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Aug
24

Cheap Tickets to Belize-see the world, the real world

Today more and more people are hopping on flights to Belize for what I like to call vacation adventure. Eco-tourism sounds so politically correct and boring, and Belize is anything but boring. Belize is all about the preservation of beauty. And it’s cheap.

Great Blue Hole

Great Blue Hole

Take the Cockscomb Basin Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve. A 150-square-mile tropical reserve that is a no-hunting haven for many species of this hemisphere’s wild cats — the puma, ocelot, jaguarundi, margay and jaguar.  It’s an Eden of natural wonders. Full of howler monkeys, parrots and toucans.

sanctuary

sanctuary

The sanctuary is located  in the Stann Creek District in the south-central coastal area of Belize. Stann Creek’s appeal extends beyond the sanctuary. For people into birds, there are some 300 species in the district’s marshes and forests. At the shore, only a few minutes from Cockscomb, are miles of white sand beaches, facing out onto one of the largest coral reefs in the world. A marine reserve district at the reef ensures first-class skin diving. Stann Creek also has a good supply of places to stay at good prices.

mayan center

mayan center

Like, for example, right outside the entrance to Cockscomb, in the village of Maya Center, visitors can stay with indigenous families and learn something of their way of life. The town’s former mayor, Ernesto Saqui, offers plain though spotless rooms with private bath for 60 Belizean dollars, plus tax (about $30) a night at his Nu’uk Che’il Cottages. Backpackers can bunk there for 20 Belizean dollars per night. His wife, Aurora Saqui, a traditional Mayan healer, sells homegrown botanicals and gives seminars.

Maya Center is also a base for excursions into Cockscomb, though it’s possible to stay within the sanctuary itself at extremely basic accommodations that range from 40 to 300 Belizean dollars a night.

cockscomb

cockscomb

Ten miles away, the seaside village of Hopkins is home to the Garifuna, descendants of indigenous Caribbean people and escaped African slaves.

Things get far more upscale at Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, not far from downtown Hopkins and possibly the greenest of eco-lodges in Belize. The resort has won certification from Green Globe, an international sustainability monitoring service.

hamanasi belize pool

hamanasi belize pool

Here there is no need for outside activities like tennis, here the jungle and the sea have it all. Posted at the hotel is an exhausting list of possibilities: night walks through Cockscomb, waterfall climbing, rain-forest trekking, snorkeling, scuba, kayaking.

Rise early, hire a guide, to take you to a remote part of the rain forest near the Guatemalan border, where you can hike around a 3,000-year-old Mayan pyramid.

ruins

ruins

Snorkeling. And this for me is reason enough to book a cheap ticket to Belize. Here you can see examples of hurricane damage in the  distressed and bleached out coral, as well as the rich underwater world Belize is so famous for.

belize snorkeling

belize snorkeling

Another thing: Here they don’t just talk the talk of being green, it feels like the whole island has gotten behind it.  Hamanasi finds ways to conserve in every department. For example, the hotel’s cars and boats have fuel-sparing motors. Kitchen leftovers are composted for the garden. Staff members sort through and recycle garbage. Soaps, shampoo and mouthwash are offered from refillable bathroom dispensers rather than plastic bottles.

“We do have air-conditioning,” said Dana Krauskopf, who with her husband, David, owns and manages the hotel. “It’s not sustainable, though we’ve developed systems to minimize its use. And we try to incorporate sustainable practices in other ways. For instance, we built the hotel without clear-cutting trees, which keeps the property cooler and attracts wildlife.”

Belize Toucans

Belize Toucans

Hamanasi is committed to helping guests connect with its surrounding culture. Once a week, after the dinner dishes are cleared, teenagers from the Lebaha Drumming Center arrive to perform traditional Garifuna music.

Hopkins has nearly two dozen other hotels with varying prices and sustainability practices. Up the beach from Hamanasi, Jungle Jeanie offers very basic rooms for 50 to 110 Belizean dollars a night. More costly is the Belizean Dreams resort  where we stayed after our reserved time at Hamanasi ended. For 414 Belizean dollars, we were upgraded to a palace of a two-bedroom suite, with multiple bathrooms and many appliances, not all of which functioned.

Belizean Dreams

Belizean Dreams

In many ways, Belizean Dreams is the anti-Hamanasi.  The property had been clear-cut, paved over and replanted during development. Sprinklers irrigated manicured grounds, and loudspeakers in the public areas blast Bob Marley, night and day. Maybe for the younger crowd? Book a ticket to Belize and see what the world can look like when we treat it well.

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