Pet Any Sharks Lately?
Traces of snow and ice may not have completely melted away on the Zürich sidewalks, but at my computer here with endless folders of photos of tropical scenes, exotic fruits and extreme water sports, it’s anything but winter. Looking at my notebook pouring out with exclamation points and excited comments about the unbelievably turquoise water, the sand between my toes and my triumphant feeling after parasailing, I almost expected to see fishing boats in the distance when walking out of my apartment the other day, instead of the pure white skyline of the Alps.
Lots of readers shared their past experiences in Belize and perhaps our travels will overlap. Where to start in recounting my adventure? Other readers have expressed a new desire to visit Belize, and so that’s where I’ll begin – recommendations for activities you’ll want to squeeze in to any itinerary. (Follow the links below for more details one each one.) This should work up an appetite for all of the food photography and recipes soon to follow…
At the airport heading home from Belize, a fellow traveler asked me what my favorite activity was during the trip. Hard to say. As Jaguar Paw Jungle‘s slogan reads above, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” I did many things for the first time in Belize! Zip lining and rappelling in a jungle reserve were two. (Tarzan yodeling optional.) Cave tubing was another, and quite exhilarating at that. Imagine sitting in an inner tube, life vest on and lamp strapped to your head, as you go into a cavernous space carved out of rock with nothing more than water. You’ll stare up at bats hanging down from their dwellings, glistening crystal-like limestone on the walls and try to make out the etchings that almost resemble animals. This is a must-do activity in Belize. No rush though, those stalagmites and stalactites only grow 1/4 inch every 100 years. Two things to keep in mind: 1, the water is maddeningly cold. And 2, do heed the warnings to lift your derrière when floating in the cave; there are rocks, and that could hurt.
Although technically it wasn’t my first time snorkeling, when you find yourself underwater in the world’s 2nd largest barrier reef, and you feel as if you’re on the set of “Finding Nemo”, it’s a whole new experience. Our snorkeling adventure was in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. Southern sting rays, tarpons, enormous green turtles, grouper, red snapper, eels and barracuda all came to say hello. Oh, and how can I forget… sharks. Nurse sharks, but still, sharks. Leaving the rainbow of fish behind, we relocated our boat to Shark Ray Alley, where you can swim with sharks. I can’t say that I pet the shark myself (kudos to Melanie of Travels With Two for doing so), but there was our Belizean guide above rubbing its belly. Hey, someone needed to be on the boat to take pictures!
Belize has a strong Mayan heritage and visiting Xunantunich (“Maiden of the Rock”) is a cultural stop on many itineraries. It’s just west of the bustling town of San Ignacio in the Cayo district, where a visit to the local market was high on my list. It might be best to ask for a guide to walk you around the site and explain the different ruins, what they represent, and fill you in with all sorts of interesting factoids. Our guide let us know that El Castillo (the Castle), is 130 feet tall, the 2nd tallest “building” in Belize – its version of a skyscraper! You’ll definitely want to climb to the very top, as the views just over the Guatemala border are extraordinary. Don’t be alarmed at the lack of protection up there; in America that would be a lawsuit just waiting to happen! The top right photo above resembling a hole is the passageway to the stairs to get back down.
Lat but not least, another first for me… parasailing. And Belize it or not (sorry, couldn’t resist), I really did it. Those are my feet above!