9 Things You Didn’t Know About Belize

Get a feel for the laid-back Belizean way of life.

Photo by CharlesLeslieJr / Public Domain

If you’re researching all there is to know about the Caribbean tourist destination of Belize, you’ll want to know the hidden gems, and secrets about this former British colony that the travel agents won’t tell you. What this small tropical nation lacks in size, it more than makes up for in diversity, whether its culture, history or animal habitats. These nine things you probably didn’t know about Belize will likely make you fall in love with the region all over again.

Queen Elizabeth II is Everywhere

Belize is an independent nation now, but it used to be a British colony. In fact, 80 percent of the Belizean people speak English, so it’s a great holiday destination for English-speaking people. Furthermore, the nation’s colonial heritage is still there for all to see, with Queen Elizabeth II regularly spotted in photos across the country, along with other royal memorabilia. The Belizeans are still very much enchanted by the British Royal Family.

Belize is Home to the World’s Second-Largest Barrier Reef

Photo by dronepicr / CC BY 2.0

Only Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is bigger than the Belize Barrier Reef. It is over 180 miles long, stretching the entire length of the Belizean coastline. Its breathtaking coral reefs are one of the nation’s hidden gems, enticing many marine enthusiasts and tourists to the region. In 1996, UNESCO designated this a World Heritage Site due in large part to the reef being home to 65 species of coral and more than 500 species of fish. That’s a tremendous amount when you consider the whole Caribbean is home to only 70 species of coral.

Meet the Howler Monkeys That are Indigenous to Belize

Are you a fan of monkeying around on holiday? You can meet one of the top 10 loudest animals in the world that are indigenous to Belize. The black howler monkey has an earth-shattering howl that you can hear for up to 3 miles, even in the densest of rainforests. That makes the black howler monkey the loudest terrestrial animal in the Western Hemisphere. Interestingly, it is only the male black howlers that turn black. The females remain blonde for their entire lives!

Belize Has Nurtured a Host of NBA Basketball Stars

Central America is not known for being a hotbed of basketball talent, but Belize has nurtured a trio of former NBA stars. The most recent being 6′ 9″ Noel Felix, who played for the Seattle SuperSonics in 2006, scoring an average of 1.5 points per game. Marlon Garnett played for the Boston Celtics and is now an assistant coach of the Phoenix Suns. Meanwhile, Milton Palacio averaged 4.8 points per game playing for six NBA teams between 1999 and 2006. There have been concerted efforts to increase NBA participation from Belize since the turn of the millennium and unearth the next odds-on first choice for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Belize Used to be Known as British Honduras

If you weren’t aware that Belize used to be a British colony, then you won’t know that the country used to be called British Honduras. The Brits named the nation British Honduras way back in 1786, only 10 years after American colonies confirmed their independence. This name stuck for the better part of two centuries until the locals agreed to change the country’s name to Belize to mark the end of colonialism in the region.

The Nation’s Legal System Mimics That of the UK’s

One of the lasting remnants of colonialism in Belize is its legal system. Take a walk into a Belizean court, and you’ll feel like you have entered the Old Bailey in London. The nation has adopted the U.K. tradition of wearing gowns and two-tabbed white collars. Belize’s overall political system mimics the British Westminster model. The Constitution of Belize and its rule of law are both deep-rooted in the English Common Law and supplemented by local legislation where necessary.

Belmopan is the World’s Smallest Capital City

Belmopan is one of the newest national capital cities on the planet. Established only in 1970, it would eventually replace Belize City as the nation’s administrative center. That’s because a vicious hurricane in 1961 wreaked havoc throughout Belize City, destroying more than three-quarters of its buildings. A committee selected the new capital and positioned it 50 miles inland on much higher ground. The site was eventually named Belmopan, combining the words “Belize” and “Mopan,” which is one of the main rivers that flow into the region.

There is So Much Mayan History to Explore

If you’re interested in history, Belize oozes it from every pore. In fact, you might be surprised to hear that Belize used to be a Mayan stronghold, with more than two million Mayans previously living in the heart of Belize. There are reportedly up to 900 different Mayan ruins located nationwide. These range from small-scale outposts to vast cities that were once the home of thousands of Native Americans in generations past. Perhaps the most impressive Mayan ruin of them all is Xunantunich, which means “maiden of the rock” in Mayan. At 133 feet in height, it is one of the largest temples in Belize — and the most historic!

You Can Get Up Close and Personal with a Host of Rare Animals

Aside from the black howler monkeys, Belize is also a haven for many more rare animals. Firstly, there are more than 500 types of birds living in and around the Belizean rainforests, making the nation an ideal destination for avid bird-watchers. The best time to see them in flight is when they come home to roost or as the seasons change. Belize is also the location of the world’s only jaguar reserve. Finally, don’t forget to try and catch a glimpse of Belize’s national animal, Baird’s tapir. One of four Latin American species of tapir, we should consider Baird’s tapir-like a hybrid between a horse and a rhinoceros — making it comfortable in the water.

As you can see, Belize is a multifaceted country to explore. There is always something to uncover or catch a glimpse of for the first time. It’s the ideal vacation destination for broadening your horizons.


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