Explore the Rainforests and Reefs of Belize

By Cathal Doorley

Cha Creek in Belize boasts a holiday experience to cater for a wide range of tasks. For the adventurer in you Cha Creek has hiking trails, kayaking journeys and underwater exploring with snorkelling. For those of you who simply want to admire the natural world there is a deep rainforest and imposing mountains to marvel at in all their glory. Finally for those of you who just wish to lounge about and relax there is a beautiful Caribbean coastline with all its golden sanded shores. If you like all three of these characteristics then perfect! Belize is the holiday for you.

Belize shares its Mayan heritage with neighbours Guatemala and Mexico with its spectacular Mayan structures such as at Xunantunich, Caracol and Lubaantun. The middle of the country possesses massive wildlife parks such as Cockscomb Basin Wildlife sanctuary where jaguars can be seen on the prowl. If that does not take your breath away then the coast certainly will. The coast here is one of the longest barrier reefs in the world and with its tranquil and chilled out atmosphere you will not be able to stop yourself falling in love with the place.

Chaa Creek is located above the Macal River in the North Western corner of the huge Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. It has a huge network of hiking trails which will keep you pleasantly occupied for hours. On your hike you will see an abundance of exotic plants such as red ginger and the national flower of Belize – the beautiful black orchid. Most of the wildlife is hard to track down here when you are looking for it as is the case with most rainforests but I can almost guarantee you that you will witness a profusion of shimmering blue morpho butterfies with their glowing blue wings which beat slowly.

The river Macal is a tributary of the larger Mopan River. It defines the southern boundary of the forest reserve. You can kayak down the Macal to the point where it meets the larger Mopan River at San Ignacio. There is a variety of wildlife to be seen residing along this river including egrets, kingfishers and otters. Normally you can take your time in appreciating these animals as the current usually moves calmly.

The impressive Mayan ruins of Xunantunich are just a quick drive from Chaa Creek. It can be reached from the village of San Jose Succotz by a hand powered ferry across the Mopan. This was constructed during what is known as the late classical period over 1300 years ago. The area was hit by a huge earthquake in about 900. El Castillo on the south side of the main Plaza is undoubtedly the main attraction. This pyramid reaches 40 metres into the sky and possesses a huge stone staircase at the front. It is a huge climb to the top but the views over the encircling forest and into picturesque Guatemala are value for it. To the west and east side of El Castillo are imposing stucco mask reliefs.

An amazing drive from the highlands along Hummingbird highway guides you past the stunning Blue Hole national park which is renowned for its sink holes with pure waters and of course the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife sanctuary. Moving further south you will arrive at the idyllic Placencia peninsula with its golden beaches and mellow Garifuna culture typical of the Carribean. Here you can observe the contrast of the blue waters of the Caribbean on one side with the darker and stiller waters of a huge lagoon on the other.

Turtle Inn lies just north of Placencia. This Inn is unique in that it is owned by famed film producer Francis Ford Coppalla producer of the Oscar winning Apocalypse now. Here is the best spot to watch the sunrise above the far off cayes and the sunset over the lagoon. You may choose to do nothing but the kayaks of the hotel will surely be too tempting to resist. You can calmly paddle towards Placencia Caye a place populated by pelicans and landscaped by mangrove swamps. A boat ride to the peaceful white sands and turquoise waters of Laughing bird Caye is a must. And after all this cocktails and a magnificent sunset is waiting for you at the Turtle Inn beach bar.

Belize is unlike much of the rest of Latin America in that English is spoken here by the majority of people rather than Spanish. It is more politically stable than the rest of Latin America and in general it feels more like a Caribbean island than a Latin one. Infrastructure here is improving rapidly but presently there still remain just three main roads. Chaa Creek still has a wonderful range of accommodation with gorgeous thatched cabanas and villas. It has a spa with full use of the canoe privileges. So check out Belize as a holiday destination and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Get information on Travel to Belize at www.travelbelize.org/

My name is Cathal Doorley. I was a travel consultant for 3 years before I left and took 2 years out to travel around the world. I know work in the same agency looking after our websites. I love to travel and I love to share my experiences with anyone who is willing to listen. I hope fromm some of my articles that it may prompt someone to go to one of the places mentioned and that they get to experience the amazing things and places that I have been lucky enough to experience. Check out travel to Belize at

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