Last year, we took a family trip with my mother and her sisters to Central America. This was my first trip “home” to where my mother was raised, and I was a taken by the exotic nature of the area. We went in spring, in retrospect possibly a poor choice. There is little mosquito control, and the flying beasts are big and hungry. If you go, take bug spray!
Aside from some minor inconveniences, this was a spectacular trip. We visited beautiful Caye Caulker, a tiny, quiet island with beautiful white sand beaches and zero traffic aside from electric 6-seater conveyances that resemble extended golf carts. The only way to get there is by boat, and the absolute best draw on – or more accurately off - the island is the snorkeling or scuba diving on the world's second largest barrier reef. The amazing variety of tropical fish, coral, and wildlife make the underwater world of the reef a very memorable experience.
Inland Belize is very nearly Amazonian in nature. Colorful Toucans and parrots, tropical foliage, and mountainous interior jungle terrain make the country both beautiful and exotic. Mom explained that the huge iguana that can be seen everywhere were once a tasty local cuisine, but idea of eating lizard just doesn't appeal to me, so it's probably a good thing they are off the menu today.
For ancient history buffs, Belize is a goldmine of Mayan ruins and relics. Huge stone block temples built around 300 B.C. jut out of the jungle, waiting to be explored. Be sure and take plenty of water, it's a lot of steps to the top!
Our next stop was Turniffe Flats where we got up close and personal with dolphins and manatees. The circular reef surrounding a deep blue ocean hole was a spectacular site as seen from flying over, but the view was far more impressive underwater, and just a little scary whenever a giant ray or placid shark cruised by.
Overall, Belize was an amazing vacation destination. The local cuisine was fresh and delicious, snorkeling on the reef was unforgettable, and the birds were like art in motion. We did not see any of the crocodiles reputed to be indigenous to the waterways, and the closest we came to and dangerous wildlife – aside from sharks on the reef – was the echoing snarl of a jungle cat in the distance, but it felt exciting and dangerous nevertheless. Our guide took great delight in assuring us that we were never very far from a hidden world teeming with wildlife; surrounded as we were by tropical jungle and all that implies: gorillas, big cats, giant snakes…bugs bigger then your head. Belize was the most exotic vacation I've ever taken.
Have you been to exotic places? Tell me about it.