You Better Belize It!

Its barrier reef is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and
second largest on earth. There are verdant rain forests and
mysterious Mayan ruins as well as their runes in caves. Belize
has too much to take in for just one trip. It's worth a try, though,
especially for divers, who benefit from spending extra time
topside before flying out after a heavy week of diving. The
185-mile-long barrier reef is world class, but it's also a long boat
ride from shore-based operations. Consider a liveaboard dive
boat, especially if you want to spend time logging dives. Seeing
the sea life is worth the ride no matter how you get to the reef.
Huge sponges and coral heads provide cover for myriad species,
and Mr. Big pelagics cruise the deep blue. Tropical waters are
warm and clear, but at least a 3 mm full wetsuit plus hood feels
good for divers logging lots of bottom time. Bubble off the
nitrogen by spending several days inland before flying out. Sign
up for any "Jaguar" tour for an intense rain forest trek. Chances
are, you won't see the Mayan sacred cat, but you can bet that at
least a few will probably see you. The jungle is dense, wet and
rugged. Wear lightweight, full-covering clothes, stiff shoes and
lots of sunscreen and bug repellent. Mayan evidence that isn't
even on the map is likely to be a part of any rain forest hike. Its
splendor can only be guessed after touring any of the country's
major archeological sites. A monument at Xunantunich inscribed
in 849 carries the last date of any structure built by the Maya.
The major ceremonial site supported tens of thousands in its
heyday. As a trading partner with Quirigua in Guatemala, it may
have added to the regional rivalry that encompassed
Copan in
Honduras. Epicures will enjoy being in the land of Marie's
sauces. Use water only from bottles or clean sources. Pack only
lightweight informal clothes. In place of classier wear, pack
backup batteries you may need for your camera, PDA or laptop.
Arranging topside trips in advance of travel or at the least hiring a
local guide / driver is a good idea.
Xunantunich. Photo: Bob Sterner
Lighthouse Reef Sponges. Photo: Bob Sterner
Tad Davenport, Boca Reef. Photo: Bob Sterner
Xunantunich Altar. Photo: Bob Sterner
Ahhhh! Rainforest Relief. Photo: Bob Sterner
Spiny Lobster. Photo: Bob Sterner
Barrel o Sponge1. Photo: Bob Sterner
Long Key Wall Barrel. Photo: Bob Sterner
Divers Always Learning. Photo: Bob Sterner
Lighthouse Sponge. Photo: Bob Sterner
Learn about Belize at:
Xunantunich, Maiden of Rock. Photo: Bob Sterner