In a country of fewer than 400,000 people, Belize is the least densely populated country in Central America. Bordered by Mexico to the north, the jungles of Guatemala to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east, rarely does one feel crowded but there is a pricier tourist season and it is not summer.
During the summer season, fewer tourists visit and prices are low on just about everything from food and accommodations to attractions and car rentals. Add the already decreased value of the Belizean dollar and a summer vacation in Belize is quite affordable for singles and families.
The road less traveled through the jungle canopy at duPlooys Jungle Lodge.
Summer in Belize is the rainy or ‘green’ season but, it does not rain all day every day and mostly in the cooler evening and nights or early mornings. The cloud systems add to the appeal of an already incredible landscape whether in the jungle-covered mountains or billowing above the liquid turquoise horizon of the Caribbean. The air and landscape are charged with possibility.
Photo by CameliaTWU, Clouds over the sea, San Pedro, flickr.com
During the green season, the native vegetation flourishes across the country in the jungles, savannas, wetlands, and mangroves. Nearly 37% of the country’s land and marine territory falls under official protection. The biodiversity of plant life is remarkable. A majestic location to immerse oneself in the luscious seasonal summer green is at the Belize Botanic Gardens at duPlooy’s Jungle Lodge.
Driving along the Western Highway from the coastal mangroves of Belize City, the scenery changes from marsh to savanna then jungle-covered mountains in less than 2 hours. Continuing west and nearly approaching the Guatemalan border, a sign directs visitors to the Belize Botanic Gardens.
The gardens encompass 45 acres of over 2000 species of organically grown native and exotic plants. Before Ken and Judy duPlooy purchased the land in 1993, the area had been deforested and used as farmland. In the beginning, the re-greening project grew out of an appreciation for birds and wildlife. Over the years, the collection of plants grew from a fruit orchard and ornamentals to cultivated plants of the tropics and rare wild species in need of research and conservation. In 1997 encouraged by friends, other botanic gardens, and organizations, a personal garden project became the Belize Botanic Gardens. Quite inspiring!
The Collard Aracari in the Guanacaste tree, the largest tree in the rain forest.
My personal favorite, ylang-ylang, Cananga odorata. A fast-growing tree from tropical East Asia perfumes the night air from the leaf-like petals shown above.
The Copal tree or Bursera was used by the Maya and the Aztecs as a purifying incense from the tree's resinous sap to contact deities and helpful spirit allies.
The Medicine Trail leads you deep into the forest among large tropical trees such as Allspice, Cinnamon, Copal, Noni and many other species. On Fridays join the Traditional Healers experience to learn about 30 medicinal plants and their healing properties.
A day trip to the Belize Botanic Gardens is a must for anyone interested in plants, insects, or birds. Nestled along the Macal River, wildlife is abundant. Don't miss the guided bird walk or tubing in the refreshing river. The gardens are open daily from 7 am- 5 pm. Guests of the Jungle Lodge are free to roam the gardens at any time.
If one day is not enough (and it is not for the botanical or birding zealot), then plan a stay at the enchanting Jungle Lodge. Choose from a tree house, bungalows, a garden or river house. Eat breakfast in the jungle canopy and drink afternoon cocktails at the Canopy Bar overlooking the river. Spend the day tubing the river, hiking the forest or walking the gardens. It is little wonder why their motto is:
"Make Sure You Stay Long Enough!"
To book your next vacation contact duPlooy's Jungle Lodge at www.duplooys.com