Throughout the world, Blue Holes have always been surrounded in mystery and superstition. Tales of bottomless pits, sea monsters and ship wrecks abound. The Great Blue Hole of Belize is no exception. In fact, a recent movie Posiedon Rex even has dinosaurs erupting from its depths.
Located in the lighthouse reef atoll approximately 62 miles from Belize City, Belize’s Blue Hole is legendary around the world and is on many a scuba divers bucket list. 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. It is also spectacular from the air.
It was originally made famous in the 1970s when the French explorer and diver, Jacques Cousteau and his team of divers, undertook its exploration in his famous boat The Calypso. In his documentary, he embarks on the treacherous 7mile trip from Lighthouse, through uncharted territory of shallow waters resplendent with dangerous coral heads, and eventually arrives unscathed at the Blue Hole. From here he and his team undertake its exploration. See the video below:
Cousteau and his team realized the importance of the Blue Hole in providing knowledge of Earth’s history. Discovery of stalactites deep within the sinkhole provided the evidence that it was in fact a land based cavern as stalactites only form on land. One such stalactite was removed for further scientific investigation. Over many thousands of years as sea levels rose this cave was flooded at a least four stages as demonstrated by the formation of ledges. There is also evidence of earths shift as some of the stalactites are at a slight angle. Cousteau declared this one of the top diving sites in the world and he is attributed with making it popular as a tourist destination following his discoveries.
In 1990, The Blue Hole was given the name The Great Blue Hole by British diver Ned Middleton. It forms a part of the Belize barrier Reef reserve system and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Some 35 years after her grandfather’s exploration of the Blue Hole, Alexandra Cousteau , who works closely with Oceana as a senior advisor, visited Belize for the first time and was thrilled to observe that in those years, this national living monument seemed to have changed very little from what she had seen in “The Sunken Caves” documentary. Alexandra’s love affair with Belize was sparked and has continued to blossom over the years. She taught her husband to dive in our waters and her daughter got her first taste of the ocean here at age 2 months. Last year she visited Belize again as a speaker for Oceana for The Energy of Nature vs. the Nature of Energy conference and it was then that she saw The Blue Hole from the air for the very first time.
You too can experience The Blue Hole from the air with Tropic Air’s stunning Blue Hole aerial tour. Don’t forget to bring your cameras as this is a photo opportunity you don’t want to miss.
For Andy Palacio, one of Belize’s most loved and famous musicians, music was “the soundtrack of life”.
Perhaps the most beautiful demonstration of this statement can be found in the music of his people, the Garinagu, one of the many cultures that make up the melting pot that is Belize. Product of the indigenous Arawaks of South America and shipwreck prisoners destined for slavery, the Garinagu claim St. Vincent as their homeland. Forceful exodus from the Caribbean lead to Central American settlements in Honduras, Guatemala and Belize.. Throughout migratory pathways, the Garinagu have continued to use music in daily life and work to retell their story from elder to younger generation, to diminish the boredom of everyday chores, to accompany sacred rituals that maintain intergenerational bonds and to recreate a sense of shared identity despite borders.
The main instrument used in Garifuna music that requires musical accompaniment is the drum. Traditionally these drums were made from a hollowed out trunk of hardwood, covered with animal skin usually a deer, peccary or sheep which was stretched over the trunk and tightened with rope and wooden pegs and they were always played solely with the hands. Today the design is very much the same, although the hollowing out is normally done with a machine rather than by hand. In the majority of everyday secular music, two drums are involved. The main and largest drum provides the bass and is known as the Segundo. Its namesake drummer provides the regular beat. The Primero drum is usually smaller and its player uses a more complicated pattern of beats and is considered the more skilled musician. In Garifuna rituals a third larger drum is used with the central instrument, the Lanigi Garawoun (the heart drum) providing the lead for the other two drummers.
For social occasions, one of the most popular music genres and dances of the Garifuna is the Punta. This was traditionally a dance performed by men and women representing a dialogue between the two sexes performed at social gatherings and wakes. The drums and rattles accompanied the narrative text written mostly by women provides comment on the many challenges of life. Traditionally families socialized together and young people would be under strict supervision. The Punta was a way through which couples communicated interest in each other without alarming the audience or creating suspicion. Today couples doing the Punta try to outdo each other with complicated movements of the feet that sway the rest of the body, producing an impression of moving hips and bottoms. Other dances such as the Chumba, Gunjei, Wanaragua, Paranda and Hüngü Hüngü are often played in social settings.
This traditional Punta music has evolved into one of the most popular and ubiquitous style of music in Belize: Punta Rock. The artist Pen Cayetano is largely regarded as the originator of this genre of music during the 1980s. It is a faster version of traditional Punta with the addition of electric instruments such as drum, bass guitar and synthesizer and the dance accompanying it is every bit as provocative as the original. Today one of the most popular Punta artists is Supa G.
Paranda is another example of how the music has evolved over the years as the Garifuna have assimilated other musical influences from their surroundings. A gentler genre of music and dance traditionally performed by the Garifuna men, Paranda songs were used as serenades in which a group of guitar-toting performers would to from house to house in their communities performing their compositions. The singing providing the narrative accompaniment is very much the call and response, leader and chorus arrangement that is typical of some music of the Garifuna and talks about what is happening in the singers’ lives. Though the musical form is known to have been around since the early 1900s, it wasn’t until 2007 when Andy Palacio elevated Paranda to international fame with his acclaimed CD, “Watina”. After his unexpected death, the Garifuna collective, the group with which Andy had toured to promote Watina, continued to build on his legacy, creating a reputation for this more soulful exploration of Garifuna music.
The Wanaragua provides yet another “soundtrack to life”. Otherwise known as the Jonkonnu or John Canoe, the traditional dance is thought to have been created or adopted on the island of St. Vincent. Similar dances created by the slaves were performed on special occasions around Christmas; however, oral history refers to Wanaragua dancers using a guise lo lure European colonizers into Garifuna communities during the wars they fought on the island of St. Vincent in the 17th century. Today the dance is usually performed between Christmas Day and Día Rey, January 6th or the feast of the epiphany. Accompanied by drumming, performers dress up in pink masks as a mocking representative of Europeans and dance from house to house for a small monetary token.
Whilst the majority of Garinagu are located in the Stann Creek district around Dangriga and Hopkins and in Barranco in the Toledo district, any visitor to Belize is sure to encounter one of the above genres of music and dance particularly around November as they celebrate the uniqueness of their culture and soundtrack of their life.
Want to experience the sounds and sights of the Garifuna culture? Then book your flight with Tropic Air and take a trip this November 19th to beautiful Dangriga.
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 relleno 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!
There are many reason couples choose Belize as their destination to get engaged or tie the knot. Belize is simply romantic and our destinations, especially our islands, offer not only the perfect setting, but an array of places to stay and dine.
Whether you prefer a high end experience with your loved one or prefer, seclusion and the basics, Belize has many options to choose from. From our largest and most northern destination, Ambergris Caye, to the small secluded beaches of the Silk Cayes, you can find just the right location to propose or simply fall in love all over again.
The best part is that getting to your island getaway is easy and simple with Tropic Air. We fly to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker as well as numerous destinations on the mainland, where getting to your romantic island is then a short boat ride away. Need some options? Then check out the following article on Belize’s Most Romantic Islands and let Tropic Air take you and your loved one on a romantic escape.
Think outside the box. September and October are some of the best months of the year for diving. Fewer people visit and you are sure to find great deals on accommodation.
Put “visit at least one Maya site” on your to do list. There are sites in each of the 6 Belize districts.
Snorkeling the 2nd largest barrier reef is a must, but be sure to wear a rashguard or t-shirt as the reflection of the water will increase the effect of the sun’s rays.
Fly rather than drive. Tropic Air has flights to most destinations and also offer charters to more remote and exotic places.
Belizeans love to party and there are festivals and celebrations countrywide most months of the year. Check with the Belize Tourism Board www.travelbelize.org to find out what’s going on when you plan to visit.
Talk to the locals and find out where they eat.
Go visit the Belize Zoo -known as the coolest little zoo in the world, you will see an amazing selection of Belizean wildlife in their natural habitat.
Caving can be fun! Try a relaxing tubing trip through a cave system or for something more adventurous, visit one of the caves traditionally thought of as part of the Maya underworld.
You really cannot miss the famous Blue Hole if you come to Belize. If you don’t want to dive or snorkel it, then see it by air. Tropic Air can take you there. It’s on most peoples bucket list!
If you are based on the mainland for your vacation, try to take at least one trip to the Cayes. Tropic Air flies to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker
If you are based on the Cayes try to take a trip to the mainland to experience all it has to offer. Tropic air can take you there. (link to Destinations page)
Make sure you try the national dish of Belize – stewed chicken, rice and beans with coleslaw at least once on your trip… and I bet you won’t be able to just have it once.
Belize is famous for its spiny lobster (called crayfish locally), whose harvest season begins annually on June 15th. This date also marks the celebration of all things lobster including three festivals held in three Belizean communities.
The beach towns of Caye Caulker and Placencia have traditionally had lobsterfests and in recent years, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye has added one to its calendar as well. If you are lucky visit Belize in June, you will be able to experience at least one of these delicious events.
San Pedro Lobsterfest is a week-long event usually starting with a kick-off party and culminating in a grand fiesta in Central Park. During the week, there are events planned all over town including a lobster crawl that involves partaking in lobster delicacies and libations in a series of establishments on a given night. One can obtain a “lobster passport”, where each day a different island establishment is represented and acquisition of a lobster “stamp” in this passport renders the holder eligible for the grand prize, drawn on the final night’s event in Central Park. The prize is usually vacation for the following year that includes tickets from Tropic Air. The final block party is a lobster lovers delight. Front Street is closed to traffic and most of the local restaurants have booths serving their rendition of the tasty crustacian. There is a competition for the best dish so culinary imagination knows no bounds. There is some serious deliciousness to be found here, all accompanied by local musicians to give the real party atmosphere.
Caye Caulker lobsterfest is a weekend event. This is a local Belizean favorite, and people flock here from all over the country. Stalls and restaurants everywhere offer anything from lobster tacos to barbecued lobster.
Placencia’s festival is also a weekend event and, in their own words, promises “a mega beach party like no other in Belize “ with live music, family games, a legendary raffle and of course more lobster than it is possible to eat.
If you want to enjoy lobster, then come during the open season because between February 15th and June 14th, the crustacean is off the menu. This means that fishermen are not allowed to catch it, restaurants are not allowed to sell it and it is illegal to have in your possession. Whilst this is harsh for the many tourists and locals, it is necessary to preserve this valuable resource for the future.
If you are planning a trip to Belize and you love lobster then June is definitely the month to come visit. Book your travel with Tropic Air.