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

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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

Easter Travels Part 2 – The Boat

Originally, I was going to write one blog entry about the entire Easter weekend’s travel adventures, which included both the hair-raising bus journey and a terrifying boat ride.  But clearly, once I found my literary ‘voice’, the material just wouldn’t stop flowing, so I’ve had to separate it into two parts.  And here’s Part 2: Continue reading

New Year

‘No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem’.  ‘Go Slow’.  They’re signs you see around Caye (pronounced Key) Caulker, one of the most well-known of the Cayes (islands) off the coast of Belize, and that laid-back Caribbean attitude, combined with the fact that it’s cheap and close to Belize City, is why I ended up there for New Year.  And, after eating my own body weight in turkey over Christmas and having eaten virtually no other carbohydrates except rice since I arrived, and not having had any other meat except poultry, going to a popular tourist destination like the Cayes also means I can pig out on exotic ‘foreign’ food.  Like chips.  And pizza.  Plus, it’s lobster season until February, so now’s the perfect time to enjoy the spiny delicacies of the sea. Continue reading