Familiarization Trip To Belize February 2014
A new job, visiting and learning about a new country brings many new challenges! Sometime people tend to shy away from something new because they are scared or are unsure about changes. I know I have done it in the past. Turning 40 made me start to think about my life and what I have accomplished and what I may still want to accomplish. I have been given a great opportunity to challenge myself in new ways and make new friends. Traveling to Belize was something I never dreamed I would do and yet I just got back! I spent the last five weeks learning about all that Belize has to offer to get ready for my trip. I looked at pictures of people enjoying the sun and great food. I was inspired by seeing adventures such as snorkeling and climbing to the top of the Maya ruins. I felt excited seeing scuba diving with the exotic marine life and guests relaxing with a cool beverage as they watched the sunset. As nice as it is to look at pictures of others enjoying Belize, nothing compares to actually experiencing it yourself!
Monday we arrive at the Blue Tang Inn exactly as planned. What a breathtaking view! (see below)After being warmly greeted by the staff, Fanny and Allen and checking into our room, it was time to explore the town. The first restaurant we ate at was Caramba. I enjoyed a tasty Belize staple dish – stewed chicken with black beans and rice cooked in coconut milk and a side of potato salad. If you are ever in doubt on what to order in Belize, this is a fantastic option! After a walk through town, we enjoyed the meeting some of the locals while walking on the beach.
Tuesday morning after a fantastic breakfast at Blue Tang Inn, we were off for a ½ day sail and snorkel trip on the 40’ Sirena Azul Sailboat with our great Captains, David and Milo. Our first stop was at Hol Chan Reserve. This was only the 2nd time I have ever snorkeled. The first time was 8 years ago and was not the best experience. I was nervous but Milo was very patient and made the experience so very enjoyable! He made sure to point out all the marine life and coral that we saw along the way. He even dove down to take some great shots with my camera. We saw a majestic Eagle Ray, Sting Ray, Nurse Sharks, Barracuda, Eel, Sea Turtles and more different species of fish than I can mention. I would say I was in snorkel heaven! We then took a short cruise to Shark Ray Alley. Here they fed the Rays and Nurse Sharks from the side of the boat so snorkelers can interact with them. It was magnificent!
After a relaxing and beautiful sail back to the Blue Tang Inn, it was time to try another one of the great restaurants located on the beach. This time we ate at Lily’s Treasure Chest. I would recommend the fajitas and the chicken with fresh grilled pineapple salad. Oh, don’t forget to try the refreshing watermelon juice!
After lunch it was time to check out the town and visit Reef View Education Center. www.BelizeEducationCenter.com What a fantastic place with phenomenal views of the ocean and great accommodations. Before we knew it it was time for supper. Time to check out another new restaurant. This time we ate at Wet Willy’s. My favorite thing about Wet Willy’s is it is right off the pier over the ocean. You can see the crystal blue water between the floorboards! The view from their deck was stunning and the food was excellent.
Wednesday morning was all business for us. We walked to the other side of the town (past the Cut as it is known to the locals) to visit a few of the places that we work with for our Study Abroad programs. We visited Holy Cross School and a local private clinic and met with their only doctor. It was nice to finally put faces to the names behind the emails. For lunch, we met at yet another great restaurant called Elvi’s Kitchen. One of the most unique things about Elvi’s was it had a beach sand floor! It was awesome! Now that the business was taken care of it was time for some relaxation by the pool (i.e. WORK ON MY TAN!).
This was our last day in San Pedro so we had to be sure to check out the popular restaurant called Wild Mango’s. It sure lived up to expectations! Wednesday is a popular night to check out the local bars. They were hopping and the music was booming. Everyone was having a great time!
Thursday we left after breakfast to visit the Maya Ruins Xunantunich and then Cave Tubing with our wonderful guide Raul. What a great experience!
One of the couples we met on the Sirena Azul had decided to join along on our adventure. When we first arrived at Xunantunich, it was surreal to think of how long ago these grand structures were built. (see above picture) The tallest of these structures is called “El Castillo”. When our private guide Francisco said we were going to be climbing to the top, I couldn’t believe it. It was so high it made me nervous, but since this trip was about learning about Belize and new challenges- I had to try! What a view, it was exhilarating!
The second part of the day tour was going Cave Tubing.
What an educational and over all worry free excursion, thanks to our guide Raul! It was so neat to see the inside of a place that was created over millions of years. After tubing, it was a mad dash to catch our flight out of Belize City to go on to our second destination, Cotton Tree Lodge near Punta Gorda in Southern Belize. www.cottontreelodge.com A few plane rides later, and we arrived safe and sound just in time for a fantastic supper. We joined a culinary group from New York City at the lodge. They were loving the culinary experiences of Belize as much as me!
Friday (Valentine’s Day) I got to see Cotton Tree Lodge in the daylight for the first time. The only words that I can use to describe it is, “It’s a magical place”. The pictures I viewed didn’t even begin to show its unique qualities and beauty.
We started our day driving into a local Maya village to the home of Mrs. Bo. She is the mother of 10 children and taught us how to make fresh corn tortillas. Corn Tortillas are a staple in the Mayan home and the women make 75-100 per day from scratch.
We tasted the “Fruits of our Labor”. It really makes you think about all the hard work some have to put in to feed their family each day. Instead of just running to the local supermarket, that is!
After tortillas, boiled egg and stewed tomato, it was time for another new adventure going kayaking on the Moho River from the village back to Cotton Tree Lodge! I have never tried kayaking before.
We started the trip in a large rapids! It was so exciting. We enjoyed the nature along the Mojo River. It felt like we were the only three people on earth! For supper that night we had lobster. I have never eaten lobster before since I am not a huge seafood fan. But it was a wonderful homemade pasta and lobster dish. (The pasta had been prepared by the culinary group earlier in the day) It was a day of firsts for me!
Saturday I visited a local Cacao farm (chocolate). The farmer, Eladio gave us a tour of his farm with his sons. I got to try limes, papaya and white chocolate nector fresh off the trees. They invited us into their home and his daughter gave a presentation on how they make chocolate. We watched the ancient process and enjoyed the tastes of chocolate in its different stages. I have always considered myself a “Choco-holic” . I now appreciate chocolate and all of the hard work that goes behind making those delicious chocolate bars.
Since my return I have had a few people ask me what was my favorite part about Belize. I have found this a very hard question to answer! Every experience was so unique I don’t think I can pick just one. Belize is just one of those places that you just have to experience and once you do you will want to go back!
Tiffany Thate (February 2014)