Happy 40th Independence Day Belize
Photo Credit: My Beautiful Belize
Dear Slickrock Friends,
I trust all’s well with you and yours.
Monday, September 21st, 1981 was when the Union Jack was lowered and the Belizean Flag rose, officially ending British colonialism, having been a British Crown Colony since 1862. However, the first British permanent settlement in nowadays Belize was founded in the late 1710s.
Glover’s Reef, where we’re based is actually named after two English buccaneers (pirates), brothers, Roger Glover, and the more widely referred to John Glover. In the 1750s they used the Cayes (pronounced Keys) as a base to raid Spanish merchant ships and apparently bury their treasure there.
It is exactly forty years ago today that Belize gained full independence from the United Kingdom, having had Internal Self-Government granted in January 1964. The official name of the territory was changed from British Honduras to Belize in June 1973, and full independence was granted on 21st September 1981.
The ceremony was led by Belize’s father of the nation, and first Prime Minister, the late George Price, whilst Britain was represented by Prince Michael of Kent, cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.
Photo Credit: San Pedro Sun
Of course, history is very raw, and even rougher worldwide. Being from the UK, I’ve often heard (somewhat) in jest that colonialism is still alive and kicking.
That is far from the case. Belize is a country of free spirits and a melting pot of cultures.
I was attracted to Belize way back in 2004, and although it was on my radar, I only got to visit between work commitments in November 2008 and fell in love with the country.
Frustrating paperwork and delays are a given, but the soul of the country, it’s population, the wildlife, decent weather, the second largest barrier reef in the world, jungle, Mayan ruins, “proper” coffee, cacao, mango, or orange fresh from the tree, sugar cane straight from the fields, to the sleeping policeman (speed bumps) on the highways and most roads are what I think of when describing my new home, aka Belize.
When I first set up Philzoofari 22nd June 2004, I was pig-headed about somehow doing in-situ conservation, combined with eco-tourism, so it can be self-funding, rather than rattling a collection tin, as some charities I helped in England were reliant upon. Instead, simply do something good with business proceeds.
Working my socks off to build a business from nothing meant I worked stupid hours, skipped holidays, weekends off, and so on. In addition to having my own business, I worked full-time hours volunteering with big cat sanctuaries back in England.
If speaking completely sincerely, the wildlife and jungles of Belize were the real appeal to me way back in 2004 when I set up Philzoofari (later renamed Zoofari). It took over four years to finally visit the country I had become transfixed with, from 5,000 miles away.
One former small cat charity in Hastings, Sussex (on the southeast coast of England) called Ridgeway Trust for Endangered Cats, bred Margays and Ocelots, some of which originated from Belizean and Mexican rescues, so very valuable bloodlines. Like the European Clouded Leopard breeding programme at Santago Rare Leopard Project that I helped run with Pete James, Ridgeway also worked with a charity called The Aspinall Foundation, which undertakes amazing in-situ conservation programmes worldwide, and is named after a huge inspiration of mine growing up, founder, John Aspinall. Even to this day, The Aspinall Foundation breed, rescue, and re-release orphaned and captive-bred Western Lowland Gorillas, and umpteen other species in Congo, Gabon, Java, Madagascar, and more, but I digress.
Ridgeway Trust moved to Belize and set up a semi-release and rescue initiative called “LiFeline” that made my imagination run wild (no pun intended). They closed, moved back to England, rehomed the cats to Belize Zoo, and had their 50-acre property for sale. I thought this would be spot-on for in-situ conservation, where guests could see wildlife roaming free, maybe with the odd rescued jaguar semi-released, as they are so elusive when looking for them on a safari-type holiday (Zoofari).
When I finally got to visit, it was actually pine forest, which threw me a bit, as I had envisioned Indiana Jones-esque jungle, not Scotland in the tropics.
I went high and low throughout the country and the romantic notion of jungle, wildlife, the Caribbean Sea, the barrier reef, and as it turns out, the Belizean people, had me in awe, even more so.
I ended up finding a “proper” jungle property in Teakettle, Cayo District and the whole overall business started from that nucleus. The former owners had a family of seven living on the property as caretakers, who are still friends to this day, and whom I plan to bring into the Slickrock fold, along with the eco-product subsidiaries. The Tizol family are more like family to me and were one of the biggest motivations. Those who stick by you when you’ve come from nothing, are the ones to keep by your side long-term.
I feel the exact same way about the Slickrock team, who I met ten years ago. I have zero ego, so whilst many would presume taking on an island is for an egomaniac, I wouldn’t have touched it with a barge pole, had it not been for the humble, nice individuals behind the lens.
On the way back from the capital city Belmopan 13 years ago, just a hop, skip, and jump from Teakettle, and where I stayed for those three days, I got on an old American school bus (which are used throughout Belize) to Belize City, and if truth be told, felt like a 23-year-old fish out of water. The voice on my shoulder whispered, “Am I safe?”, then I proceeded to sit way at the back of the bus. Two really friendly chaps must’ve sensed that I was a tad on edge, and started chatting.
They were nice as pie, and around the same age, of Creole, and Spanish descent. Very humble, friendly, and they were the window into what the whole culture is like. Even when under financial stress, the vast majority of Belizeans are far more content with life’s slower pace, compared to a million miles per hour mentality in more developed nations.
As we started chatting, the Spanish fellow had a small child with him. He had just collected his son and was solo parenting, taking him back to Belize City to live with him. He was exactly 23, like me, and said in a very selfless and humble manner “I’ve lived my life, it’s all about my son now”.
What a nice guy, but blimey, that was an emotional sucker-punch to the gut. When most people our age back in the UK were getting hammered on booze every weekend, and moaning about very minor issues, there’s people feeling more content, with way, way less. The other chap was a delivery driver for Coca-Cola, earning what must’ve been near-enough minimum wage, yet seemed happy, content, and also raising a young family. That was the day Belize was tattooed upon my heart.
Cully and Lucy have built up not just a very niche resort but a vibe, family, culture, and an in-situ conservation spot for nesting turtles, amongst the environmentally conscious island infrastructure.
I look up to the team, not down upon. I see myself as a sort of gardener, I suppose. I see the people I now have the privilege to call colleagues and friends, as people who deserve to grow and all they need is someone to believe in them, provide a sprinkling of water and see them flower into what they deserve to achieve. I am intentionally more behind the scenes as we recover from Covid’s punch to the nose but you’re in very safe hands with our Belizean team.
Happy Anniversary Belize.
If You Judge, It’s Time To Budge – By Philip Dowsett
“Belize: this wouldn’t happen back in…”
It’s a given
It’s a right
About Belizean “local”
Not Mopan, or Mestizo
Garinagu, or Creole
East Indian, or Lebanese
Chinese, or Taiwanese
Qʼeqchiʼ, or Yucatec
You wouldn’t expect
There’s even Caucasian
Mennonites, with tractor lights
Spanish Lookout, just one of the sights
The one thing that really, ruffles my feathers
Is when my fellow ex-pats look down, at social get-togethers
In their own little bubble
Talk bad, in a huddle
Interact, don’t attack
Forget their race, religion, education, or persuasion
Be humble when you move to this amazing nation
Belize will continue to navigate her own path, and we have moved our business from the US to Belize to help the country economically for many moons to come.
3rd, 10th, and 17th December 2021 trips still have spaces left.
Our island awaits this winter, my friends.
CEO – Slickrock Adventures
For new bookings, we have reduced our pre-Covid price by 18%, and have included airport shuttles, dinner, breakfast, and accommodation on both the Friday night and Saturday night stays at Best Western. It used to exclude the shuttles, dinner, and breakfast on Saturday night.
As part of the recovery from a 95% drop in business since March 2020, the only changes going forward are discontinuing the 10% discount for repeat guests, and child rates due to the extra costs incurred. We will be keeping this price for all of 2021 and 2022.
We will honour the 10% discount on private charters exceeding 20 guests only.
We look forward to welcoming you back, or for the first time.
Whether the island was a fond memory, or on your bucket list, we’re here to help answer any questions you may have.
If there are any questions you may have, please don’t think “what if”. We’re here to help, and Marcy or Jose would be more than happy to go through anything that comes to mind.
The head office is open 9 am – 5 pm (Belize time) between Monday and Friday.
Thanks for your support in the past, present, or future.
Covid-19 Travel Update
With regards to Covid-19, we became a government-approved Gold Standard Hotel (Long Caye Adventure Camp), and Gold Standard Tour Operator (Slickrock Adventures), implementing extra sanitisation and safety measures, which won’t dampen the experience. Prevention and minimising risks, even without Covid-19 on the scene has been our priority. This is for your peace of mind, as well as our Slickrock team.
The Belize government’s requirement at this moment in time is simply a negative Rapid Antigen test 48 hours before arrival, or a negative PCR test 96 hours before arrival, as well as downloading the travel app:
As of 5th August 2021, you will still require a Covid test to enter Belize, even if you have had both vaccinations, and bring proof of this upon entry.
In accordance with CDC to re-enter the States, we have arranged a Rapid Antigen test for US$75 per person. They will come to Best Western as you arrive back from the island and you’ll get results within 30 minutes.
Covid-19 Cancellation Policy
If you are unable to travel due to restrictions placed on your home country or Belize by the government(s) or airlines, or if the resort is unable to open due to government restrictions, any paid bookings are eligible for rebooking for future dates of up to a year from your original check-in date. Guests will receive full credit for the amount paid to apply to the future rebooking dates, subject to availability.
As with previous terms, all cancellations are subject to a minimum US$100 administration fee, if not re-booked for an alternative date.