Aside from Ambergris Caye off the north coast which hosts most of the tourist and being a port for a continuum of large cruise ships, Belize is an under developed country discovered by few. That is not to say that you wonít find five star resorts and blossoming retirement communities on the mainland, but they are often obscure and hidden from view by a dense tropical jungle, or at the ends dirt roads miles from anywhere. A melding pot of people with at least eight ethnic subgroups, it is a country co-existing with its diversity. Although English is the official language, the multilingual Belizeans can be heard in the streets speaking Creole in the central regions and Spanish in the border communities along with a host of other ethnic languages. Food crosses all ethnic boundaries so Chinese Chow-Mein dishes might be offered along with a mixture of traditional Caribbean, Mexican, and Mayan cuisine.
A small country, life along the coastal edge is dominated the by sea while the dense tropical jungle defines its interior. Beyond the tourist industry, agriculture is the main product of export supporting its economy. From Belize City with its rough and tough edgy feel bustling with cars, bicycles, and people afoot, travel a few miles out of town in any direction and one encounters quiet roads passing rural communities and homes of thatch roofs. The main two lane highway connecting the various regions of this country is more like rough secondary roads by western standards. Often road lineage and signs are non-existing. Off the main highway, most of the rural roads within the countryside are dirt. Add an abundance of rain fall and driving can become a muddy experience best suited for four by fours.
Although Belize lags behind many of the other Central American countries in its development and standard of living, the people are friendly and hospitable and the food at local restaurants was great. Under development in the mainland may actually be an attractive aspect of travel in Belize. Aside from the bigger cities and towns, traffic in the countryside is minimal giving one a sense of real exploration. Donít be surprise to pass by rural villages miles from the main highway off dirt roads. There the Belizeans appear to live a life of old far from the hustle and bustle of modern life. The pace is slower and quieter with locals often sitting out the mid-day heat and the most frequent activity may be kids walking to and from school in their uniforms. This slower pace in many parts of the country may be the very aspect that attracts newcomers seeking to get away from the hectic craziness of modern society.
During our visit, we traveled on our own north to as far as the town of Orange Walk, west to the Cayo District and San Ignacio near the Guatemalan border, and south to Placencia. We had a great time doing all the things that attract the tourist such birding, hiking, roaming Mayan ruins, caving, snorkeling, or simply enjoying the warm tropical climate and soothing coastal breezes. However, one of the more memorable aspects of our visit was talking with and learning about the lives of the people we encountered be they locals, newcomers, or travelers like ourselves. The tropical jungle, cities, countryside, and coastal shores left lasting visual memories but the stories of the people we met tell the story of Belize.