Vacationing in Belize During a Pandemic
By Susan Hammond, Agency Owner
There are two Great Barrier Reefs. One that you have probably heard of, and another that may be less familiar. The Belize Barrier Reef is a 190-mile long section of the 560-mile Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is continuous from Cancun on the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula through the Riviera Maya and down to Honduras, making it the second largest coral reef system in the world. Rich with wildlife, the coast attracts large schools of bonefish, tarpon and the elusive permit. All these are catch and release, and those who enjoy sport fishing naturally follow.
”Prior to entering the country, all travelers are expected to have a Belize Travel
Health app on their smartphones.”
One of my sons, Jack, is an avid fly fisherman and recent college graduate. Bone fishing off the coast of Placencia, Belize was his optimal destination and with the last child off the payroll, we thought that a celebration was in order…right?
Of course, this is 2020, and things are different now. The last thing any of us wanted to do was put anyone in danger, be it members of our party or those in the Belizean communities. The question, then, was could it be done? Belize opened its borders to Americans on October 1. After nearly eight months of closure, the government implemented strict protocols for incoming tourists, requiring every one to present a negative PCR test for COVID-19 before departing from their country of origin. All tests needed to be administered 72 hours in advance. Our family also took the precaution of self-quarantining the week before just to be safe.
Prior to entering the country, all travelers are expected to have a Belize Travel Health app on their smartphones. Their safety measures were quite thorough, and necessary.
Once we arrived at the Belize City Airport, the next step was to take a short commuter flight from Belize City to Placencia, about 160 miles south along the coast. We just missed Hurricane Eta that sent a lot of rain from Honduras to Belize, so we had beautiful weather for sitting on the beach, fishing and snorkeling.
Since our resort was booked at about 25 percent capacity, we were warmly welcomed at this beach resort by the staff, who followed all local health and safety protocols making us all feel extremely comfortable. Masks were required just about everywhere we went. But, despite not showing our faces all that much, the amazing staff had all our names memorized by the second day.
For those who did not care to fish took a snorkeling excursion from Placencia to the Belizean reef and snorkeled around Silk Caye. We were thrilled to get to snorkel with rays, nurse sharks, lionfish, brain coral and other exotic ocean life.
The small, laid-back town of Placencia was a delight to explore during our stay. With the resort’s daily complimentary shuttle into town, we were able to eat at local restaurants, have a cool adult beverage on the beach, or shop for local souvenirs and artisans.
The four young adult boys in our group hired a driver one day to take them to a local waterfall for a refreshing swim. Of course, the story is that the local drug lord owned the land where the waterfall was located, which made the excursion even more thrilling. Fortunately for them, they were the only people there.
Our time in Belize came with obstacles and a natural reflection process to follow. As one of the leaders in the travel industry, we take it upon ourselves to make sure that we are doing just that: leading by example. What I can say is that COVID-19 has challenged us in ways this industry never expected. We have, in good spirits, pivoted to a lane where we can advise clients about safety and leisure, staying up to date with the most relevant information. If we were not confident that we were staying safe and keeping others out of harm’s way, we would say otherwise. Our experience was enjoyable, even with the masks and social distancing.
Without reaching too far into the realm of rationalization, we also must recognize the economic component that COVID-19 has had on countries dependent on tourism. Much of the staff and personnel we interacted with during our time were there temporarily. They were being paid, but for six months, this simply was not the case. Belize does not have a robust unemployment system. Without tourism to provide business, people working in this industry are at risk of failing to support themselves and their family members. Traveling safely, therefore, is key right now.
Your personal travel advisors at Endless Travel are optimistic about 2021. We feel that the first quarter is going to see travel rebound in a strong way for a couple of reasons. First, the news of the vaccine is a psychological boost. We see it as one of the first encouraging signs in recommending our clients start their travel plans. They may not travel immediately, but they will begin booking for later in the year or the following year.
Second, cruise line execs are feverishly working to get the ships afloat again, with new sanitation protocols that will alleviate the fears of contamination. We believe cruise ships (river and ocean) will begin to sail in the second quarter on a limited basis. When cruising does resume, the Endless Travel advisors will be at the forefront, counseling our clients while we all continue to navigate the uncertainties of this transitionary period.
As we say goodbye to 2020, the Endless Travel team wants to thank you for remaining positive and hopeful in a challenging year for all industries. We know this year has been difficult for so many people around the world, both personally and professionally, and we are looking forward to a new year filled with good health, happiness, and hopefully new travels!