Photo by Nikki Doyle
The country of Belize does not require any specific immunizations for entry from the USA. However, The Center For Disease Control has issued a set of recommendations for travel to Belize. In general, any travelers to third world countries should be up to date on measles (MMR), Tetanus (Td or Tdap), Hepatitis A, and Typhoid. Flu vaccines are recommended.There may be additional travel recommendations, so we encourage you to check with your health provider and the cdc.gov/travel web site for the latest travel updates. If possible, one should receive their travel immunizations 4-6 weeks prior to travel for maximum benefit. Although malaria is not a risk in Belize City or the cayes, we will be in the jungle or near swampy areas for 5 days. To my knowledge, no one has contracted Malaria over the last 27 years that I have led trips to Belize. The majority of participants have taken an anti-malarial drug. Your health provider can suggest an appropriate anti-malarial medication. The best recommendation for the prevention of malaria and dengue fever is using appropriate clothing and a strong, effective mosquito repellent (with DEET or Picarin). We travel through caves during our adventure, however we are not expecting bat exposures or recommending rabies vaccinations.
Please visit the CDC Traveler's Page on Belize for updates and suggestions before you travel. All medical precautions are the decision of each participant.
Belize City: Double to quad occupancy rooms in a local hotel catering to the eco-adventure traveler. Private bathrooms with hot showers. View of the Belize City seaport from the hotel verandah ( Day Twelve).
Yamwits Lodge: Triple to quad occupancy rooms in a creole family owned lodge located on a Citrus Farm off the Hummingbird Highway. Joy Smith and her family will host our group for two nights. Local Belizean cuisine is their specialty (Day One and Day Two).
Maya Center: Double-triple occupancy cabanas with shared bathrooms and showers. Some cabanas are dormitory in style (sleeps up to 6 students). H'men Herb Center, Botanical Garden and Cottages are rustic but comfortable. Pairs of students will also be staying one night with host families in the village. Homes are traditional Mayan dwellings with thatched roofs -( some have electricity, others are lighted by lanterns; latrines are basic and outside) (Day Three and Day Four).
Hopkins Village: Double to quad occupancy cabanas or rental house with both private and shared bathrooms/showers. Cabanas are located in a traditional Garifuna village close to a sandy beach on The Caribbean Sea. Sea breeze provides our "air conditioning" (Day Five).
Glovers Atoll Resort: triple to quad occupancy cabanas and Dorm over water on a coconut tree lined island. Composting toilets are shared among the huts. Island life involves living with few amenities such as electricity or running water in each hut. Outdoor shower stalls are available or you may bring a sun shower purchased at outdoor stores. Cabanas are lit by the light of lanterns, candles and the moon (Day Six-Day Eleven).
FAMILY STAYS: Students are given the option to spend one evening in the Maya Center Village with a mayan family. In pairs, they meet their family in the late afternoon, have meals and sleep overnight in a traditional mayan home. The next morning after breakfast, our group reunites and share impressions of their night in the village.
GIFTS: Students may like to bring a gift for their host family that they will be staying with for one evening in the Maya Center. Suggestions of appropriate gifts include: school supplies (crayons, pencils, construction paper, water color paints, rulers, erasers, glue, etc.), small kit of tools, soccer ball, children books, educational games.
MAP OF BELIZE: To view a general map of Belize, please visit: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/mapshells/central_america/belize/belize.htm
For more detailed maps visit: http://ambergriscaye.com/pages/town/map.html
Be sure to scroll down and review the cool map selection on the right side of the page.
Belize Tourist Board: http://www.travelbelize.org/
General Info: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107333.html Geography of Belize: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Belize
Wildlife Conservation: http://www.wcs.org/belize
PHYSICAL CONDITIONING: While experience in kayaking, snorkeling or hiking is not required to participate in this program, good general health is recommended. Your Blue Water Ventures guides will offer a variety of excursions each day for those who want to keep active. Some level of upper body conditioning is advisable to prepare for kayaking and snorkeling.
ACTIVITIES INCLUDED: Snorkeling, sea kayaking, night snorkeling, fishing, hiking through jungles, cave tubing, spelunking and jungle tubing. Our hikes on the mainland range from 1-4 miles with some options for further distance. Our sea kayaking destinations range from a few hundred yards to 4 miles with options for further distance. With six days on the island, our pace is very relaxed allowing for journal writing and time to work on your independent study project.
KAYAKING: We will have scheduled opportunity to use a variety of kayaks while on Glovers Reef. Double sit on top kayaks will be available on our scheduled group outing. These kayaks are ideal for exploring the warm tropical water of Belize. Just slide off your boat with your mask and snorkel on when you want to see what's underneath you! Everyone will be checked out on kayaking skills and safety in the shallow lagoon in front of our huts.
During the week we will offer an optional kayak skills and rescue clinic demonstrating techniques with a closed deck boat. A boat of this style will be available to practice Eskimo rolls in warm water.
SNORKELING: Glover's Reef Atoll, is a Marine Reserve and World Heritage Site approximately thirty miles east of the mainland. Coral atolls, a circular ring of reef and islands formed around a shallow turquoise lagoon, are rare in the Western Hemisphere. From your huts, you may drop down into crystal clear water and snorkel over turtle grass beds and patch reefs. Snorkeling or scuba diving The Wall, a dramatic and sheer drop to 2500' on the eastern edge of the atoll is an incredible experience. Your Blue Water Ventures naturalists are avid snorkelers eager to share information about reef ecology and fish behavior. We will offer informal talks and daily guided snorkeling excursions. We hope you will join us in the water as we explore and interpret this amazing ecosystem.
INSECT REPELLENT: Mosquitoes, black flies and sand gnats will be encountered in Belize. Avon Skin so Soft is the best defense against sand gnats found in coastal areas. A strong pump style repellent is good against mosquitoes and black flies that occur in the jungle. A layer of lightweight, light in color clothing is an effective defense against insects. The skies are not black with insects. However, if you can't tolerate a week of insect bites, a trip to the tropics is not for you!
ELECTRICAL OUTLETS: Throughout Belize, we will have access to a 110 volt electrical outlet which will accommodate recharging digital cameras, cell phones or other appliances. Several digital camera batteries and extra memory are still recommended while traveling. While our individual huts on Glover's Reef are lit by moonlight, you may charge up batteries at night in the shared dining area.
WIFI CONNECTION: Your cell phones will work in most areas of Belize though calls back home can be expensive. We suggest that you call your provider to see what the fees are for calls and texting. International phone cards may be purchased in stores and used at Pay Phones at some locations throughout Belize. Skype is sometimes blocked in Belize City though should be available at Glovers Reef. You may want to set up a Skype account on a "smart phone" before arriving to Belize. Glover's Reef will have a wifi connection in the shared dining area (Glover's is a remote area so no guarantees it will be working the week we are there though the service is fairly reliable). You may use the island lap top for a small fee.
DRINKING WATER: At each site, you will be briefed on policies towards drinking water. Obviously, we are extremely cautious with our decisions about potable water. Most water consumed during our trip is bottled with a few exceptions.
TAKING SHOWERS: While on the mainland, our accommodations will have running water but quick showers are advisable to conserve water use. At Glovers, outdoor shower stalls are provided using non-potable water or you may set up your own private sun shower at your water hut. Joy, Dawn and CampSuds are biodegradable and lathers up nicely in non-potable water. Dr. Brommer's is not recommended as it is less sudsy.
CLIMATE: While spring marks the end of the rainy season, heavy rain falls are less common on the Atolls. Moderate to heavy down pours are always a possibility in the tropics. Temperatures should be reasonably pleasant with day time highs in the upper 80's and lows in the 70's. Easterly trade winds often prevail keeping the temperatures pleasant. Bring a waterproof sun block/lip balm with a protection factor of 20 or higher.
CLOTHING: Loose fitting cotton or quick drying nylon work well in the tropics. Lighter colors seem more comfortable in the heat. Jeans take too long to dry out and are not recommended. Laundry is done by hand as needed by each participant.
APPROPRIATE DRESS: For the most part, the dress code is causal throughout Belize. However, at several sites we may suggest wearing t-shirts with sleeves (no tight fitting tank tops at these sites). By dressing conservatively, we are respecting the cultural norms of some Belizean people. When packing, please include several loose fitting, short sleeved t-shirts in addition to tank tops.
LOCAL CUISINE: Meals are Belizean in style and are an intricate part of our cultural experience. You may anticipate plenty of chicken, fresh seafood, rice and beans, local fruit, tortillas, fry jacks, Johnny cakes and other local breads. Vegetarian meals can be arranged upon request. Please specify any dietary restrictions or allergies on the registration form that will be sent to you.
Keeled-Billed Toucan, National Bird of Belize
PASSPORTS: Everyone is required to have a current passport for entry into Belize. It usually takes 6-8 weeks to process a passport. For information on obtaining a passport, please visit: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html Most post offices provide the service to process US passports.
MONEY: US dollars are accepted throughout Belize. Small denominations (20 bills or less) are recommended since you will often receive Belizean dollars in change. There are some crafts - slate and wood carvings @ 10-50 dollars, and typical t-shirts @ 10-15 dollars. An airport departure tax of $40 is your responsibility as you leave the country.
TIPPING: It is customary to tip our cooks who will be joining us while at Glover's Reef Atoll. $20 per student split between two cooks would be greatly appreciated. All other tips to local guides, hotel staff and drivers will be taken care of by Blue Water Ventures.
Baird's Tapir, National Mammal of Belize
LUGGAGE: A medium to large duffel bag is recommended. Hard-shelled suitcases are acceptable, but since space is limited, soft duffels are preferable. Be sure to check with your airlines for the luggage restrictions that the chosen airline is requiring.
DONATIONS: People often inquire about bringing gifts for teachers or children we meet along the way. This is certainly not expected. However, if you would like to donate something, appropriate gifts include: school supplies (crayons, pencils, construction paper, maps. water color paints, rulers, erasers, glue, etc.) children's books, educational games including CD Roms. If you have a functional laptop or ipad that you would like to donate to a teacher for use during the school year that would be a tremendous gesture. Funding for school and electronic supplies are extremely limited in the villages we will be visiting.
ILLEGAL DRUG USE: The Belizean government has very severe penalties for the use of illegal drugs. Do not bring illegal substances in to Belize or purchase/use them during this program.
HOW TO REACH OUR GROUP: Before we depart, we will send you an email with Belize contact numbers that family members may use in the event of an emergency back home.