By Paul Harding, Ray Bartlett & Ashley Harrell
Lonely Planet – £14.99

Belize is a bit Latin America, a bit Caribbean, and just a little bit British (the language is a giveaway) but it all works beautifully. I love the low-key, laid-back nature of the people and the seamless mix of cultures that make up the street life, music, food and festivals – Belizean, Creole, mesitzo, Garifuna, Maya and even Mennonites and expats. I love that you can be snorkeling on the barrier reef one day and hiking in the jungle the next. And I love that Belize still feels just a little undiscovered…but perhaps not for long.

                   (Paul Harding)
                   ‘Why I Love Belize’

So yeah, Belize; know nothing about the place – although according to this Lonely Planet Travel Guide: ”with one foot in the Central American jungles and the other in the Caribbean Sea, pint-sized Belize is packed with islands, adventure an culture.”

Reasons to be most cheerful if you ask me, and three reasons (among many others) to thoroughly investigate the country further, which I will soon endeavour to do.

Hence, this review of Belize, which for all intents and curiously tinged purposes, has already enlightened me unto a whole bunch of stuff I never knew – such as it’s fascinating history: ”Belize hosted one of the great Mesoamerican civilizations of ancient times, the Maya.The Maya created vibrant commercial centres, monumental religious temples and exquisite art works. They possessed sophisticated knowledge about earthly and cosmological environments, much of which they wrote down […]. The Maya ranged across Central America, from the Yucotan to Honduras, from the Pacific to the Caribbean. They were not ethnically homogeneous but only loosely related, divided by kinship, region and dialect […]. Archaeological findings indicate that Maya settlements in Belize were among the oldest” (‘History: From Lordly Realm to Lost World: Ancient Maya’).

All of which contributes to the quirky, yet perhaps quintessential thinking of what might have been had Columbus never set sail in 1492…

As mentioned in my previous Lonely Planet review (Dominican Republic), the writers always place a great deal of emphasis on a country’s history, which, along with maps, photos and hyper-up-to-date, holiday induced information, I have always found of particular value.
As well as most inspiring and appealing.
Rather like these 311 pages (excluding Behind the Scenes, Index and Map Legend).
And Belize is by no means the exception.

It is simply packed with the most forthright of relevant stuff and analysis one might wish to know about Belize; which, unlike most guides, happens to include seven pages dedicated to ‘Diving & Snorkeling’ alone: ”Belize is a world-class destination for diving and snorkeling – after all, the world’s second-longest barrier reef parallels the country’s entire coastline. From north, central and south cays to stunning offshore atolls, whatever your level of underwater experience you’ll find a place to explore and indulge in Belize.”

Moreover, said section(s) include: When to Go, What to Read, Best for Snorkelling and Best for Diving – replete with explanations on Lighthouse Reef, Glover’s Reef, Central and Northern Cayes (not to mention Learning to Dive and Responsible Diving).

Whether or not I’ll partake in actual diving is an altogether different matter; although I must say: I’m undoubtedly looking forward to visiting and finding out about Belize.

Especially now I know a little more thanks to this most fantabulous of travel guides.

David Marx

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