Flying low out of the Belize City Airport in a well-worn Cessna turboprop, I was struck by the vast and nearly uninhabited country spread out below me. Wetlands with intertwining canals and muddy rivers spread like tentacles into the vast green, eventually disappearing into the darker green of the shoreline. With 8670 square miles, Belize is the size of Massachusetts, yet just 330,000 people live here.
In the way of my view of the marshlands, however, was a slightly disturbing bald tyre on the Cessna. I just hoped that the runway on Ambergris Caye wasn’t rocky, because if this tyre was on my car, I’d be heading for the garage pretty quickly.
But here in Belize, things like bald tyres are hardly problems to dwell on. Mexico is only 20 minutes away and many people fly in from Cancun. The airport runway on Ambergris Caye took us right into the village of San Pedro, with planes parking just behind a row of stores. Golf carts are the vehicle of choice here.
After an eleven-mile speedboat trip up the coast, we reached our destination, El Secreto Resort, where the biggest attraction is the world’s second largest barrier reef, visible just off the coast. Being able to get there and snorkel without a day-long sea journey is high on the list of why people come here. It’s also a haven with extremely comfy deluxe cabanas and massages are part of the package.
The tame nurse sharks that inhabit the reef must be getting used to people, because they acted like friendly golden retrievers, letting divers hold their bellies and others pet their leathery hides. The sharks were there for the fishy chum thrown overboard, and we were there to photograph and play with them.
At Chaa Creek Resort, they raise butterflies and we spent part of a day learning the whole process, and walking in the rainforest with a naturalist whose keen eye brought amazing things to our attention—healing properties and ancient legends about bark, and insects and how to use what’s around you to survive.
After my visit, I concluded that Belize is a perfect place for a traveller, it has just what we want and not a lot of what we don’t. If you aren’t looking for casinos, glitzy nightlife but prefer to nuzzle nature for a while, a combination of Belize’s rainforest and the reef off of Ambergris Caye are just the ticket.www.travelbelize.org