BELIZE packs variety into a small space—from tropical forests to turquoise waters surrounding a multitude of islands along its coast. But diverse geography is only the beginning of the wonders of Belize.
Hundreds of bird and animal species can be found in this country. Among its wildlife are the brightly colored keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) and the Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii)—a rubbery-nosed relative of the rhino that can move quickly on land and under water! There is also the solitary jaguar (Panthera onca). In fact, Belize boasts the world’s first jaguar preserve.
Belize was once part of the Maya civilization. Spanish conquistadores arrived in the 16th century but did not fully defeat the Maya. Later, the British wrested control of the area and in 1862 officially declared it to be the colony of British Honduras. In 1981, Belize gained independence.
Belizeans are as colorful as their surroundings. Some of the primary ethnic groups are Creole, East Indian, Garifuna, Maya, and Mestizo. The people are friendly and courteous. When children speak to adults, they often use the terms “Miss” or “Mister” and answer by saying, “Yes, ma’am” or “No, sir.”
In Belize, there are congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in American Sign Language, Belize Kriol, English, Low German, Mandarin Chinese, Maya (Mopán), and Spanish. In 2013, about 1 in every 40 people in Belize joined the Witnesses in attending the Memorial of Christ’s death.
DID YOU KNOW? Belize’s coral reef is over 180 miles (290 km) long. It is part of the second largest barrier reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.