Tag: Belize

Christmas in Belize

Posted By : Tropic Air/ 53 0

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.

Image ©Truck Stop

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.

Image ©Sanpedroscoop.com

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.

©JC Cuellar

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!

What to do in Mexico City

Posted By : Tropic Air/ 314

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 Blue Holes of Belize – there’s more than just one!

Posted By : Tropic Air/ 855

Blue holes or cenotes are underground cavities occurring in carbonate rocks that are open to the surface.

©Tony Rath Photography – trphoto.com

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.

© Tony Rath – trphoto.com

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.

TROPIC AIR AND COPA AIRLINES ANNOUNCE INTERLINE AGREEMENT

Posted By : Tropic Air/ 617

PRESS RELEASE
June 15, 2018
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye

Tropic Air and Copa today announced the commencement of an interline agreement that allows customers to purchase connecting flights on one ticket and receive boarding passes for all segments at their first check-in. Tropic serves 15 destinations from Belize’s Goldson International Airport which Copa serves nonstop from its home at Panama’s Hub of the Americas.

“We are thrilled to enhance our partnership with Belize and provide great connectivity to our customers from 75 cities in the Americas offering the best regional on-time performance and service standards,” said Christophe Didier, VP of Global Sales for Copa Airlines.

Steve Schulte, Chief Executive Officer of Tropic Air commented, “We are thrilled to start our interline relationship with Copa. We look forward to welcoming more Latin Americans to Belize, and to providing both of our customers with access to our growing list of destinations across the region.”

“At Tropic, we strive to put the customer first in everything that we do,” said John Greif III, Tropic Air’s President. “This partnership will enable us to connect our customers to Copa’s extensive network of destinations, offering greater choice and convenience. It also enables our tourism partners to have seamless travel options, and demonstrates our determination to expand and strengthen our connecting route network.”

The agreement commences immediately, and tickets are available for sale. Connecting flights can be bought through professional travel agents.

About Tropic Air
With neary 40 years of service, Tropic Air flies over 200 daily scheduled flights with 15 aircraft to 15 destinations in Belize, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. Tropic Air now employs over 350 team members and will carry over 300,000 passengers and 425,000 items of freight system wide this year.

Tropic Air recently successfully completed IATA’s Industry Standard Safety Audit for the third time, after joining the program in 2015. In September, Tropic was also admitted as a member of the Latin American Airlines Association (ALTA), after meeting its professional standards requirements.
Journalists with media enquiries, please contact the press office: pr@tropicair.com

About Copa Holdings, S.A.
Copa Airlines and Copa Airlines Colombia, subsidiaries of Copa Holdings, are leading Latin American providers of passenger and cargo services. The airlines offer service to 79 destinations in 32 countries in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

During Copa Airlines’ 70 years of continuous operations, the Hub of the Americas in Panama has become the leading hub on the continent. Copa operates one of the youngest and most modern fleets in the industry and has one of the best on-time performance rates in the industry. In addition, in 2017 Copa received the award for “Leading Airline in Mexico and Central America” at the World Travel Awards and earned three Skytrax 2016 awards: “Best Airline in Central America / Caribbean,” “Best Airline Staff Service in Central America / Caribbean,” and “Best Regional Airline in Central America / Caribbean.” Copa is a member of Star Alliance, which offers passengers more than 18,450 daily flights to 1,300 airports in 190 countries.

Gud Maanin Belize

Posted By : Tropic Air/ 1491

Belize is a happy country and its normal to greet each other with a “Hello”,” Good morning “, a “Hi how are you” or a “What’s happening”. We are the only country in Central America where English is the official language. But depending on where you are in the country and who you are talking to, you will discover quite a diversity of language in the manner of greeting strongly related to the melting pot of cultures that are our people.

“Gud Maanin” or “Weh di go aan?” are two familiar Kriol greetings, sung here in a Belizean favorite by the late and well-respected King of Brukdown, Mr Wilfred Peters.

Whilst English is the official language, Kriol is spoken by most Belizeans, particularly at home or in informal situations. Often thought of as a dialect, it is in fact a language with its own set of rules and grammar.

In areas where the Mestizo culture is strong particularly in northern Belize and the Cayo district, the favored language is Spanish and familiar greetings are “Buenas Dias”,”Hola” and “Que Pasa?” Northern Belize still has several Maya villages, where Yucatec Maya is still spoken, though sadly the language is dying out. “How are you” is “Bix yanikech”, Good morning is “Ma’lob Ja’atskab K’iin”

Two other Maya languages are spoken in Belize, predominately in villages in the Toledo district where the Maya culture is strongest. The village of San Antonio is mostly populated with Mopan Maya and a traditional greeting which means both Hello and Goodbye would be “D’yoos”. San Pedro Columbia is the largest Q’eqchi Maya community and they also have their own language. A typical greeting would be ” Ma sa’aach’ol” (how are you?) When speaking to an older woman the greeting would be “Naxin” and for an older man “Waxin”. The younger generation greet each other with the more informal “Chan xawil”.

Stann Creek is the cultural heart of the Garinagu or Garifuna. “Buiti Binafi” is the greeting here. This language which is part of the Arawak group of languages is rich in stories of the Garifuna culture.

In the Mennonites communities of Belize such as Spanish Lookout, Blue Creek and Barton Creek, the language spoken is low German. Good morning is “Goomorjess” or the informal “Morjess” Like many other Belizeans they also speak Spanish, English and Kriol.

Whilst the languages mentioned above make up the main cultural groups in Belize, today there are many other peoples, who have visited, fallen in love with and settled in the country. It’s not un-usual to hear Lebanese, Chinese and even French. Belize really is just one big melting pot.

BTB Presents U.S. $59,934.00 cheque to Caribbean Tourism Organization as contribution to “A Dollar for the Caribbean Relief Fund”

Posted By : Tropic Air/ 618

Belize City,
Belize
Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Belize Tourism Board (BTB), in collaboration with tourism industry stakeholders, raised U.S. $59, 934.00 (Bz $119,868.00) as part of the Dollar for the Caribbean Relief Fund campaign. The fund was created to assist victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which severely devastated many Caribbean countries in September last year.

This morning Ms. Karen Pike, BTB’s Director of Marketing and Industry Relations, presented the cheque to Mr. Hugh Riley, Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) during a virtual press conference hosted by CTO in Barbados.

In presenting the cheque, Ms. Pike said “when we got the news on the Caribbean Relief Fund Campaign, we embraced it immediately because it was not only the right thing to do, but also because it brought all of us in the Caribbean once again even closer together in a unified effort to assist those in need.” She added: “As part of this the BTB reached out to the entire country of Belize through the media, press releases, the BTB’s Dollar for the Caribbean Relief Fund Campaign, website and its news distribution network.”

In his response, the Secretary General said, “we thank you Belize on behalf of the entire Caribbean family.” During the press conference, an overview on the state of the tourism industry in the Caribbean was also presented.

As part of its Dollar for the Caribbean Relief Fund Campaign, each participating tourism stakeholder donated a $1 for every guest; the BTB then contributed by donating $1 for every tourist arrival for the month of October therefore, creating a multiplier effect. The BTB initiative was supported by the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), the Belize Hotel Association (BHA), Tropic Air, the Belize Airport Concession Company (BACC), Tour Operators, water taxis, and hoteliers amongst many others.

During the first week of September, category 5 Hurricane Irma pummeled a number of Caribbean countries in the northern Leeward Islands and the northern Caribbean leaving a long trail of devastation. Many residents of these countries were left homeless, without food, power, water and basic essentials. Two weeks later, Hurricane Maria followed the same path further exacerbating the level of destruction throwing many of these countries in a severe state of despair. The Caribbean depends on tourism as their chief means of survival and the devastation by both hurricanes has stalled the economies of countries affected, which may take several months or perhaps years to recover.

The BTB and the Belize tourism stakeholders are extremely pleased that they were able to make a contribution towards the Caribbean Relief Fund and take this opportunity to offer their heartfelt thanks to all Belizean stakeholders and organizations that donated generously in order to ease the road to recovery for our Caribbean sister countries.

According to the CTO, approximately U.S. $135,000.00 was raised by the Caribbean Hurricane Relief Fund Campaign.

Travis Williams and Roanne Badillo from Tropic Air presenting a cheque for Bz $3,970.00 towards the Hurricane Relief Fund to BTB’s Director of Cruise & Destination Planning, Noriko Gamero. The cheque was included in the BTB’s presentation to CTO.

Ten things to do in Belize

Posted By : Tropic Air/ 4744

It is a new year and you are looking at your bucket list wondering what it is lacking. It is time for adventure! It is time exploration and conquering new horizons! New destinations, new experiences, awesome memories and loads of fun… it is time for Belize.

Here are 10 awesome things to do and reasons why you should have Belize as your next destination. We should also mention that none of them involve dealing with snow or sub zero temps ;).

1: The Great Blue Hole

The world famous Great Blue Hole is a giant submarine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, an atoll 43 miles (70km) from Belize City. The hole is circular in shape, over 984 feet (300 m) across and 354 feet (108 m) deep. The Great Blue Hole is a part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage Site. This site was made famous by Jacques Cousteau, who declared it one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world.

Getting there
See it the way it was meant to be seen … from the air. Fly to Lighthouse Reef Atoll, and make several fly-bys of this natural wonder of the world. On the way, see the Belize Barrier Reef, and Turneffe Atoll. Be sure to keep watch on the water below for Manatees, Rays, Sharks, Dolphins, and other wildlife. So, before you dive it, see it. There are scheduled tours and charters available from Tropic Air. Visit our tour page for more information.

2: A.T.M (Actun Tunich Muknal) Cave

This cave adventure is one of the most popular attractions in Belize. Featured in National Geographic, A.T.M. cave is several kilometers long and is an ancient burial site containing four skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware left by the Maya. The most famous skeleton is that of a young girl, the bones of which have been completely covered by the natural processes of the cave, leaving them with a sparkling appearance. Once inside the cave you will spend several hours swimming, climbing, and exploring the Maya underworld. The culmination of the tour is the Crystal Maiden, a young virgin sacrifice, and “The Cathedral”, with its stalactite and stalagmite formations.

Getting there
Take the guided tour. If you are staying on the mainland, ask your resort for your tour options. If you are in the cayes, there are daily tours available from Tropic Air. Visit our tour page for more information.

3: Hol Chan Marine Reserve / Shark Ray Alley

At the southern tip of Ambergris Caye is Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Hol Chan is the Maya name for ‘little channel.” This sanctuary on the Barrier Reef was officially established in 1987, and since then the return of all species of fish has been quite dramatic. It is perfect area for snorkelers and scuba divers, and for those learning to do both. It is the single most popular day trip from San Pedro.

Getting there
Take a tour boat from San Pedro or Caye Caulker. Trips usually run once in the morning and again in the afternoon. You can also do it from the mainland using Tropic Air flights to either island.

4: Lamanai

The ancient Maya site of Lamanai sits on the edge of the spectacular New River Lagoon in the Orange Walk District, and is known for being the longest continually-occupied site in Mesoamerica. Wildlife is abundant, and you can see and hear howler monkeys. Jaguars also roam nearby. This is reflected in the stories of the locals as well as the architecture.

The temples themselves rise from the jungle floor to a spectacular view above the jungle canopy. They have many carvings into them of the jaguars and crocodiles, and you have the chance to climb to the top of the main pyramid. There is a rope and very narrow, tall, steep steps leading to the view high over the lagoon.

Getting there
Take a river tour boat from the Tower Hill Bridge (near Orange Walk town). Trips usually run about 7 hours in length. It can also be done from some of the islands (like San Pedro or Caye Caulker). There are scheduled tours from Tropic Air. Visit our tour page for more information.

5: Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is the epitome of the laid-back island lifestyle. With the Barrier Reef just off its eastern shore, fresh seafood, quaint bars and restaurants, sandy streets and tropical music, Caye Caulker is the perfect place to spend one day, a few days or even a few weeks.

Getting there
Take a water taxi from a neighboring island or fly with Tropic Air from Belize City, San Ignacio, Orange Walk or San Pedro.

6: Xunantunich

Xunantunich or “Maiden of the Rock” is situated on the Western Highway across the river from the village of San Jose Succotz in the Cayo District. This major Maya ceremonial center can be reached by ferry daily across the Mopan River. This Classic Period site provides an impressive view of the entire river valley. It occupies only 300 square meters but the periphery covers several square kilometers. The main temple of El Castillo rises 120ft (40m) above plaza level, making it one of the tallest buildings in Belize.

Getting there
It is a very accessible and easy site to enjoy, so take a guided tour from one of the nearby resorts. You can also do it on your own. Tropic Air flies several times a day to San Ignacio’s exclusive Maya Flats Airstrip which is very close to the site.

7: Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is Belize’s premier destination for birders, and contains a mosaic of wetland and land habitats. With 16,400 acres of lagoons, creeks, logwood swamps, broadleaf forest and pine savanna, you will be sure to see a wide array of wildlife. The Sanctuary protects globally endangered species including the Central American River Turtle, Mexican Black Howler Monkey, and Yellow-headed Parrot. The village in the lagoon is also home to the very unique Cashew festival every year.

Getting there
Take a guided tour from one of the nearby resorts or from your tour operator.

8: Placencia

Placencia is a peninsula in southern Belize with almost 16 miles (25km) of sandy beaches. The Caribbean is on the eastern side, while the lagoon that looks towards the Maya Mountains on the mainland, is to its west. From March to June, dive with Whale Sharks at Gladden Spit (a cut in the reef east of Placencia village). It is also easy to get to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Reserve, home of a large Jaguar population.

Getting there
Fly to Placencia on Tropic Air. Flights are available from several destinations throughout the country. Since it is not an island, you can also drive there.

9: Cave Tubing

Over the years, cave tubing at Nohoch Che’en Caves (sometimes known as Jaguar Paw) has become extremely popular, especially on hot days. Float down the Cave’s Branch River on inner tubes through underground caves once used by the Maya. You can also zip-line and ride ATVs though the rainforest in this area, located about 40 miles (64km) from Belize City.

Getting there
Fly to Belize City or Belmopan and take a tour from there. There are scheduled tours and available from Tropic Air. Visit our tour page for more information.

10: Fishing

No matter where you stay on the Belizean coast, there is great fishing. The flats offer one of the best chances in the world to complete a grand slam (Tarpon, Permit and Bonefish in one day). The rivers teem with Snook, Snapper and Tarpon while offshore, Sailfish and other species abound. It is also a great place for kids to learn to fish, as hotel piers and reef proximity provide great opportunities for them to practice catching snapper, grunt and barracuda.

How to arrange it
Ask your resort to arrange a half-day or full day fishing trip.

How to get to Belize

Here are a list of international carriers that fly into Belize. Click here or copy and paste the following link:

https://www.tropicair.com/flying-tropic-air/about-belize/how-do-you-get-to-belize/

The Sport of Kings

Posted By : Tropic Air/ 1441

Horse racing’s history dates back thousands of years to the domestication of the horse by the people of Central Asia. The sport consisting of horses with rider racing round a track, was adopted throughout the world and was christened the sport of Kings when King James 1st of England made it his pastime of choice.

© horseracingbelize.com

Horse racing was introduced to Belize in the 1920s. At that time there were 2 major horse races. The Dewars Cup, named because of its sponsor, took place on Boxing Day, December 26th. The other race took place on 1st January. Some horses were imported from Jamaica, others were the Belizean bred family pony. People gathered for a bit of fun, to race their horse and of course to drink, bet and hopefully make a bit of cash.

Today there are several stables in Belize that breed horses but horse racing hasn’t changed much. Unlike the rest of the world it is relatively small scale and Horse breeders and owners come from all walks of life. There are now 3 race courses, Castleton Race Track in Burrell Boom, The Benny Padron Race track in San Felipe Village, Orange Walk and the Peoples Stadium in Orange Walk, which also acts as a football pitch and sports stadium. The terrain is grass, the type of race for those who know their horse racing terms, flat. Race meetings take place most months throughout the year at one of these three tracks. The Belize Triple Crown Challenge which takes place in April/May consists of 3 races, The Castleton Derby at Castleton race track, the San Felipe Stakes at the Benny Padron Race track and the Old Masters Stakes at the Peoples Stadium race track. This race series is open to three year old thoroughbreds from Belize. This year the horse Padrino made history by winning all three races.

If you are here for the Christmas vacations and are interested in seeing horse racing Belizean style, Castleton Races still take place on 26th December. Its no longer called the Dewars Cup but it is still the Sport of Kings.

 

Featured Photo: © horseracingbelize.com/

Queen Conch in Belize

Posted By : Tropic Air/ 2242 0

As we discovered in a previous blog, everything is not always as it seems.  Cashew nut is in fact a fruit and chocolate comes from a seed.  This month we talk a little about one of Belize’s favorite foods, Conch; where it lives, how its caught, how its cooked and how… it’s a snail!

If you are eating conch in Belize, you are most likely eating Queen Conch. Horse Conch or mai mula as it is locally known is also eaten especially in ceviche but sadly it is now rare and considered a delicacy. Queen Conch is a large sea snail that can be found close to the reef in shallow water in the sand or seagrass.  Conch don’t like to stay in one place and tend to travel miles looking for food. They move about in groups or schools using their “foot” to drag them across the sandy sea bottom.

Local fishermen are skilled at knowing where to find them and only those with a commercial fishing license are allowed to catch them. They are relatively easy to catch but extracting what’s inside requires skill and precision. The fisherman makes a small hole in the spiral part of the shell preferably using another conch shell (a knife is liable to break). This hole breaks the vacuum inside the shell making the meat easy to extract. Once extracted it needs to be cleaned of all the brown skin, best done with a fillet knife.  The “nail” and eyes are normally discarded or kept as bait or to chum. Experienced Conch fisherman never throw the empty shells back into the same place they have caught the conch as other conch will not return to this place. Instead they wait until their catch is complete at the end of the day and throw the shells back in, where there aren’t any conch. That is why you often see piles of shells in one place.

Freshly extracted conch meat can be eaten immediately as its sweet and tender. The tough muscle or foot can be tenderized with a mallet so that it too can be consumed. Every local fisherman and chef have their own special recipe for conch ceviche but staple ingredients include conch meat of course, lime (lots of it) cilantro, onion, tomato and habanero pepper(if desired). Conch fritters, conch soup (which is known to be good for the back) and conch steak are the most popular dishes you will come across in Belize. However, if you want to ensure that you get to try one or all of these tasty dishes you need to visit between 1st October and 30th June which is open conch season. At all other times of the year, the fishing and serving of conch is forbidden in order to maintain the conch population. Luckily that time is now.

 

 

Mango Season. Cashew Season. No, it’s Chocolate Season!

Posted By : Tropic Air/ 2283 0

Mango

May and June see the start most Belizeans favorite season, mango season. After eight months of deprivation, these sweet beauties suddenly grace every market stall and roadside vendor in Belize. The countryside and city yards overflow with mangoes of every shape and size, with colors ranging from green to red, to yellow and even blue.

In Belize, there are well over 20 varieties of mango with names just as colorful as their skin. There are Hairy mangoes, Blue mangoes, Garlic, Daddyfoot, Common, Number 11, Slippers, Julie and even Turpentine.

No. 11 Mango

There are four different stages of the mango, each with a very different taste. When it is green, the mango is hard and tart, delicious with salt and local habanero pepper, and is often used to make chutney. When its full or ‘turn’, the mango is just about ripe with a firm, slightly less sweet flesh, which is easy to eat and great in salads. Ripe mangoes are juicy and ready to eat with a delectable slightly perfumey aroma and taste. Overripe fruit is extremely messy and is best used to make mango juice. Add some lime, ice and a little bit of mint to it and you have a refreshingly delicious drink. The mango is paid homage to at an annual Mango Festival, in Hopkins in the Stann Creek District, usually at the beginning of June.

Cashew

Belizeans love to celebrate the bounty of nature and the cashew is another fruit feted with its own festival. The Cashew Festival is held annually in Crooked Tree Village in late April or early May. Wait! It’s a fruit? Yes, the cashew is actually a very fragrant fruit with the more familiar nut hanging below. It grows wild in North Central Belize and flourishes despite the poor sandy soil in that region. It doesn’t need much water or fertilizer so it is indeed seen as miraculous. Harvest is generally between March and June where the trees are resplendent with red, orange and yellow that is the cashew fruit. Birds love the fruit as well, much to the chegrin of the farmers. It also makes a great wine.

Cashew fruit. ©TropicAir.com

Here is a great video that tells you all about this fruit and nut!

Cashew SeasonStraight outa Crooked Tree and in time for cashew fest 2017.

Posted by 501Boyz Production on Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cacao

Did you know that chocolate was a fruit as well? Strictly speaking cacao (where chocolate comes from) is the actual fruit of the Theobrama tree. These colorful pods grow straight from the trunk or branch of the tree. Inside these pods are about 20 to 30 seeds covered in a thick sweet pulp that tastes nothing like chocolate, but is delicious all the same.  It’s the beans themselves that are taken from the pod, fermented in a box covered with banana leaves, dried and roasted.  Once roasted they are ground in a machine to release the oil (cocoa butter) which is put back into the cocoa mass to produce a liquor which will become chocolate as we know it.  The Cacao Festival a celebration of chocolate occurs annually in May in the Toledo District of Belize.

Cacao Pods. ©JCCUELLAR.COM