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By Nathan Borchelt

Given its proximity (just 750 miles from Miami) and a lack of a
language barrier (English has long been the official tongue), Belize could serve as a rainforest-covered, sand-trimmed second home for most
U.S. citizens.

But after I returned from my second Belize vacation and related my travels to friends, it became evident that
the exotic sound of the country makes it seem like it’s worlds away.
And in certain respects, it is.

Simply put, you want it, you’ll find it in Belize. Scuba diving and snorkeling?
The second-largest barrier reef system stretches the length of the
country’s coastline. Evidence of centuries-old culture? Mayan ruins
cover vast swaths of the tropical regions — some still buried underneath
the soil, waiting for the necessary funding for excavation. The
tried-and-true art of doing nothing at all? Three words: the Caribbean

And then there’s hiking through dense rainforest trails, swimming
in freshwater pools underneath raging waterfalls, kayaking through
reptile-infested waters, riding the zip line through a maze of tropical
vines, spelunking over Mayan pottery with nothing but a headlamp to
guide your way, tubing through underground rive systems … it’s like the
gods of experiential travel used this small Central American country as
their tropical prototype.

Last August, after a flight from Belize City, I landed on Ambergris Caye, a large island off the northern coast, for a week of diving, diving, and, um, more diving. Single-minded pursuits, no doubt — but then the trip was organized by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, one of two dive certification groups in the world — so at least I was with a crew who shared my obsession.

Here is visual evidence of that obsession, as well as some photos taken on terra firma. The individual pictures (hopefully) speak for themselves, but the collective aim was to attempt to capture some of the grace and beauty — the effortless wonder — that embodies the best moments of scuba diving, and of Belize. And, hopefully, to help you realize that while the country may sound like some tropical far-away land, it may be just as easy, or easier, to travel to Belize than to fly from LA to New York City.

Technical notes: Above-ground shots were taken with a Nikon D80, while I used a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07 (a point-and-click in a factory waterproof housing) and a Sea and Sea YS-27DX strobe for the underwater photos. The strobe, mounted on a Sea Arm Light base, is a high-powered underwater flash unit that’s synched to the point-and-click’s flash by a “slave” function — basically, when the camera’s flash fires, the strobe fires.  You can easily control the intensity and the placement of the strobe, and using the unit in consort with the camera can make the difference between a passable snapshot and a frame-worthy print.

Related resources:

Nathan is an editor at who would love a second home in Belize.

Tagged: Caribbean, Photo essay

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