The Health-Giving World of Our Tropical Birds

One of the greatest pleasures of visiting a new place, wherever it happens to be in the world, comes from experiencing how different it is. That sounds like an obvious statement, but the fact is, humans thrive on multi-sensory stimulation. Visiting new places, meeting new people, trying new food – these activities energize the brain and body. That’s why vacations are so therapeutic. It’s not just where you go, it’s simply the fact that you go somewhere that makes the difference. When you arrive at a new place, every one of your senses gets a chance to experience something new. Dealing with changes in this way helps rebuild neural connections, keeping your brain young and healthy, while giving your body a chance to de-stress.

When you step off a plane in Belize, for example, you immediately feel and smell the humid salt air of the Caribbean. You can taste the lush greenery of the forests, and of course, your eyes delight in the rich colors and sights of the island, its beaches, waters, and skies. This is especially powerful when you come in the months of Fall and Winter, where the lack of color and light tends to contribute to conditions like seasonal affective disorder, which in turn have a profound impact on your immune system.

The Black Headed Trogon – one of the many colorful birds of Belize. This photo is by Lorenzo Gonzalez. Check out his amazing photos and blog at:

In addition to the sights and smells, there are the sounds. As your ears acclimatize to your tropical surroundings, you will start to hear the birds. We have an abundance of birds in Belize, including here on Ambergris Caye, and the odds are you will hear them before you see them.

In a way, our birds act like ambassadors for the entire country. Some are native to the area, some are migratory and just passing through, but they add that additional sensory component – a tapestry of sound, and a reminder that in addition to the fun of exploring the beaches, tidepools and restaurants, you will always find something interesting in the trees. The sounds are pleasant, but they also remind you of the presence of life, just like the oceans do and the lush greenery of our forests and jungles. It’s amazing just how much our bodies pick up on these sensations of the vibrancy of life all around us.

A heron visiting our pool.

Being a subtropical country, Belize enjoys a diverse bird population in which many of the species are brilliantly colored and fascinating to observe. I am always delighted when our guests see a parrot in the wild for the first time.

Most people from North America only ever see them in pet shops or in peoples’ homes, but here, they fly free and are easy to spot. We were in the pool on the weekend and a flock went over our heads chattering away to themselves! It’s quite surreal when that happens for the first time. We see herons and pelicans quite frequently, walking or flying around the tidal flats looking for fish and small crustaceans, but I have to say my favorite bird is the Collared Aracari. It is a member of the toucan family and has a vibrant plumage on the chest – yellow with black and red stripes and a large beak typical of Toucans everywhere. Toucans, by the way are the national bird of Belize.

The Collared Aracari – part of the Toucan family. This photo is by Lorenzo Gonzalez. Check out his amazing photos and blog at:

The People Perch

To really get a sense of the diversity of our avian population, you can check out the “People Perch” located within an actual bird sanctuary on Ambergris Caye, south of San Pedro. According to those who have visited, you will be able to see and hear dozens of exotic species and types of birds and the best part is, you’re up there in the trees with them. If you have a camera with a zoom or telephoto lens, this would be an excellent place to try it out.

I have had the pleasure of living on Ambergris Caye for a number of years now, as owner of Coastal Breezes, but I will never forget the novelty of my first trip as a tourist, waking up to the sound of so many different birds calling each other and getting on with their day. It’s just another reminder of how a great vacation is truly a full, multi-sensory, life-enhancing event. We can’t wait for the time when we can welcome you here so you can experience it for yourself.

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Your Permit to Relax

It’s hard to write about a beautiful tourist destination when people are not actually able to visit it, but the COVID-19 epidemic will not be permanent, at least to this degree of severity. Many countries around the world are identifying effective ways to “flatten the curve,” and it is my belief that common sense will prevail. People will learn how to live with some enhanced social distancing techniques and a new normality will emerge.

That’s why I feel it’s healthy to keep talking about our own little corner of paradise here at Ambergris Caye. Even before the craziness of 2020, it was common for people to take months or even a couple of years to decide to take a trip somewhere, after all, there’s a lot of planning to do. So, it’s my intention to keep talking about some of the many great reasons to come and visit us when you are ready to do so.

You’ve Heard of a Fishing Permit, but How About a Permit Fish?

If you like fishing, especially fly-fishing, we have plenty of new opportunities for you. Bonefish, tarpon, and permits are all catch-and-release ocean fish that people like to experience while they are here. Belize is very much focused on sustainability and harmony with nature, which is why catch-and-release and ecotourism are so important to us. In fact, you will need to obtain a license to go fishing for them. It’s the same on land, too. We are very careful with our jungles and the fauna that live there. In fact, Ambergris Caye hosts the world’s only Jaguar preserve, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary & Jaguar Preserve. A wonderful summary is available here.

This is what the fish called a permit looks like. Photo credit:

But back to the fish. A permit is a large fish, with a slender body and long fins. Along with bonefish and tarpon, they are all types of large game fish that look beautiful when posed for a photo, but of course, look their best when swimming around in the water, especially in the flats around Ambergris Caye. A great resource to learn more about fly-fishing for bonefish and permit is available at the Tres Pescados Fly Shop here. You can also charter a fishing expedition along with their knowledgeable guides.

Here is a picture of me with my “big” bonefish.

Night Fishing

Of course, not all fish are protected by catch-and-release. There are many types of sustainable fish varieties  that are available to catch and eat, with a number of excursion companies offering the cleaning and cooking services as part of their packages. There is nothing quite like going out on the water at night. It’s usually quite peaceful and breathtaking when the moon is full, and the ocean has a huge presence in the darkness, with many species of sea life coming close to the surface. It’s an experience not to be missed.

Moonlight…feels right – My photo of moonlight over the water at Ambergris Caye.

Another way of enjoying the ocean at night is to simply observe it from the shoreline. Many people find enormous peace and tranquility from simply walking along the beach, with just the moon and stars to light the way. Our waters are seldom turbulent, but at night they become very still, and this contributes to a truly transcendent experience. It’s amazing just how powerful your night vision and senses become when you let nature be your chaperone. As our canine assistant property manager, Mr. Bean knows very well, a few citizens of the waters might do the same thing, choosing to come up on the beach to see what’s going on.

Mr. Bean checking out a visitor.

Relaxation is Very Healthy

Whether you seek the excitement of catch-and-release fishing on the open water, or the serenity of moonlit walks – or both – it is important to remember just how healthy and restorative these types of activities are. People often think of a Caribbean vacation as being filled with busy sightseeing schedules, and there can be great fun in that, but similarly, the body and soul crave tranquility and balance. And as you have probably heard, human beings are 70% water, which partially explains why so many of us feel drawn to the ocean and gain peace from it.

You deserve a break from the trauma, sadness and change that we have all experienced, and even though it’s not over yet, the mere anticipation of a vacation can be a powerful sustainer of mental and physical health.

We would love to host you here at Coastal Breezes of course, but what’s more important is that you set your sights on a vacation somewhere, especially somewhere that has water and life all around it.

Stay safe!

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Planning for a Healthy Vacation in Belize

No one wants to think about illness when they plan for their dream vacation or their winter getaway. But having the knowledge in advance means you can relax and enjoy your time here even more. Although Ambergris Caye prides itself on its laid back, tropical vibe, it still has great medical care available.

If you need a doctor during your visit, there’s a good number of medical practitioners, many of whom were trained in the U.S., the U.K. or Mexico. Many of these will make house calls. On Ambergris Caye there is a PolyClinic that is open 24/7. This clinic can handle the types of injuries or illnesses that a visitor or citizen might encounter, including fractures and breaks. More serious cases get flown to one of the dozen or so major hospitals in Belize, most often to the emergency facilities in Belize City. And because Ambergris Caye is a paradise for divers and snorkelers, it also has a full hyperbaric chamber available for treatment of decompression illness (the bends).

There are plenty of great medical clinics and hospitals in Belize.

Prepare before you travel

As with any destination beyond your home borders, it is very important to ensure you receive the right inoculations and treatments before leaving, and in good time. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting up-to-date on your routine vaccines (measles, mumps, rubella) and to also take advance medication for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Note that some types of medications are in short supply – even in the U.S., or may require treatment time of many weeks or even months.

It is advisable to talk to your physician about your travel plans as soon as possible. It is also best to bring all the medications that you take as part of daily life along with you, since sometimes the pharmacies in any country that you visit may not have any in stock or may have medications that are different in strength or quality.

Note also that you should always check that the medications you carry are legal to keep in your possession while on vacation. A case in point is CBD oil. Laws are changing constantly. Many Caribbean countries have zero tolerance policies towards any form of “drug.” Also, your flight might get diverted to another country, even the U.S., where such substances are still illegal, either federally or locally.

Charlie, our canine head of security, asks, “Can I drink this?” Yes, It’s coconut milk. Great for everyone. But for travelers, being prepared before trying new things and new experiences in a new country is a smart idea.

At Coastal Breezes, We’re Watching Out for You Too

While we don’t have ambulance service on the island, there is a response service that can transport people as needed. We will provide guests with all the required information should it be needed.  We at Coastal Breezes are also trained in CPR and first aid and have a AED on site along with an Epipen – both which are a big deal on the island, since not a lot of people offer these items.

Be Careful!

Belize is a great and overall safe place to visit. But when people take vacations – anywhere in the world – they often willingly let go of those concerns for personal safety that they carry around with them at home. Maybe that’s part of the “vacation” mindset.

But it’s important to keep some sense of caution around you. Drinking water from a tap in many countries is not advisable, and this applies also to water that comes from washed salads or even ice cubes

Then there are the activities themselves. Scuba diving and snorkeling are wonderful experiences, but care must be taken to ensure clothing or equipment does not get snagged on coral – it’s also really bad for the coral. Insect repellent is a great idea for avoiding bug bites while hiking and exploring, and of course proper clothing and head coverings will keep sunburn at bay.

Belize is a beautiful place to visit, and offers great opportunities for sightseeing, outdoor activities or just relaxing. Being prepared health-wise is the type of planning that helps contribute to a vacation free of stress and unexpected health challenges. As nice as the Polyclinic is, we would rather you get to see scenes like this sunrise, taken from our front porch.

Sunrise at Coastal Breezes.

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