Belize currently trails countries like Costa Rica and New Zealand as top eco-destinations in the world. And since the country doesn’t receive as many tourists compared to the region, travelers can take advantage of unspoiled paradise. A few of the qualities that Belize offers is the ancient Maya pyramids, ceremonial caves, diverse cultures, the countless cayes and atolls that dot the coast, the iconic Blue Hole, the Great Barrier Reef, and the various rivers and waterfalls that nourish it’s rainforests.
When you decide to visit Belize, here are some tips on how you can support responsible travel in Belize – it doesn’t matter if you’re into luxury travel or backpacking, everyone can help.
Try to learn a little of Belize’s local language
English is Belize’s official language but natives mostly speak kriol with each other. Try to learn the basic common words and don’t worry if you have a terrible accent, having an interest and getting involved is what matters most. Easy phrases such as “Weh di goan?” (What’s going on?) or “Tings haad out yah!” (We are going through rough times!) will be a fun way to start a conversation and connect with the locals. Making the natives smile is always a great way to break the ice and it can also be a good opportunity to build long lasting relationships.
Appreciate and respect cultural attire, religion and beliefs
Things such as clothing, traditions and lifestyle are very important to keep cultures intact. When visiting the Barton Creek Cave for example, you must pass a small conservative Mennonite community, women are asked not to wear over revealing bathing suits since the young teenage boys are not used to that. Another example would be that guests ought to be respectful whenever touring the ancient Maya pyramids and ceremonial caves, given that they are still sacred to the Maya.
Support local Belizean products and services
By supporting local businesses, an individual directly contributes to Belize’s growing economy. This is important because buying locally allows for a greater multiplier effect. Local hotels and tour operators economically provide for many families, which in return, spend their money throughout the community. Through eco-tourism for example, and eco resort in the Cayo District named The Lodge at Chaa Creek hires over 125 staff from predominantly two small villages. This resort has only 23 palm-thatched cottages in a 365 acre private nature reserve.
Embrace environmental stewardship
Cherishing nature is fundamental in ensuring the preservation of the natural environment. Whenever in Belize, visit as many natural attractions and protected areas as you can, the park fee is a contribution that goes straight to the conservation efforts of these places. Also, try not to disturb or harm the wildlife. Never participate in buying products of endangered wildlife, remember, there must be a demand for the supply side to exist. And killing animals such as frogs for example, can set ecosystems off balance, resulting in an infestation of flies and mosquitoes.
Endorse responsible tourism
Make it a preference to support Belizean businesses that endorse and carry out responsible tourism. Do a little research before visiting and find out if they truly practice what they preach: are they eco-friendly certified, employ local staff, have environmental awareness programs, fund conservation efforts, and are doing community outreach? Research conducted previous to your travels is essential to exclude the naysayers who join the green marketing scheme.
If you are planning to take a trip to Belize, remember to come with an open mind and heart to take in all the natural beauty and the friendly smiles of the people. We welcome you to this beautiful land we call home and sure hope you have an extraordinary time with us.