Scuba Diving in the Bay Islands

Along with the Maya ruins at Copán in western Honduras, the only other tourist site in the country that seems remotely popular with foreigners is the Bay Islands. Strung out at the south-eastern end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the islands are world-famous for diving, snorkelling, and relaxing on the beach. Roatán is the largest and most developed (and therefore the most expensive); while to the west, Utila is cheaper and more ‘rustic’. Continue reading

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The Cenotes of the Yucatán

The Yucatán Peninsula is the area of Central America that juts out into the water like a big fat thumb, separating the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico (most of it’s in Mexico, but it also includes parts of northern Belize and northern Guatemala).  The Belizean and Guatemalan parts are mostly low-lying jungle; and the Mexican part is equally flat, equally hot, and comprised mainly of limestone.  This soft rock is so porous that the abundant rainwater drains straight through it, and as a consequence there are no surface rivers in this part of the country.  But what there are plenty of is sinkholes, known locally as cenotes (from a Maya word dzonot, meaning sacred well).  The Peninsula is pockmarked with thousands of them, and they range in size and shape – while some are open water pools at the bottom of circular limestone holes, most are mainly or completely underground, accessed by small holes in the ground or twisting cave passages.  In this flat landscape, the only thing that rises above the forest and the plains are the giant temple-pyramids built by the ancient Maya, and it was probably the numerous cenotes and their fresh water that allowed the Maya cities to survive and grow. Continue reading

Christmas in Mexico – Isla Cozumel

I’ve seen in the festive season in Belize for the last few years (and eaten my enormous fill of turkey, ham, and black cake; not to mention drank myself slowly under the table with beer and rum).  Now, it’s time to head north to Mexico, to spend my Christmas holiday in the tropical paradises (or over-hyped tourist traps, depending on your point of view) of Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. Continue reading

Activities in Belize – Scuba Diving and Snorkelling

Belize is an outdoorsy kind of place.  Obviously, every country has places that are outside (unless you’re a Lemurian living in the underground city of Telos).  But Belize, probably more than any country I’ve visited, is a place that can only be fully experienced in the out-of-doors.  Apart from a couple of museums and a handful of cultural buildings (and as pleasant as they all are, none of them are must-sees), there isn’t much in the way of indoor attractions – so if you’ve come on holiday to visit world-class museums, cutting-edge art galleries, or experimental theatres, you’ll be disappointed.  But when you’ve got some of the most pristine jungle on earth, the planet’s second-largest coral reef, hundreds of islands, and tens of Maya ruins, all of it accessible, and all of it bathed in a tropical climate, no one’s coming here to stay indoors. Continue reading

Placencia Movie

So, after spending the best part of every evening of last week clumsily editing this thing together, here’s my first (and quite possibly last) attempt at film-making.  Due to the GoPro camera that I was using not having a screen or view-finder, and people’s tendency (certainly mine) to aim the camera higher than it needs to be, most of what’s being shown is several metres above what I was actually trying to capture!  But at least I’ve managed to edit out all the shaky parts as I press repeatedly on the unit, trying to make sure that it’s turning on or off.  Plus the sections that play like a chase sequence from The Bourne Ultimatum, where the camera suddenly appears to be afflicted with Parkinson’s.  Not to mention the bits which consist of a five-second shot of my face looking quizzically at the camera, silently asking myself ‘Is this thing on?’.  And the classic one-minute-long sequence of my fingertips. Continue reading