Chasing the winter blues and rekindling love – our Belizean love affair

It had already been a long winter, and we were ready for some much needed relaxation, tranquillity, fun, and warmth, warmth, warmth. And to be honest, I really wanted time out to indulge in some love and togetherness.

My partner and I decided to go to Belize and I’m pleased to report that we returned satiated on all counts.

We were talking about how to chase the winter blues when Belize first came up. Friends of ours have been going there every year and rave about it – only a few hours away, inexpensive, friendly and most of all, warm.

So we looked it up on the web and fell in love with the place, and maybe with the idea of falling in love all over again ourselves down there. I mean, beautiful white sand beaches, incredible rainforests dotted with ancient Maya temples and just spending time together doing something exotic and different sounded like heaven.

We couldn’t have made a better choice. With only a week to spend, we wanted to pack a lot in, and have fun doing things we could both enjoy, but definitely not stress. We discovered the Rainforest & Reef Vacation package at Chaa Creek and it was like being whisked to some tropical dream vacation – one minute we were shivering on the way to the airport, that afternoon we’re stepping off at little Belize International airport into a warm fragrant breeze and smiling reception. Soon we were being driven down the lovely Western Highway past mangroves and then savannah, rolling hills, green farmland framed by the Maya Mountains and finally through the twin towns of Santa Elena and San Ignacio and toward Chaa Creek’s 365 acre private nature reserve.

The staff at Chaa Creek must be the friendliest on Earth. From the minute we arrived, settled in our lovely thatched cottage room and were shown around, we were made to feel welcome and relaxed. And that set the tone for kicking back and chatting in the large airy thatched bar followed by a sumptuous meal in the even larger Mariposa restaurant, and then onto a very comfortable bed surrounded by soft jungle sounds. Talk about getting off to a lovely start….

It’s hard to believe that over the next few days we managed horseback riding through breathtaking jungle, canoeing the lovely Macal River downstream to San Ignacio town, exploring an ancient Maya city and a few temples and I even braved going underground into some amazing sacred Maya caves filled with ancient artefacts and pottery and sacrificial altars. Sharing these adventures brought us closer together, but what was really appreciated was how relaxed we were the whole time. Everything moved along flawlessly and without a hint of rush or hustle and bustle. And then at night it was candlelit dinners, lounging in the Jacuzzi, and spending the most quality time together we’ve enjoyed in a long time.

We found it hard to leave our jungle paradise, but the next day it was another relaxed jaunt out to Ambergris Caye on the Belize Barrier Reef. It was an amazing experience to go from the dense rainforests, Maya archaeological sites and hills of western Belize to the sparkling white sands and crystal clear warm waters of the Caribbean Sea in one morning. That’s one of the things we found so special about Belize – for a tiny little country it’s incredibly diverse, and nothing is very far away. By that afternoon we were snorkelling off the beach in front of our cabana with the second largest barrier reef in the world just a stone’s throw away. It was postcard perfect – pina coladas on the beach (I’m not kidding) with a big sunset, a lobster dinner, and then into San Pedro town to explore the Caribbean nightlife. The only vehicles on San Pedro are golf carts, but almost everyone walks the sand ystreets lined with colourful houses and little shops. And for romance? See what happens after a night of tropical cocktails, dancing barefoot with sand underfoot and just sitting at the end of a long dock holding hands and talking…

I’d say we lucked out with the weather, but apparently that’s the way it is most of the time in Belize. The average temperature between December and March is around 76°F, not far from the annual average of about 80°F, and during our week it was mostly blue skies with the occasional afternoon shower.

That meant we could spend our days swimming, snorkelling and kayaking along the beautiful Belize cayes  and our evenings taking in the lovely Caribbean nightlife or simply walking along the beach or relaxing at our resort, the wonderful, easygoing Mata Chica. San Pedro is famous for scuba diving, and next time we plan on getting our NAUI certification on the Barrier Reef. This time we were content to explore Jacques Cousteau’s favourite Blue Hole by boat and snorkelling, which is an extraordinary experience to say the least. In the few days we were there we also managed excursions to Shark Ray Alley, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Lighthouse Reef and the reggae flavoured Caye Caulker, which are all easy and very enjoyable boat rides away.

The days were heavenly and the nights just magical. By the time we had to say goodbye we were like two teenagers in love again, and arrived back home refreshed and feeling able to cruise through the rest of the winter. Our friends all commented on our tans and how happy we looked (our new expertise at making mango daiquiris no doubt adding to their enthusiasm) and I’ll always be grateful for that night we decided to try Belize. To steal a line from the movie Casa Blanca, this is the start of a beautiful relationship, and a major addition to ours.

It’s going to be hard to wait til next year…

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