Do Not Miss The 14th Annual Battle of The Drums Competition & Show

Annual Battle of The Drums Competition

The “Battle of the Drums” has been an annual event within Belize since it began in 2006. This cultural highlight has groups competing to best represent five different categories of Garifuna-style drumming; a form of performance that mixes the musical flow of the Caribbean with traditional African instruments.

History

The first Battle of the Drums occurred in Punta Gorda Town on November 17, 2006 and was well-regarded by Belizeans and visitors. 2007’s Battle drew an even larger audience and “drummed up” even more interest. Since 2008, the event has changed to an international competition for drummers, featuring troupes from Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

Cultural Enrichment

As one might expect, the Battle’s lengthy presence has made it a major attraction within Punta Gorda, attracting interested parties with money to move the economy. The event occurs on whichever Saturday comes before the national holiday of Garifuna Settlement Day (November 19th). 2018’s winner was Ecumenical Junior College, hailing from Dangriga.

All of the money directly spent on the Battle, such as the $20 ticket price, goes toward funding Garifuna cultural projects within Punta Gorda and other Garifuna communities. These projects include summer camps for children age 5-13, programs to teach the Garifuna language and drums in primary schools, a Garifuna translation contest and so on.

On Garifuna Music and Drumming

The music of the Garifuna people is incredibly energetic and the drums used in such performances are made of hardwood and shrouded in animal hides. Drumming has been a part of the Garifuna identity since before they arrived in Belize and continues to be taught to this day.

For those visitors who still want to rock out and jam on after the Battle concludes, the Belize Garifuna Musical Festival is scheduled to begins bright and early on the day after the Battle. Because Garifuna music covers more than just drums, anyone visiting this follow-up festival will have a chance to experience genres like gunjei, hungu hungu, paranda, punta and even the punta rock subgenre.

If you happen to be a music lover or are otherwise planning to visit Belize when the Battle is going on, you will need a place to stay and recover from being so amped up with energy from the performances. To this end, we suggest Chabil Mar, a top-tier resort located within Placencia Village and which is very close to Punta Gorda.

For more information about Belize, feel free to chat with our Concierge at: concierge@chabilmarvillas.com or contact our Reservations Manager at: reservations@chabilmarvillas.com. Or perhaps you would like to call toll free from the US or Canada: 1-866-417-2377.

Celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize

Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize

Nearly four centuries ago, the British Empire began the practice of taking slaves from Africa and putting them to work at plantation laborers in the Caribbean. As time went on, these people began to intermarry with the local Arawak and Carib peoples, blending cultural and linguistic traditions to create the Garifuna people. After standing up to Britain, the Garifuna were chased throughout the Caribbean, ultimately finding a safe haven on the shores of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The Garifuna discovery of Belize happened on November 19, 1802 and is regarded as a national holiday, Garifuna Settlement Day.

Why Garifuna Settlement Day is So Special

Anyone who happens to be in Hopkins, Seine Bight, Placencia or Dangriga knows just how uniquely the Garifuna have contributed to, and improved, Belizean society. Garifuna culture is about storytelling, drums, dances and the preservation of trades pursuits like farming and fishing.

November 19 is when the whole country show up to commend these people for making it to Belize over two centuries ago. It is on this day that many exhibitions of Garifuna music and dance styles are held, street dances are a common occurrence when people are not enjoying plates of cassava bread and hudut (fish that has been cooked in coconut) or listening to village elders’ tales of the Garifuna culture.

Where Is The Best Place to Enjoy Garifuna Settlement Day?

While it is a national holiday, the best places to experience it would be places rich with Garifuna people, like the four settlements mentioned earlier and also Punta Gorda Town in Toledo.

That being said, Dangriga has a special, historical tradition to witness on this day. At the crack of dawn, traditional dugout canoes, packed with locals dressed in traditional Garifuna attire, re-enact the Garifuna people’s arrival on the Belizean shores. After all the re-enactors ground their canoes, the celebration continues with drums, dances, music and lots and lots of food. Dangriga is also a great spot to witness “Jankunu” dancers, clad in elaborate masks and clacking bands of sea shells, listening to the sounds of drums and following through with leaps and terpsichorean motions.

Chabil Mar Belize Resort

If this at all sounds like a wonderful thing that you would like to experience and you plan on visiting Belize in November to witness it, consider staying at Chabil Mar. Chabil Mar is a resort that has regularly won awards each year for its amenities and hospitality.

For more information about traveling to Belize, feel free to chat with our Concierge at: concierge@chabilmarvillas.com or contact our Reservations Manager at: reservations@chabilmarvillas.com. Or perhaps you would like to call toll free from the US or Canada: 1-866-417-2377.

The Best Birding in Southern Belize

bird watching vacations belize

Belize has long been a birder’s best-kept secret. In fact, some people say that if you’re not a birder when you arrive in Belize, you’ll be one by the time you leave. 

Almost half of the land in Belize is managed as reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, and protected habitats. Many are managed by the Belize Audubon Society and these protected areas provide a rich diversity of natural ecosystems where birds thrive. 

Southern Belize is the primary location for bird lovers looking for keel-billed toucans, ringed and pygmy kingfishers, pale-billed woodpeckers, squirrel cuckoos, pygmy owls, hummingbirds, keel-billed motmots, scarlet macaws and every species of parrot and parakeet imaginable. And don’t forget our local chachalaca birds, purple gallinules, spotted sandpipers, black catbirds and the list goes on and on. 

What’s more, you’ll see all of these marvelous birds in settings that are breathtakingly beautiful. The following are some prime birding spots in southern Belize. 

birding in southern belize

Red Bank Village

Red Bank is a Maya village located near Placencia. The community is a favorite hangout of vivid, fast-flying scarlet macaws that flock here to find food. For the past 10 years, the village has cooperated with conservation groups to monitor and protect the macaws. Sadly, scarlet macaws are endangered, so this is a rare opportunity to spot these beautiful birds in their natural habitat. 

Aguacaliente

Aguacaliente Wildlife Sanctuary protects more than 6000 acres of wetlands ecosystems. Getting there requires a two-hour hike from the village of Laguna in Toledo District. In the lagoons, you’ll see egrets, herons, wood storks, flycatchers, ibis and kingfishers. You might see jabiru storks, another rare and endangered species. It’s a good idea to visit Aguacaliente with a guide. 

belize birds

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is the world’s first jaguar preserve and an important watershed conservation area. You’ll see a huge variety of animals, plants, and birds here, including white-collared manikins, crimson-collared and masked tanagers, bat falcons and more. 

Sir Thomas at Toucan Sittee

Sir Thomas at Toucan Sittee is located in southern Belize. It is s privately-owned bird sanctuary where one birder reported seeing 100 different species in an hour. The top birds you will encounter at this location include kingfishers, hummingbirds, toucans, and parakeets. 

If you’re already packing your bags and binoculars, make sure you book your stay at Chabil Mar. Our resort offers luxury accommodations in Placencia Village and our “Treasures of the Sky” Belize birding package provides guided tours led by local experts to top birding spots in the country.

The Creole Culture of Belize

Photo by Matadornetwork.com

Belize is an outstanding example of a true melting pot society where different cultures, religions, and traditions have formed a harmonious whole. By the numbers, the Creole people, sometimes spelled Kriol, are the largest segment of society. Originally of African origin and brought to the Caribbean as slaves to assist in the valuable logging industry, the Creole people constitute approximately 25% of modern Belize’s population.

In the early 18th century, English loggers came to Belize in order to harvest valuable timber species such as logwood and mahogany. Some of these loggers made huge fortunes and began importing slaves from other British colonies such as Jamaica. Being on the periphery of British society, many English loggers intermingled with the slaves. Today, the term Creole refers to a culture rather than physical appearance as some Creole have light skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes as a result of centuries of cohabitation.

And while the atrocities of slavery can never be forgotten, Belize was always a place where the lines between different segments of society were blurred. In 1798, when English loggers banded together to fend off a Spanish maritime invasion, they would’ve been unsuccessful had not they received vital assistance from Creoles.

The British Empire formally outlawed slavery in 1807, and the Creole population of Belize soon began thirsting for more autonomy and equal rights. After a series of protests in the early 20th century, the British government placed Belize on a fast-track towards independence, and the Creoles formed the dominant political force in the then-colony. In 1981, when Belize gained full independence from Britain, approximately 70% of the population was Creole.

The Creole then began opening Belize to other groups which had been persecuted elsewhere, including indigenous Maya people from Guatemala and Mexico, the Garifuna (an Afro-Caribbean people), East Indian entrepreneurs, and German-speaking Mennonites. Over time, the Creole developed their own unique version of English that is now the lingua franca for most people in Belize even if standard English remains the official language.

Creole food and its long heritage form the backbone of modern Belizean cuisine, including standards like rice and beans with spicy chicken, potato salad, wild game meats like peccary and gibnut, and a variety of seafood dishes. But the most popular Creole food is fry jacks, soft strips of puffy, fried dough that are a breakfast mainstay.

The current prime minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, is Creole.

For more information about traveling to Belize, feel free to chat with our Concierge at: concierge@chabilmarvillas.com or contact our Reservations Manager at: reservations@chabilmarvillas.com. Or perhaps you would like to call toll free from the US or Canada: 1-866-417-2377.

St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park

inland blue hole belize

Located in Belize’s western Cayo District near the capital of Belmopan, St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park is a site of natural beauty spanning more than 500 acres (2 square kilometers) in size. Three of the principal attractions are the inland Blue Hole, St. Herman’s Cave, and the Crystal Cave.

Visitors to the park usually enter off the Hummingbird Highway. Located about 200 yards from the visitor center is St. Herman’s Cave which was used for centuries by Maya priests to conduct ceremonies and to collect water dripping from stalactites that they considered to be holy. St. Herman’s Cave is an enormous underground structure but it is possible for unguided visitors to make their way approximately 200 yards into the cave before they will need a trained guide to go further. At the rear of the cave is a stream, allowing visitors to float their way back to the cave entrance using an inner tube.

St. Herman’s Cave is connected by an underground stream to the Blue Hole, often referred to as the Inland Blue Hole to prevent confusion with the Belize Blue Hole located offshore in the Belize Barrier Reef. The (Inland) Blue Hole is where the underground stream comes to the surface, providing visitors with a source of cool and refreshing water for swimming. Formed by the collapse of a cavern, the Blue Hole measures about 8 meters (26 feet) deep and is almost perfectly round with a diameter of 100 meters (330 feet).

Beyond the Blue Hole lies the Crystal Cave, sometimes called the Mountain Cow Cave. Visitors will need the assistance of a trained guide to explore spectacularly beautiful stalactites and caverns shimmering with accumulated crystalline structures. Just as with St. Herman’s Cave, the Crystal Cave was a sacred cite for the Ancient Maya who believed that it was a nexus to the world of the gods.

During the path to the country’s independence, Belize acquired the land in and around St. Herman’s Cave, declaring it a park on November 23, 1986. In order to maintain and preserve the natural beauty of the park, foreign non-profit organizations were brought in. Currently, St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park is maintained and operated by the Belize Audubon Society.

The park is located approximately 12 miles southeast of Belmopan and both entrances are located immediately adjacent to the Hummingbird Highway. The principle entrance leads to a visitor center, gift shop, hiking trails, a picnic area and the path to St. Herman’s Cave. The second entrance leads to a picnic area, hiking trails, washrooms and leads directly to the Blue Hole.


Visit our website chabilmarvillas.com for more information on Belize, and don’t hesitate to send us an email, or call US/CAN Toll Free: 1-866-417-2377, Local: (011-501) 523-3606, if you have questions or need help in planning a Belize vacation.

 

Recent Posts

Archives