Tag Archives central america

15 Things You May Not Know About Belize

by Monday, December 28, 2015

I just returned from my first solo trip to Belize last week. It was a whole new experience for me in so many ways. I am in the process of writing a few blog posts about it, but with the holidays and working in dental for the next few weeks, I’m sure I won’t get it out until the New Year. In the meantime however, I came up with a post about 15 things you may not know about Belize.

I sure didn’t have any clue about most of these fun facts until I visited myself. How I discovered this information was by means of; accidentally on my own, by locals, by research, by expats, and by other tourists. If you are ever planning on visiting Belize, specifically the islands of Belize, as I did ( Ambergris Caye to be exact) then these facts may be useful to you.


1.Belize’s barrier reef is amazingly gorgeous with vast amounts of marine life and the second largest in the world. The largest being the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I went kayaking and snorkeling to it. The magnificent coral formations and tropical fish appeared so eye-popping and brilliant with color, through the crystal clear, 84 degree Caribbean sea, it almost didn’t look real! It is definitely worth seeing.

Please note: (something that our kayak rental place didn’t warn us about, but locals and frequent divers of the area told us, after-the-fact) If you go out to the reef, you must not bring your boat into the reef for the purpose of protecting it. Also, be extremely careful while swimming and snorkeling in it. You can easily get cut or reef rash from the tall spiny coral. I did. It was very shallow and the waves made it hard to avoid large areas of coral. Also, and MOST IMPORTANT, by all means, don’t try to swim past it. The drop in depth creates an undertow that can sweep you out to sea. Many tourists have gone missing that way. 

Finding this out after totally freaked me out! I really wish we were told this before going out there. My kayak mate wanted me to swim out past it with him. Thank goodness my gut told me not to. He ended up turning back too. It was so choppy and difficult to maneuver around it.  Yikes!thewanderlustyogi.net

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2.Belizeans love their hot sauce made by the famous Marie Sharp. They put this shit on everything!  Seriously!(my favorite version is the “smokin” Habanero. It’s so hot, but so good!) I even brought some back with me.

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3.The Great Blue Hole is here, a giant sink hole that is circular in shape, over 984 feet across and 407 feet deep.  This may be a super cool natural wonder, but according to the divers I met, they said it was overrated. They claim the marine life is so much better closer to the surface and by the reef, not to mention the Great Blue Hole is so deep, that once you get to the depth you are allowed to dive to, you only have a total of eight minutes to explore, which they feel is a waste of a dive and it’s super expensive. Something to consider if you are a diver. I only snorkel and I can say first hand that it was beautiful at the surface!

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Aerial of Blue Hole.


4.Bug bites are on a whole new level in Belize. I’ll say it again. Bug bites are on a whole new level in Belize.  Yes, it’s really that bad! If you forget bug spray, I encourage you to get it as soon as possible (like at the airport!!). I didn’t bring any and I was bitten alive by the, well-known to Belizeans, no see-ums (aka sand flies). They are exactly what they are called, you can’t see them, so you don’t even realize you are getting bit.  Then all of a sudden you are bit from head to toe, with swelling and itching you have never experienced before. I felt like I had chicken pox. I’m actually still extremely itchy today and my legs are a mess. Be prepared!

PS If your lodging has a mosquito net covering your bed-absolutely use it!

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My leg after over a week later. I’ve never had worse bug bites before this. I know. Bogus! Also peeling. (this is embarrassing, but I’m sharing to help) I still wake up scratching myself. It’s not fun.

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5.How about this one. I bet you didn’t know that Mennonites have made Belize their home? Yep, it’s true!thewanderlustyogi.net


6.Here is another good one: Leo DiCaprio bought a private island in Belize, called Blackadore Caye. He plans on building an eco-lodge for the rich and famous and is adding a private airport right on the island. Man I wish I could see that place. Or maybe it’s just him that I want to see? In any case, how awesome!thewanderlustyogi.net


7.Taking a yoga class with Kirsten at Akbol Yoga Retreat and Eco Resort will literally rock your chakras. Kirsten and her husband, Milio (expats from Chicago, USA), own and built this resort themselves.

She is an experienced yogi who teaches B K S Iyengar inspired yoga, that emphasizes on detail, precision, alignment and pranayama (breath control), as well as including the eight limbs of the yoga sutras in her class.  People from all over come to join her world-renowned yoga retreat. With her classes being taught on a papala atop the ocean, accompanied by the waves beneath, and the the tropical breezes kissing your skin above, its no wonder that the students all feel a sense of surrealism. You really can’t get much more zen than that.

Her classes are open to the public and is well worth the $15.00 USD (almost 2 hours in length). Many students like to stay and eat breakfast at their restaurant after practice. I not only stayed here for most of my visit in Ambergris Caye, but I took her classes and was downright blissed out!

thewanderlustyogi.net

thewanderlustyogi.net

papaya smoothie at Akbol’s Soul Kitchen after yoga class


8. Did you know that John McAfee, millionaire and the inventor of the computer anti-virus software, lived in a mansion in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize with seven, much younger girlfriends? Well, he used to anyway.  This eccentric and paranoid man had an ongoing feud with his neighbor about his barking dogs, and is thought to be the one responsible for the shooting murder of him in November of 2012, in revenge for thinking the neighbor poisoned his dogs. While the investigation was underway by the Belize authorities, McAfee fled to Guatemala, to later be deported back to America. He is a free man today, living in Lexington, Tennessee and is still considered a “person of interest” by Belize officials in regards to the murder of 52-year-old, Gregory Faull. (I included a Dateline episode of this twisted story for your enjoyment)


9.Taking the San Pedro Express water taxi is an experience in itself. You either can take the water taxi or a small airplane with Tropic Airlines, to get to the islands of Belize (Ambergris Caye and Caulker Caye). For $35.00 US each way, you can be packed in like sardines for the 90 minute ferry ride. However, locals and experienced Belize island travelers (mainly the divers), usually prefer the much less crowded, and quicker, 20 minute ride, by air, on Tropic Air, for around $80.00 per way. It may be a little more expensive, but from my experience on the ferry, I think it may be worth it?

In April last year, over Easter weekend, they overloaded the water taxi with far too many passengers, that the pier collapsed from the weight of all the people. I took the water taxi, not knowing all of this and already bought a round trip ticket. You live and learn.

thewanderlustyogi.net

thewanderlustyogi.net

Even if you are nervous about small planes, I highly suggest you take Tropic Airlines to the Belize Islands


 

10.Belize gained independence from Great Britain in 1981, but is still a protectorate. Also, making this the only English-speaking country in Central America.

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11.Forgot to exchange currency at the airport? No worries. The US dollar is accepted everywhere in Belize. It’s also very easy to figure out the exchange. USD is double the Belize dollar. This tip is a very convenient one I’d say. thewanderlustyogi.net


12.Every Thursday night at 7:00 pm, the Wahoo Lounge in San Pedro, hosts the chicken drop. Sort of like bingo, you pick a square with a number from 1-100 for $1.00 and if the chicken poops on your number, you win $100.00! It seems pretty silly, but the locals and tourists for some reason, love it!thewanderlustyogi.net


13.Belize is home of one of the loudest animals in the world, the back howler monkey. Hearing one of them at night while sleeping in a eco-hut in the jungle can be sort of scary.thewanderlustyogi.net


14.Flushing toilet paper or anything else in the toilet in Belize is frowned upon. Belize is a very eco-friendly place, so be mindful of this when visiting. It seemed pretty gross, but when in Belize, be like the Belizeans. 

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15.When in Belize (mainly the islands), don’t rent a car. The roads are very narrow and crowded and many are only dirt roads. What you should do is rent a golf cart. It’s easier to access cramped streets and parking and it is kind of fun. Renting a bicycle is also a great way to get around the island.  It will cost you around $60-80 USD/day to rent a golf cart and around $8.00 USD/day to rent a bicycle (depending on the company and if you rent it for a longer period).

thewanderlustyogi.net

 


Belize is a beautiful country with friendly people, but may have a few challenges for some travelers. I enjoyed my time in the warm and tropical island of Ambergris Caye, in San Pedro, (otherwise known as La Isla Bonita from the popular Madonna song). I was especially fond of spending time on the ocean, with kayaking, snorkeling, and stand-up paddle boarding, the yoga, the food; fry jacks, salbutes, pupusas, panades, rice and beans, and of course Marie Sharp’s hot sauce, and I can’t forget to mention the kind locals that I met.

I do plan on visiting again someday, probably spending some time on the less built up island, Caulker Caye. If I do, I will be sure to:

  1. book a flight on Tropic Air
  2. bring bug spray (tons of it!)
  3. be more cautious around the reef
  4. buy a square for the chicken drop
  5. keep my eyes peeled for Leo (you never know?)

 

 

 

Dental Work Done in Paradise: UPDATE!

by Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Last winter I wrote an article about “dental tourism” in Costa Rica.

What is dental tourism?

Dental Tourism (also called dental vacations or commonly called “dental holidays” amongst Europeans) is  a subset of “medical tourism”. It involves individuals seeking dental care outside of their local healthcare systems and may be accompanied by a vacation. (Wikipedia)

My article wrote about how patients living in the United States are getting dental treatment done in other countries, Costa Rica being one in particular, due to the cost effectiveness.  Dental treatment done in such countries can save you as much as 70% off for the same treatment done in America. This is especially helpful if you do not have dental insurance and need excessive amounts of work.

(Here is the link to that article:http://www.thewanderlustyogi.net/archives/903 )

My husband allowed me to share that he, is indeed a person in this predicament. Ironically, although I am a registered dental hygienist, I am a temporary worker, (making my schedule more flexible for my travels as a travel blogger), which means I do not have dental insurance.  My husband is self-employed and does not have dental insurance either.

We decided  that this may be worth looking into for his dental treatment needs. I did research and talked with a lot people, including my patients, who have had dental work done in Costa Rica and it seemed like a very logical solution.  If we went to Costa Rica to get his dental work done at a fraction of the price, we would not only save money, but would be allowed to visit a beautiful country in Central America as well.  I could share both aspects of this sort of trip with my readers.   A win-win.thewanderlustyogi.net

When I told friends and colleagues of this plan, many expressed that they didn’t think it was a good idea because they didn’t believe the quality of care would be as good as in the USA. I let them know of the research I’ve done and that this is not necessarily the case.  There are many highly skilled dentists in Costa Rica, some even having their schooling done in the United States and that people from all over do these dental tourism trips all the time with great success.

My husband and I weighed it out and thought it was worth the risk. Being in the dental field, I could also share my professional opinion with my readers, friends, family and colleagues, on how the dental health clinics are in Costa Rica, as compared to dental clinics in America. I plan to share our entire experience with others who are seeking to do the same, which from the response and outpouring of messages I’ve received, are countless!

I have since then, been in contact with a dental clinic in San Jose, Costa Rica called Meza Dental (www.mezadentalcare.com), that was highly recommended and has staff, coincidentally that have been educated in the United States, at educational institutions such as UCLA and Johns Hopkins University. Needless to say I was impressed.thewanderlustyogi.net

In addition, to the information I received in my communication with the Director of Patient Relations, Howard Siegler, also noting his extreme professionalism and promptness on responding to questions (even emailing me back on a Sunday night),  I also read many reviews and watched video testimonials of people’s experiences. I checked on accreditation with the Costa Rican dental board. I joined dental forums on discussions of people who have used dentists in San Jose, Costa Rica. I also got a ton of email from locals and others who have used Meza Dental and raved about their customer service, state-of-the-art facilities, standards of care, and their satisfaction in the dental treatment they’ve received.thewanderlustyogi.net

Not that this wasn’t impressive enough, but as an added bonus (and to aid our reassurance and soothe any uneasiness ),  their dental clinic and dentists also have been featured in publications such as, Newsweek: highlighting Dr. Alberto Meza D.D.S.,  for his “Excellence in Dental Implants and Cosmetic Dentistry”,  ABC, CNBC, Discovery Channel, FOX Business, USA TODAY, just to name a few.

thewanderlustyogi.net

We are in communication regarding my husband’s case and are in the process of making a treatment plan and scheduling our visit for next month (January 26,2015-February 2,2015). I also hope to meet him or a staff member,  to be able to discuss the subject of  “dental tourism” for a short interview.

I am really looking forward to this trip, for my husband especially, but also excited to see Costa Rica, since I’ve never been. Now even my son and his girlfriend are joining us.  With this trip,  I hope I can give, not only travel advice, but possibly some great dental advice too?

I’ll be writing a few blog posts as soon as we come back about our experience and will be updating, as much as possible, during our visit, via social media; Facebook, Instagram, YouTubeGoogle +,twitter and snapchat (username:namastemumma).

I also would be glad to answer any questions people may have that I may not cover in my post. Please feel free to email me at strikeaposeyoga@gmail.com or contact me through the blog, any of my social media platforms or even call/text  me at

(603)401-5057.

Wish us luck!

Here are some links written about them:

http://www.patientsbeyondborders.com/hospital/meza-dental-care-clinic

http://www.theneweconomy.com/business/meza-dental-brings-smiles-to-europe

http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/eco-tourism/blogs/adventures-in-dental-tourism-a-visit-to-costa-ricas-meza-dental-care

 

 

Do you have a Travel Bucketlist?

by Monday, February 2, 2015

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It used to be that world travel was only a luxury that the rich and famous could attain. These days, people from all walks of life and status are globe trekking all the time.  With awesome travel deals and discounted flights available online, from sites like sky scanner, TravelocityExpedia , and priceline, just to name a few, pretty much ANYONE can afford to travel if they really wanted to. And for even deeper savings, if you are brave enough to attempt alternative accommodation options: like hostels, couchsurfing, and airbnb, you could stretch your dollar even more.

thewanderlustyogi.netI started traveling within the USA while I was young and then slowly explored a little further each succeeding trip into places like Mexico, Bahamas and other Caribbean Islands. To me this was “world travel” I was a bit timid and naive and felt scared leaving the US, possibly because of the media and my upbringing that other places were scary and bad. Unfortunately, I’m sad to report this sentiment is not uncommon amongst people in my country. Why is it that we, as Americans, are brainwashed into thinking that we are the only safe country in the world? I hate to bring it up, but the deadliest known terrorist attack in the world happened on September 11th, 2001, in the United States of America! With this being said, I admit there are some risks involved with traveling, as with a lot of other things, such as driving, skiing, drinking, smoking, eating unhealthy, not exercising , but people do these things everyday without thinking about the risks involved. For me, I’d rather take a slight risk and experience an amazing life of adventure than to be paralyzed with fear, not leave my country, and still possibly die of injury, illness or lifestyle choices anyway.  “Carpe diem” I say!

thewanderlustyogi.netI now travel more international and plan on not stopping until the day I die. The more places I visit, the more I realize, we are all the same. Everyone is trying to get through life  and just want love and  happiness. We are one. Imaginary borders doesn’t change that we are all human beings, sharing this beautiful planet called Earth. I want to see it all!

thewanderlustyogi.netI know this is not possible, for there is only so much time and money to see every single place on Earth, so I tried to narrow it down to make a tentative bucket list of travel, if you will.  It may change as I see more, but here is a rundown of my lifetime itinerary travel goals.


MY TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST

in no particular order-by region

(*denotes places I have already visited or have booked)

thewanderlustyogi.net

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Europe

*France

*Netherlands

*United Kingdom

Italy

Greece

Turkey

Denmark

Iceland

Germany

Spain

Hungary

Portugal

Czech Republic

Austria


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Great Wall of China, China

Asia

*India

*United Emirates

Japan

China

Nepal

Maldives

Sri Lanka


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Phi Phi Island, Thailand

South East Asia

*Thailand

Indonesia

Malaysia

Philippines

Myanmar

Laos

Cambodia

Singapore


thewanderlustyogi.net

Bora, Bora, French Polynesia

Australia/Oceania

Australia

New Zealand

French Polynesia


thewanderlustyogi.net

Cairo, Egypt

Africa

South Africa

Morocco

Egypt


thewanderlustyogi.net

Rio De Janeiro,Brazil

South America

Peru

Bolivia

Argentina

Brazil

Galapagos Island


thewanderlustyogi.net

Leon, Nicaragua

Central America

Costa Rica

Nicaragua

Belize


Writing this made me realize I sure do have my work cut out for me. I didn’t even name the multiple cities in each country either. I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but I have to just chip away, checking off each as I go. I also realized that I guess I don’t want to see Antarctica, however, I don’t think I have to explain why?  Brrr. Lastly, I didn’t mention North America and Canada, but I will write another article on the states I still need to see here at home.

Creating a bucket list is a fun way to look forward to travels, or any goals you set for yourself to accomplish in your lifetime. They say visualization is the first step in manifesting your reality. Life goes by way too fast to let time slip away and not live your life to its fullest. Living by definition is- “the pursuit of a lifestyle of the specified type”

Travel to me is living. 

thewanderlustyogi.netDo you have a Travel Bucket List?

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