Karen Smith review 19 Feb 2007
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Seeing the manatees at Swallow Caye and dolphins on the return trip to Caye Caulker; having a face-to-face with a nurse shark; canoeing up an underground river; the magic of Tikal at dawn; Lamanai and Caracol; the friendliness of local people and their love and appreciation of their country.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Definitely take a lot of very good DEET-based insect repellent, long socks and long-sleeved light tops / shirts! The locals like to say that you only get bitten if you have sweet blood, but I got eaten alive! I'd also bear in mind that people seem to rise early and go to bed early, so if you're planning a lot of late-night socialising you might want to think again - most of the bars and restaurants closed at 10pm, sometimes as early as 9.30. Nothing that a trip to the supermarket for a bottle of something cheap and local won't fix though!
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Yes, on the whole. We always used local guides on tours of the archaeological sites, and ate at restaurants outside the hotels wherever we could to ensure that the benefit of tourism wasn't limited to the hotel itself. Our tour leader also encouraged us to support craft and souvenir enterprises that were owned and operated by local people, most memorably the women's cooperative shop at the Coxcomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, but also at markets, etc. I was lucky enough to find some great books by Belizean poets which without the knowledge of our leader I would never have heard of.
Belizeans are very aware of the value and importance of eco-tourism to both their economy and their environment, and they genuinely seemed to espouse the "take only photographs, leave only footprints" mantra.
The only downside was that we had to drive everywhere, but from what I could see we had little choice as regards transportation options.