Gadling readers compile Belize must-sees

Gadling would first like to congratulate Dave C., the lucky winner of our Moon Belize giveaway! Dave C. wrote: “I don’t get the change to do as much diving as I like, but when I can, I won’t miss it. If in Belize, I would certainly not want to miss the opportunity dive at the Blue Hole. Diving gives me a sense of peace I can’t get doing anything else, and the Blue Hole just looks like a tremendously mysterious and beautiful place to dive.” A copy of Moon Belize is heading to your doorstep as I type this. I hope you enjoy the Blue Hole, and thanks to everyone who participated.

I was so blown away by the fantastic Belize must-sees that I compiled some of the best giveaway comments below.

From Dennis: “Snorkeling at Mexico Rocks. Off the beaten path, beautiful and never crowded. It’s like your own private garden of coral heads and sea life.”

From Molly
: “As newlyweds crushed under a mountain of student loan debts, we were thrilled to see the review of Moon Belize. We want our honeymoon to be there and are saving up. Definitely top of my list are the ruins and back country hiking.”

From Peach: “I’d love to go manatee watching! These are some of my favorite creatures & I’ve seen them in captivity but thats never really quite the same as seeing something in the wild.”

From Joe: “I’m starting a SCUBA program soon and I want to do my certification dive in Belize!”

I also created a handy Top Spots in Belize Google Map should you need a little inspiration on your journey through Belize. In case you don’t know how to use Google Maps, click on any pin to view a Gadling reader’s description. You can also retrieve directions to and from any destination.

Don’t forget to check out my review of Moon Belize as well as my interview with Avalon travel writer and Belize expert, Joshua Berman.

Enjoy Belize!

Talking Travel with Avalon travel writer, Joshua Berman

Avalon travel writer, Joshua Berman, whose Moon Belize guidebook (8th edition) hit book stands in October, took time from his busy book tour to answer a few questions about travel, writing, and living and breathing idyllic Central America.

Don’t forget to enter the Gadling Giveaway of the latest edition HERE (you only have until tomorrow to enter!), or read my glowing review of Moon Belize HERE.

Enjoy the interview!

GAD: Not that I’m criticizing your choice here, but how did you end up in Belize? In your mind, what makes it such a special travel destination?
JB: It was a natural northerly progression, beginning in Nicaragua in 1998, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer; followed by Honduras as both a trip leader and guidebook researcher. Then one day my publisher asked if I would take over Moon Belize from Chicki Mallan, the book’s original author, who was retiring. I said yes.

GAD: Based on your experiences living and traveling in Nicaragua and other parts of Central America, how does Belize contrast with its neighbors?
JB: Belize is less crowded, more diverse, more expensive, and just as tranquilo as Guatemala, Honduras, or Nicaragua. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America and its heritage as a British colony also makes it stand out from the rest of Central America (including Belizeans’ unique affinity for dark beer and stout).


GAD: What are your favorite things to do in Belize, and how do those activities reflect who you are as a traveler?

JB: I like to hike, paddle, and meet people. I also like to run into old friends, which happens every time I visit Belize. My favorite is when these activities all combine, like when I run into people I know atop Maya pyramids, on rivers, or in caves. It speaks to how small and special a place it is.

GAD: Can you tell us something about Belize that the less knowledgeable traveler may not know?
JB: Belize has one of the biggest cave systems in the world, the highest waterfall in Central America, and the planet’s first (and I think only) jaguar reserve. It also hosts one of the world’s longest and most grueling canoe races every March, La Ruta Maya Canoe Challenge.

GAD: With ever increasing eco-tourism and travel advancements in Belize, what kinds of changes do you see for the country as a travel destination within the next ten years?
JB: Belize is constantly walking the line of sustainability when it comes to tourism. There are always massive projects being proposed to increase cruise tourism, the airport, and the size of the developments on delicate islands and wetlands. But when it comes down to it, more than 70 percent of Belize’s 500 or so hotels have 10 rooms or less. That means small structures, family-run hotels, and lower impacts on the environment than big resorts and mega-hotels, which are standard fare just up the coast in Cancun. Also, I’d like to think that there are just too many forward-thinking people involved in Belize tourism to let it go astray. Belize recently hosted the third annual World Responsible Tourism Conference, which is a big deal. Ten years from now, I think Ambergris Caye and Placencia will continue to be built up, but the rest of the country will remain wild and small. We’ll see.

GAD: Based on your bio, I gather you split your time between Central America and the Rocky Mountains. How is this lifestyle and do you see it changing?
JB: I teach Spanish in Colorado during the school year and I travel to Central America on jobs during my breaks. Sometimes my family gets to tag along (here’s my two-year-old, Shanti, on her first backpacking trip to Nicaragua). It’s a tricky juggling act, but so far it’s working out, and it allows me to get my travel fix every few months while maintaining a home, job, and family.

GAD: What other parts of the world (not Central America) appeal to you – and why?
JB: My wife, Sutay, and I went to Pakistan on our honeymoon. This was in 2005 when it was a little edgy but not as dangerous as it seems to have become. We went north to the Hunza Valley in the Himalayas, which was one of the most spectacular lost worlds I’ve ever seen. It makes me drool to think about the milk tea and the glaciers and the apricot soup and yak-wool hats … incredible spot and very welcoming people.

GAD: What will be your next project as a traveler/travel writer?
JB: I’m putting the finishing touches on the manuscript of my first narrative book. It’s a travel memoir about my honeymoon and is tentatively entitled YOU WILL SOON BE CROSSING THE GREAT WATERS: A Love-Marriage Memoir from Pakistan, India, Ghana, and The Gambia. I’m hoping to publish it independently in the next year. I’m also updating two guidebooks this winter, Moon Nicaragua and Living Abroad in Nicaragua, with my coauthor, Randy Wood. You can always stay updated on my blog, The Tranquilo Traveler. See you out there.

Gadling is currently accepting entries to a giveaway of Josh’s Moon Belize guidebook. Entries are due tomorrow — Wednesday, November 18 @ 5 p.m. EST!!!

While you’re at it, check out my review of Moon Belize, too. You won’t be disappointed!

The newest edition of Moon Belize is a gem

The first things that come to mind when I think of Belize: Mayan ruins, world-class diving, bird-watching, and hiking through nature. Sounds like a vacation in paradise, if you ask me – and I’m from Hawaii. Joshua Berman, a travel expert to both Nicaragua and Belize, recently revised the 8th edition of Moon Belize, and the result is a comprehensive, informative guide for any kind of traveler.

Seeing the best of Belize is a piece of cake, but what makes Moon Belize such a rich resource is Berman’s behind-the-scenes knowledge of the country. The 24-page front section of the book offers fantastic itinerary ideas – my favorites being “The Mundo Maya” (scattered across the inland part of the country are over thirty Mayan ruins), Belize’s “Best Dive Sites” (live-aboard to your heart’s content, or visit one of the country’s many atolls, reefs, and cays), and two off-the-beaten-path nature guides.

The main and middle portion of the guidebook is a comprehensive 230 pages of country information, broken up in seven parts: the Belize District, the Northern Cayes, Belmopan and the Hummingbird Highway, Cayo and the Mountain Pine Ridge, the Southern coast, Punta Gorda and the Toledo Villages, and Northern Belize. Each section begins with a handy “Highlights” guide and map and contains well-written, informational insets featuring local lore or facts where you can learn about such things as the cashew nut, jaguars, and manatees. There are also helpful walking guides within town centers or ruins for those wanting some direction and not wanting to pay for real tour guide.

The back section of the book provides helpful historical information, environmental background, and travel tips – all catered to the informed traveler. Berman leaves no stone unturned: he even writes about “Gettin’ Hitched and Honeymoonin'” in Belize on page 314 (my sister’s best friend had her destination wedding in Belize, so the book really is spot on in including such details). Berman adds personal touches to this edition as well, with a generous first-person Foreward and first-hand accounts sprinkled around the guide and back sections too (check out the cool interview on whale sharks on pages 210-211 and “The Future of the Reef” interview on pages 266-267).

The newest edition of Moon Belize really is a gem. With over 40 maps, a colorful front section of suggested itineraries, readable and informative guide, and amazingly detailed background information, Berman produced a true traveler’s notebook.

You can purchase this latest version of Moon Belize on Moon’s website. While you’re there, stop by Berman’s Moon Belize blog, or visit his Tranquilo Traveler blog if you are a fan – which you will be.

Also, stay tuned to Gadling for a special “Talking Travel with Joshua Berman” and Moon Belize book giveaway!

GADLING’S TAKE FIVE: Week of September 17

Gadling LogoHear ye, Hear ye it is time again for another weekly glance at some spectacular plugs you may have missed. Just make sure you don’t miss them this time. Or else!

5. Cool Subways:
Long ago I mentioned the cool underground transportation scene seen in Tehran, Iran, but in this piece Erik points us to some so-called “Cool” subways in destinations like Moscow, Munich and Stockholm. If you’re not in rush to get to your final stop; check them out. That goes for the real thing and his blurb here on the web.

4. Puerto Rico Island Hopping:
Ah, Puerto Rico! With a light hurricane season and considering hurricane season is almost officially out of here who wouldn’t want to go island hopping in Puerto Rico? Thanks to Iva we’re one step closer in making the dream come alive or deciding which method or hopper plane works best for you.

3. Red Corner: The Horrors of Flying in Russia:
I’ve never been to Russia or flown on one its friendly planes, but I’m hearing more and more stories like the one Neil points us to in this scary piece. If you’re making St. Petersburg or Moscow a must-see destination sometime soon check this article out to shake yourself up a little.

2. Medieval Trials in Modern Day India:
Culture pieces are my favorite and this one is pretty interesting. Learn how to find a thief in India by reading this hot topic. After knowing how trials in modern day India work you’d think no one would steal, but it sadly looks as if that’s not the case.

1. Gadling Podcast: Joshua Berman:
Podcast time and with this one Erik delves into the world of guidebook writing with Joshua Berman who writes for Moon Guides, but recently published Living Abroad in Nicaragua released by Avalon Publishing. If you’re curious to know what it takes or Joshua’s take on the world of mattress flipping, sniffing and reporting (a.k.a. travel writing), tune in, plug in, and give it a listen.