Belize during the holidays with Debbie Ames
My family and I spent two weeks in Belize over the Christmas break. We chartered a catamaran with our Virtuoso supplier, The Moorings. We were able to explore many of the beautiful cayes that dot the Caribbean Sea. The Belize Barrier Reef is second in size to the Great Barrier Reef. My family snorkeled and dove, and I can attest to how healthy, clear and vibrant the coral and marine life are. My daughter’s favorite part was snorkeling with nurse sharks and a sea turtle. When chartering you can hire a captain and a cook, or you can bareboat.
Belize might not be a large country, even by Central American standards, but there are so many layers it’s worth a deep dive — and not just into the Great Blue Hole, which none other than Jacques Cousteau declared one of the best SCUBA sites in the world.
For Christmas Eve and day we were moored off Ray Caye Resort, a warm and welcoming spot to dine, relax and explore Silk Caye Marine Reserve that surrounds it.
The Caribbean Sea is surrounded by the lush and verdant mountains that border Belize and Guatemala. From deep diving in the Caribbean to exploring the mountains, jungle and Maya sites, Belize offers a little something for everyone. The Maya thrived here, and there are temples and other archeological sites throughout the country proclaiming their majesty through the ages. When Europeans arrived, the Spanish first then the English lay claim to the territory. As a result Belize’s culture lines up with the rest of Central America, but with English as an official language.
Belize is a small yet culturally rich country, about the size of Massachusetts (my home state!). It is very easy getting around Belize and is only about 3-4 hours from one end of the country to the other. It comprises many different people, including Creole, East Indian, Garifuna, Maya, Mestizo, Mennonite, Chinese and Lebanese. Each of these groups brought with them their own cultures, traditions, dances, cuisines, and languages.
Chartering afforded us the opportunity to spend quality time together as a family, while providing adventure, independence and luxurious respites when wanted. It is fun to wake up every day knowing you will see something different and meet someone new. The daily activities on board unfold organically from an early morning swim off the boat, to fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding and dance parties. The sky-gazing on the bow is also not to be believed! You feel one with nature and the universe and truly disengaged from the daily world.
Belize is perfect for people seeking culture, history, adventure, relaxation, birding, fishing, snorkeling, boating and time with loved ones. Although seeing a tarantula was not my favorite part, the rest of my family loved it! I personally preferred the colorful toucan. Belize is not as touristy as some of its neighboring countries, and I personally enjoy feeling as though I have discovered something off the beaten path. We have chartered in the British Virgin Islands, and Belize is more remote, so definitely for the more adventurous or for people seeking something quieter and more immersive with nature. I also highly recommend spending a few days on the water and a few days in the jungle to experience the true beauty of this country.
Seeing Belize by chartered boat allows you the freedom to wake up in a different spot every day and customize the journey as you go, and every part of the country is accessible from the coast.
Rivers criss-crossing the country serve as highways and conduits for kayaking and canoeing. Underground and even underwater, extensive cave systems facilitate endless exploration. There’s even a small mountain range good for hiking and watching a few of Belize’s 500-plus bird species.
Should you choose a land-based journey, Belize is a fabulous place to have some privacy and serenity. Of the five Virtuoso properties in the country, none has more than 34 rooms. They’re intimate windows into the ecological wonders that make Belize a slice of paradise linking the Caribbean and Latin America.