If you Google images of Belize, you will find many pictures of beaches and resorts. But beyond this luxurious façade, Belize is a country full of rich culture, diverse wildlife, and a slow paced lifestyle.
After touching down at the Belize International airport, I traveled two hours wet across the country to San Iglesias. Starving, I immediately dropped my bags at my hotel, and walked through the town to find a restaurant. I reached Kan-Ox-Han-Ah and sat down for a meal, where I was welcomed with a deliciously hot burrito.
For the rest of the day, we settled into our hotel and scoped out the rest of our trip.
The first day, we already dived into what Belize had to offer by taking the renowned ATM exploration, where we explore caves used by the ancient Mayan civilization.
Before we even got to the entrance site, we hiked an hour through the forest. Only then were we able to reach the cave, where we jumped into the water and navigated and climbed the endless rocks before even seeing any sort of light. The only sort of intermediary lights were the ones on our helmet.
I wish that the lights were stronger, because there were many unexpected parts of the cave - rocks jutting out of the water, and massive drops in the water you can’t see. We had to literally slide through rocks where we had to extend our necks so that we could fit in between the rocks.
However, when we finally reached our destination, we realized why it was all worth it - there were many ancient artifacts that were scattered. A super old skeleton was literally in arm’s reach of me, which was an overwhelming realization.
A funny story is one where a tourist accidentally dropped a camera on a skull, and a tooth fell out. Thanks to that guy, cameras aren’t allowed in the caves anymore, which is rather unfortunate considering how much there is inside to share with the world.
As we continued to go through, the guide taught us that the caves were actually used for the sacrifices of children. When they were young, they would put boards on the children so that their skulls would become deformed. There was so much history in the tour, but definitely not lacking any sense of adventure or excitement.
The next day, we went driving. Before even reach our first stop, we noticed how remote the villages were. Very few had running water and electricity. Some used solar panels to charge phone or watch TV, and that was all their electricity was used for. It was truly eye-opening to see how some of the technological advancements trickle down into these smaller communities to drastically change how they live.
We then reached Bartin Creek. There, we went canoeing under the caves. We saw many different crystal structures. We went at a very lucky time where we were the only one in the caves. So, if we turned off our lights, your eyes wouldn’t be able to adjust and it could be damaging to your eyes.
After this, we began our drive to Xunantunich. On the way, we passed an Amish community. We learned about their very basic way of life. It was incredible to me how serene and calm of a life they lived in the middle of a hills, in contrast to the high-paced lifestyle I was raised in.
We stopped on the side of the road to buy their baked goods on a table, which was sold using an honor system. There was nobody there to monitor the purchases. An Amish then came by, and my father asked to take a picture of him, to which he agreed. Our guide was surprised, and told us that typically they would say no due to the belief that photos take out their soul.
When we reached there, we experienced the amazing Mayan ruins. We learned how archeologists found a tablet with writing on it when excavating. However, some of the sights were blown up by careless archeologists in the 1930’s, which are now unrecoverable. We were able to climb up to the top, where we were on the border of Guatemala and a lot of Belize.
When we got back to the hotel, we learned about their Iguana Project. One of the iguanas, Ziggy, had a bone disorder because of the lack of vitamin D and sunlight, and from being grown up in too tight cages. The project itself focused on breeding the endangered green iguanas.
Day trip to Guatemala.
Unfortunately, my brother and mother both got sick (possibly from food poisoning), so only my brother and father went cave tubing and zip lining. Cave tubing was very nonchalant - after 20 minutes floating under the caves kind of got monotonous. We were there for 2 hours. In addition, the caves weren’t as extravagant as the ones under Bartin Creek.
We then went zip lining. It also was only okay, because there were only 6 lines and they were relatively short. In addition, it began raining in the middle of it. However, the last line was a really long, beautiful line over the river.
For the rest of this trip, we met family in Playa del Carmen, where we took beach days and explored the tourism-focused city.
Photos coming soon.