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Jul 21, 2009

B.T.B. Media Tour highlights Toledo District

Set deep in the south, the Toledo District, is still pretty much an undiscovered paradise. It is one of the least visited but interestingly, it is one that offers a diverse range of natural attractions. And if you want a swim in the sparkling waters of the Caribbean, or an adventurous trek in the tropical rainforests, then get ready to plan your next trip. You will find a thriving Maya culture, cascading waterfalls and caves sprinkled throughout the district. News Five Delahnie Bain and cameraman Darrel Moguel also found out on a recent visit organized by the B.T.B., that the people are warm, industrious and full of energy.

Delahnie Bain
“Toledo is the southernmost district in Belize and its distance combined with how well its known for rains, has made it seem a little out of reach. But there is much to be offered in the deep south and in its 2009 media tour, the Belize Tourism Board hopes to highlight some of the reasons the long trip is worth while. It’s my first time here so I’m taking on the role of tourist in my own country.”

Lorraine Herrera, Product Officer, Belize Tourism Board
“The purpose of the tour was to have the media get together and come experience what our visitors experience when visiting Belize and secondly, to show our Belizean viewers what Toledo has to offer as a destination.”

Delahnie Bain, Reporting
The weekend started with a tour of Eladio Pop’s Cacao Farm, where he has made a living for himself and his family for the past thirty-six years. Pop’s property stretches on for approximately thirty-two acres of greenery including the cacao plants, spices and fruit trees. But his main output is the cacao, which flourishes in the Toledo District and after a process of fermentation, drying and roasting, the seeds are exported to Green and Blacks in the United Kingdom to be transformed into their world renowned Mayan Gold orange flavoured chocolate. But at Pop’s humble home in the village of San Pedro Columbia, the cacao is not just business, it’s a part of their everyday lives. We had the opportunity to witness the making of the cacao drink and were then treated to a sample.

We moved on to the Mayan Ruin two miles away named Lubaantun, which translates to ‘Place of the Fallen Stones’. The Mopan and Ketchi Maya called the site home up to eight hundred and ninety AD and the area was abandoned shortly after. In the years after Lubaantun was discovered in 1903, it has been cleared of vegetation and some of the structures were excavated. But today the site still tells a story of the work that went into its construction and the life that once filled it. As we walked and climbed in the sweltering heat, we found that while areas of the ruin are still in tact, some parts are now mountains of broken rock.

Next, we headed to the Hokeb Ha Cave in Blue Creek. But it was not as easy as it sounds because the only way there was an almost half hour hike. It started out as a walk on the trail but soon enough, we were jumping slippery rocks and climbing vines. The scenery of it all was what kept the group going as we passed waterfalls and streams that brought a sense of calm to the rigorous trek. We finally arrived at the opening of the cave, which is believed to have been used for ceremonial purposes in the past. That meant time to rest, but the biggest reward was a refreshing dip in the cold river.

And so ends day one of the tourism experience in Toledo. After spending hours on our feet, day two promised less walking as we headed out to Snake Caye West with Dennis Garbutt, owner of Garbutt’s Marine. But the rains met us half way and we stopped in for a presentation at the Port Honduras observation post while we waited out the showers. We were back on the highs seas as soon as the sun was back out and soon pulled up to the sandy beach and clear waters… and what a day it turned out to be. The weather was perfect, the food was great and relaxation was the word of the day on the island where the trees and a thatch palapa provided all the accommodations necessary.

But when night sets in, having the right place to rest is top priority. So where to stay? It all depends on what you’re looking for. For a tranquil retreat with comfortable rooms that come with private balconies and a breathtaking view, try Beya Suites. The Coral House Inn is another option, with its modern decor, spacious rooms and inviting swimming pool. But if you’re looking for something more natural, the Hickatee Cottages might be a better choice. The jungle themed cottages and landscape make for the perfect escape at the end of a long day. There’s also the Lodge at Big Falls. It’s further away from town, but the thatch roof cabanas offer peace, quiet and privacy or you can head down to the pool and unwind.

The B.T.B. Media Tour was the culmination of months of preparation and according to Product Officer, Lorraine Herrera, as well as our tour guide and owner of Sun Creek Lodge, Bruno Kuppinger, the residents of the district welcomed our visit.

Lorraine Herrera
“We started working on the trip about a couple months ago with the assistance of Bruno Kuppinger from Sun Creek Lodge. He assisted me with the preparation, so about two months.”

Delahnie Bain
“This is all free for us, the media, where does the finance from to deal with all this?”

Lorraine Herrera
“The tourism stakeholders of the Toledo District were very excited when they heard that the local media was coming down here so they were happy to participate so most of it didn’t cost us anything.”

Bruno Kuppinger, Owner, Sun Creek Lodge/IBTM Tours
“I am very excited to have you guys here. It’s the first time that Toledo got all the local media here in Toledo and to show what Toledo has to offer. When other tourists from broad are coming to Belize they can say listen Toledo is also a part of Belize and not longer the forgotten district. I would call it the unforgettable district.”

Reporting for News Five, from the beautiful Toledo District, I am Delahnie Bain.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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