A Week in Belize (after a nightmare in the airports)

Roberts Grove resort in Belize

The big green moray eel is staring at me, coming out of his hideaway in the reef, as if to say “Go away! I don’t want to play!

But I’m content to just watch him, his buddies and all of the other creatures that call this Barrier Reef that runs nearly the length of Belize home. On our first morning, we’re scuba diving off of Queen Cay, about 20 miles (an hour’s boat ride) from The Inn at Robert’s Grove, the gem of a resort we’re staying at in Placencia.

The Inn at Robert’s Grove with just 42 commodious rooms — ours is really a two-room suite with a little kitchen, porch looking over the ocean, and a hammock designed for naps — has just 42 rooms and we feel like we’ve been invited to someone’s very comfortable Caribbean villa.

We arrived yesterday evening after typically frustrating flights. First, we had to get our flights changed because of the American Airlines MD-80 inspection mess. That took hours on the phone. We thought we were home free when we were able to rebook our flights on Delta but no such luck. At the airport in New York, we encountered incredibly long lines for check-in and security. Our plane was more than an hour late taking off (the pilot blamed it on the small corporate planes flying into Augusta, George, for the Masters Golf Tournament).

In Atlanta, we got to the connection gate, breathless from running to make our connection, only to discover the flight to Belize City was delayed… and delayed… and delayed — four hours due to mechanical problems on TWO different aircraft. We arrived in Belize City with barely enough time to make the last flight on a Maya Island Air 12-seater (We ruled out driving – it would have taken more than 3 hours to make the 60 mile trip on very difficult roads). The last leg of the trip was great – flying low over shrimp farms, citrus groves, banana fields and of course the green-blue Caribbean. We were so glad to get here. The weather is perfect. We ate dinner on the on the outside deck overlooking the ocean. (www.robertsgrove.com) Did I mention we’re kid-less on this trip?

Our son is working, one daughter is finishing her last weeks of college and the youngest is spending this week building a school in neighboring Guatemala. So we decided to slip away for some R&R. Belize of course is a place I’d love to bring the kids and in fact, we immediately meet lots of families here, as well as couples on their own.

We meet Amy White, traveling with her newly minted college graduate daughter Kaitlyn Harezlak, who are here for a mom-daughter getaway, and Julie and Dave Asplund from suburban Chicago celebrating Dave’s 50th birthday.

”It has the perfect combination of beach and culture,” said Katrina Pratt, who had traveled a long distance with her husband and daughter Maddie, 10, and son Ian 8. That was why I picked Belize too — Mayan ruins, jungle and the ocean — a winning combination, I figured. (Visit www.belize,net)
Katrina Pratt said one of the highlights of their week had been visiting the Mayan ruin Tikal. “The kids loved it,” she said — climbing up and down the huge structures, realizing it had been built so long ago.

“It’s nice that we can go somewhere where I can go off and fish and they can have fun hanging on the beach,” added her husband Drew.
Maddie and Drew, for their part, were having a blast on the tiny Cay — no more than one acre — burying themselves in the sand, snorkeling. A few of us in the group went out to dive with Dive Master Francisco Linarez, who grew up here, he said. It was my first dive since I got certified in the Bahamas last fall and I was admittedly nervous. What if I forgot everything? Francisco helped me feel calm and confident pointing out parrot fish, grouper, a red grouper. Southern stingray…big fish and tiny purple ones swimming in schools The reef was as teeming with brain coral, delicate fan coral swinging as if in a breeze, tube coral. We did two dives and I was sorry when Francisco said it was time to go back to the boat each time.
The crew laid out a picnic lunch for us on the tiny island — tuna salad, grilled pork, rice, watermelon…

I’m thinking to myself why would anyone go to a resort where they have to stake out beach chairs at 7 a.m. when they can have this slice of paradise with those they love best, meeting other interesting travelers along the way? When we get back, kids are jumping into the pool (there are two of them) swinging in hammocks on the beach, and tossing a baseball at the water’s edge as parents relax reading and snoozing. It’s not a big beach but it’s the kind of place you can feel comfortable letting 10 year olds run around on their own.

This is also the kind of place where you can do as much or as little as you like. If course there is snorkeling and diving. The Inn at Robert’s Grove has its own dive operation. There’s a tennis court and sailboat. You can become a certified diver here. But there are also excursions to a Jaguar Preserve, to the jungle to see howler monkeys (the Monkey River Cruise), and to go caving. For an adventurous family — even a moderately adventurous one– this place is ideal.

Julie Asplund acknowledges while she misses her two kids — both away at college. There’s something to be said for traveling without them too. It’s more relaxing without the kids. You do what you want. You don’t have to worry about anyone else.

I know what she means. The hammock is gently swinging on our porch. It is calling my name.

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