks after they re given, visit a physician four to eight weeks before departure. Ask your doctor for an International Certificate of Vaccination also known as a yellow booklet , which will list all the vaccinations you ve received. This is mandatory for countries that require proof of yellow-fever vaccination upon entry, but it s a good idea to carry it wherever you travel. Note that some of the recommended vaccines are not...