Over 90 teams are getting ready to compete in the biggest sporting event on Belize’s Calendar: the La Ruta Maya canoe race.
The event, which ranks on 40th on Peak Races’ 100 Toughest Races in the World, is a grueling 180 mile race, spanning over four days. Three-man teams tests their skills and preparations by competing in various categories, including: Male, Female, Mixed (male and female), and Masters (over 40 years of age and may include mix of male and female).
Teams row with single blade paddles in paddle open canoes which can be up to of 20 feet long. Winning teams are determined on an elapsed time basis, with station pries along the way at the various checkpoints. Teams from Belize, Canada, Japan, and even the U.K. will compete in the annual event.
The race kicks off on March 3, 2017 in San Ignacio Town Cayo District just under the Hawksworth Bridge, and ends in Belize City at the BelCan Bridge on March 7.
The race began in 1995, as a part of the “Save Our River Programme,” which hosted the canoe race to raise funds to clean up the Belize River. Since its inception, the race grew becoming one of the most popular events of the year and one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions.
Visitors come from all over the world to enjoy not only the race, but also the festivities that usually take place at the end of each day. Those festivities include live music, dancing, and plenty of mouthwatering Belizean cuisine.
Thousands of spectators line the river banks during the race cheering on their friends, family members or even consider workers competing, while others attend to show support for their favorite team. The race was officially adopted by Belikin Beer in 2014, as a part of the company’s community initiatives.
There were concerns that the river might not have been adequately cleared from remaining debris from Hurricane Ear; however the Environment Minister of Belize, Dr. Omar Figueroa assured hopeful spectators that the race will go on. A combination of government departments have begun assessing the river to determine what measures need to be taken to ensure that the race goes on uninterrupted.
Among the checkpoints along the way, the races will stop in beautiful Burrell Boom village, which gives visitors a chance to stay at the upscale and posh Black Orchid Resort. The resort located on the banks of the Belize River, offers visitors an unmatched view of the race as well as opulent accommodations in a pristine setting.