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Aug 28, 2017

Getting to Know Hopkins and Southern Belize

San Pedro Ambergris Caye is considered a tourist’s paradise; but a visit to southern Belize shows that in the jewel you can do the sea, enjoy eco-tourism and learn so much of our cultural diversity… all in one package. Over the weekend, the local media travelled south, courtesy of the Belize Tourism Board to experience the awesomeness of the country and how gratifying it is to be a visitor here. News Five’s Duane Moody hiked, rappelled and snorkeled; he files the following report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

You’ve always heard that Belize is Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret, but with that secret out of the bag, several campaigns are encouraging local and international travelers to ‘discover how to be’ a tourist in Belize. Annually, hundreds of thousands of foreigners travel to experience the wonders of the Jewel, engaging in eco-tours as well as the many terrestrial and aquatic adventures. For the past two years, the Belize Tourism Board has been on a mission to boost domestic tourism – promoting awareness of Belize as a destination for local tourists.

 

Jocelle Stephen

Jocelle Stephen, Marketing and Public Relations Manager, B.T.B.

“As B.T.B. we believe in building partnerships. So we have partnerships with you, the media, the press; we have with our stakeholders, for example here we are at Jaguar Reef and also with the local community. So we thought that it was a really good initiative for us to partner with you the media, who we really consider Belizean ambassadors.”

 

It was an eye-opening experience for a group of journalists over the weekend as we were exposed to the southeast coastal region of Belize, Hopkins – which has readily become a prime tourism destination. The village on the coast of Stann Creek District is considered by some Belizeans to be the cultural center of the Garifuna population.

The journey took us to our first adventure within the heart of the Mayflower Bocawina National Park. The amenities were overwhelming; following a hike within the jungle to the hundred feet waterfall, the certified tour guides gets you into your safety gears and individually, you rappel down the waterfall. Despite some slips and falls, it’s something to scratch off that bucket list.

 

Andy Aspinall

Andy Aspinall, General Manager, Bocawina Rainforest Resort & Adventures

“They come for a bit of adventure to get away from the city, enjoy the national park. We offer a fourteen-station, nine line zip-line; we offer rappelling at three locations within the national park. So we do Antelope Falls, Bocawina Falls and Big Drop Falls. There’s a lot of great hiking within the national park; it is well kept by the rangers so it is a great place to come and relax. You can swim in the river and there’s an awesome amount of birds here. There are over two hundred birds in the national park if you are a birder or interested in that kind of thing.”

 

From the jungle to the sea…Five-star tour operator, Splash Dive Center took the group on a snorkeling adventure at the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, twenty-two miles east of the Placencia Peninsula. First-time and experienced snorkelers, dubbed baby and navy seals respectively, were awed by the wonders of the Caribbean Sea: the effervescent colors of the diverse coral and fish species…the huge loggerhead sea turtles, nurse sharks and the blue stingrays.

 

Marvin Escobar

Marvin Escobar, Dive Instructor, Splash Dive Center

“We don’t basically do only marine tours, but we are also enrolled in inland tours. So we do all kinds of tours: from zip-lining to cave tubing, Maya ruins to fishing tours, snorkeling, diving and teaching courses for scuba diving as well.  The snorkeling itself here is very beautiful; the coral is very healthy, there is a lot of marine life to be seen. And the last snorkel itself is a snorkel whereby the local fishermen are located at a specific spot near the barrier reef and they clean the catch of the day. So whenever they throw the stuff back in the water is what attracts the stingrays, nurse sharks, loggerhead sea turtles and the spotted eagle rays to come and feed.”

 

….kayaking and sailing are among other activities available in the area. But a good night’s rest following the many adventures came thanks to Jaguar Reef Lodge of VIVA Belize. It is one of Belize’s leading hotel group and adventure companies that manages five luxury-end beach and jungle resorts in the west and in Hopkins, providing authentic Belizean experiences to its guests.

 

Clive Myers

Clive Myers, Director of Sales & Marketing, VIVA Belize Hotel Group & Adventure Company

“We are a company that is fully managed and staffed by one hundred percent Belizeans. We pride ourselves in offering an authentic Belizean experience to all our visitors—local and international guests. And this is something that ripples into our guest service, our front desk service, our restaurants on site; the Paddle House restaurant here at our beach properties and also the Grove House at our jungle properties. And in general it’s a holistic experience offering an authentic Belizean gateway to all visitors.”

 

Our last stop for the weekend was over at Hopkins Bay in the Driftwood area of the village. The nineteen villas on the property provide a place for couples and the entire family.  Interestingly forty-percent of its visitors annually are Belizeans.

 

Teophilus Giron

Teophilus Giron, Assistant Manager, Hopkins Bay Resort

“We have guests from all over the world; from Europe, the U.S., Canada and also we have our very own local guests. And usually, last year, we had maybe over a thousand guests and all of our rooms are occupied at some point. Like for example November nineteen is always busy for us and also in December, January, February.”

 

Contrary to what is suspected, it is rather affordable to vacation locally. With the amazing rates offered to Belizeans, traveling to neighboring Mexico for the Easter Holidays or October weekend can easily become a thing of the past.

 

Jocelle Stephen

“I think it is rewarding for your children to appreciate their country, to appreciate their culture and to appreciate the uniqueness of Belize. Be a Belizean traveler in your country.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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