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Belize

With a heady mix of Maya ruins, coral reefs and tropical rainforests, Belize appeals to those who relish great lodges and a lack of crowds

Tailor-Made Holidays
To Belize

Formerly known as British Honduras, Belize has so much to offer the adventurous naturalist traveller. With its long barrier reef, idyllic islands, unspoilt rainforests, friendly English-speaking population, stable democratic government and exemplary conservation approach to its natural and Maya heritage, Belize was always an oasis of peace in the once volatile Central America region. Indeed, Belize often resembles a Caribbean rather than Central American country.

With roughly 40 per cent of its land classified as protected, the forests of Belize support a wide variety of wildlife including five cat species – margay, jaguarundi, ocelot, puma and jaguar. Bird life is also abundant with over 500 species recorded.

Boasting exceptional jungle lodges (including one which the late Gerald Durrell described as the model to which all other lodges should aspire) and island reef resorts, Belize has something for everyone – adult and child alike – who enjoys nature both below and above water and relishes good accommodation, reliable service and lack of crowds.

An image caption based on something written in the destination intro. E.g. wonderful shot of an inquisitive young Gorilla in Nyungwe park

Photography by Reef & Rainforest

Best Time To Visit Belize

The most popular time to visit Belize is the dry season from December to May, with June to October being the wet period, and Christmas and Easter the height of the season.

Often during the rainy season, a “mauger” or “little dry” occurs in August. Because overall precipitation only varies a little between the seasons, Belize can be seen as a year-round destination, apart from September, October and November: hurricane season.

Belize Travel

Getting There

Flight Time

11 Hours + Stops

Time Zone

GMT -6

Language

English

Population

324,000

Highlights

What To See

Toledo

The most southern district and perhaps least visited region in Belize. It is the least developed area of the country and therefore suitable for the more adventurous traveller. Mayan communities, small archaeological sites, rainforest rivers and off-shore islands are all part of the attraction of the area.  The largest town, Punta Gorda, is a sea port and fishing town.  Every May the town hosts the Toledo Cacao Festival which celebrates Toledo districts links with cacao and chocolate.

From Punta Gorda, it is easy to explore Maya ruins such as Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit as well as the off shore cayes such as Sapodilla Cayes.

Glovers Reef

Consisting of five coral islands lying 36 miles off the coast in a mid-ocean atoll, Glovers Reef is the smallest and most southerly of the three coral atolls in Belize. It has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO and a National Protected area by the government. The waters around the islands provide superb snorkelling, diving and ample opportunity to see turtles, dolphins and schools of flying fish as well as many seabirds including pelicans and frigatebirds. There are three rustic resorts on the atoll.

South Water Caye

Approximately 14 miles east of Dangriga and forming part of a marine reserve, the 15-acre island of South Water Caye is one of the most beautiful on the reef. One can snorkel right from the beach, take boat trips to visit other cayes, or fin to the edge of the shelf where the deep ocean begins. There are just three properties on the island, which is covered with coconut palms and mangrove and very quiet and peaceful – don’t go if you want nightlife or jet skis. The best end of the island is occupied by the very popular and locally-owned Pelican Beach Resort.

Ambergris Caye

Located just off the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Ambergris is Belize’s largest island (or caye) at 25 miles long and just over a mile wide. The barrier reef is only a quarter of a mile from the beach, making diving and snorkelling easy and accessible. The only town is San Pedro, home to the majority of the island’s population, as well as some bars, restaurants and hotels – there are many more resorts stretching to the south and north to the Mexican border. Just offshore lie the popular diving/snorkelling sites of Shark and Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reserve – over 160 species of fish have been identified in the reserve, along with nearly 40 species of coral. Further offshore there are the many dive sites found around the Turneffe Islands and at Lighthouse Reef, including the famous Blue Hole, a former dry land cenote (sunken cave) once visited by Cousteau, where you can see stalactites 30m down.

Placencia

The long, thin peninsula of Placencia, 40 km south of Dangriga, is one of Belize’s most popular holiday locations with perhaps the best beaches on the mainland. It was once a quiet Garifuna community but now there are numerous hotels and resorts catering to all budgets, and a small town at the tip of the peninsula with local bars and restaurants. From Placencia it is easy to explore Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Monkey River, inland Maya ruins such as Nimli Punit, and the myriad islands dotting the southern reaches of the Belize Barrier Reef system.

Hopkins

Approximately eight miles south of Dangriga, Hopkins is a small traditional Garifuna fishing village with several local bars and restaurants, situated by the Caribbean Sea. In recent years several good quality hotels have opened up here, including the luxury dive resort, Hamanasi.

Dangriga

Dangriga, the largest town in southern Belize, is the centre of the Garifuna culture – people of mixed Carib Amerindian and African descent who sought refuge in Belize from St Vincent in 1893. It is ideal as a base for visits to Cockscomb Reserve with its good walking trails, and offshore islands and atolls including South Water Cay, and Lighthouse Reef and Glovers Reef – both atolls offering superb diving. Dangriga is home to Pelican Beach Resort’s mainland hotel, and ideal jumping off point for their hotel on idyllic South Water Caye.

Chiquibul Forest Reserve & National Park

The largest protected area in Belize, totalling half a million hectares, the reserve in the Maya Mountains is an area of outstanding biological diversity that provides an important habitat for many endangered species. Within the reserve lies the Las Cuevas research station.

Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

Located in western Belize, near San Ignacio town, this upland reserve is dominated by native pine forest combined with rainforest at the lower elevations. It is home to a number of large mammals, including coati, Baird’s tapir, ocelot and jaguar, and 200 species of birds including the endangered orange breasted falcon, stygian owl and king vulture. The area is dotted with beautiful waterfalls, streams and caves that can be explored on foot.

Tapir Mountain Reserve

Located in the lower foothills of the Maya Mountains, the Tapir Mountain Reserve protects an area of approximately 28 square kilometres. It is home to Baird’s tapir, keel billed toucan, black orchid and the mahogany tree, all national symbols of Belize. The reserve is not open to the public and can only be visited by qualified researchers: however, it can be viewed from Pooks Hill lodge, whose private forest reserve adjoins it.

Rio Bravo Conservation Area

In the far northwest of Belize, the Rio Bravo Conservation Area protects 260,000 acres of low-lying tropical high moist rainforest, home to 400 species of birds, 200 species of trees and 70 mammals, including all five of Belize’s large cats. To the south, bordering the Rio Bravo, is a privately-owned property, Gallon Jug, which contains a farm enterprise, school, further protected land and the charming Chan Chich lodge, the only accommodation in the entire area of protected forest.

Lamanai Mayan Ruins

Situated on the banks of New River Lagoon, the largest body of fresh water in Belize, the impressive pyramids are surrounded by a 950-acre archaeological reserve. Over seven hundred structures have been identified, though many remain unexcavated. Numerous representations of the crocodile can be found throughout this site, whose name means “submerged crocodile” in Mayan. There are also a museum and the remnants of two 16th century Spanish churches, and nearby is the popular, well-run Lamanai Outpost Lodge, the only accommodation in the area. The area is inhabited by Menonites, a religious sect similar to the Amish who grow much of Belize’s food, who can sometimes be seen in their horse-drawn carriages coming down to the lagoon.

Community Baboon Sanctuary

Established in 1985 on the banks of the Belize River, this laudable community project protects one of the three main primate species found in Belize, the back howler monkey (known locally as “baboon”). Villagers have voluntarily set aside privately-owned tracts of forest to secure the monkeys’ habitat, and now their high numbers provide visitors with guaranteed sightings.

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Crooked Tree is a large area of inland waterways, lagoons, gallery forest and savannah, established in 1984 to protect resident and migrant birds which gather in their thousands during the dry season. Over 300 species have been recorded nesting in the area. The reserve’s most famous visitor is the jabiru stork, one of the largest flying birds in the New World, which comes to breed between November and April. The sanctuary is also home to howler monkeys, crocodiles, freshwater turtles and iguanas.

Featured

Wildlife Holidays

Accommodation

Featured Places To Stay

Pelican Beach Resort

Located within a designated marine reserve right on the edge of the Belize Barri...
Comfortable detached cabins with views across the Macal River to Black Rock Cany...

Turtle Inn

Exclusive upmarket resort is set on the beach amongst coconut palms and tropical...

Lamanai Outpost Lodge

Rustic-chic, comfortable cabanas set on a huge 28-mile freshwater lagoon and rig...

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Destination Map

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Belize: 17.189877, -88.497650

Your Very Own

Belize Specialist

Claire Pote

Area Specialist

For wildlife viewing, June/July can be an excellent time because the fresh rains bring out the wildlife after the stifling heat of May.

If you have any questions regarding travel to Belize, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)1803 866965