Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Belize, The Land of Dollars

Rusting boat at Caye Caulker. 
Belize is a funny country. Their currency is the dollar, the Belize dollar, which is worth exactly half the American dollar. As a result, all prices are given in dollars. And sometimes you find out to your surprise (and irritation) that they mean the American dollar. It kind of depends on where you are.

At the tourism village, I thought, wow a hamburger for $14.00 Belize (or $7 US). Not bad! Then I discovered my bill for $18 including a drink, was NOT in Belize dollars but in American. Somehow I was supposed to know the tourism village is only for Americans so the prices were American dollars. US dollars are so common and plentiful that they are used everywhere, and given in change regularly.

But thirty miles away, in the Baboon Sanctuary, I expected the $26 dollar fee to rent a canoe for a couple hours would be in Belize dollars. It wasn't!

As it turned out, the $26 (US) was per person, and the canoe came with a paddler/guide who was quite knowledgeable about birds and vegetation. He could spot the tiniest green parrot sitting way up in a perfectly matching green tree from the middle of the river. In the end, with two of us per canoe, the price was worth the experience. (That same guide picked some strangler fig leaves and enticed an entire troop of Black Howler monkeys out of the trees. They were close enough to pet...!)

We rented a house from the VRBO website. It came with a cell phone and a car full of gas. It was a large house with a swimming pool, right on a man-made canal that led directly to the Caribbean Sea less than a block away. The sunrises were stunning every morning.

From this base we were able to drive to Altun Ha (the nearest Mayan ruin), the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, the toll bridge on the New River where we rode a boat to Lamanai (another Mayan ruin) and to the Belize Zoo and Baboon Sanctuary (Howlers are called baboons in Belize). We also made a couple of water taxi trips from Belize City to Caye Caulker where we enjoyed great seafood and snorkeling in shark infested waters. (Infested is a good term to describe the dozens of nurse sharks that came up in the shallow water for bits of fish tossed out by the guide.)

And all this fun just cost dollars, lots and lots of dollars. Belize isn't cheap in either currency!

Rare Trogan at Lamanai. We had an
excellent bird spotter as our boat guide.

Our group at Lamanai

Excellent giant carved heads at Lamanai

Jaguar at the Belize Zoo. All the animals are rescued and
cannot be returned to the wild for various reasons. 

Coatimundi at the Zoo

Toucan at the Zoo

Wild and free mama Black Howler and her baby.

Baby howler in the wild

Howlers in the wild at the Baboon Sanctuary

Tarpon at Caye Caulker