Discover Belize with Explore!

By Philippa Baines with Explore! Holidays

Rich in exotic wildlife, tropical forests, white-sand beaches and lost civilisations, Belize really is a diverse pocket of overlooked beauty. Keen traveller Philippa recently experienced our Discover Belize trip, read more about her experience…

If I had to describe Belize in one word, it would be laidback. My small group tour (Discover Belize) to this stunning country encompassed ancient Mayan ruins amid lush vegetation; pastel-hued houses lining white-sand beaches; and small boats gliding through turquoise-blue waters.

Belize fuses a Latin American spirit with a Caribbean vibe. Located on the east coast of Central America, this small country has a population of around 400,000. I felt a strong sense of community and camaraderie while I was there, which was helped by our tour leader, Wilfred, who was always bumping into someone he knew!

The tour included a two-night stay in Guatemala, which borders Belize to the west. We climbed ancient ruins with endless panoramic views and stayed in a jungle lodge where we watched howler monkeys playing in the forest. When it came to crossing the border, both to and from Belize, Wilfred arranged the tickets, collected our passports and checked us through, ensuring our experience was completely stress-free from start to finish.

Wilfred also showed us where he grew up (we even met his mum and son!), advised on what to wear for certain activities and knew the best times to visit places to avoid the crowds. For any meals that weren’t included in the tour price, Wilfred organised group dinners where everyone could pay individually. Having such a passionate and insightful tour leader reminded me why small group tours are so beneficial.

My fellow Explorers were a great bunch, too, with ages ranging from those in their 40s to mid 80s. Belize is an excellent bird-watching destination and a few in the group were keen birders. Their enthusiasm was infectious and before long we were borrowing each other’s binoculars – we must have seen about 120 different species of birds, including scissor tailed kites, frigate birds, woodpeckers and pelicans . Other wildlife you might see on this trip include toucans, wild cats, tapir (the national animal of Belize) and, in Guatemala, coatimundi, which roam freely in the likes of Tikal.

Getting around Belize was as fun as the country itself. We mostly travelled by minibus as the main journeys were by road. Hummingbird Highway, which is as beautiful as it sounds, stretches alongside the Macal River and there was always something to look at. There was so much vibrancy: palm trees, stilted houses, local people going about their day at the marketplaces, all taking place beneath a brilliant blue sky.

We also used water taxis (a large catamaran-style boat used by both locals and tourists) to reach Caye Caulker, a tiny tropical island where you can enjoy fresh seafood and beachside BBQs. While we were in Guatemala, we used jungle trucks to reach the ancient ruins of Tikal, a UNESCO-listed national park that’s home to one of the most important sites in the Maya world.

One of my trip highlights was canoeing through a cave passage at Barton Creek. At one point, we came together, turned off our torches and simply sat in silence, listening to the dripping water echoing around the caves. It was a very tranquil and calming experience. Belize is also home to the Belize Barrier Reef, which is the second largest in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. We had the option to go snorkelling, where we spotted turtles gliding through the crystal-clear water.

It wasn’t just the scenery that was fascinating, but the history as well. Wilfred told us about an Englishman called Baron Bliss, a yachtsman who had always appreciated the hospitality of the Belizean community. When he died in 1926, he left $1 million to the citizens of Belize. They built a lighthouse and a granite tomb for him, and to this day hold an annual harbour regatta in his name. There aren’t any information signs about this local legend, though, so being on this small group tour provided these special extra touches.

Overall, the tour had a moderate pace, meaning there was enough down time to balance out the itineraries. There are also several optional activities you can choose from, too; I thoroughly enjoyed my day spent in Flores, a small town in Guatemala filled with brightly painted buildings and lakefront restaurants. Placencia was another highlight, with its unspoilt sandy beaches and windswept palm trees providing the perfect setting to stroll along pedestrianised streets away from the beachfront.

I would thoroughly recommend this tour to anyone and everyone; especially those interested in wildlife, history and the great outdoors . Travelling with Explore allowed me to really scratch beneath the surface of this surprisingly multi-faceted country – and now I’m itching to return.

Next steps

To plan and book your holiday to Belize, call Silver Travel Advisor on 0800 412 5678.

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