Belize A Tourist Destination. Beautiful Belize.
A Tourist Destination
Belize, northeastern Central America, bounded on the north and northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by Guatemala. Belize hosts protected areas of coral reef and tropical rainforests, alive with hundreds of bird species, colorful fish, exotic plants and animals.. Belize, until 1973 known as British Honduras, became independent in 1981 and is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
English, the official language, is spoken by virtually all except the most recently arrived refugees. Belize is a parliamentary democracy on the Westminster model and is a member of the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is head of state and is represented in the country by Governor General Dr. Colville N. Young, Sr., a Belizean and Belize's second governor general. The primary executive organ of government is the cabinet, led by a prime minister.
Area: 22,966 sq kmPopulation: 266,440Capital City: BelmopanReligion: Catholic (50%), Protestant (27%)Government: parliamentary democracyHead of State: Governor General Sir Colville YoungHead of Government: Prime Minister Said Musa
GDP: US$1.28 billion GDP per capita: US$4,900Inflation: 1.9%Major Industries: Sugar, bananas, fish products, garment production, food processing, timber, tourism, construction.Major Trading Partners: USA, UK, Mexico, Canada
Belize is truly a melting pot of Central America. Some of the major cultures represented in Belize include: Creole, Mayan, Garifuna, East Indian, Mennonite, Chinese and European/Mestizo. About 44.1% of the population is of mixed Mayan and European descent (mestizo); 31% are of African and Afro-European (Creole) ancestry; about 9.2% are Mayan; and about 6.2% are Afro-Amerindian (Garifuna). The remainder, about 9.2%, includes European, East Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and North American Groups.
The mountains rise to heights of about 1,100 meters, with the highest point being Victoria Peak (1,120 meters) in the Cockscomb Mountains. Covered with shallow, highly erodible soils of low fertility, these heavily forested highlands are very sparsely inhabited.
The tourism industry is currently the single largest employer and contributor to economic growth, accounting for BZ$222 million or 18% of the total GDP. Its actual contribution to the economy is greater, particularly when its indirect impacts are taken into account.
Belize has no rail network, so it depends heavily on small aeroplanes for transport. There are domestic airports in Belize City, Caye Caulker, Corozal, Dangriga, Placencia, Punta Gorda and San Pedro. Bus is the mode of transportation for most Belizeans, and they travel fairly regularly on the country's three major roads (between Corozal and Belize City, between Benque Viejo Del Carmen and Belize City, and between Belmopan and Dangriga). Cars can be rented in Belize City if you're at least 25 years old and have a valid driver's license from your home country. Bicycles and motorbikes can be hired on the Cayes. Fast and frequent motor launches connect Belize City with Caye Chapel, Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye.
The major tourist attractions of Belize includes:
-The Mayan Ruins
- The Cayes
- San Pedro
- Ambergris Caye
Over 600 hundred sites have been discovered to date in Belize. New artifacts and even major sites seem to be discovered on a regular basis. And excavation projects are taking place all over Belize today. While only a fraction of the known sites are open to the public, those that are accessible will provide more than a glimpse of how spectacular this civilization was and how much a part of Belize's history it is.
Xunantunich (Stone Maiden), set on a levelled hilltop near the Belize River, is the archaeological pride of Belize. The site flourished as a ceremonial centre and is thought to have been abandoned after an earthquake damaged it around 900 AD. The site's tallest building - El Castillo - rises an impressive 40m (131ft) above the jungle.
The diversity of the marine zone is unique. Three large coral atolls lie outside the barrier reef. The continental shelf off Belize ends abruptly in a drop off that sinks to over 10,000 feet. The barrier reef runs the entire length of the country and supports a tremendous number of patch reefs, shoals and over 1,000 islands called "cayes". Most of these cayes, and the entire coastline of the country outside of settlements are protected by huge forests of mangrove.
This impressive Mayan site is located in its own archaeological reserve. Its 60 significant structures include a grand 34m/112ft-high late Preclassic building, a small temple and a ball court. Lamanai ('submerged crocodile', the original Mayan name of the place) was occupied from 1500 BC and became a major ceremonial centre long before most Mayan sites.
The Maya lived here right up until the arrival of the Spanish; two ruined Indian churches nearby testify to the fact that there were still Maya here to be converted. The 90-minute boat trip up the New River from Orange Walk to reach the site is an adventure in itself. The boat passes the Mennonite community of Shipyard and offers the opportunity to see plenty of birdlife and crocodiles.
At 290km (180mi) long, Belize's barrier reef is the longest in the Western Hemisphere. To the west of the reef are numerous cayes basking in warm water. The two most popular with travellers are Caye Caulker for the low-budget and Ambergris Caye for the more cashed-up resort-oriented.
Caulker's reef is smaller but arguably nicer. Just a short boat ride from the eastern shore, it offers some of the world's most exciting diving, snorkelling and fishing. Underwater visibility can be an astonishing 60m (197ft) and the coral and tropical fish are spectacular.
The best hiking trails are in Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Bird-watchers should check out the rivers, swamps and lagoons of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, midway between Belize City and Orange Walk, which attract flocks of migrating birds between November and May.
San Pedro, located near the Barrier Reef, is on the southern tip of Ambergris Caye, some 35 miles from Belize City.San Pedro streets cover an area six blocks long and four blocks wide. The white sandy streets accommodate barefoot pedestrians as well as bicycles and golf carts San Pedro has become within the last twenty years, the nation's major tourist destination. San Pedro is the perfect place for swimming, diving and snorkeling which is probably the reason why most tourists come to Belize. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve lie close by San Pedro. Mexico Rocks, a beautiful collection of coral heads also located near San Pedro, is slated for protection status soon.
Ambergris Caye, is Belize's most popular island destination. The island is a very flat, twenty-five mile long slice of limestone with mangrove on the west and narrow beaches on the east. Ambergris Caye was formed from the accumulation of coral fragments, which formed a shoal patch, by building up in long lines parallel to the mainland. This formation is said to have been formed by submarine geological strata instead of by the flow of the sea currents. The structure of the Belize Barrier Reef is such that in the northern parts of Belize, the reef actually touches Ambergris Caye, while in the south the reef lies almost 40 miles from shore.