Exciting and new – we’re going to Belize

Belize! Yes, we’re thrilled to announce Belize as our latest new destination. In fact, “new destination” doesn’t quite convey our enthusiasm – “exciting and new” destination (shout-out to you Love Boat fans) does the trick a bit better. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get down to the business of answering a few questions about Belize, our exciting and new destination.

First: where is Belize? Belize is tucked into the Caribbean coast of Central America, just south of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and bordered to the west by Guatemala.  It’s a largely unspoiled little gem of a country, with an average year-round temperature of 29 degrees Celsius. Which brings us to the next question: when is the best time to visit Belize? Answer: any time the spirit moves you. If it’s the quintessential Caribbean experience you’re after, with great beaches, amazing clear blue  skies and hot, sunny days, then plan your Belize getaway for the high season ­– December to April. From May to November, you’ll experience the rainy season; the good news there is that rainy season in Belize is in Belize.

Idyllic Caribbean location and a perfect climate – two great reasons to put Belize on the “next vacation list” Want to know why else you should visit Belize? We’ll give you five reasons. First: the people here are delightful. Friendly. Passionate. And English is the official language of Belize, making it a bit easier for first-time English-speaking visitors to navigate their way.

Great Blue Hole - Belize

Second reason: the world’s second-longest coral reef is just offshore, providing world-class sightseeing, snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities. Then there’s the Great Blue Hole a large underwater sinkhole which is part of the Lighthouse Reef, 100 km from Belize City. The largest underwater formation of its kind anywhere, the Great Blue Hole is circular, 300 metres in diameter and 125 metres deep, and offers scuba divers a chance to explore and experience an incredibly unique underwater world all its own. Closer to shore (well, yeah, on the shore) there are glorious beaches. And, yes, where there’s sea, there’s seafood.

Speaking of seafood, the third reason you should visit Belize is the food. Like all great Caribbean destinations, Belize offers great opportunities to enjoy exquisite seafood. Lobster Festival in Belize marks a spicy and delicious start to summer, and is celebrated in several locales, including Ambergris Caye, Placencia and Caye Caulker. Then there’s Belizean cuisine, which is an enchanting mix of influences; among the local delicacies are gibnut and escabeche. The way these roll off the tongue makes them fun to say, but you should know before you order that gibnut is a large wild rodent, said variously to taste like ham, rabbit or even deer (versatile!); Belizean escabeche, an onion soup typically served with chicken, might be a safer bet.

Lobster grilling on an open fire. Tobacco Caye, Belize.

Lobster grilling on an open fire. Tobacco Caye, Belize.

Reason number four: Belizeans love to throw a party. Favourites among the many parties, events and festivals are Lobster Fest every June, Belize Carnaval every September, and the Battle of the Drums and Food Fete in November. A word to the wise: Belize culture doesn’t place a premium on start times. But while things may generally start an hour or two late, once they warm up, you might just find yourself partying ‘til dawn.

Belize Jaguar

Reason five why you should visit Belize: whale sharks and jaguars. Yes, we know that’s technically two reasons, but “whale sharks and jaguars” sounds; a) cooler and more Belize-specific than “wildlife”, and b) kind of like a Tom Waits album title. Though shy and reclusive in nature, the jaguar has a strong presence in Belizean culture. In fact, Belize is the only country in the world with a dedicated jaguar reserve, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Over 44% of the land in Belize is protected as either national park or nature preserve, making it a place where you can enjoy the very essence of eco-tourism. From March to June each year, the whale sharks arrive at Gladden Split and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, about 40 km offshore from the Belize town of Placencia. Locals say that April and May are the best months for spotting whale sharks, with optimal sightings in the days after the full moon.

So, maybe in our excitement, we’ve veered all over the map a bit, from Great Blue Holes escabeche to jaguars. We’re sure you’ll discover unique sights, sounds and experiences in Belize that will make you glad you visited – and make you want to return. Mark your calendar: WestJet flights to Belize start October 29, 2016.