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dispatch | departures


BELIZE dispatch:


FAST FACTS: Capital: Belmopan Area: 8,867sq miles Population: 318,000


Currency: Belize dollar, fixed at two to the USD Language: Kriol, Mayan


dialects and Garifuna, with English widely spoken


TELL ME ABOUT IT…


CENTRAL AMERICA’S SECOND smallest country (after El Salvador) evolved out of a coastal plain and swamplands colonized for cutting logwoods for dye and exploiting timber. As British Honduras, it developed a connection with the UK and Caribbean that made for a distinct mixture of cultures, including Kriols of African descent, Garifuna of mixed Amerindian and African descent, and three Mayan groups. Travelers who might have been to Mexico


or Guatemala immediately notice this is a very different country both in look and feel. Tourism has drawn in North American and European expats, especially on the offshore cayes (islands) close to the barrier reef and in some of the mainland beach resorts. Diving is a particular highlight, as the reef boasts extraordinary


biodiversity and environments for scuba and snorkel divers at all levels. Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are the most developed, but there are many lesser-known islands and islets. Onshore, the pace of life is slow, and the sights


and attractions take a different form. Along the Caribbean coast, towns such as Hopkins and Placencia are tranquil and laid-back, while further inland, high-end lodges such as Blancaneaux Lodge in the Cayo district — owned by the


Coppola filmmaking family — and the Kanantik Reef & Jungle Resort, on the edge of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, make an out-there experience seem rather easy. Birders will find plenty to watch, and there are tapirs, coatis, deer, pumas and jaguars in the forests. Belize is small, making it easy to see one or


two cayes and take in the capital Belize City, a patch of jungle and one of the better Mayan sites, such as Caracol, all inside a week. u


With one foot rooted in Central America’s jungles and the other treading the cool Caribbean Sea, Belize offers the best of both worlds, says Chris Moss


Travelers who might have been to Mexico or Guatemala immediately notice that neighbouring Belize is a very different country both in look and feel


summer 2014 | ASTAnetwork | 113


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