Belize City, Belize

July 13, 2011

Belize is a very small country with a population of about 385,000.  The main population groups are Mestizo (Mayan Indian & Spanish), Mayan, and Creole (African & European), but many other cultures are also represented in the population of Belize.  There are many small islands off the coast, and a barrier reef that extends along the entire coast of the country.

Our ship anchored about 5 miles off shore, so we rode tenders to get ashore.  There was a large shopping complex at the dock, which included a visitor center.  We met our tour guides there, and then boarded a bus for our tour.  The excursion we chose was a tour of Belize City (the country’s only large city) and the Belize Zoo, which is located outside the city.  Perhaps the greatest highlight of our tour was our guides, Ken and Lavourne.

English is the official language of Belize, so our guides spoke it well, but their preferred language is Creole, which they taught us a little about.

The Belize Zoo was started to provide a home for about 17 animals that had been used in a documentary film (about the native animals) that had become tame and would no longer have been able to survive in the wild.  Since then the zoo has become a refuge for injured animals and a place for a breeding program to replenish the numbers of some endangered animals.

Our first animal encounter was an opportunity to hold a boa constrictor.  It was a pleasant encounter, even for those of us who are not fond of snakes.

In the same area where we handled the snake, there is a large cage with three King Vultures, a bird we recognized from our time at the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore.  As with the other places we’ve been on this cruise, there were iguanas everywhere.  We saw spider monkeys, deer, tapirs (their national animal), crocodiles, and several big cats, including a puma, a jaguar, a margay, and a jaguarundi.  After the snake encounter, our group split into two parts, one going with each guide.  We were with Ken, and when we got to the black howler monkey, Ken was able to get the alpha male to roar for us.  The birds we saw included macaws and the Ornate Hawk-Eagle.

Unfortunately we did not get a good look at some of the cats because of rain, which was heavy enough to send them looking for shelter.  We were soaked by the time we got back to the bus, but still had a very good time, and our cameras did survive the rain.

There are many humorous signs throughout the zoo. The humor made it fun to read the reminders of things to beware of.  With the sign pictured, it was interesting to see that some people didn’t take it seriously.  Fortunately the male tapir had no victims while we were there.

On the way back to the ship, Lavourne gave us a lesson in the meanings of the colors and symbols on their country’s flag.

Our experience with the people we met in Belize is that they have a wonderful sense of humor, and they are a pleasure to be around.  There is a lot of poverty here, which bothered many of the cruise passengers, but the Belizeans seem to accept the life they have.

In our guide Ken’s words, this country is UnBelizeable!!  We would enjoy returning to Belize at some time.

                                      Guides Lavourne (with microphone) and Ken (behind flag)

© Susan L. Stone 2015