B E L I Z E       

Rainforests, reefs and ruins .. lush tropical rainforests, mystical Maya ruins and the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere... that is Belize.
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Nestled on the coast between Mexico's southern Yucatan and Honduras, this small Caribbean country is home to over 300 species of birds, the world's densest population of Jaguar, thousands of colorful and exotic tropical fish and many Maya ruins.

ANCIENT MAYA --Belize was the home of the earliest Mayan settlements as shown by glyph translations and diggings. Archaeologists have found traces in the Orange Walk District of Mayan communities to as far back as 2000 B.C.

Mayans consider themselves as products of the cieba tree. This tree is said to be in the center of the universe, holds up the heaven and is a symbol of life. It is estimated that there are thousands of Maya Ruins in Belize. Only a few have been found and excavated by scientists. All of the following sites can be seen:
  • Corozal District: Cerros and Santa Rita
  • Orange Walk: Lamanai, Nobmul and Cuello
  • Belize District: Altun Ha
  • Stann Creek District Mayflower
  • Cayo District: Xunantunich, El Pilar, Cahal Pech, Pacbitun and Caracol
  • Toledo District: Nim Li Punit, Uxhenba and Lubaantun.

Caves --Cave systems like Che Chem Ha and Barton Creek Cave in the Cayo District have ancient Maya rituals. Items found include pots used to store food and skeletal remains of people offered as sacrifices to the gods.

Many Maya could read. Their hieroglyphic writing is often compared to that of ancient Egypt.

They also developed a complex, accurate calendar and sophisticated ways to grow crops.  Belize comprises a significant part of the area known to archaeologists as the "Maya Heartland."

It served as a pathway to the sea for the Maya of cities such as Tikal, in Guatemala. Salt and many items vital to Maya ritual, such as stingray spines, shells, corals and pearls, were sent to the interior people in trade for tropical forest by-products like copal incense, drugs, spices and bird plumes.

Belize Today

Belize Museum -- The Belize Museum displays Mayan artifacts gathered from around the country.

The country is a stable, peaceful democracy enjoying the protection of Great Britain, as it did when it was a British  Colony. English is the primary language and travelers can use the U.S. dollar.

Howler Monkeys calling in the high jungle canopy, exotic birds perched on ancient Maya temples, green crystalline rivers and blue Caribbean waters are all part of an expedition to Belize.

Belize still contains expansive tracts of primary rainforest.

The varied and diverse natural environments, including primary and secondary rainforest, mangrove swamp, cool pine-clad mountains and grasslands make for a large variety of wildlife for such a small country.

Belize is a crossroads for species that inhabit climatic regions of both the temperate north and tropical south and possesses the highest density of Jaguars in the world.

Black Howler Monkey, Spider Monkey, Coatimundi, Agouti and Kinkajou are among the animals frequently seen. Some of the more exotic birds include the Keel-billed Toucan, Red-lored Parrot, Jabiru Stork and Montezuma's Oropendola.

National Animal

The Tapir, also called a Mountain Cow is the largest land mammal of the American tropics.

The tapir is a strong animal with short legs. About the size of a donkey, it weighs up to 600 pounds.

Usually a dusty brown, it has white fringe around the eyes and lips, white tipped ears and occasional white patches of fur on the throat and chest.

In spite of it's local name, the tapir is not a cow. It is related to the horse and the rhinoceros. A vegetarian, it spends much of its time in water or mud shallows, and is a strong swimmer.

The National Animal is protected under the wildlife protection laws of Belize, and cannot be hunted.

Barrier Reef -- The Belize Barrier Reef is the oldest and longest unbroken living reef on Earth and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Its 185-mile length protects many  small offshore islands, preserving beautiful white beaches.

These islands provide shelter  for many species of birds, including Boat-billed Heron, White Ibis, Magnificent Frigatebird and Red-footed Booby. Unspoiled patch reefs, mangrove forests and shelves descending into the depths of the blue Caribbean are a few of the marine habitats. Belize is world known by scuba divers for scuba diving in its crystal blue waters.

The population of Belize is only about 200,000 .

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