Why are people chartering in Belize?
An English-speaking country implanted in the heart of Central America? A 350 mile barrier reef, second only to Australia’s, and not yet fully explored? Yes, these are only two of the reasons why charterers are literally flocking to this friendly little country that is bordered by Mexico and Guatemala.
First a short history. Belize was originally part of the Mayan empire and with the arrival of the Spaniards, became part of the Spanish Empire and subsequently, in 1862, part of the British Empire with the name of British Honduras. In 1981, Belize became an independent state albeit still part of the British Commonwealth. The Queen is still recognized as the head of state.
The country has the lowest population density of any Central American country and 60% of the territory is still relatively unexplored. English and Spanish are generally spoken and understood almost universally, although Kriol (Creole) is the lingua Franca. The population is descended from a most incredible assortment of sources: Mayans, Miskito Indians, African slaves, the Garifuna from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who in turn are descended from the original Arawak and Carib Indians who populated the Caribbean Islands. And, of course the Scots- Irish who formed the bulk of the British colonials during the 18th century.
Here’s what makes Belize such an interesting place to visit on a yacht charter:
The Belize Charter Fleet
Many crewed catamarans and boats from the Caribbean and BVI charter fleets decide to spend a season or two in Belize. This means the fleet, for the most part is constantly changing and renewing itself. As charter brokers, we know which boats will be spending the season there and which will not.
There is also a small fleet of crewed boats with owner / operators who are based in Belize or at least, keep their boats there year round.
There are some bareboat companies that operate there. So if you have the experience, maybe a bare-boat is for you. To sail in Belize without a skipper, you must fill out an application to obtain a temporary Certificate of Competency and send it along with a color copy of your passport. Your application will be submitted to the Belizean Port Authorities. This temporary Certificate of Competency is required for all bareboat charters in Belize.
What to Expect?
In Belize, the reef shelters more than 400 islands and cays. Most are fringed with additional reefs comprised of at least 50 species of hard and soft coral. Manatees, whale sharks, and roughly 500 species of tropical fish thrive in these waters, and all manner of seabirds are plentiful, including the Magnificent Frigate and the Brown Booby. Unspoiled and less crowded than other parts of the Caribbean, Belize is a laid-back paradise very similar to the cruising grounds of the South Pacific. Known for world-class snorkeling and scuba diving, superior sailing in protected waters, and unparalleled natural beauty, a Belize yacht charter is unique and special.
A Belize sailing vacation naturally focuses on the superlative sailing, scenic anchorages behind palm-fringed or mangrove-lined cays, and the fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving in some of the clearest water anywhere. Forays to restaurants on the cays to sample local cuisine and experience Belizean culture add to the pleasures. However, a Belize yacht charter can encompass much more, and often does. Many sailors add extra time at the start or finish of their adventure to include a guided dive excursion to the Great Blue Hole, a geological wonder of the world located within Lighthouse Reef, or sightseeing tours of the Mayan ruins inland.
The Great Blue Hole is located in the center of Lighthouse Reef, an atoll about 60 miles southeast of Belize City, the Great Blue Hole is one of the most unique geological features on Earth and may only be visited if accompanied by a local skipper. A circular limestone sinkhole about 1,000 feet across shimmers a deep blue (hence its name) because of its great depth, roughly 400 feet. Sinkholes proliferate in the cruising grounds of a Belize yacht charter, but the Great Blue Hole is the granddaddy of them all!
The walls are sheer to about 130 feet down, and then the views change as gigantic stalactites protrude outward, remnants of when the Hole was a cave formed from fresh water runoff during the last Ice Age that began about 15,000 years ago. Back then sea level was 350 feet lower. None other than Jacques Cousteau named the Great Blue Hole as one of the top ten best dive sites in the world. With the guidance of a hired skipper, you can explore this incredible bit of geological phenomena.