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Information on Belize

The little pocket democracy of Belize nestles on the western Caribbean coast of Central America sharing borders with Mexico in the north and Guatemala in the west. It has long been renowned among archaeologists and divers for its ancient Maya temples and fantastic living barrier reef - 290 kms (180 miles) long, making it the largest in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the world.


Now Belize is giving top priority to developing itself as the new major regional eco-tourist mecca of Central America, especially for cruise passengers.
Natural and unspoiled, Belize is a haven for some of the planet's most exotic and endangered species. It claims to have more protected natural resources and wildlife preserves per square mile than any other country in the world. About 40% of the country is thus protected.
 

Belize offers a rare mix of tropical forests rich with wildlife, majestic 3,675ft mountains, ancient Maya temples, mysterious caves and diving and fishing sites claimed to be beyond compare anywhere in the world.


At the hub of all this - especially the massive current tourist drive - is colorful old Belize City (pop:approx 80,000). It was capital of Belize until the government moved to the new capital city of Belmopan in 1970. Today it is the main port, exporting sugar, timber, and wood products. But tourism and fish packing are the main industries.
 

The city - devastated by hurricanes in 1931, 1961 and 1978 - stands on the east coast at the mouth of the Belize River on the Caribbean Sea. The river flows about 180 miles (290 km) westwards and is navigable almost to Guatemala.
Not only is Belize City the gateway to all that plus rivers, flora, fauna and breathtaking beaches on its keys, it also has its own special historical attractions.
Record Tourist Boom
 

Vastly increased spending on marketing and promoting Belize as a new tourism hotspot is paying off. On July 16 (2001) the Tourism Board announced record tourist arrivals by air for June 2001.
 
 

 Belize Tours -Diving & Snorkelling in Belize: The barrier reef has been named one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World. Water visibility commonly reaches 100+ feet; water temperature about 80 deg F and calm water most of the year.
Scuba diving potential is excellent.
 

What To Wear & Carry
 

If visiting the Cayes or Barrier Reef, wear or take shorts, T-shirts, and bathing suits, comfortable tennis shoes or deck shoes. The sun is intense so take a cap to protect your head if boating or fishing and polarized sunglasses that not only protect eyes but also enhance colours.


Loose fitting, light colored cotton pants and camping shirts, along with a comfortable pair of hiking shoes or boots, are advised for exploring the mainland or trekking the rain forest.
 

For visiting the Maya Ruins, or traipsing through the jungle, a hat with a wide brim will provide shade from the sun and protection from any sudden tropical shower.
Water, beverages and snacks are NOT always readily available while sightseeing, so take a day pack of water and energy bars along with any camera, film, binoculars, poncho, hand towel etc.
 

Introduction
 

English-speaking, Creole-dominated and with a coup-free history, most of this tiny country has an atmosphere so laid-back it's almost comatose. Outside Belize City, lack of proper roads can make travel difficult.
 

Facts At A Glance
 

Full country name: Belize
Area: 23,300 sq km (9087 sq mi)
Population: 200,000 (growth rate 3.5%)
Capital city: Belmopan (pop 5,000)
People: 50% Creole, 30% mestizo, 10% Maya, 10% Garifuna (plus sizeable migrant pop from nearby countries, notably El Salvador)
Language: English, English Creole, Spanish, Maya and Gar'funa
Religion: 62% Catholic, 25% Protestant
Government: Parliamentary democracy
Time: UTC minus 6 hours
Electricity: 110V, 60 Hz
Weights & Measures: Metric
Money - Currency: Belizean dollar but US Dollars widely accepted.
 

When To Go
 

Climate: The best time to travel is the dry season between December and May.
Festivals: The big national holidays are dictated by the Roman Catholic calendar but other celebrations include the wonderfully titled Baron Bliss Day (9 March), which honors the philanthropic British nobleman who fell in love with Belize and donated millions of dollars to worthy causes.
 

Belize National Day (10 Sept) commemorates the Battle of St George's Caye; celebrations continue until Independence Day (21 Sept). More festivities occur on Colombus Day (12 Oct) and Gar'funa Settlement Day (19 Nov).
 

The latter commemorates the arrival of the Garinagus (Black Caribs) in dugout canoes from Honduras in 1823. Dangriga is the place to celebrate this festival: the small town explodes in a frenzy of dancing and drinking.
 

Culture Of belize
 

The Maya built breathtaking temple complexes aligned to the movement of celestial bodies. Although they remained technically a Stone Age culture, they also developed sophisticated mathematics, astronomy and calendars. The Spanish constructed some plain stone churches but the modern architecture is predominantly British Caribbean in style.


Belize is officially English-speaking but the creoles (the largest ethnic group) speak their own colorful dialect as well as standard English. Spanish is the main language in the north and some towns in the west. You may also hear Mayan, Chinese, Mennonite German, Lebanese, Arabic, Hindi and Gar'funa (the language of the Garinagu people of Stann Creek district).
 

Most Belizeans are Roman Catholics but British influence has created a sizable and varied protestant congregation, including German Swiss Mennonites.
Belize has not really got a national cuisine. Its cooking borrows elements from the UK, the USA, Mexico and the Caribbean. Traditional staples are rice and beans, often eaten with chicken, pork, beef, fish or vegetables. Coconut milk and fried plaintain add a tropical flavor. Exotic traditional foods include armadillo, venison and gibnut (a small brown-spotted rodent like a guinea pig).
 

Environment of Belize
 

Belize is a Lilliputian country. It comprises predominantly tropical lowland and swampy plains, though the Maya Mountains in the west rise to almost 1,000m (3,280ft).
 

Half of the country is dense jungle, the rest farmland, scrub and swamp. The tropical forests provide habitats for a wide range of animals, including jaguar, puma, ocelot, armadillo, tapir and crocodile. The country also harbors keel-billed toucan, an abundance of macaws and parrots and heron and snowy egret.
 

Belize is hot and humid year round but respite from the weather can be found in the cooler mountains or from the tropical breezes which waft over the cayes. Rainfall is a whopping 4metres (13ft) a year, most of it falling between June and November.

History
 

First inhabitants of Belize were Maya and Carib Indians. Belize was part of the great Mayan empire which stretched through Guatemala, southern Mexico and parts of Honduras and El Salvador.
 

Though the history of the Maya can be traced back for over 4,000 years, the Classic Period of more advanced Mayan civilization began around the 3rd century AD and reached its height between the 6th and 8th centuries. By the 14th century it was in serious decline. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century many of the Mayan cities were deserted.
 

The Spanish considered Belize a backwater suitable only for cutting logwood to be used for dye. Although the Spanish came to own Belize, they did not rule it.
Its lack of effective government and the safety afforded by the barrier reef attracted English and Scottish pirates during the 17th century. When piracy waned many of the pirates began working in the logging trade.
 

Belize was already British by tradition and sympathy when a British force routed the Spanish armada off St George's Caye in 1798, rescuing Belize from Spanish rule. In 1862, while the USA was embroiled in its Civil War and unable to enforce the terms of the Monroe Doctrine, Great Britain declared Belize to be the colony of British Honduras.
 

After World War II, the Belize economy weakened leading to agitation for independence. Democratic political parties and institutions were formed and self-government was granted in 1964. The government decided to build a new capital at Belmopan in 1970, after Hurricane Hattie all but destroyed Belize City in 1961.
 

Full independence became a reality in September 1981 when British Honduras officially became Belize. Guatemala, which made territorial claims, threatened war in 1972 but British troops were stationed in Belize to make sure the dispute remained purely diplomatic.
 

During the volatile 1980s, Belize remained stable and pro-US, thanks predominantly to large influxes of US aid. In 1992, a new Guatemalan government recognized Belize's territorial integrity. The British garrison was withdrawn in 1994.


Squashed between Mexico and Guatemala in the green heart of Central America, Belize's natural beauty is staggering for a country of such tiny proportions. Whether you plan to hike the rainforest-draped mountains of Cockscomb Basin, scuba dive with sharks and kaleidoscopic fish in the world's second longest barrier reef, or unearth Mayan pyramids in jungly Caracol -- the toughest challenge, as every first-time visitor will tell you, is deciding what to do first.

Things to Do

Belize's cay-dotted barrier reef is a scuba-diving magnet, with the best action around Glover's Reef Atoll and Hol Chan Marine Reserve's famous Shark and Stingray Alley. Active types go caving in the limestone Cayo District, spot storks and kingfishers in Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary's wetlands, and hike Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve's mountains, home to endangered jaguars. Get in tune with the mysterious Mayan cosmos clambering over Caracol's jungle-draped pyramids to the backbeat of howler monkeys.

Shopping in Belize

Join cruise ship daytrippers in Belize City, browsing for art and Mayan-inspired jewelry at Fort Street or handicrafts like authentic stone and wood carvings at the National Handicraft Center. Laid-back shoppers pick up ceramics and bamboo crafts in San Pedro and Placencia.

Nightlife and Entertainment - Bars & restaurants in Belize

Belize is more famous for its raucous wildlife than nightlife, with its atolls attracting torch-bearing night divers. San Pedro is the exception with a string of beachfront cocktail bars and pumping clubs.There's gambling of a more glamorous kind at Belize City's Princess Hotel Casino. Placencia's barefoot bars are a relaxed place to kick back and try Belize's homegrown seaweed shake.

Restaurants and Dining

Belize's food is a cavalcade of Caribbean, African and Mayan influences. Fort George in Belize City is the place to dine alfresco as the sun sets over the waterfront, peppered with restaurants serving crispy conch fritters and fusion cuisine. Stroll nearby Barracks Road for spicy fare from Jamaican jerk to tandoori specialties at Jamels jerk pit. For candlelit romance, cocktails and creative food, there is San Pedro.

 

 
 

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