there is a popular t-shirt you can find in just about every souvenir shop in belize – it says: “where the hell is belize?” and is followed by a map of central america. formerly called the british honduras, belize gained independence in 1981 after a century of british rule. it is bordered by guatemala and mexico. with heavy forestation in the north, the maya mountains in the south, some 450 islets or cayes along its carribean coast and a tropical climate, belize is rife with biodiversity (marine, terrestrial, flora and fauna). human diversity is not bad either. check out this population mix: 50% mestizos (spanish+indigenous american), 25% kriols (african slaves from jamaica), 11% mayan, 6% garifuna (african+indigenous american), and a small percentage of german mennonites (amish), east indians, chinese, other central americans, and whites from the u.s. not bad for a country of 300,000!
our destination was placencia, south of the country in the stann creek district. we stayed at the bahia laguna in seine bight, a small garifuna town. the bahia laguna is a large bungalow and we had use of the spacious apartment on the ground floor. it had everything we could have asked for: kitchen with large refrigerator, dishwasher, even a washer and dryer. there was a swimming pool in the back with a cool slide and the sea was just footsteps away.
after our last vacation i had appreciated for the first time the joy of cooking with local produce and ingredients. we did just that and apart from a lunch at the coloful “purple space monkey” we ate at home everyday. we’d use our complimentary bikes to go to the tiny chinese grocery store in seine bight and buy everything we needed for the next couple of days. we made easy food like hamburgers and mac & cheese but also spicy chicken karahi and okra with lots of fresh tomatoes.
madalon, the owner of the bahia laguna, has a mayan couple living in the other apartment on the ground floor. delmacio works around the house and he and his wife conceptiona are a great addition to the household. conceptiona made some fresh tortillas for us. they were absolutely fabulous and very close to what we in the sub-continent would call tandoori roti. they went beautifully with the curries we cooked.
you would think that there isn’t much to do in belize (and that’s a perfectly good way to spend a vacation) but in fact there’s lots of adventure just waiting to happen. first we embarked on a water safari to explore the environs of the monkey river. our guide terry showed us a lot of exotic plants and birds whilst we sped along in a motorboat. our main stop was the jungle so we could track down some howler monkeys. man, those monkeys are fierce – their howling sounds a lot like screams in a horror movie. we spotted them perched in tall trees, hanging from their prehensile tails. we were lucky to find an entire family of monkeys and i got some terrific footage on my video camera. for lunch we headed to monkey river village and had some fresh fried fish with a sweet potato salad and rice and beans – a staple in belize. it hit the spot.
on our way back home our guide showed us some manatees. these seal-like creatures are herbivores and can weigh up to a ton. they create such a big commotion that they can be easily spotted by the mud they dislodge from the bottom of the sea as they partake of water plants.