(© Ian Plant) With most U.S. destinations overflowing with photographers these days, many shooters are beginning to look elsewhere for locations that are (as of yet) not completely covered with a thicket of tripod legs. Belize in Central America makes a wonderful and relatively easy destination for U.S.-based photographers, for several reasons: Belize is just a short flight away from Miami, is relatively inexpensive, easy to get around, and best of all, English is the official language. Oh yeah, the scenery isn't bad either!
There's plenty to see and photograph in Belize, including ancient Mayan ruins, scenic waterfalls, dense rain forest jungles, abundant wildlife, the second largest barrier reef in the world, and deserted tropical islands which give new meaning to the word "paradise." I'll highlight two of my favorite areas in this blog post, and save a few others for another post.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, located in the mountains in the western part of Belize, looks almost more like the highlands of North Carolina than tropical Central Amercia. Much of the area is covered in pine trees rather than thick jungle, although as soon as you drop down into the valleys things begin to look more steamy. The area is famous for its caves and waterfalls. Rio Frio Cave is a giant cave open at both ends that you can hike in, making it an easy photo destination. To learn more about the story behind my image of Rio Frio Cave, click here.
The Rio On Pools contain a number of small waterfalls and cascades, making it a great place to explore and find an original image. Some of the other waterfalls in the Reserve are very scenic, but were less to my liking because the compositional opportunities were limited to one or two distinct perspectives. Rio On proved to be much more fertile ground for creativity. To learn more about the story behind my image of the Rio On Pools, click here.
Another area I really enjoyed was Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, located on the barrier reef offshore of Placencia. You'll need a boat or kayak to explore the offshore islands; plenty of tour operators can get you out to the reef for a day of photography and snorkeling. I spent a few days in the backcountry exploring by kayak, and also hired a boat for the day to get out to one of the more remote locations, the Silk Cayes. I have a story behind this image that is not entirely true . . . if you are looking for some comic relief, click here.
You'll need a waterproof camera or an underwater housing if you plan on doing any photography of the reef. I spent several hours photographing sea turtles, a magical experience. It was a choppy day, and none of the commerical tours braved the rough waters, so it was just me and the turtles. To learn more about the story behind my image of the turtle, click here.
I'll put up some more Belize images and location suggestions in my next post. Until then, start planning your own Belize adventure!
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