I have spent most of my time here in Belize exploring the southern region of the country, in the heart of the rainforest. However, this week offered me the chance to do more sight seeing of the country’s landscape. From exploring the Mayan ruins to snorkeling in the world’s largest living barrier reef, this week was filled with experiences that I will never forget.
To start the week off, I spent the first few days in San Ignacio (where I will be the entire final week of my research here). I came here specifically this week to check out some of the ancient Mayan ruins. Cahal Pech was first on my list, located within the heart of the town. It offered a unique layout covering more landscape than any other ruin I have encountered. The architectural design was quite fascinating, in which I couldn’t quite fathom how they were able to build such unique structures with so much detail in the stone.
The second ruin I visited was closer to the Guatemala border, known as Xunantunich. This ruin was quite different from Cahal Pech, in which it had much larger structures. This ruin, to me, symbolized a more powerful Mayan village over others back in the day. Climbing to the top of the ruin offered a gorgeous overview of the surrounding rainforest, San Ignacio, and the rest of the surrounding ruins. This ruin offered a truly peaceful view from atop (I can see why the ancient Mayans decided to structure it in that location). I also spent a day exploring the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Caves, which were home to ancient Mayan sacrifices. They were also very fascinating to see all the artifacts left behind deep in the darkness of the caves.
I recently just read Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, in which he discusses the mysteries surrounding the fall of the Mayan empire and how a lot of that had to do with their unsustainable farming methods. After decades of farming unsustainably, the ancient Mayans eroded the soils and led to minimized crop yield and starvation, thus led to the collapse of the powerful Mayans. I thought this was quite interesting seeing as how now I am back where this society collapsed, looking at their current agricultural methods and whether they are being done sustainably or not.
I finished the week with a more relaxing setting spending it on the island of Ambergris Caye in the town of San Pedro. Here I was able to go snorkeling in the world’s largest LIVING barrier reef (I highlight living because I know the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is the largest reef but this one is home to the largest living reef). I saw a wide array of marine life, which included huge stingrays, and plenty of nurse sharks. I also explored the island of Caye Caulker for a day (which is a total of one mile long by quarter mile wide).
Overall both of these islands offered more of a Caribbean laidback environment and a lot of tourism. Everyone drove around golf carts rather than cars, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also noticed that despite seeing a few grocery stores, there was plenty of fresh, local produce stands similar to the ones I saw in Punta Gorda. When I asked a few of the individuals working the stands where the crops came from, they all said from small-scale farms down in Punta Gorda. Thus, even out here on the islands individuals are still aware and able to purchase local crops that are being grown in a sustainable manner.