One of our excursions during our Christmas Carnival Cruise 2017 was to the Central American country of Belize. We narrowed down our excursion choices to cave tubing, scuba diving or hiking the Mayan ruins. Last year, we snorkeled in caves in Riviera Maya so cave tubing was voted off the list. While scuba diving at the Great Blue Hole sounded remarkable, being novices, we’ve really been planning on a full scuba instructional vacation, and furthermore, the phrase “heavily inhabited with sharks” left the Mayan ruins as a fine selection. Besides, we already had water based excursions planned for Honduras and Mexico.
To get to Xunatunich Archeological Site, we had to take a two hour bus ride/tour. While that originally sounded awful, it was the most informative and entertaining journey. Our guide taught us so much about Belize, which we really knew little about. And honestly, the views from our bus ride made this a key part of an amazing introduction to Belize–ranging from the lushest rain forests we’ve ever seen to local neighborhoods, farms and businesses, which we would never have the opportunity of seeing if we stayed at a resort. We even stopped at markets and had time to interact with locals. Despite having so little, the people we met were full of laughter and joy. As we returned to the bus to continue to the ruins we realized that meeting people from different cultures is really what our wanderlust is all about.
Some interesting facts we learned from our guide were:
- Spanning the length of Belize is the 2nd biggest barrier reef in the world–we ended up snorkeling at the end of this reef a few days later, from Costa Maya. (future post)
- Belize has around 900 Mayan sites
- Belize has the only Jaguar reserve in the world, otherwise known as Cockscomb Basin Wildlife sanctuary.
- Belize is the only Central American country where English is the official language. However, you will still hear a mixture of Creole, Spanish, Garifuna and Mayan languages being spoken on the street.
- There is no McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks or KFC in the entire country–the closest being in Mexico.
When we arrived at the site, we took a manually working ferry across a river full of snakes and crocodiles–no joke. Then our hike commenced. As we meandered up the trail and the ruins came into view, we were all speechless. It was as if we were transported back to 600 AD. We spent about three hours exploring. If you are afraid of heights, you may want to enjoy the views from ground level, as there are obviously no railings.
The ferry and river we crossed.
Luckily we did NOT encounter any snakes or crocs! As we meandered up the trail and the ruins came into view, we were all speechless. It was as if we were transported back to 600 AD. We spent about three hours exploring, with tightly monitored guided tours. If you are afraid of heights, you may want to enjoy the views from ground level, as there are obviously no railings. And don’t be alarmed by the armed military hiding in the bushes. They’re there for your safety.
When it was time to head back to our ship, we really were not ready. Couldn’t we catch up with our ship a few days from now? While the time was definitely brief, it was great to get a sense of a country we will definitely return to for full exploration someday.
We’re not surprised Belize is known as “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret.”
Have you been to Belize? If so, we’d love to hear about your itinerary.
Great Blue Hole photo from: http://www.scubatravel.co.uk/topdives.html