A number of terms come to mind when we think of Road Warrior Lily Girma’s overnight adventure at Caracol: awe-inspiring, life-altering, once-in-a-lifetime – and the list goes on. Step into her shoes and imagine being seated at a table for two atop a centuries-old stone plaza, on the edges of an almost untouched rainforest filled with the sounds of nocturnal wildlife, as she wines and dines in what was once the center of the Maya Empire.
Lebawit Lily Girma – a published travel photographer and writer – is Belize’s newest and second Road Warrior for the Belize Tourism Board and the Matador Travel Network. Her time in Belize will focus on adventure travel so be sure to follow her on Twitter at @sunandstilettos, like her on Facebook at Lily Lily Images, and read her Blog at Sun[Shine] And Stilettos.
Polo’s Tiki Punches: they’re colorful, they’re creative and this summer they’re number one on the list of experiences we’re loving. As resident mixologist, Polo uses a mix of everyday ingredients, what’s freshest in the garden, and alcohol, of course, to create his ever-growing list of signature cocktails. Today, he’s feeling extra generous and sharing the recipe for his newest Frieze Lounge favorite.
Hibiscus Tiki Punch
1 1/2 Oz. 1 Barrel Rum
2 Oz. Hibiscus Tea*
A Splash Of Cranberry Juice
A Splash Of Fresh Lime Juice
A Splash Of Fresh Orange Juice
Pour ingredients into shaker. Add ice and shake thoroughly. Serve immediately and garnish with a swirl of lime.
*To prepare hibiscus tea bring four cups of water to a boil and add 2 cups of sugar, 4 cinnamon sticks, 4 cloves and a pinch of nutmeg. Reduce heat and add the petals of 2 hibiscus flowers. Stir gently and remove from heat. Let tea sit for half hour before placing it in the refrigerator to cool.
We’re proud to work exclusively with the granddaughter of the world renowned Don Elijio Panti and heir to generations of healing knowledge, Rosario Panti – the region’s last Mayan Shaman. She began training at the tender age of seven (7), learning about the earth’s cycles and the healing powers of the rainforest. When her grandfather passed away, he left his experience and knowledge in the capable hands of Rosario who had at this time walked in his footsteps and worked alongside him for over twenty (20) years. Witness as she embraces her culture and tradition as she performs mystical blessings and rituals as well as presides over healing ceremonies where physical and spiritual worlds meet. Mayan Healing is structured by elements such as air, earth, fire, prayer and water to cleanse, cure, purify, release and restore the channels that unite balance, energy and health to life.
Once a chiclero, Don Elijio Panti enthusiastically trained in the neighbouring rainforests of Guatemala in the art of healing. Upon returning to Belize, he began his practice in the quaint village of San Antonio, employing acupuncture, herbal baths, massages, plants and prayers. Having spent his life in service to others, he was renowned throughout the Americas as a Natural Traditional Healer. Don Elijio was awarded the “Distinguished Citizen Award” (University College of Belize), “Most Valuable Senior Citizen” (Help Age Belize), “Distinguished Contribution to Science” (The New York Botanical Garden), and “Member Of The British Empire” (Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II) in recognition of his many international contributions. Panti died in Belize’s Cayo District at the age of one hundred and three (103), his knowledge, life story and works were immortalized in two books – Rainforest Remedies: One Hundred Healing Herbs Of Belize and Sastun: My Apprenticeship With A Maya Healer.
Dr. Jaime Awe is one of Belize’s pioneering and most prominent archaeologists, who has personally excavated Belize’s major projects. Having achieved a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Anthropology at Trent University, Canada, as well as a Doctorate from the Institute Of Archaeology at the University Of London, England, he became the first native Belizean to receive a Ph.D in Archaeology. Since then, he has taught at universities in Canada, England, U.S.A. and is currently an associate professor at Galen University in Belize. He is also Director of the Institute Of Archaeology in the National Institute Of Culture And History (NICH) and one of the best field researchers in the country as he is well-versed in all things Maya.
Upon returning to Belize, Dr. Awe’s mission has been to unveil the mysteries and secrets of the Maya Underworld on his expeditions into the sacred spelunks hidden in the jungles. He has coordinated key projects in the region’s most popular Maya Caves and Ruins – Actun Tunichil Muknal, Altun Ha, Cahal Pech, Caracol, Lamanai and Xunantunich to name a few. During his archaeology career, Awe has published numerous articles and stories in several books, journals, and magazines, and his research has been featured in various international as well as national documentaries; yet his continues to be written.
Lying in the heart of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve and deep within an almost untouched jungle, explore one of the world’s impressive and largest Maya Pyramids – Caracol (“The Snail”). Renowned for defeating and conquering its neighbouring rivals in Guatemala’s City Of Echoes, Tikal, this magnificent site is yours to behold after a scenic drive across Cayo’s highlands. Traverse through what was once the center of the Maya Empire, beholding detailed stelae, imposing complexes and pristine courtyards which offer a unique insight into the art, culture and mystery of a civilization that once was. Climb the tallest structure in the country, ancient or modern – Caana (“Sky Place”). Capped by three temples, it is sure to be the highlight of your visit as its stone walls stand at forty-two metres and rise above the rainforest canopy. Devour the uninhibited view of the surrounding mountains and embrace sightings of exotic wildlife that will only add to this unparalleled experience.
Imagine standing atop a cliff looking at a cascading waterfall below, hypnotized by the sight, the feel of the mist as it gently clings to you, listening to the sounds of the lush tropical forest tinged with silence… This is the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
Wander through landscapes of rolling pine forest that enhance the granite bases and hillsides which transform into a verdant broadleaf forest. Revere in the astounding and captivating scenery offered by the oldest landmass in Central America.
Referred to by the locals as “Pine Ridge”, it is renowned for its plethora of bellowing waterfalls and idyllic pools. The area also boasts an array of exotic and native wildlife: Orange-Breasted Falcon, Rofous-Capped Warbler and Stigion Owl to name a few. If fortunate, one might catch glimpses of the Chirping Sparrow and Hepatic Tanager during autumn and spring. Another of the most sought after attractions in this region are the Rio Frio Caves as it’s the largest accessible cavern in the country, complete with undisturbed remnants of an ancient civilization carpeting its limestone bed. Experience and explore this remarkable landmark filled with vivid sights and sounds that are sure to create lasting memories.
When Sharon Matola impulsively started The Belize Zoo – the best little zoo in the world – in 1983, most locals had no idea what their national animal – the tapir – looked like, or the magnificent Harpy Eagle. Today it is the most interesting and diverse “reserve” in Central America, housing mammals, reptiles and birds in their natural habitat.
Matola has enjoyed a colourful career – with stints in the circus and filmmaking. Documented in the book The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman’s Fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird (2008), by Bruce Barcott, she fought against the Challilo Dam Project in Belize and has lead the way as Belize’s premier wildlife conservationist and educator. Sharon is more commonly known in Belize for her love of jaguars, as she personally nursed back to health a wounded jaguar, “Angel”, who lost her leg in the wild. Her story continues to unravel each and every day.
Home to the world’s first and only jaguar reserve, Belize has one of the healthiest populations of jaguars (Panthera onca) in Central America. Endowed with a brilliantly spotted velvet coat similar to that of a leopard, this elusive feline prowls the coasts and roams the lowland rainforests. The “yaguar” – meaning beast that kills with one leap – is well-adapted to its diverse habitats as it agilely and stealthily hunts its prey in trees or water, making it one of the few members of its family tolerant of water.
Integrated into the sacred and secular realms of Mayan Mythology, the jaguar is said to possess the transient ability of moving between worlds because of its comfort both in the trees and the water, the ability to hunt both in the daytime and in the nighttime, as well as the habit of sleeping in caves – places often associated with the “Xibalba”, the underworld.
As of today, an estimated fifteen thousand jaguars remain in the wild, six thousand of which live in Central and North America. Being the largest cat in the Americas and the third largest in the world, a wild jaguar can live between twelve and sixteen years. Adult jaguars are solitary in nature and only come together for a short period of time to breed. The average litter size is one to four cubs that remain with their mothers for two years before seizing their territories. Food availability dictates the size of its territory; in a forest such as the Cockscomb Basin, where its prey base includes deer, fish, peccaries, rodents and tapirs, a jaguar often roams over a territory of about 20 square kilometers of natural habitat.
Witness and experience the ultimate adventure as it evolves before you; step into a time that is seldom mentioned or appreciated. Join biologist and environmentalist Sharon Matola – founding director of the Belize Zoo and tropical education center – for an opportunity to enjoy the raw beauty of the elusive jaguars of Belize. Schedule a private consultation with Rosario Panti, granddaughter of the world renowned healer Don Elijio Panti and now the region’s last Mayan Shaman. Follow this enlightening meeting with a holistic, Mayan healing massage and energy work to relax the mind and ease away the tensions of everyday life. Travel back in time with Rosalio Penados, an 83 year old chilclero as he recounts the joys, as well as the struggles, of harvesting chicle in the heart of the jungle of Old Belize.
Fly over large expanses of jungle and drive into the scenic highlands of the Chiquibul Forest to Caracol (“The Snail”), the center of the ancient Maya empire. With prominent archaeologist Dr. Jaime Awe as your personal guide, climb Caan (“Sky Place”), the tallest structure in Belize – ancient or modern – capped by three temples that rises over 140 feet above the jungle canopy, giving you an uninhibited view of the surrounding mountains. Offering unique memories of a civilization that once was, explore and behold the beauty of the past preserved for us to revere sprinkled with art, culture and a hint of mystery.