A Traveler's Insight to Ecotourism in Belize: Part I

A Traveler's Insight to Ecotourism in Belize: Part I

Two weeks ago TIES Marketing and Event Manager, Lauren Melde, traveled to Belize to get a firsthand look at the country's ecotourism and adventure tourism initiatives. Keep reading to hear tips and tricks for your next eco-adventure, hopefully in beautiful, green Belize!


Enjoying the sunrise from the top of the Mayan High Temple

at Lamanai Archeological Site in Indian Church, Belize


One of my favorite aspects of traveling is flying over my country of destination and seeing how vastly different the scene is than where I am from. More than that, I experience a burst of excitement welling up inside me when I walk through a new airport for the first time. Luckily for me, Belize is unlike anything I’ve ever flown over or walked into in all my travels. For starters, the view from 5,000ft above turns from the turquoise blue above Miami to a deep, thick jungle green rich with history, thriving ecosystems, and a population profoundly proud to call it their home. On arrival, the Belize City Airport is the size of the American Airlines check-in lobby at Miami International Airport.


The International Ecotourism Society, the world’s largest ecotourism non-profit, defines ecotourism as, “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” I was making my way through Belize only two weeks ago to experience firsthand what the country had to offer in terms of ecotourism and sustainable travel within its borders. What I discovered was the epitome of what it means to travel consciously, in regards to not only the environment but also the indigenous cultures.


Belize is a good example of a country that offers nature-based tourism operations committed to conserving the natural environment. Tour operators in Belize work in unison with the landscape--not hard: half the country is covered by thick jungle--to create a one-of-a-kind adventures. If the rainforest atmosphere isn’t for you, Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, featuring world-renowned diving experiences, including the Great Blue Hole. 



The local fisherman at Long Caye, the closest atoll to the Great Blue Hole


To “travel green”, it’s best to choose an excursion that will give you a deeper insight into the country you’re visiting; in ecotourism this is known as interpretation. More often than not, countries that rely on ecotourism will hire local guides to show eco-travelers the wonders of their country. Take, for instance, one of the most famous sacrificial Mayan caves in the world, Actun Tunichil Muknal, which is located near the border of Belize and Guatemala. The guides for this cave must go through rigorous tests to prove their ability to navigate the cave and get visitors in and out safely. Part of the test sends the guide through the soaking wet, pitch-black cave with only a lighter to show the way. It’s an honor to experience the cave firsthand as a visitor, and it’s an honor for the guide to win a coveted spot as an Actun Tunichil Muknal guide. There truly is no better way to interpret the Belizean culture of the past and present in one excursion.


Whether you’re a country-hopping backpacker or a spa-loving resort goer its important to get some direct interaction with the local community. By choosing to travel with the intent of spending your time with the community, you not only enrich your own experience but you give that community a chance to work toward sustainable development in their village or town. This realm of travel is referred to as voluntourism and, when properly executed, can have lasting benefits for the community involved. Climbing Horizons, a nonprofit based out of Miami, Florida takes trips several times a year to different countries in Central and South America to work directly with small villages situated near archeological sites. The group works with schools, locally-owned restaurants, and ecolodges to ensure you have the most authentic experience while also contributing to the overall enhancement of the local community.  



Our accommodations during our stay at Chaa Creek in Belize, curated by Climbing Horizons


I always recommend that you find sustainable accommodations wherever you go. Whether you enjoy lounging in a cabana by the pool or roughing it in a self-sustaining thatch roof hut, there will always be a sustainable option for you to choose from. The Lodge at Chaa Creek, an ecolodge in Belize, is one of the best examples I’ve found that integrates the best of both worlds. Chaa Creek offers guests a full service spa and infinity pool, as well as jungle-set cabins in the woods. Chaa Creek is also Green Globe Certified, which is a rigorous certification that an accommodation must undergo to truly be considered “eco-friendly.” If you see that a hotel or resort has that certification you can rest assured that every effort they make is in the direction of sustainability. It does not matter what your preference of travel is, if you like it, there is a sustainable way to enjoy it. I recommend looking at The International Ecotourism Society’s website for a list of ecolodges around the world as you book your next adventure.


Ecotourism begins with an idea to “travel green” and ends with a richer, more profound experience for the traveler and the country one visits. Whether or not you’re new to the concept of ecotourism, there are ways you can make your next adventure sustainable for the host country, the people who inhabit it, and the Earth. Just remember, the world is your playground: go out and enjoy your adventures and leave them better than you found them. To learn more about how to best choose your next eco-adventure visit Ecotourism.org to see The International Ecotourism Society’s list of eco-destinations, tour operators, and ecolodges around the world.


About TIES

As the world's oldest and largest international ecotourism association, TIES seeks to be the global source of knowledge and advocacy uniting communities, conservation, sustainable travel..




> The International Ecotourism Society 



The Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference will highlight global challenges and local opportunities, supporting sustainable development of tourism and promoting solutions that balance conservation, communities and sustainable travel.

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