Caribbean, Central America, Toronto Star, travel

Belize is paradise for adventurers

February 20, 2016

For those of you who missed it, check out my cover story on paddling in Belize in Toronto Star. It ran in the paper (view it here), online and on Toronto Star’s tablet magazine, Star Touch.

Here is the lead story:

Belize is paradise for adventure travellers

If you’re going on an adventure trip to Belize, be prepared to learn about conservation and become ecologically aware.

The writer's paddling group with Island Expeditions, including two guides, Kimike and Omar.

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

NATALIE PREDDIE

The writer’s paddling group with Island Expeditions, including two guides, Kimike and Omar.

BELIZE-Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has announced that for his next act, he is going to heal an island.

He’s planning a “restorative” eco-resort off the coast of Belize to help address the country’s eroding coastline, history of overfishing and deforestation. Blackadore Caye will offer conferences, courses and classes to educate people about conservation when it opens in 2018.

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

“The main focus is to do something that will change the world,” DiCaprio New York Times told TheNew York Times. “I couldn’t have gone to Belize and built on an island and done something like this if it weren’t for the idea that it could be groundbreaking in the environmental movement.”

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

Private tour groups and university study-abroad programs based in Belize are also moving beyond basic ecological awareness to create environmental education experiences that focus on maintaining and replenishing conservation areas. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, a diverse and unique stretch of coral, lines the entire coast of the country.

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

There are slow yet steady improvements, especially with the introduction of new environmental laws. Protection of the reef is taken very seriously here. Poaching or fishing endangered species in the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can land you in prison.

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

Private tour operators that focus on activities around the reef act as educators and protectors. Companies such as Island Expeditions offer tourists a chance to be part of unobtrusive travel, explore the barrier reef by sea kayak, paddle to colourful snorkel sites, and learn about the species they encounter and what role they play in the ecosystem.

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

Guests learn the names of fish, rays, sharks and plants, and are told when not to use flippers while snorkelling.

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

Some private companies such as EcoMar focus on specific sections of marine life on the reef, such as Belize Turtle Watch, the Lionfish Project or Coral Watch. Whether it is the hatching of sea turtles, the maintenance of endangered coral or the displacement of invasive lionfish that tourists explore, each tour ensures that guests leave with an immeasurable experience.

A sea kayaking trip is an exciting holiday option that attracts people who enjoy adventure travel and challenging vacations. Mine started in Belize City and ended in Dangriga. We stayed in small cabins/lodges and ate in their dining rooms. It was like being in someone’s home.

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

My paddling group consisted of two couples and a family of four that included two teenage sons. We paddled under mainly sunny skies, dined together and enjoyed Panty Rippers (rum and pineapple) at sunset.

“We’re at a point where we want a bed and not a tent, delicious meals, a decent bar,” says Cathy Burke, who came to Belize with her husband Randy from Lindsay, Ont. “And, of course, we want stupendous views.” She motioned to the clear waters and the fading sun painting colours in the sky: “We want to get to every World Heritage Site in the world.” TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

Although not every tourist can “do a DiCaprio” and sink millions into an eco-resort, every little bit helps. We can learn about Belize’s distinctive ecosystem as we explore and enjoy the area.

Sure there are clear blue skies, turquoise waters and stretches of white sand. But it’s adventure, conservation and environmental awareness that make Belize a unique destination.

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

*Natalie Preddie’s trip was sponsored by Island Expeditions, which didn’t review or approve this story.

TORONTO STAR: Belize is paradise for adventurers

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