Forty years ago, in 1979, the legendary game Trivial Pursuit was launched. In that same year, Margaret Thatcher made history by becoming the first woman Prime Minister in the UK, the $200 Sony Walkman was released, the snowboard took to the slopes for the first time, and Pink Floyd released their album, The Wall.
That same year in Belize, a savvy businessman by the name of John Grief III opened the doors to the first commercial airline in the country. With the name of Tropical Air Services Ltd, this two-employee airline (both who still work for the airline), was a far cry from the 380 employee Tropic Air of today. Back then, the runway was made of grass and the “terminal” operated out of a bodega at The Holiday Hotel. The first aircraft was a lone 1976 Cessna 172 VP-HDC (Delta Charlie), which did runs between Belize City and San Pedro.
Painting of Tropic Air’s first terminal in San Pedro.
Tropic Air San Pedro Terminal and part of fleet.
During the 1980s and 90s, Tropic continued to add destinations and terminals within the country of Belize, and the number of employees grew substantially. Eventually, Tropic branched into its first international destination with flights to Flores (to meet the demand of tourists wanting to visit the ancient Maya city of Tikal), and into tours like the Blue Hole.
Today, Tropic Air is a very different airline from 40 years ago. It boasts a fleet of 18 aircraft, flying about 320,000 passengers and 450,000 pieces of freight to 15 destinations in Belize, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. In January, Tropic Air will welcome a Beech 1900D twin engine airliner to its fleet, as well as open a new, more spacious terminal in Caye Caulker. The airline has indeed come a long way!
This month we celebrate this important Ruby Anniversary with planned activities at all our destinations. Come and join the celebration. We couldn’t have done it without you!
The first thing Kenrick said when asked on Monday how it went was “It was hard this year. The Heat was extreme! Indeed, it was an extremely hot and humid weekend here in Belize, with averages in the 90s and even rising to 100F.
This year the team was made up of 12, with one guide, Benedicto. Their motto for the expedition was “We are one with Nature, life is an adventure we got to live it”. The group started out at 7.22am on Friday morning, a little later than usual as one of the new team members had a backpack that was overweight, when checked by the guide. They were all eager to make up time and walked the first part at a fast pace, knowing from experience that this was the easiest part and they wanted to get as far as they could before the heat intensified. Along the way, Lennox, our other Tropic employee tried to clear some branches blocking the path, with his machete, when a small stick hit his left knee and gashed it open and they had to perform some quick temporary first aid until they got to the camp.
The group arrived at the 12K mark on the Sittee River at around 9.20am, having made pretty good time. After, crossing the river, they all took an hour break to refuel. The heat was fierce and the lesser experienced among the group were exhausted. From this point onwards the terrain gets much harder, so it was decided that the more experienced, including our two intrepid employees Kenrick and Lennox, would forge on ahead, taking some of the weight from the kits of those less experienced.
Kenrick said, that the extra weight they were carrying and the intense heat and humidity made the trek, that much harder and the rainforest seemed denser than normal and somewhat unreal. They stopped at 17 kilometers where there is a helipad clearing, and decided to wait for the rest of the group. Here they all fell asleep for about 50 minutes but the others still had not shown, so they continued on as by now it was already 1.05pm. They arrived at 19K Base camp approx. 40 minutes later and began setting up the tents and preparing a quick noodle meal for the others. At around 4.10 only 6 of the remaining group arrived.
One of their group had felt faint from exhaustion and had to head back to Camp 12K to spend the night, with the guide Benedicto. Along the way the other six climbers had an encounter with a jaguar who crossed their paths. They were all exhilarated, excited and a little relieved when it went on its way.
Kenny discovered in the changing of backpacks, that his kit had been left behind at 16K so he and Lennox made a quick trek back to get it. By now it was getting dark and a little scary so they went as fast as they could. After showering in the river and eating they all fell asleep in their hammocks with an eight- foot Boa constrictor as their body guard, sleeping in a big hole next to them!
The following morning the guide and the other team member arrived early and the group started the climb up Heartbreak Hill, to reach the summit. The team miscalculated their water as the streams were pretty dry and at the second helipad, there was no water as usual. The group climbed for one hour and finally reached the summit at Midday. Kenny and Lennox proudly placed the Tropic flag there. The sun was unbearably hot so after about 20 minutes they started the climb back down, tired and incredibly thirsty. Kenny commented that the guide had extra water but with the heat it felt like they needed a gallon each!
Coming down was easy!! Kenny’s words. They reached camp after a couple of hours and that cold shower in the waterfall felt like the best of their lives.
The following day after a good night’s sleep and lots of story and adventure swapping, they started the trek back to Base Camp. The climbers reached at different times according to their experience and endurance level. But by 3.00 on Sunday evening everyone had arrived safely back at Base Camp. There was another jaguar encounter, this time a baby one, so the climber moved quickly on, fearing that the mother would be close by.
Climb to the Summit 2019, was a massive success despite the intensity of the heat and some of the challenges they had on the way. We would like to congratulate Kenny and Lennox on their incredible feat and wish them every success in their next adventure.
Here at Tropic Air, we have some pretty active employees who take advantage of all that Belize has to offer. Kenrick Duncan and Lennox Myvett, customer service agents at Tropic Air’s PGIA International terminal are two such individuals. Next Friday 12th April both are taking part in the arduous hike and climb to Victoria Peak, the second highest mountain in Belize at 3.675 feet.
The three-day hike, according to Kenrick, is not for the faint hearted and requires a degree of fitness and endurance. Kenrick trains by running and both he and Lennox are no strangers to physical challenges. Just a few weeks ago in March, for the ninth year, they took part in the grueling 180-mile Ruta Maya Belize River challenge, finishing sixth in their age group and 35th overall.
The hike to Victoria Peak starts bright and early at 5.00am from the basecamp in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, where the team of five men, five women and a guide, set off, carrying backpacks with minimum equipment – tents, hammocks, other essentials and food. This is the third time that Kenrick and Lennox have climbed the peak so they are familiar with the routine. On the first day, they hike the 12 kilometers along mostly flat terrain reaching the first camp after crossing the Sittee River. After lunch of, according to Kenrick, mostly protein bars, because they don’t want to be hauling lots of weight, they continue to hike the rest of the trail another 7 kilometers. This is more difficult terrain with the trail going up and down. Along the way they encounter the infamous Heartbreak Hill. Once they reach their camp for the evening everyone usually takes a dip in the waterfall (which Kenny said is extremely chilly but refreshing). On Saturday, its another early start .Once the group reaches the base of Victoria Peak it’s a scramble up a rocky stream bed leading to the forest canopy. Ascending the rock gully requires rope and harness. They finally reach the peak at around 11.00am. The view from here is stunning. According to Kenrick all you see is hills and hills all around. On a clear day you can even see the coast. The area has unique flora with elfin shrubland, sphagnum moss, small trees of only two to three meters and the rare fiery-colored orchid which only grows at high elevations.
The team usually spend about thirty minutes taking in the amazing view and then it’s a climb back down and back to nineteen Kilometer camp for the evening to rest before returning to base the following day. Last year, they were extremely excited, and a little scared, to be followed by a jaguar on their trail. They also encountered several snakes along the way. Don’t worry they are prepared and the guides always carries anti-venom.
Each year, Kenrick explained the team have a name or a motto which is usually decided upon once they start the trek. In 2018 their motto was “I’m not just living, I’m alive “. To find out what their motto is for this year and to find out more about their adventures along the way stay tuned for our next blog. We all wish them good luck on their journey.
Ambergris Caye, the largest Caye in Belize, loves nothing more than to celebrate. Whether its beach parties at Easter, Lobsterfest in June or parades for Independence Day in September, there is always something fun going on. El Gran Carnaval which takes place every year the week before Lent is one of the local favorites.
The history of Carnaval goes way back to 12th Century Europe when people took to the streets to celebrate with masks and eat and drink as much as they could before Lent. The tradition was brought by The European settlers to the Yucatan peninsula and eventually over time, to Northern Belize and the small village of San Pedro. Today, San Pedro is the only town in Belize, that continues to celebrate Carnaval. Over the years the celebration has changed somewhat, but many of the original traditions remain.
This year for the first time, Carnaval will open on the Saturday evening with a Parade through town, Mardi Gras style, theme of “Mejorando la tradicion. The parade will be followed by a block party with live music and booths selling food and drinks. La Reina del Carnaval will also be taking place. This is the 6th year of this popular event showcasing 5 lovely ladies in a sport, swimwear, evening wear and a talent competition.
On Sunday afternoon the painting starts! The tradition of painting has evolved from the European wearing of masks, and anyone not wearing one in the street, would get painted. Today, Painting is a major part of Carnevale enjoyed by children and adults alike and in the last few years a foam party in the evening adds to the fun.
Whilst revelers paint in the streets, the Comparsas make their way from house to house along the downtown streets. Following the tradition, they dress up in brightly colored costumes, sing and dance and act out satirical skits on current events, sometimes global, sometimes national or sometimes related to events in San Pedro. Our very own Mrs Flora Ancona, who has worked for Tropic from the very first day, heads up one of the most famous of the Comparsas . She has been singing and dancing her way through Carnevale for over 25 years.
Painting and Comparsas alike continue through Monday and Tuesday. Tourists are welcome to get involved and be painted. Don’t worry a quick shower will have you cleaned up in no time.
Carnevale comes to an end on Wednesday, where an effigy of Don Juan Carnaval is burnt in order to dispel any negativity or bad luck from the island.
San Pedro’s El Gran Carnaval 2019 runs from Saturday March 2nd to Wednesday March 6th.
Tropic Air has over 300 employees, many who have been with us for over 10 years, and some who have even been with us since our beginnings in 1979. This month we would like to introduce you to some of the people who work at our Dangriga station. Dangriga is the largest town in Southern Belize. Here you will find a vibrant music, culture and art scene grounded in the strong influence of the Garifuna people. Inland, the Bocawina National Park offers intense adventures such as ziplining, waterfall rappelling and hiking to Antelope Falls. The Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve is also within easy driving distance. Offshore Dangriga, provides easy access to the Southern Cayes, in particular South Water Caye, Tobacco Caye and Glovers Reef Atoll, where the diving and snorkelling are spectacular.
At our Dangriga station there are three people whose combined years of service totals 48! That’s longer than Tropic has been in operation. Let us introduce you to Derry Nasario, Stanli Pascual and Geovani Johnson.
Derry Nasario has worked for Tropic for 20 years. He started working on 1st December 1997 in the San Pedro terminal as a ramp agent. After 4 years here, he made the move to Hopkins and started working at our Dangriga station in 2001. He loves the working environment at Tropic and particularly the management. In his spare time Derry likes to fish and he also likes to jog every morning, to keep fit.
Stanli Pascual has worked for Tropic for 18 years. He started in 2001 as a ramp agent. He particularly enjoys working with his co-workers and is part of the Tropic Air basketball team, The Tropic Thunders. In his spare- time he likes to clean up the environment.
Geovani Johnson has worked for Tropic for 10 years. He started working on 20th July 2008. Before that he used to work at a factory in Belmopan making orange Juice. He remembers how excited and willing to learn he was on his first day at Tropic. His favorite part about working here are his fellow co-workers. Geovani likes to lift weights and is also part of the Tropic Air basketball team. He really enjoys the welcoming, comfortable working environment of Tropic and says “it feels like family”
We are proud and thankful for having Derry, Stanli and Geovani on our team and for their years of service to Tropic Air. We hope you get to meet them and the rest of our team from our Dangriga station when getting a Tropic Air flight.
Tropic Air flies to Dangriga several times a day from the Belize City International and Municipal airports as well as Placencia and Punta Gorda. Dangriga airport is located in the northern part of town.
Belize is a veritable melting pot of different races and cultures. At no time of the year is this more visible than at Christmas. Whilst the decorating of Christmas trees, lights and giving of presents is a countrywide occurrence, other traditions handed down from one culture and generation to another have been adopted, diluted and adapted over the years.
Amongst all Belizeans, Christmas is a time to clean house. In preparation for expected or unexpected family and friends, the house is tidied, new curtains hung and often new flooring laid. Albert Street in Belize City was traditionally the place to shop for new material, decorations and tiles. Today most towns stock these products.
In most major towns of each area the season kicks off with the lighting of the town Christmas tree in the town square, an event often accompanied by carol singing and other celebrations. Already by this stage most shops have already put up their Christmas decorations and Christmas music in both Spanish,English and reggae versions can be heard belting merrily through the streets.
On Ambergris Caye, one of the highlights of Christmas is The lighted boat parade which usually takes place on the first Saturday of December. This is a beautiful sight to behold as the local community pull together and an array of fishing boats, catamarans, tour boats, water taxis and barges take to the water lit up with Christmas lights and parade from north to south of the island. It’s a great opportunity to grab a beachside seat in one of the many restaurants and bars and enjoy this festive seaside tradition.
In Dangriga in Southern Belize there is a strong Garifuna community and on Christmas afternoon it is traditional to watch or indeed take part in the Joncunu a colorful masquerade dance. The performance is an imitation of the European slave masters as seen by the pink painted masks that the dancers wear and the white shirts and often skirts which parody Scottish kilts that the British used to wear. The dance is often accompanied by Garifuna drumming.
Another grand tradition of Dangriga is The Grand Ball .an occasion which dates back to 1914 where dancers performed traditional ballroom dance steps such as the Fox Trot, Quadrille and the Waltz. This event continues today every Christmas and New Year’s Eve, largely attended by an older crowd.
Las Posadas is a mestizo tradition which occurs throughout communities in Belize but is strongly observed in Benque Viejo del Carmen. The 9 day custom starts on 16th December with the statues of Mary and Joseph being taken from Church to someones home which is locked. This procession is usually accompanied by marimba music, candles and firecrackers. Eventually after prayers and a reenactment of the nativity the doors are opened and the statues remain at the house for the evening. The following few nights the statues are taken to other families.
In the Toledo district where the Maya influence is strong, the ancient ceremony known as Deer Dance is often performed traditionally at Christmas and other special occasions. The Dance is performed by 24 dancers in masks including a jaguar, deer, a hunter among other characters.
Belizeans love their turkey and ham for Christmas dinner and this is usually served with trimmings including stuffing and of course the Belizean favorite of rice and beans. In certain cultures, tamales or rellenos are served instead or in concert with the traditional Christmas dinner. Black fruit cake is a favorite Belizean dessert at this time.
Christmas is a really wonderful time to visit Belize. The weather is warm , the welcome is warm and you will feel like family. And don’t forget to try the Rumpope!
With our friends from Aeromexico starting first-of-its-kind flights from Mexico City to Belize in November, we thought we would do our part to help bring awareness to the service to our fellow Belizeans.
So, if you take the new flight, what is there to do in Mexico City? First of all, it is one of the most fascinating and diverse cities in the world and deciding exactly what to do depends on what your interests are.
Here are some ideas:
If you want to do the sightseeing thing
The first thing you should do, early in your visit is to hop on and hop off the Turibus, an open top bus that is one of the best ways to see Mexico City. From here you can see famous landmarks such as Zocalo, the main central square with its diverse architecture ranging from Aztec to colonial Spanish to modern. You can also experience the Paseo de la Reforma with its iconic statue, The Angel of Independence and the Castle of Chapultepec, formerly host to sovereigns, now the home of the National Museum of Culture.
If you want to do the cultural thing
With over 160 museums, 100 art galleries, and 30 concert halls Mexico City is a culture vultures paradise. If you had a year, you couldn’t see them all.
If you want to do the ancient History thing.
50 km northeast of Mexico City is the ancient city of Teotihuacan with its huge Pyramids of the Sun and of the Moon. Here you can marvel at the wonders of the ancient cultures who are responsible for this epic site.
If you want to do the Frida and Diego thing
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are two of Mexico’s most famous artists. Visit the Blue House otherwise known as the Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacan to see where Frida was born, grew up and died. It also houses a collection of both Frida and Diego’s artwork. You can also visit their studios and interlinked houses where they lived until their divorce. Afterwards have a delicious lunch in San Angel Inn, a converted hacienda that’s serves the best Margaritas.
If you still want to look at more artwork
The spectacular building of Museo Soumaya located in the upmarket area of Polanco showcases a varied selection of over 60,000 pieces of artwork and what’s more it’s free. It is the city’s most visited museum.
If you want to do the Foodie thing
Visit some of the world’s most famous restaurants such as Pujol (featured in the Netflix series “Chefs Table”) to try the 1000-day old mole. Eat Mexican street food – tacos, street corn, Chapuline (a Mexican delicacy of crickets, grasshoppers, and locusts). Do not miss Churros at El Moro right in the heart of the city, where they have been making churros for over 80 years.
If you want to do the local thing
Spend Sunday at the Hanging Gardens of Xochimilcho. Jump on a gondola-esque boat, and order delicious Mexican fare from the passing vendors, Then sip on a magnificent Michelada, whilst being serenaded by one of the many Mariachi bands.
If sport is your thing
Of course, there is always football, Mexicans are very passionate about it. But a worthwhile alternative is to go watch Lucha Libre, Mexican wrestling where masked wrestlers dressed as superheroes provide an entertaining evening. In December, this year for the 3rd year running, The National Basketball Association (NBA) will feature the Orlando Magic playing regular-season games against the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico
And, if none of the above are your thing, you could always resolve to some retail therapy.
So Belizeans, go have some fun in one of the largest cities in the world.
The practice of naming airports after famous people has been in existence for many years. Presidents, artists, explorers, musicians, philanthropists and even footballers grace the names of some of the worlds most travelled airports. Here in Belize, it is our National Hero, Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson, who lends his name to the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA).
Philip Goldson was born on July 25th 1923 in Belize City at a time when Belize was still under British rule and known as British Honduras. At the age of 18 he took a job in the Civil Service, which sparked his lifelong interest in journalism and politics. He quickly became involved in the Nationalist movement, a movement focusing on the country’s independence from Britain, which took off with the formation of the Peoples United Party (PUP) in 1950. Goldson became Assistant Secretary to the party and at the same time, Editor of the paper Belize Billboard. It was an article in this paper that resulted in his sentence to a year of hard Labour, for “Seditious Intention”. Always thinking of his fellow Belizeans, Goldson used his time in prison to teach his fellow inmates to read and write.
For the rest of his life, Philip Goldson was involved in politics and instrumental in Belize’s independence. Simultaneously he sought to improve the lives of Belizeans through achievements such as the establishment of free primary education and governmental assistance to secondary schools, the initiation of the village council system and helping to rebuild Corozal town after the devastating Hurricane Janet. He also set up the family court, the department of Women’s affairs and the Disabilities Service Commission in his position as Minister of Social Services, under the term of the newly elected United Democratic Party (UDP) of which he was later a member.
Goldson was a man of determination and at the age of 51 studied to become a lawyer. Sadly, he lost his sight a few years later through glaucoma but this did not deter him from his goals. He continued his involvement in the area of disability and became president of the Caribbean Association of Disabled and Vice President of Rehabilitation International.
The Belize International Airport was given the name Philip Goldson International Airport in 1989 as recognition of his outstanding contribution to Belize. Just before he died in 2001, Mr. Goldson was presented with the Order of the Belize and posthumously in 2008 he was bestowed the greatest honor of Order of National Hero.
If you have visited any coastal areas of Belize be it on the mainland or on the Cayes, you will have come cross the Sea Grape Tree interspersed with Sea Almond and soaring Coconut Palms. Scientifically known as the Coccoloba uvifera, Tidibu Beibei in Garifuna and Uva de Mar in Spanish, it is actually related to the buckwheat family of plants. The tree is a great beach stabilizer tending to sprawl in high winds and become bushy. In a more protected environment it can grow up to 35 feet. The branches are covered in broad, circular, leather hard, bright green leaves that have a red central vein running through the center. These leaves can be boiled until the water is purple and then the extract drunk to lower blood pressure. The hard wood of the sea grape tree makes excellent firewood and historically was used to carve weapons, whilst the red core was used for dye.
Sea grape trees can survive pretty much anything – sand, salt, wind (even hurricane force). The one thing that doesn’t sit well with them is frost. Luckily frost is not something we get much of in Belize. Each sea grape tree is either male or female and needs cross pollination via bees or other insects in order for the fruit to develop. The fruit of the tree appears in late summer as a green “grape” approximately 2 cm in diameter and ripens to a purple color by late July/August. These grapes appear in hanging clusters much like the traditional grape on vines. In contrast to the grape, the pit is very large and makes up most of the fruit. As a result, they aren’t very juicy and can be a bit on the tart side. Kids however love them and in late Summer it has long been a Belizean tradition to scour the beach in search of trees, climbing and shaking the trees to release the ripened fruit. Kids eat them directly from the tree or collect them in buckets for later. Birds also love the fruits as do termites who often build their nests on the branches.
A tasty jelly can be made by boiling the ripe grapes to extract the juice, straining through a mesh bag adding sugar and pectin and boiling until set. The grapes can also be fermented to produce wine and vinegar. It takes a lot of sea grapes to make a little juice, so patience is a necessity but without doubt you will be reaping the fruits of your labor as any end product is delicious.
Blue holes or cenotes are underground cavities occurring in carbonate rocks that are open to the surface.
One of Belize’s most famous attractions, and an example of these, is the Great Blue Hole. Located in the lighthouse reef atoll approximately 62 miles from Belize City, it is an almost perfect circular chasm of deep blue in an azure sea. 1000 feet in diameter and more than 400 feet deep, it is the only Blue Hole on earth that is visible from space, and it’s a diver’s paradise.
Most visitors to Belize are probably unaware that in mainland Belize close to Belmopan, Belize’s capital city, and just off the Hummingbird Highway lies another of these craters, known as The Inland Blue Hole. Unlike its marine counterpart, this Blue Hole is a fresh-water cenote, located within the St Hermans Blue Hole National Park, a 575 acre forest teeming with wildlife. It is significantly smaller than the Great Blue Hole with a diameter of 300 feet and a depth of 100 feet. It’s a great spot for a refreshing dip while taking a Belizean road trip.
Belize’s third Blue Hole is still something of a secret. Located in the rainforest area on the border between the Orange Walk and Cayo districts between the Valley of Peace and San Jose, Cara Blanca is just one of a series of 25 cenotes. If you look it up on google earth the pools can be clearly seen. Cara Blanca is approximately 330 in diameter and 230 feet deep. In recent years archaeological diving expeditions have discovered pre-historic bones of huge mammals, along with Maya artifacts. The latter demonstrating how Cenotes and caves played an important part in ancient Maya culture as they were thought to be the opening to Xibalba or the underworld. The presence of a small plaza with sacrificial pots and other relics here, is thought to be evidence of this worship.
It is rumored that other Blue Holes exist in Belize. There are definitely underwater caverns behind Caye Caulker and deep blue cenotes in both southern and northern Ambergris.
Let us know if you know of any, elsewhere in the country. We’d love to hear from you.
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