Belize’s Charm Is Difficult to Describe But Easily Experienced
A recent Travel Pulse article describes what’s “Difficult to describe.”
We were having a look through the November 20 2014 Travel Pulse, as you do, and couldn’t help but notice a piece in the “Editor’s Notebook”section titled, Belize’s Charm Is Difficult to Describe But Easily Experienced.
After leading in with a paragraph about Belize’s impressive growth, noting that tourism arrivals this year are expected to set a new record, reaching nearly 1.1 million for 2014, author and executive editor Brian Major goes on to list a few reasons why Belize is attracting so many visitors.
And of course we agree wholeheartedly when he writes:
“The country has a stunning array of attractions, from some of the most impressive Mayan (sic) ruins found anywhere to one of the world’s most extensive cave networks and one of the world’s longest barrier reefs”
Those are the things that leap out at you when you first arrive in Belize and start discovering just how much magic is packed in a country only 180 miles (290 km) long by 68 miles (110 km) wide. And when you add in activities like canoeing the pristine rivers, horseback riding through jungle trails, cave tubing and more…you get the picture.
What we really thought was spot-on was Major’s appreciation of Belize’s uniqueness, that hard to put a finger on but ever-present…vibe, for want of a better word. You begin to hear it from people after they’ve been in the country only a few days, “I don’t know what it is about this place…”and see it in a bit more spring in the step and the constant smiles. As Major puts it;
“But Belize also has a quirky nature all its own that is sometimes hard to define. Perhaps it’s the mixture of Mestizo, Mayan, Caribbean, Creole and Garifuna cultures that make Belize a place where everyone can feel somewhat at home.”
That combination of different cultures, and the blend of the exotic with the familiar is what gives Belize its special character. Most visitors feel right at home in Belize pretty soon after arrival, no matter where they’re from. And this is odd, because Belize is like nowhere else.
Make no mistake about it – Belize marches to a different drum, or more like it, dances to the beat of its own Garifuna drumming.
You have all of these ethnic groups that have happily been coexisting for generations, creating a harmonious melting pot. On market days in San Ignacio and most towns you’ll hear a melody of languages and accents as Spanish speaking women bargain with Maya fruit vendors, the lilt of Creole alongside rapid Asian, that distinctive Garifuna and even German from the Mennonites of Spanish Lookout coming in on horse drawn wagons to buy and sell. However, San Ignacio sometimes resembles a town from the old US West, and with everyone speaking English, people from North America, Europe or anywhere, for that matter, don’t feel out of place.
The Travel Pulse article covered most of Belize’s attractions, with the author enjoying the sandy streets of San Pedro, floating and traipsing through the Maya artefact-laden Caves Branch, meandering along what the Guinness Book of Records called the longest sidewalk in the world in Placencia, snorkelling around Laughing Bird Caye and topping off the trip with a barbecue and Garifuna dancing and drumming.
And this brings us back to our point. After taking in all that sheer physical beauty and great activities in the sea, rivers, caves and wilderness of Belize, the author closes and sums up his experience by describing what he called “the real treasure”of the trip – a Garifuna musical group. “The soul-stirring rhythms created by this multigenerational group of musicians, dancers and singers brought broad smiles to the faces of our entire group…. Their joyful music filled our hearts as we dined on a delicious lunch of barbecued chicken and fish.”
Belize has been blessed by nature, but at the end of the day, what makes it really special for so many travellers is the people; that rainbow mix of creeds, colours and cultures that came together over the years to form a society that’s diverse, unified, welcoming and very much its own thing.