Humans enjoyed chocolate 1,500 years earlier than thought: Study

Posted on Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Chocolate is humanity’s favorite food, and a new research paper published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution has proven that people have been making and enjoying chocolate for 1,500 years longer than previously thought. According to the study from researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada, humans have been growing cacao (the principal ingredient in chocolate) for over 5,300 years.

The study looked at intentional cacao planting as opposed to cacao plants in the wild which thrive in the warm tropical climates of Central and northern South America. The researchers analyzed the DNA of modern cacao trees and discovered that new varieties started emerging over 5,000 years ago in indigenous settlements along the Amazon basin. The researchers were then able to prove that this farmed variety of cacao is the same as the cacao that was grown by the ancient Maya culture in Belize and southern Mexico.

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 15th century, the principle way that chocolate was consumed in the Americas was as a drink. The theobroma cacao species that is found across Belize and the rest of Central America was used to make sacred drinks which were consumed during religious ceremonies and feasts. Cacao beans were so highly prized by the ancient Maya that they were also used as currency.

By studying pottery and other artifacts at ancient sites that still contain remnants of cacao beans, researchers were able to push back the earliest verified data for intentional cacao farming to more than 5,300 years ago. Researchers discovered traces of theobromine, a component of modern cacao beans, inside the pottery fragments and were thus able to analyze the plant’s DNA, showing that it was the cultivated variety as opposed to the varieties found nearby in the wild.

The ancient Maya believed that chocolate was the “elixir of life,” and there are records of Maya kings drinking up to 50 cups of chocolate per day. Today, chocolate is known as a superfood, rich in antioxidants, copper, manganese, iron, and other essential nutrients.

Ready to try some ancient chocolate recipes for yourself? The best way to indulge your passion for this sublimely delicious superfood is to visit the Belize Chocolate Festival in May or sign up for one of Chabil Mar’s chocolate tours. Chabil Mar is an award-winning beach resort located just steps from the Caribbean on the beautiful Placencia Peninsula in southeastern Belize.

Three Belizeans Receive Artist Emeritus Award

Posted on Monday, October 22nd, 2018

In a VIP ceremony at the Museum of Belize in Belize City on October 19, 2018, three Belizean artists were given the award of “Artist Emeritus” of Belize and official recognition of their achievements by the government.

The ceremony was led by Patrick Faber, the Deputy Prime Minister of Belize, and Sapnah Budrani, president of the National Institute of Culture and History, who presented the Artist Emeritus award to Florencio Mes, Myrna Manzanares, and Gerald “Lord” Rhaburn in front of a packed crowd of cheering enthusiasts. Budhrani told a packed hall that “Belize is blessed with so much diversity, and these living heroes have made us laugh, dance, and appreciate our country’s rich artistic traditions.”

Florencio Mes is of Maya origin and is known for his sublime skills on the harp and his relaxing, soothing music. Hailing from San Pedro Colombia in Toledo District, Mes is the last surviving member of the “Three Kings,” three legendary Maya musicians from Central America.

Myrna Manzanares is an internationally recognized writer, poet, and storyteller who is known for her in-depth expressions of the Creole culture in Belize. Manzanares is a strong advocate of Creole culture, including traditional forms of music and dance.

Gerald Rhaburn, better known as Lord Rhaburn, is a well-known calypso, soca, reggae, and brukdown (breakdown) musician famous for songs such as “Pump it up” and “Gumagarugu Water” that stem from his deep Garifuna roots. He gained international recognition in the 1970s when performing with the Lord Rhaburn Combo. In 2004, the Lord Rhaburn Music Awards were first held, an annual award show that recognizes outstanding Belizean musicians.

All three Artist Emeritus award winners were given a plaque and a $500 monthly government stipend.

Speaking during the ceremony, Minister Faber said, “On behalf of the entire nation, we thank you for your lifetime of contributions to culture in Belize. We hope you will take your monthly stipend to continue to produce your art to further enrich generations of Belizeans to come.”

Also present at the ceremony were Dana Rhamdas of the National Creole Council, Hilario Mes, son of Florencio Mes, and Karen Vernon, the theater director at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts. Attendees were also treated to a live phone call of congratulations from Dr. Linda Mcartha Sandy-Lewis, better known as the calypso musician “Calypso Rose.”

The staff and management of Chail Mar heartily congratulate these magnificent artists and thanks them for their contributions to Belizean culture.

Xunantunich Mayan Ruins

Posted on Thursday, October 18th, 2018


Xunantunich Mayan Ruins in Belize

Pronounced shoo-na-too-nitch by most people, this ancient Maya site is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Belize. With an interactive museum on site, visitors can learn about this majestic city that was once a luxury residence for Maya elites. Today, visitors approach the site by crossing the Mopan River using a hand-cranked ferry and then climbing to the top of one of the site’s fabulous temples to be rewarded with an amazingly panoramic view of the countryside.

About Xunantunich

In modern Belize, Xunantunich is located just a short distance from the town of San Ignacio in Cayo District and one mile north of the border with Guatemala at Benque Viejo. Built on a natural limestone ridge, the site was constructed to serve elite nobles and their retinue during the Classic Period.

With a central area measuring just 300 square meters (3,230 square feet) in size, Xunantunich isn’t the largest Maya ruin in Belize, but it’s unique residential structures and ceremonial center make the site one of the top attractions in the country. One of the first lost cities rediscovered in the modern era (excavations first began in 1892), archeological renovations at Xunantunich have revealed three ceremonial plazas, houses, and a large palace decorated with friezes and masks.

The most famous building in Xunantunich is “El Castillo” (The Castle), a pyramid soaring 130 feet above the main plaza. El Castillo was the tallest man-made structure in the country until the Sky Temple at the Maya site of Caracol was discovered a few decades ago. El Castillo is remarkable due to its large stucco frieze on its eastern side that details stories of the gods and stories from Maya creationist myths. Xunantunich was heavily populated until an abrupt event in the Classic Period that left the top of “El Castillo” partially damaged.

Although no one knows the original name of the city, today the site is called the “Stone Lady” (Xunatunich in modern Mayan) due to persistent stories of a woman in white that haunted the original British archeologists and has been regularly seen even up until modern times.

Chabil Mar in Placencia Belize & Xunantunich

The lovely Chabil Mar resort on the Placencia Peninsula is close to all of the most exciting mainland destinations in Belize. Guests of the resort can include a visit to Xunantunich as part of one of Chabil Mar’s fantastic Belize Reef & Jungle vacation packages.

Visit our website for more information on Belize, and don’t hesitate to send us an email, or call US/CAN Toll Free: 1-866-417-2377, Local: (011-501) 523-3606, if you have questions or need help in planning a Belize vacation.

Belize Points of Interest

Posted on Thursday, October 18th, 2018


Where to go in Belize

Just a few hours flying time from the United States, Belize is a lovely tropical destination with gorgeous beaches, exotic wildlife, a stunning coral reef, jungles, ancient Mayan cities, and a friendly Caribbean atmosphere.

Below are some of our favorite places and points of interest in Belize.

placencia peninsula belizePlacencia Peninsula – A sparkling 16-mile long expanse of beach along the Caribbean, the peninsula is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Belize. The mangrove-lined lagoon on the mainland side is an ideal spot to enjoy fishing.

placencia village Belize

Placencia Village – A laid-back fishing village, Placencia is a great place to get a drink in a cafe or bar, enjoy a delicious meal in a restaurant, or find an outfitter for a trip to the Belize Barrier Reef. The village is famous for holding the Guinness Book of World Records title for smallest main street in the world, a 4,000-foot long sidewalk too narrow to admit cars.

san ignacio belize

San Ignacio Town – The cultural and entertainment capital of the west, San Ignacio is close to many of the country’s finest Maya ruins. The resort of Chabil Mar offers comprehensive jungle and sea packages that combine the best of Placencia Peninsula with an expedition to San Ignacio and its environs.

hopkins belize

Hopkins – A small village in the southeast, Hopkins is the cultural heart of the unique Garifuna culture.


Caye Caulker – A small, unspoiled island, Caye Caulker is the picture postcard definition of a tropical island, complete with sparkling blue water, white sands, and palm trees.

toledo belize

Toledo District – The heart of Belize’s cacao (chocolate) growing region, Toledo is the gateway to the unspoiled south of the country.

ambergris caye belize

Ambergris Caye – The largest island in Belize, Ambergris Caye is an easygoing mix of beaches, bars and some of the best food in the country.

belize barrier reef

Belize Barrier Reef – The second largest coral reef system in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef offers spectacular diving, swimming, snorkeling and sailing opportunities.

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary – Perfect for day trips or longer hiking expeditions, the sanctuary provides a protected habitat for tapirs, monkeys, jaguars and hundreds of species of birds.


Great Blue Hole – Regularly voted as one of the top natural wonders in the world, the Blue Hole offers experienced divers a unique opportunity to explore a system of underwater caverns.

Visit our website for more information on Belize, and don’t hesitate to send us an email, or call US/CAN Toll Free: 1-866-417-2377, Local: (011-501) 523-3606, if you have questions or need help in planning a Belize vacation.


Belize Snorkeling – What It’s Like And Where To Snorkel

Posted on Thursday, October 18th, 2018

With hundreds of offshore islands and a long stretch of the world’s second-biggest barrier reef, Belize is a paradise for snorkeling. Although coral reefs compose less than 4% of the ocean’s surface, they provide shelter and feeding grounds for an astonishing 25% of all marine life species. The crystal clear waters of the Caribbean and white sandy seafloor make the islands and reefs in Belize the ideal place to spot fish, anemones, whale sharks, sea grasses, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, sharks, and stingrays in their natural habitat.

If you are traveling to Placencia and the southern Belize area, here are some of the top spots to enjoy snorkeling:

Laughing Bird Caye

Named for the so-called laughing gull flocks that once were the island’s only residents, Laughing Bird Caye is partly a protected nature reserve and part adventure destination. Just a short distance (13 miles/21 km) from Placencia, Laughing Bird Caye looks like a tropical island paradise from a book or film. The palm trees and sugar white sand beaches are the perfect accompaniment to snorkeling expeditions to the shallow reef around the island where you can marvel at the rich diversity of underwater life.

The Silk Cayes

Sometimes known as the Queen Cayes, the Silk Cayes are part of a much larger protected marine reserve. These islands are uninhabited by humans but are home to an astonishing number of avian and marine species. Just a short boat ride from Placencia, the Silk Cayes have nearly transparent water that has to be seen to believed. The shallow, gentle waters are ideal for snorkeling, and sunset barbecues underneath the coconut palms are rapidly becoming a popular tradition.

Gladden Spit

One of just three coral atolls found outside of the Atlantic Ocean, Gladden Spit is part of a vast 26,000-acre marine reserve and contains three different islands. No one lives on these islands, but the atoll plays an important role in sheltering more than two dozen species of local fish. Every spring, migrating schools of whale sharks come to the waters off of Gladden Spit to feed on spawn, giving divers and snorkelers a unique opportunity to interact with the largest non-whale species in the world’s oceans.

Chabil Mar

If you would like to explore the beautiful snorkeling areas described in this article, Chabil Mar in Placencia has several packages that include lodging and organized trips out to the Belize Barrier Reef.

While it’s true that top snorkeling spots can be found even in northern Belize such as the Hol Chan Marine Reserve near Ambergris Caye, southern Belize and the islands near Placencia are less crowded and are perfect for travelers who want to see some of the most beautiful areas of the southern reef where a rich diversity of colorful marine flora and fauna thrives.

Visit our website for more information about snorkeling in Belize, and don’t hesitate to send us an email, or call US/CAN Toll Free: 1-866-417-2377, Local: (011-501) 523-3606, if you have questions or need help in planning a Belize vacation.


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