In celebration of the launch of Kate Joynes-Burgess new book I asked her to do the honors of the first tacogirl Top Ten List for 2011. Big shout it to Kate who will be celebrating at her London Book launch tomorrow for Belize a Great Destination explorers guide. The Party will be held at Senate House, Malet Street, London where they will be toasting with Caribbean rum cocktails – the high commissioner, Kamela Palma is confirmed to attend. While looking at Kate’s photo albums I came across one called Belize top 10 – of course that is what sparked the idea to have her ring in the new years first tacogirl top ten list.
I always enjoy looking at other peoples Belize photo’s as it gives a great perspective on the beauty here. Kate has captured the feeling in her wonderful images from different areas of Belize.
Kate’s Introduction – Looking back over these photographs, taken to illustrate my new book – Belize: A Great Destination, fills my mind with so many special memories. I think this selection gives a flavour of the diversity of Belize and its wealth of natural beauty. I’d love to put together another top ten gallery showcasing the people of Belize. Their eclectic culture makes this nation even greater than the sum of its parts – Kate Joynes-Burgess – Photographer and Author of Belize A Great Destination by Countryman Press.
1. Dangriga doesn’t feature highly on the tourist trail. It’s dusty and a little ramshackle with its aged clapboard buildings but it’s absolutely crammed with character. If you want to experience real Garifuna and Belizean culture then make a beeline here, especially at festival time. It’s my favourite place to spend 19 November celebrations for Garifuna Settlement Day. For some reason, the sunsets are always sensational.
2. For me, this picture sums up Tobacco Caye. It’s a bit of a hippy hang-out for socialising, snorkeling, scuba and watching the sun go down over the Caribbean. Belikin in hand, of course. It’s cheap to get to and you can tuck into down home food from guesthouse to guesthouse. Stay in colourful clapboard cabanas, some on stilts over the water, or pitch a tent on the sand. What a low-fi adventure.
3. The intensity of these colours really makes my heart sing. They take me back to Cayo District. I love getting up early to go wildlife watching in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve and Chiquibul Forest. Birding guides in Belize are among the best in the world. You’ll find some exemplary ornithologists at Hidden Valley Inn, DuPlooy’s, Crystal Paradise and Ka’ana.
4. Traditional clapboard buildings teeter on stilts, trying to escape inevitable floodwaters, while blithely ignoring the risk of hurricanes. They’re part of the Belizean landscape and I love them for their characteristic Caribbean colours. Exterior walls in hot pink, zesty orange and yellow, intense turquoise and electric blue, are set against russet red-or simply rusty-corrugated iron roofs. Relentless rays and heavy rains peel away paintwork, allowing blanched planks to peep through.
5. Paddle power is the only way to explore Barton Creek Cave’s geological and archaeological riches. It’s a hauntingly beautiful experience-especially if you manage to escape the crowds. Belize’s original means of transport provides a popular pastime for locals and visitors alike. Regular canoe races are imprinted on the Belizean calendar. The Ruta Maya River Challenge-covering 175 miles from San Ignacio to Belize City-is the most important, taking place every March.
6. Crooked Tree is a peaceful, friendly place to spend a few days-or even a week of quiet reflection-canoeing on the lagoon, sampling cashew wine, and eating your fill of home-cooked fare from local lodges to famous fry chicken at Carrie’s Kitchen. One of the oldest settlements in Belize, Crooked Tree was founded by English and Scottish logwood cutters in the early 1800s. The knarled trees they came to harvest still line the swampy edges of its waterways.
7. Short of time but still want to tick off a Mayan ruin? Altun Ha is a compact archaeological site-with carefully reconstructed, iconic pyramids-just 31 miles north of Belize City. Altun Ha has given rise to more than one Belizean icon. Here archaeologists unearthed the largest, most exquisite, jade sculpture found anywhere in the Mayan world. The Jade Head-adorning every Belizean banknote-depicts the Sun God Kinich Ahau. It was hidden inside the pyramid that inspired the logo for Belikin beer.
8. St George’s Caye has earned its place in Belizean history. For 100 years it was the seat of government. Later a short conflict staged here gave Belize its foundational myth. These days the island is the preferred weekend bolthole for elite business people. Without Belizean friends in high places, there’s only one place to stay on the caye. Thankfully, I found the only resort-St George’s Caye Lodge-rather lovely. It strikes an elusive balance between informal Caribbean style and excellent service.
9. Some creatures are undeniably endearing. Red-footed boobies-like puffins and penguins-are firmly in that category. Perhaps it’s their wide-eyed innocence or their comical little waddle. But something about them taps into our childlike sense of wonder. Whatever it is, I love it and I love Half Moon Caye. It’s not only a site of serious research. It’s a manifest ode to the booby. Climb up the observation tower and see for yourself.
10. Those speeding through Belize City require a powerful pair of rose-tinted spectacles to recognise its beauty. This mini metropolis has been through a lot. Hurricanes and hellish infernos have decimated its erstwhile architectural elegance but I still have a soft spot for this defiant place. The House of Culture shines out among Belize’s best preserved colonial mansions. Across the street, St John’s Cathedral is the oldest edifice from that era. The Swing Bridge and the Supreme Court still stand proud.