Since this blog is about Sustainability Now in Belize and many of our readers might not be intimately familiar with the country, we should provide some brief background. Therefore the next several blogs will discuss different aspects of the country.
Belize is a small country with a population of fewer than 350,000 people, most all of whom speak English. Belize, only 8,867 square miles in size, is situated on the northeast coast of Central America. The country’s greatest length from north to south is 173 miles and its greatest width is 67 miles. The Caribbean Sea lies to the east and from the air its turquoise waters are clear, allowing the multicolored coral formation of the Great Barrier Reef to be easily observed. Coral islands called cayes, covered with stands of mangrove trees, dot the coast. Lying in aquamarine and jade-colored bays, these cayes protect the jungled coastline from the ravages of the sea. Part Caribbean, part Central American, the country is mostly wide-open spaces fringed by white sand and swaying palms. Inshore from the beaches are lush jungles and small mountains all of which seemed to be populated by beautiful waterfalls.
The country is divided by the eastward flowing Belize River which is a major transportation route for native goods. The north half of the country is made up of synclinal folds of low lying, parallel limestone ridges running NNE to SSW. These jungle covered ridges are the spines of fossil coral reefs. In the valleys between, run perennial rivers. This area, known as the “Maya Heartland,” contains the classic Maya center of Tikal as well as many minor ceremonial centers and hundreds of occupation sites. Great mangrove swamps line the northern coast, extend inland for many miles, and cover much of the northern district.
Southern Belize is the site of large plantations that grow citrus, an important export. Rising out of the palm-covered coastal plain of southern Belize are the Maya Mountains. Mostly unexplored, they are covered by verdant jungle and a canopy of tropical rain clouds. Unsuitable for agriculture, the ridge of the southern region is relatively dwarfed by Victoria Peak which reaches 3,680 feet. The southern plateau becomes broader and descends westward. The northern part of this region, known as the Mountain Pine Ridge area, lies in the Cayo District. The higher elevation (1,500-2,700 feet) provides spectacular falls for the many streams that lace the land. The plateau’s northern edge is a broken limestone escarpment descending steeply to the Sibun River Valley, an area dotted with many unexplored caves.
By definition there is no true rainforest in Belize; however, the quantity of rainfall is only slightly insufficient. Instead, the country is decorated with broadleaf jungle and cohune forest termed “moist tropical forest”. This forest, savanna wetlands and the Mayan Mountain areas of the country is habitat for an incredible variety of fauna. The climate is sub-tropical, tempered by trade winds. Temperatures in coastal districts range from about 10*C (50*F) to about 35.6*C (96*F); inland the range is greater. Rainfall varies from an average of 1,295 millimeters in the north to 4,445 millimeters in the extreme south. The dry season usually extends from February to May and there is sometimes a dry spell in August.