"Welcome to paradise" they say to you when you pull up to the immigration office. We crossed into this small unique tropical land in the north, having crossed out of Mexico near Chetumal. Immediately, upon entering Belize, I noticed a diverse population made of people: African, Chinese, Mayan, Mestizos, Mennonites, and of course gringo retirees. English is the official language here, but in practice, the lingua fraca is actually a creole (Belizean Creole is a mix of English and various African languages, similar to other creoles in the Caribbean). Almost everyone in Belize speaks creole as a means of communicating across these diverse cultural backgrounds. Spanish is also widely understood as well. We were intrigued by the complicated history, diverse cultures and natural beauty of this country.
We spent three nights in a village called Crooked Tree. This area is an official wildlife sanctuary and is very tranquil indeed. We were welcomed at the Jacana Inn by Earl and his family and made to feel at home. We spent our days watching the lake with all the birds and enjoying the trade wind blow a steady breeze. I even got to try fishing again, something I hadn't done in many months.
For me the best part of staying in Crooked Tree, besides the peacefulness, was the fantastic bird watching. Notable species we spotted include: Ringed Kingfisher, Jabiru, Wood Stork, Egrets, Pinnated Bittern, Reddish Egret, Little Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron, Turkey and Black Vultures, Osprey, Black-collared Hawk, Caspian Tern, Cormorants, Scarlet Tanager, Hummingbirds, Parrots, Yellow-throated Warbler and Swallows.
At this point in our journey, we decided that since we only have one month before Victoria's astrology conference in Costa Rica, we had better get a move on. Along the way we would try to spend more time scouting potential places to live and only a few big monuments (Tikal). Our time in Belize was short but sweet. We enjoyed the laid-back lifestyle, open free culture and rich cultural history. We promised to return to this big little country one day to see more!