Ever wanted to pack up your bikes and go to Belize for a ride through the jungle? Take a look!
Although we’ve only spent five days in Belize, we have been pleasantly surprised for two reasons: first, the people. Belize is a truly mixed country with people from Mexico and Guatemala, Mayans, Mennonites (descendants from the Dutch who settled in Belize in the 50s) and many Creoles (not to mention the considerable Chinese community). What is interesting to see is that all these cultures get along very well and all share the same Belizean spirit. The people are incredible friendly and it was obvious to see that they were happy. Although we had met a lot of friendly Mexicans, we observed far more smiles in Belize. The second reason: the nature and all the wildlife we’ve seen. We came across howler monkeys, nurse sharks, eagle rays, giant turtles, toucans, jaguars, a cougar, a puma, and many many fish.
Upon our arrival, we went to a city named Orange Walk from where most people take a boat tour to visit the ruins of Lamanai. As this was quite expensive, we decided to go there by car. Although everyone advised us of bad road conditions, it turned out to be no problem for the Land Cruiser, even if it was raining heavily. The ruins were spectacular, even if we have seen many before, as they were located in a jungle setting. We did hurry up a bit because the mosquitoes were very hungry. At the end we returned to Orange Walk where we camped. Our host was listening to music very loudly, and as the end of the year was approaching, it was time for some Reggae Christmas music!
From here we went in the direction of Belize City, and stopped to visit the Baboon Sanctuary, run by a cooperative which tries to re-install the natural habitat of the howler monkey. Here we had the great opportunity to feed a wild howler monkey. From here we could continue to Belize City. The city itself does not have so much to offer and most of the buildings are in a bad state, nonetheless, it had some charm to it.
From here we could take a watertaxi to Caye Caulker, one of many islands Belize has. As we knew the island is small and there are no cars, we of course brought along our Montague folding bikes! The boat was not very large, so the folding feature was a necessity!
The place was very nice with only basic houses and dirt roads, but with enough tourism to ensure a good variety of hotels, bars and restaurants. There is not much to do there but relax, a perfect getaway. The inhabited part of the island is maybe 3 kilometers long and maximum 200 meters wide. We used our bikes to go from one place to another, and also did a tour around the entire island. As they’d received a lot of rain, many of the roads were flooded. Some sections were difficult, but with the X50 and X70 bikes we could do it with few problems. We crossed the entire island in about 1 hour 30 minutes and really enjoyed the ride. After the excursion our bikes needed a good cleaning!
The next day we took a snorkeling tour along the Belizean barrier reef, the second largest reef in the world. The main attraction is the Shark Ray Alley. Here you can swim with dozens of nurse sharks and even more eagle rays. Apparently they are centralized there because fisherman used to clean their daily catch at that spot, attracting them to the area. Another stop was the coral gardens where we could swim with brightly colored fishes and a variety of turtles. We then came upon an area entirely filled with conch shells. The ocean in this area is rich with these shells and fisherman harvest them for the meat inside. As with Shark Ray Alley, the fisherman came to this exact spot to remove the meat from the conches, throwing the shell back in the water. The result is quite spectacular, as the entire bottom of the ocean is covered by the shells.
After an amazing time on Caye island, we headed back to the mainland on the watertaxi. The rest of Central America was waiting for us. From the city we headed in the direction of the Guatemalan border, passing by the Belizean Zoo. We’re not really big fans of zoos in general but this one was rather spectacular. To start, you can only find local animals and although they are living in closed areas, these areas resemble their natural habitat quite closely. When we say closed area, don’t think of your traditional zoo – here you could easily lose a hand to a jaguar if you are stupid enough. In addition, the majority of the animals here are rescued and the staff is super friendly and very willing to improve your experience any way they can.
From the Zoo we went to San Ignacio, one of the last villages before Guatemala. Here we met Paul and Amanda, an American Couple on holiday in Belize. We shared a delicious meal and some drinks with them on our last night in Belize. Our experience here has been very positive. A beautiful country, and a great place for mountain biking!