Inside Belize: I Heart Punta Gorda
For one thing, there weren’t a lot of tourists around. When visiting a site, we often found it all to ourselves. In addition, we got better accommodation at a reasonable rate.
But it came with disadvantages as well. It rained every day we were there. I guess it could be expected as the rainy season runs from June to November. Fortunately, it happened mostly at night. But on a couple of times when it rained during the day, the weather did get in the way of our planned activities.
We arrived in Belize City and stayed there for the night before driving to Punta Gorda, the capital of Toledo district in Southern Belize, which served as our base.
On the way, we stopped at the Belize Zoo to say Hi to the country’s 28 species of native animals in their natural habitat. Some were rescued and rehabilitated animals that could no longer be released into the wild.
After visiting the zoo, we proceeded on our three-hour drive to Punta Gorda. We found the road conditions from average to poor which made the vehicle’s shock absorbers grimaced and the ride bumpy at times. But the beauty of the countryside and the charm of small villages along the way made up for it all.
Once in a while, we encountered one-way bridge on a two-lane road, a forgotten relic of the British occupation. I had to hand it to the British as I couldn’t comprehend how they came up with that idea.
One day, we went to a cacao farm and got introduced to the chocolate-making process by hand using traditional Mayan tools.
On the following day, we took a motorboat to snorkel in Snake Cayes, a group os small islands 17 miles northeast of Punta Gorda. But halfway there, the sea started acting up making it dangerous to continue. We ended up swimming in Moho Caye instead. By the way, caye (pronounced key) means coastal island.
We spent one afternoon kayaking at Joe Taylor’s Creek. We planned on kayaking in the Rio Grande river but bad weather got in the way.
On different days, we visited two ancient Mayan sites: Lubaantun (Place of Fallen Stones) and Nim Li Punit (Big Hat).
Punta Gorda is the largest town in the Toledo district. Among the estimated population of 6,000, there are five dominant ethnic groups. They are the Creole, Mestizo, Maya, East Indian, and Garifuna. I found visiting a family representing each group very interesting. Each interaction helped us understand and appreciate the different cultures that comprise the modern Belize society.
As our holiday was ending, we thought of going to Snake Cayes again, but it wasn’t meant to be. A big thunderstorm the previous night caused the waters to be murky and unfit for snorkeling. We ended up going to the Rio Blanco National Park in San Antonio and swimming at the base of the waterfalls.
We had so much fun in Punta Gorda that we drove back to Belize City with a heavy heart. We left for Miami the following morning.