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BELIZE, previously known as British Honduras, lies on the East coast of Central America in the heart of the Caribbean Basin which is bordered by Mexico on the North, Guatemala on the West and South, and is flanked by the Caribbean Sea on the East.

The cayes (pronounced keys), the offshore atolls and the barrier reef are the main attractions to Belize. The 185 mile long barrier reef is the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The cayes are islands and or mangroves that are located between the mainland and the barrier reef and on or within the reef perimeters of the offshore atolls. Although the mangroves cayes are normally uninhabitable by humans, they do provide a superior habitat for birds and marine life. Many birds, fish, shellfish and marine organisms begin their lives within the protection of the mangrove. On the other hand, the island cayes which are distinguishable by their palm trees, have provided the foundation for the development of many fine resorts catering to the water sports enthusiasts and the marine naturalists. The cayes and atolls provide superior opportunity for scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, boating, sailing, sail boarding and sea kayaking, as well as habitat for both nesting birds and turtles.
The northern half of the mainland of Belize is a plain that was once the bed of a sea. The land is covered with a thin layer of soil that supports scrub vegetation and dense hardwood tropical forest. The coastal area is neither land nor sea, but a sodden, swampy transition between the two. It consists of mangrove and grasses, and it is bordered by tussock grasses, cypress and sycamore where the land separates from the water.

The central part of Belize consists of sandy soil that supports large savannas. Approximately thirty miles southwest of Belize City, the land begins to rise dramatically to between 1,500 and 3,680 feet above sea level in the enchanting Mountain Pine Ridge area and the Maya Mountains. Abundant rainfall runs off to the northwest from the highlands in a number of streams which flow into the Macal River. Ultimately, the Macal River and the Mopan River converge to provide the headwaters of the Belize River.

The southern part of Belize with its watershed to the southeast from the Maya Mountains, consists of short rivers that rush through slopes combed with overhanging ledges and caves. The rivers, carrying sand, clay and silt, have enriched the coastal belt over the years, allowing Belize to develop significant agricultural products such as citrus and bananas. Along with an annual rainfall of some 170 inches, southern Belize has a true tropical forest that is rich with ferns, palms, lianas and tropical hardwoods.

Climate

The climate is subtropical with a brisk prevailing wind from the Caribbean Sea. The county has an annual mean temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is nicely tempered by the sea breezes.
Variation in weather features depending on elevations emphasizes the interesting differences in geology, plant and animal life. A summary high temperature seldom exceeds 96 degrees Fahrenheit while winter lows are seldom below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Annual rainfall ranges from 50 inches in the North to 170 inches in the South. Although the rainy season is usually between June and August and the dry season is between February and May, global weather changes are making historical predictions somewhat invalid. At the end of October, the weather does become cooler and from November to February, it is pleasant with showers of rain and an average humidity of 85 percent.

Currency

The Belize Dollar (BZ$) has a fixed rate of exchange of BZ$2 to US$1. Most hotels, resorts, restaurant and tour operators will accept US currency, traveler's checks or credit cards. When using your credit cards in Belize, most establishments will add a 5% service charge to your bill. Always make sure that you understand which dollar rate is being quoted. Is it Belize Dollars or US Dollars?