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    Belize is a small country with a lot to see and do.   Only 100 kilometers at its widest point from west to east, and 300 kilometers from north to south, Belize has a mere 250,000 people, but with an incredible amount of diversity - Creoles, Garifunas, Mestizos, Europeans and three distinct Maya populations.   As a former British colony called British Honduras, Belize is the only English-speaking nation in Central America.

    Just offshore there's the second longest barrier reef in the world (after Australia's Great Barrier Reef), three of the only four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere, and the Blue Hole, a perfectly circular hole in the middle of one of the atolls.   The water for kilometers around is only 10 meters deep, but the Blue Hole itself is 130 meters deep and 30 meters in diameter.   It's possible to dive down 40 meters to view flooded caves complete with stalactites and stalagmites (the whole area used to be above water).

    Belize first became popular as a destination for people chasing after sport fish, and many people still come for that reason, but the biggest drawcards nowadays are ecotourism attractions.   Belize is very conscious of ecology, with 24 separate nature reserves protecting a large proportion of the country, covering both the jungle and sections of the reef.

    For many years the currency has been pegged to the US dollar at the rate of $1US = $2BZ.   Belize isn't especially cheap by Central American standards, but it's cheaper than many Caribbean countries.

    I've visited twice, for one week in 1999 and for two and a half weeks in 2009.   The first time around I spent most of my time on Ambergris Caye, except for a day on Half Moon Caye during a visit to the Blue Hole, and a two day, one night excursion over to the Maya ruins at Tikal in Guatemala.   The second time I stayed two and a half weeks, which gave me time to drive myself around the Maya ruins and national parks scattered around the country.   I spent about a week staying in the parks themselves, being chewed up by bugs but seeing lots of cool critters in return, and then spent five or six days diving on Ambergris Caye.   It was all time well spent, with lots of cool wildlife including Central America's most dangerous snake, the terciopelo (known in the United States as the fer-de-lance and in Belize as the yellowjaw Tommygoff).

    Even though I was only in Belize a short time in 1999 and never went to the mainland, I saw quite a few jungle birds, as well as water birds.   I mostly stayed in the town of San Pedro on Ambegris Caye, near the border with Mexico.   Unless you keep your eyes shut (as many people do), you'll see plenty of lizards and iguanas, as well as insects like butterflies and dragonflies.   However, the main reason I came here was to view the underwater attractions.