Dangriga is centred around North Stann Creek, which flows out of the Maya Mountains and enters the Caribbean Sea. This area of Belize was first settled by both European traders and Puritan farmers in the late 1600s and it was the Puritan custom of calling trading posts "stands" (later corrupted into "stann") that led to both this town and area being called 'Stann Creek'. However, the arrival of the many Garifuna immigrants in the 1820s eventually led to the town being renamed to Dangriga (which means 'sweet, still waters' in their language).
The Garifuna, are an interesting group of people, of African descent, who had managed to escape from intended slavery. Starting in the early 1600s, over 4 million Africans were transported to various parts of the West Indies to work as sugar plantation slaves. In 1635, one of these human cargos from Nigeria washed up on the remote island of St. Vincent, following the sinking of two Spanish ships. These Africans eventually mixed with the local Carib natives, forming the Garinagu culture over the next 100+ years. However, in the British-French wars for control of St. Vincent, the Garinagu paid a heavy price for their alliance with the French losers. At the end of the war, in 1796, the British rulers of St. Vincent forceably evicted them almost 1700 miles to the west, onto the small island of Roatan not far off the coast of Nicaragua. It was from there, over the next few decades, that the Garinagu finally reached this back-water of Belize.
We parked our SUV at the Bus Terminal, located in the centre of Dangriga beside the main bridge across North Stann Creek. This was a busy spot with busses coming and going, along with small stands set up by the locals to hawk their various wares - including a vile-looking yellowish bottled drink made from seaweed! At home, I eat seaweed called 'dulse' from the Bay of Fundy, but I don't usually drink the stuff!
Other than these nice views up and down the Creek, there is not a lot for a tourist to do in the middle of this commercial town.
St. Herman's Cave is part of the Blue Hole National Park. It is located 400 meters from the Hummingbird Highway. You can also walk from the Blue Hole, but we elected not to do that.
St. Herman's Cave is a large sinkhole, 60 meters wide, funneling to a 20 meter entrance to the cave. Concrete steps down into the cave have been constructed over the steps made by the Maya who used the cave during the Classic Period (0- 900A.D.). This is one of three entrances.
As we approached the cave, we felt a surge of cool, damp air which caused my camera lenses and my glasses to fog up.
You will need a flashlight. We used a dive light as our flashlight, but we didn't go back much beyond the entrance as we didn't have a guide. You can actually go into the cave for about a mile.
From the website: "Pottery vessels, used for the collection of "Zuhuy Ha" or virgin water from cave drippings, along with spears and torches, have been removed from St. Herman's Cave for study by the Department of Archaeology in Belmopan. Thanks to the Belize Government, permission has been granted to BHNP visitors, admitting them to St. Herman's Cave without the usual permits required for entering caves. Permission must still be obtained from the Department of Archaeology to enter Mountain Cow and Petroglyph Caves, which are beyond the border of the BHNP. "
The National Park is open daily from 8 am to 4 pm and is managed by the Belize Audubon Society, who have a small pamphlet about it. Belizeans pay an entrance fee of $2 and foreigners $8.
This is believed to be the highest waterfall in Central America and is actually over 1,500 ft to the bottom. A viewing platform overlooks the falls. There is a short scenic trail around the escarpment for taking in the valley view.
We drove up and had lunch up there (there is a little store which sells some food and souveniers). The road is unpaved (and very rough) and takes you through the Mountain Pine Ridge region - this region has pine trees and is reminiscent of Georgia.
There is a lodge up here called Blancaneaux which was built by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. We met some folks that biked over from it. They were told it was an easy ride, but it took them 3 or 4 hours.
You can get a picture of these falls as wallpaper.
Well as strange as it is cave tubing is quite popular and fun too.
Most tour companies offer this excursion in San Ignacio, one of them being Eva's (it is a restaurant and bar, they offer excursions and the information they give is excellent, but don't eat at this place, it ain't so good).
The cost of this excursion for a full day out, exploring over 4 caves is likely to cost you 60 US Dollars each, you can shop around but prices don't vary much.
The destination was Caves Branch a well established area and renounded for it's excellent caves, our tour guide gave us a great insight into the Belizean life and how things work in the Country as well as explaining what the caves meant to the Mayans.
Basicly in ancient times the mayans would hold sacrafices to thier Gods within caves as they beleived that caves were the gateway to the Gods, many children were victims of this sacrafice, being beaten over the head till dead, sounds charming, no you won't see any bones at caves branch, but there is another tour that offers this, it does cost more though.
You pick up your inner tube, life vest and head light, walk for about 30 mins. and then enter the very refreshing water and the rest of the day is spent drifting through caves, it is utter relaxation.
Don't forget you will get wet, so swimsuit or shorts is a good idea as well as insect repellent, don't take camera's as they are likely to get damaged.
The Blue Hole Park is part of the Belize Park system which was established in 1981. The 'hole' is a part of a system of limestone caves and sinkholes which riddle this area. It isn't the same as the Blue Hole on Lighthouse Reef which has been extensively publicized by Jaques Cousteau. THAT Blue Hole is some 300 feet deep and is accessed by SCUBA divers.
This Blue Hole has faintly bluish water - it must be colored by some chemicals in the soil (probably copper). The websites say that it is about 25 feet deep, but I could walk around in most of it only up to mid calf. Of course at the time it was the middle of a drought. There were no changing facilities when I was there - I had to change in the bathroom. The water was COLD. Too cold for Bob - he didn't want to swim.
The website says:
If you have the time, catching a bus heading to Dangriga can be an inexpensive way to get there. If you go by bus, be sure and check bus schedules for return times.
12 miles southeast of Belmopan on the Hummingbird Highway
After you've been to the zoo, you might want to come here to hike, camp or possibly see a jaguar. There is a large teacher's guide to the Reserve that is available for sale from the zoo. I bought one and found it helpful.
There is a visitor center with a small interpretive museum, a picnic area and several beautiful jungle trails which criss-cross the sanctuary. They are labeled as to difficulty and length. Drinking water is available for cooking and showers and you can go swimming in the streams and waterfalls.
We took one of the trails, but I couldn't figure out how I would get back out of the river if I got in, so I didn't swim - although I would have liked to - it was EXTREMELY hot.
The basin is managed by the Belize Audubon Society
During our exploration walk around Caye Caulker, after enjoying the main tourist areas along the reef side of the island, we ended up on Back Street and passed through the area where many of the resident locals live, mostly in small stilt houses similar to this one. The West side of the island is not as well developed as the Eastern (reef) side and, in fact, sand is trucked from there around to the other side to keep the tourists happy! While wandering here I began to hear a loud noise and soon found the local power station, with three Caterpillar diesel-generators roaring away. It was just a small little power station keeping the lights on, but it reminded me of the many ones like it I had dealt with while working for the Papua New Guinea Electricity Commission 25 years ago!
Canoeing can be fun, despite what you might think. Whilst in the Cayo district of Belize, the folks and I decided to canoe down the Macal river (the river runs through San Ignacio town and Santa Elena town)
This was a 14 mile canoe trip with no guide (as we didn't want one, but other tour operators offer them) We arrived at black creek which is a little off the beaten track, then we hopped in our three man canoe and spent close to seven hours on the river, it was absolutely fantastic!
Iguana's line the banks as well as birds and strange trees, this trip is well worth doing, the cost for the three of us with Snooty Fox Tours was 120 BZ Dollars (or 50 BZ Dollars each).
Lamanai, which is located on the New River (keep your eyes open for crocodiles and manatees, as well as the local troop of black howler monkeys and the more than 350 bird species recorded here
It is a long boat trip to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai. The day we went it was pouring down rain and we got soaked.
Buy a waterprouf poncho before you go, not afterwards like we did.
The birds love the cayes, also.
We asked to be taken on a tour to see seabirds and a guide took us on his boat out to Bird Caye.
He may have made this name up but there were many birds there on that little caye and nothing else.
Ambergris is directly in the Mississippi Flyway and the Belize mainland is in a bottleneck of the Central, Pacific and Mississippi Flyways, a unique vantage point to observe migration.
The highlight of the childrens day was going out on the glass bottom boat so they could see the fish.
After they got to a certain spot the boat anchored and everyone got into the water to snorkel or just play.
We went out on several different ones and they were all good.
Just 20 minutes away by boat but back several years in time, is Caye Caulker. It is mostly swam ans mangroves. Life here is in slow motion with rows of clapboard houses and sandy streets.
We got off our boat there to have a look around the island. Not much to do there except snorkel, swim, or go out on a boat tour.
We did see this beautiful starfish at the waters edge.
If you go down to the lagoon just south of the power plant the locals throw a chicken or two at the cocodrillos. They tie a string to the chicken ( It's not alive-it's from the supermarket) and try to lure the crocs op on the mudflat.This was the small one ,the big crocodile we saw was at least ten feet- this guy maybe 4-5 feet. We brought some drinks and watched along with maybe 15 people.Everyone driving their golf carts past would stop and gawk.I saw a bony stray dog run up and snatch a piece of chicken from a snoozing crocodile
Not far from San Ignacio is the caving system of Actun Tunichil Muknal. Discovered only in 1989 this cave is known to only a few licensed guides and contains artifacts and remains that are over 2000 years old.
The adventure starts by 4W-drive from San Ignacio to your drop point. This is followed by a short hike through lush jungle, to your base camp.
Base camp consists of simple thatched roof coverings protecting you from the falling fruit of the massive cahuna palm. Accomodations are a standard tent placed inside the thatched shelters. A make-shift kitchen area is ajoined by a small picnic style bench with a candelabra for night lighting while you enjoy the local rum and listen to tarantulas climb the thatched structure. The jungle surounding base camp is awesome!
Nestled beside the main caving system, base camp is also a short trekking distance from an unexcavated Mayan city you can experience the morning of your second day. Although it must be noted that this unexcavated site has been badly looted. This trip also includes exploration of 2 other smaller caves that require agility and a love of small spaces & dangerous insects.
Stay tuned for a 360 degree virtual tour of base I shot while on site!
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Negroman Road, San Ignacio, Belize
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