Country - Belize
Belize Country Information
Belize was earlier known as British Honduras. More than half of its northern border is shared by Mexican state of Quintana Roo and its entire western and southern frontiers are bordered by Guatemala. The eastern border is totally a coastline of Caribbean Sea which extends to a part of the northern border. Belmopan is its capital and the city of Belize is the largest in the country. English is the official language though Spanish, Belizean Creole, Garifuna and Mayan languages are also recognized.
The economy of the country is mainly influenced by private enterprises with service sector accounting for bread-winning jobs contributing to 70% of employment. Agriculture and tourism make for the rest of the national income. The present concern is an increasing trade deficit mainly because of low export prices for sugar and bananas. The population below poverty line is 41.3% as per the 2009 estimates. Over a decade ago, oil reserves were discovered in the colony of “Spanish Lookout” in the Cayo district and the average production of oil has been recorded at 5000 barrels per day. Belize is now contemplating more seriously at reviving its economy due to the recent shutdown of Never Delay Oil Field, located at the north east of Belmopan.
The northern part of Belize is mainly flat wet coastal land while some of it is occupied with dense forests. The people of Belize are generally known to be gregarious and friendly. It is quite common for people to greet one another at public places even without previous acquaintance and they may even indulge in a brief talk on issues of common interest. The culture in the country has vestiges of deep roots of Mayan civilization. Belize was an important region in the great Maya Empire in the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries of A.D. The subsequent mysterious decline of Mayan civilization in 14th century continued and with the Spanish invasion in the 17th century the Mayan influence almost faded off. In spite of the fact Belize was under the rule of Spain on its incursion, the land was never actively used for several centuries for exploitation of natural resources nor for raising the standard of living in the region. Belize was mainly used as a hinterland for cutting dye wood and often was subject to inadequate attention. This eventually led the land to become a hideout for British buccaneers who also thrived on cutting wood in the thick forests. The British colonization began to take roots and with the defeat of Spain in the battle of 1798, Britain gained full control on the country declaring it as British Honduras. Post the World War II, like many other countries Belize too experienced deterioration in economy which stoked the sentiments for self-governance and political freedom. When independence was partly granted in 1964, the city Belmopan was made the capital since its largest city Belize was devastated substantially in the Hurricane Hatti of 1961. The British Honduras gained full independence in 1981 and became officially free Belize. The neighbouring country Guatemala had tried to gain control over Belize but with the deployment of strong British troops in 1972, Guatemala was forced to withdraw its claim.
In spite of several setbacks, Belize is surprisingly a peaceful nation. The total military strength of 550 soldiers is standing evidence to its state of risklessness. It is a welcoming feature for world tourists to step on the land with a sense of comfort and safety. Added to the feel-good ambience, the affable nature of the local people greets visitors as a gentle zephyr. Garifuna village in the Stann Creek district is the best example which stands out as a true reflection of polite culture of the country. The hamlet which is also home to Hopkins Bay is endearingly called “Real Belize”.
Hopkins Bay is extraordinarily famous for the natural wonder of bioluminescent waters. The joy of dipping in sparkling waters cannot be overstated. To discern the exact beauty of bioluminescence in its entirety, one has to dive into the waters at specific places, especially at night, of course accompanied by a reliable experienced bodyguard. The spontaneous emission of blue, green of lights in the form of batches of brilliant dots or small strobes by micro-organisms, marine invertebrates, aquatic insects look like small scale celebrations of fireworks within the water kingdom. Biologists irrefutably reiterate that a protein-like substance called luciferin and an enzyme luciferase present in certain micro-organisms, fish, aquatic insects, fungi (like mushrooms) and some marine creatures react chemically in presence of oxygen available in sea water to produce light energy which we see it as the spectacular phenomenon of bioluminescence. While some creatures use bioluminescence for attracting mates for reproduction, some use it as a torch light for themselves to move in the pitch darkness in deep seawaters, some others use it for self-defence expelling away predators. Whatever be the reason, the process is a feast to the eyes of visitors.
The world’s second largest coral reef, following closely on the heels of the Australian Great Barrier Reef, beckons tourists to behold the natural formations which seem to score a tad better over manmade attractions. It is a matter of pride to the nation that the Barrier Reef has been removed from the list of endangered World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, praising the visionary measures implemented by the government to preserve the cultural legacy.
The hospitality of natives of Belize is so nice that even female solo travellers can wander about and choose to take up outdoor adventures fearlessly. Climbing up the extremely wide stone-steps of prehistoric monuments like Mayan pyramids which stand out like undamageable structures amidst the wide green expanse of flat lands is altogether a different experience.
Another fascinating outdoor activity is zip-lining in which the enthusiast is safely made to hang in a small belt tied to a super strong metal cable and allowed to glide away at breakneck speed hovering over much above valleys and the tops of conical trees. With the average zip line length about four kilometres, the experience is no less than flying like a bird of prey moving at storming speed and offers abundant satisfaction of soaring like a wingless aviator.
Ambergris Caye is the biggest Belizean island which ameliorates the minds of travellers in the absence of hectic metro-life and high-rise buildings. Lamanai and Xunantunich are the two major archaeological sites that serve as the testimony for the age-old great Mayan civilization that dominated for centuries. Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary which was once famous for nursing leopards in free wilderness is also a habitat to a wide variety of bird species and divergent types of flora. If you do not want to miss the essential information of exotic plant species and forest animals, a local tourist guide is worth engaging.
Much before you descend on the land of Belize, an aerial view of the country fascinates you with perfectly ring-shaped atolls and lengthy stretches of white sand beaches and dark blue sea waters. These are presumed as the signature features of Belize that lure the tourists from across the world. The picturesque beauty of the country is as welcoming as the decent mannered native people.