A recent article in the travel and hotel review site Oyster.com featuring Belize as a popular travel destination that surprises many tourists for being English-speaking is another welcome “myth buster”, according to the Lodge at Chaa Creek.
Chaa Creek’s social media administrator, Jared Bradley, said Belizeans have become used to misconceptions about this tiny Central American country.
“Many of us return from travel overseas with anecdotes such as people saying, ‘Oh, you’re from Belize? You speak English really well’, or ‘Where did you learn your English?’ Mr Bradley said.
“But as Belize becomes a more popular destination, and through social media, people are becoming more familiar with our country and culture,” he added.
Oyster.com’s June 23, 2016 feature by Claire Shefchik, “9 Surprising Foreign Destinations Where You Don't Need to Speak the Language” placed Belize number one in a list of nine English-speaking countries that included Singapore, Iceland, India, Fiji, South Africa, Malta, Holland and the Philippines.
After an introduction stating, “Trying to communicate with someone in a language you don't understand when all you want is a train ticket or an extra pillow, however, can be stressful and downright frustrating,” Ms Shefchik begins her list of English-speaking destinations with Belize, pointing out that, as a member of the British Commonwealth, it has more in common with Caribbean islands than neighbouring Guatemala.
“All of which is to say you can certainly use English (the country's official language) while exploring Mayan (sic) ruins deep in the jaguar-dotted rainforest or snorkelling with moray eels in the popular Hol Chan Marine Reserve,” she notes.
Mr Bradley agreed that while some travellers are still happily surprised to find that Belize is primarily English speaking, its growing global popularity as a travel destination of choice, and the widespread use of social media, internet searches and the proliferation of travel sites such as Oyster means that more travellers arrive knowing that they can converse in English.
What is less known, he said, is the cultural diversity and many languages spoken in the little country.
“While English is the main language, it is closely followed by Spanish, and then there’s Mayan, Garifuna, Creole and you’ll even hear German in the marketplaces and Mennonite communities. Our guests at Chaa Creek often remark that they’re surprised to hear our staff and local people conversing freely in so many different tongues,” Mr Bradley said.
To help travellers understand and appreciate Belize’s cultural and ethnic diversity, The Lodge at Chaa Creek recently began offering the “Cultural Grand Tour”; a new weeklong all-inclusive Belize vacation package that takes guests across the country - from the inland jungles, traditional villages, the Mountain Pine Ridge and the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout in western Belize to the Garifuna village of Hopkins on the Caribbean east coast for a hands-on cultural immersion, he said.
“It’s a great way to learn how Belize’s Maya continue to cultivate, make and consume chocolate as they’ve done for thousands of years, how to make tortillas from dried corn in a traditional Mestizo village, ice cream, dairy and agricultural products in a Mennonite farming community and then, during a three day stay at the luxurious Villa Verano in the Garifuna village of Hopkins on Belize’s Caribbean coast, become familiar with distinctive cuisine, language, music, dance and art of this fascinating culture, which UNESCO has declared to be a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.
“While crossing Belize guests will visit the Belize Zoo, Rio On or Big Rock Falls, the ancient Maya temple of Xunantunich and other Belizean locales. During their stay at Chaa Creek they’ll enjoy a complete Belize vacation with a wide range of onsite activities and amenities, as well as healthy, sophisticated farm-to-table dining,” he explained.
“So while communication will not be a problem, people will have a richly rewarding cultural experience and come away with an in-depth understanding of some of the world’s most distinctive cultures and how they’ve blended together to create the modern day melting pot of Belize.
“It’s a wonderful example of successful multiculturalism, and something we’re proud to share with the rest of the world.
“And what’s really surprising is the only language you’ll need is English,” Mr Bradley said.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek is a multi award winning eco resort set within a 400-acre private nature reserve along the banks of the Macal River in Belize.