On August 24, 2016, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) announced that five students have been awarded a scholarship to enter the tourism field of studies. The Honorable Manuel Heredia, Jr., the Belize Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, was personally on hand to present each of the selected students with their scholarships.
Janeen Nal, a student at the University of Belize, was awarded a two-year tuition scholarship to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism Management at the University of Belize.
Clarita Ack of Toledo Community College and Akheem O’Brien of St. John’s College were each awarded a two-year scholarship for an Associate Degree in Tourism studies at the Junior College of their choice in Belize.
Nissa August, a student at the University of Belize, was awarded the prestigious Jean Shaw Scholarship which will provide two years of tuition in the Tourism Management program at the University of Belize.
The Jean Shaw Tourism Scholarship was established to commemorate the achievements of the late Jean Ursilla Shaw, a tourism pioneer and leading business woman who played a pioneering role in the development of Belize’s nascent tourism industry. The Jean Shaw Tourism Scholarship is awarded to outstanding female Belizean students who wish to pursue a career in tourism.
Heredia also was on hand to award Einar Marin of St. John’s College a $10,000 scholarship to pursue a culinary degree at the institution of his choice.
The Belize Tourism Board began awarding scholarships to students wishing to pursue a degree in tourism in an effort to help further develop the field of tourism in the country. By providing financial support that includes tuition fees and books, the scholarships will help assist academically-promising students to focus on their courses as they pursue a degree and later a career in tourism.
Since gaining full independence from Great Britain in 1981, Belize has invested a significant amount of time and effort in developing and attracting tourism destinations by protecting large parts of the country as natural parks and nature reserves as well as training Belizean citizens on the fundamentals of operating a tourism economy. Today, Belize is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region with tens of thousands of visitors arriving annually.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Belize Tourism Board congratulated all of the 2016 scholarship recipients and wished them success in their academic pursuits.
“Chabil Mar heartily applauds this forward-looking initiative established by the Belize Tourism Board,” said Larry France, the marketing manager of the award-winning resort of Chabil Mar on the Placencia Peninsula. “We warmly congratulate the winning students and look forward to their contributions to the tourism field.”
A CNN video highlighting the natural scenic beauty of the Hummingbird Highway and the Caves Branch Jungle Lodge is a great introduction to some of the most spectacular natural wonders in Belize.
Chabil Mar, the award-winning luxury resort on the Placencia Peninsula, offers its guests a comprehensive vacation package to experience the pristine loveliness of Caves Branch for themselves. The package includes transportation, meals, and everything else necessary to enjoy Caves Branch Jungle Lodge and the surrounding 50,000 acres of privately-owned unspoiled nature at its finest. The Caves Branch Jungle Lodge had simple beginnings two decades ago when two adventurers and nature lovers, Ian and his wife Ella, decided to build a simple camp in the jungle so that they could experience the best of the Belize jungle.
With just a simple shack for shelter and no running water, the camp soon began to evolve as more and more people wanted to experience the wonders of the area for themselves. Today, the Jungle Lodge is still the center of action for exciting adventures like climbing up waterfalls, caving, exploring underground rivers, and rapelling down cliffs, but the Lodge itself is now composed of five-star luxury tree houses complete with hot tubs and open-air decks in order to experience the jungle from up on high.
The complete vacation package offered by Chabil Mar includes a chance to walk through the jungle after dark, when a completely different world opens up, as well as your choice of the resort’s signature tours. Ride an inner tube through miles of underground caves, explore botanical gardens, or brave the abyss of the infamous Black Hole. After a fun day in the jungle, relax with a full body massage, sip on a cocktail made from locally-made rum and fresh-squeezed tropical juices, or choose to partake in a early morning expedition into the forest to go birdwatching.
No matter how you choose to spend your time at the Caves Branch Jungle Lodge, you’ll definitely have a one-of-a-kind experience in a gorgeously natural setting in some of the most pristine wilderness in Belize.
Although today Tikal is an isolated site located deep within the jungles of Tikal National Park in Guatemala’s El Peten department, more than 1,400 years ago Tikal was a powerful city-state that dominated the Maya world.
Tikal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 in recognition of the superb public squares, palaces, and enormous temples that have survived intact for more than a millennia in the jungle. Probably the most famous building in Tikal are the five enormous temples that dominate the landscape. Temple IV (four) is the the largest pyramid ever built by the Maya and measures more than 230 feet (70 meters) tall. The adjacent Temple V (five) is nearly as tall, measuring 187 feet (57 meters) tall. All of the principal pyramids and temples were built to honor special dates in the Maya calendar and were used for special religious ceremonies.
Tikal was first founded in the Preclassic Period (around 800 BC) and grew to be one of the dominant city-states in the Maya Empire before it was abandoned around 900 A.D. The greater Tikal complex is a protected bio-reserve of more than 57,600 hectares (142,000 acres) of wetlands, forests, and jungle that harbor a wide spectrum of plants and animals including 300 species of birds, a half-dozen species of monkeys, and five great cat species, including the Jaguar and Puma.
Beyond the impressive temples and pyramids that have made Tikal such an iconic location, visitors can explore more than 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of roads, terraces, public squares, ball game courts, and residences, many of which are covered in elaborate stone carvings or painted with Maya hieroglyphics that describe the history of the city. One of the most popular attractions in Tikal is known as the “Lost World” complex (“Mundo Perdido” in Spanish) that sits just southwest of Temples I and II. Many of Tikal’s ruling elite were buried in the cemetery adjacent to the site.
During its long history, Tikal had an active relationship with such important sites as Teotihuacan (later the Aztec capital) and Calakmul in Mexico, Copan in Honduras, and Caracol in Belize. Tikal is widely recognized for its wealth of art, unparalleled architecture, and large-scale engineering that demonstrate the genius of the ancient Maya.
Sanctuary of the Nine Maya Gods
To experience Tikal and a Guatemala/Belize holiday at its finest, Chabil Mar offers a complete vacation package that includes seven nights at luxury resorts, transportation, and a boat trip across the fabulous Mystic Lake Peten Itza to the see Tikal and the surrounding area.
Although Simon Biles is an American citizen competing in the Olympic Games for the American women’s gymnastics team, she had more than her fair share of fans in Belize cheering on her amazing success. In bars and cafes all over the small Central American nation, Belizeans gathered to watch Biles and the Final Five compete, erupting in happiness as they watched one of their own perform flawlessly to clinch the team gold medal.
Biles, who is a dual citizen of Belize, and whose grandmother still resides in the country, was a much-needed ray of good news after the country was pounded by Hurricane Earl the previous week. Even Kim Simplis Barrow, the first lady of Belize, was glued to the action unfolding 4,000 miles away in Rio de Janeiro, “Everyone here is talking about the huge stack of medals that Biles is going to win.”
Biles, whose story is now well-known around the world, began life 19 years ago in Columbus, Ohio, born to a single mother who struggled with substance abuse. A few years later, Biles’s mother lost custody of her four children. Biles and her sister were then adopted by her grandfather Ron, who is married to Nellie Cayetano Biles, a citizen of Belize. Although technically their grandparents, Ron and Nellie quickly became the mother and father figures that Simone and her sister desperately needed.
Grandmother, now Mother Nellie, is the daughter of Evarista Cayetano, a member of the Garifuna people who had a long career as a teacher and owner of a small supermarket in Belize. Nellie’s mother, Silas Cayetano, also originally began his career as a teacher but then left to serve as an official in a fishing and agricultural cooperative in Belize. Later, Silas served several terms as a senator in Belize’s parliament.
When Ron and Nellie Biles agreed to adopt Simone and her sister Adria, they already had two grown sons who were in their last years of high school and college. Although the couple had planned on retiring and doing some traveling, they realized that family duty called and the two girls needed a stable environment in which to grow up, so they happily decided to adopt Simone and Adria.
Simone has regularly visited her second homeland to be with family and enjoy fishing and snorkeling vacations. Simone last visited Belize in 2015 when she was on the island of Ambergris Caye to join the rest of her family in celebrating her brother Ronald’s nuptials. After winning the gold medal, Biles tweeted that she intends to vacation in Belize to relax after all of the excitement of competing in the Rio Games.
The management and staff of Chabil Mar congratulate Simone Biles and all of the Final Five for their outstanding performance at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and look forward to joining the rest of Belize in welcoming the young woman who proudly represented Belize on the world stage.
Photo courtesy of USA Today
At the recent International Marine Conservation Congress held in Canada, experts discussed how the waters of Belize may soon be able to offer new opportunities for locals to make money. The topic being discussed by Julianne Robinson of The Nature Conservancy was seaweed mariculture.
Fishing has been an integral component of the Belizean economy for centuries. Even today, many locals in coastal communities of Belize depend on fishing both for their livelihoods and as a source of food. Climate change, overfishing, destructive fishing practices, and other factors have resulted in the recent decline in fisheries in Belize that many local communities depend on. As fisheries decline, local fishermen have been seeking new avenues of income.
Ms. Robinson spoke about how The Nature Conservancy has been working jointly with the Placencia Fishermen Cooperative in Belize in order to conduct pilot tests on mariculture farms. While many options are being currently explored, the most promising result so far has been growing red seaweed with the Latin name Euchemia isiforme.
See also: Belize Is An Angler’s Paradise
Growing seaweed is beneficial for a number of reasons. For one, the harvesting process is not dissimilar from fishing. Many of Belize’s local fishermen already include seaweed harvesting as a byproduct of fishing for queen conch and spiny lobster that like to cluster where seaweed grows. The collected seaweed is already being sold in local markets. Seaweed is used in Belize as a food item (including in the popular seaweed “shakes” drinks) but the challenge is to find additional uses for the seaweed such as a cooking thickener (similar to starch) or as an ingredient in soap making.
Growing seaweed has a number of benefits for the marine environment, including the restoration of nitrogen and phosphorous levels in the water. The seaweed also serves as a preferred habitat for the valuable queen conch and spiny lobster.
“We welcome this exciting development,” said Larry France, marketing manager of Chabil Mar. “We believe this is a really special opportunity to diversify income opportunities for traditional fishing communities while also helping to preserve fishing stocks, something that will benefit both tourists and locals alike.”
Local demand for red seaweed is high and expected to grow. Beyond the local economy, global demand for seaweed is increasing at about 10% per year, potentially opening lucrative and sustainable jobs for Belizean fishermen. The challenge moving forward will be to scale up production of the seaweed and to better develop overseas markets.