Birding in Belize
Formerly British Honduras, Belize has a small population—about 200,000 people—but a diversity of culture. It was once the heart of the Mayan civilization, which flourished here from about 2000 B.C. to 1600 A.D., when they mysteriously abandoned their cities and temples. But the Maya themselves are still here, slight, graceful people, most of whom retain their traditional ways, and the ruins of temples are scattered throughout the country. The official language is English, though Spanish is widely spoken, as is the Mayan language and Creole. The Garifuna people, descendants of former African slaves and the Caribs of the western Caribbean, maintain strong traditions of their own, heavily influenced by their West African past. East Indians, Taiwanese, Europeans, Ladinos, and Mennonites round out the cultural mix, in apparent harmony.
Traveling in Belize
Getting there: Belize is a two-hour direct flight from Miami, Houston, or New Orleans; daily service is provided by TACA, American, and Continental Airlines. Arrangements can be made at the time you make your reservations. A valid passport is required; for United States citizens, a visa is not. Passports are stamped for 30 days, but extensions are fairly easy to get in any major center. For more visa information, contact the Belize Embassy, 2535 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008, (202) 332-9636.
Climate: Subtropical. Annual mean temperature is 79º F; annual rainfall ranges from 50 inches in the north to 170 inches in the south (the rainy season is generally between July and August, but take rain gear no matter when you go). Best time to go: November to February.
Currency: The Belize dollar has a fixed 2:1 rate of exchange to the U.S. dollar. U.S. currency, traveler's checks, and credit cards are all accepted by most hotels, tour operators, and restaurants.
Health: Water is generally safe to drink, but do ask when in more remote locations. Malaria and Dengue fever are both found here, though they're fairly uncommon. No inoculations are required, but anti-malarials are recommended for jungle stays (the reasonable alternative—which I prefer—is to make sure you're not bitten: Cover up at dawn and dusk, and use repellent).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
Best Hotels in Belize