Adventures in Southern Belize
By Candyce H. Stapen
Rainforests, rivers, mangrove lined lagoons, Maya ruins, beaches and exceptional snorkeling and diving define southern Belize. Placencia, Belizeís top beach destination, offers access to these adventures. To enjoy the area, we always base ourselves at the Inn at Robertís Grove. The 52-room, upmarket property, won 2008 Belize Hotel of the Year. The resort arranges outings led by local guides who know the region well.
Placencia, a small village at the tip of a peninsula that juts into the Caribbean, provides easy access to lagoon and sea adventures. Many excursions begin with a boat ride across that estuary. The outing makes us appreciate the ecological importance of Placenciaís lagoon. White egrets, roused from their perch in the mangroves by our boatís engine, flutter like angels above the leafy branches. We watch a pair of dolphins frolic in the water and we get so close to manatees where the lagoon meets the sea that we can hear the whoosh of their exhales as they push their bulbous noses above the surface.
Explore Maya Ruins and Swim in an Underground River
Lubaantun, a lesser-known Maya ruin near the village of San Pedro Columbia in the Toledo District, is a jewel. Since weíre the only visitors, we get a private tour of this inland city amid the rainforest. Our guide points out the rounded corners of buildings, rare in Maya sites, and the sacrificial chamber where archeologists found animal bones.
We walk along the grassy stretches where the Maya played ball and climb the ruins of ancient dwellings, constructed more than 1200 years ago. The adventure continues with a hike to the caves of Blue Creek. The intrepid, wearing a light strapped to their heads, walk and wade through the underground waters.
Snorkel Belizeís Extraordinary Reef
A 160-mile long barrier reef, rich in coral and tropical fish, parallels the countryís coast. At Laughingbird Caye National Park, we spot schools of blue tang, parrotfish and groupers, and then relax on the islandís sugar white sand beach.
Off Robertís Caye, a one-acre island owned by the Inn at Robertís Grove, we snorkel above colorful coral. The surrounding waters feature purple fan, tube, fire and other colorful coral. We float above angelfish, trumpet fish and other tropical beauties as well as discover starfish as big as footballs. Afterward, we picnic on the shaded deck of the isletís restaurant. From here, the teal colored sea stretches for miles, a ribbon of sunlit blues and greens.
The beachfront Inn at Robertís Grove offers 52 units, including one to three bedroom suites. Most accommodations come with large verandas outfitted with chairs and hammocks. The foodís great, the people are friendly and the adventures, memorable.