Photographer Tim O’Brien provided the details and images for the Belize destination.


After my working trip with Chicago Rotary members to Guatemala (also here on Destinations) our group went to Belize for some R&R. Belize is the only country in Central America whose official language is English. The Spanish originally claimed the area but never settled there because of the lack of gold and resistance from the Mayan people. The British established settlements, first as bases for pirate raids against the Spanish fleets, then later to log hardwoods important to British industry. The area eventually became a British colony named British Honduras. The official name was changed to Belize in 1973 and the nation became independent in 1981. There is some tension in the area because Guatemala has never officially recognized Belize and at various times has claimed part or even all of Belize.

We stayed in Placencia, a small resort town on a coastal peninsula in the southern part of Belize. Right outside our hotel was the Caribbean Sea, a lovely beach, and palm trees. It was off season so the town was not very crowded.

While there we took a boat trip into the jungle up Monkey River and did see the eponymous critters, specifically black howler monkeys. The monkeys were high in the trees and sky holes made exposure tricky. But I got a couple decent images. Along the river we saw (and I shot) iguanas, nesting egrets, pelicans, and two inch long bats clinging to a tree trunk.

On another day we took a tour of an organic cacao farm. The cacao flower (shown in one of my images) is only about half an inch across and grows directly on the tree trunk or older branches. The pod that grows from this tiny flower can be 8 to 12 inches in length. Our guide showed us how the beans are harvested from the pods, dried, and then roasted. We had an opportunity to hand grind some cacao beans with traditional Mayan stone implements to make our own chocolate. It was hard on the forearms but the sweet dark chocolate at the end was worth it.