Located on the eastern side of the Central American isthmus between Mexico and Guatemala, the tiny nation of Belize is a true wonder. During the colonial era, the British and Spanish fought for control over Belize’s rich stands of hardwood forests with the British ultimately prevailing. An independent nation since 1981, Belize is now a prosperous and peaceful democracy with a strong focus on sustainable eco-tourism.
Below are 10 fun facts about this amazing country:
1. Belize is the only country in either Central or South America where English is the official language.
2. Belize has more than 200 islands situated along the Belize Barrier Reef, part of the second-biggest barrier reef system in the world. Belize is also home to the only coral atolls outside of the Pacific Ocean.
3. Although home to approximately 360,000 people today, Belize was home to more than 1 million Maya during the heyday of their ancient empire that was a network of city-states, the ruins of which are popular tourist attractions today.
4. Belize has approximately the same land mass as Massachusetts, measuring just 68 miles wide by 180 miles, but has just a fraction of the population (330,000 versus almost 7 million in Massachusetts).
5. Despite its small size, Belize is home to many diverse cultures including modern day descendants of the Maya, the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna people, Mestizos, Swiss-German Mennonites, East Indians, Creoles, and Chinese.
6. Belize is home to a rare species of howler monkey that earns its name by being one of the 10 loudest animals on the planet. A howler monkey call can be as loud as 120 decibels and heard from up to three miles away.
7. The offshore waters of Belize are an ideal spot to see more than 10 different species of sharks.
8. Belize is home to the world’s only jaguar preserve, the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary.
9. There are thousands of species of butterflies living in Belize, including the False Vampire Bat, the Owl Eye Butterfly, the Red Footed Booby Bird and the Swallow Tail Cattle Heart Butterfly.
10. Belize has a near-perfect climate with an average year-round temperature of 84 F (29 C), refreshing breezes, and warm waters ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.