Belize has always offered a unique take on travel to globetrotters craving deeper experiences. Now, travelers wanting to immerse themselves even further into Belize’s eclectic cultures can do so with the first-ever Garifuna trail. Earlier this month, travelers and residents alike gathered at well-known artist Pen Cayetano’s studio gallery in Dangriga to witness the announcement of the trail.
As one of Belize’s many cultures, the Garifuna is richly vibrant with deep roots reaching into Belize’s history. Travelers have always been able to appreciate them authentically by partaking in many activities offered by the culture. But now, they’ll have the chance to experience them as one big unique Belizean experience.
A Dream in the Making
The idea for the community-based tourism initiative happened pre-pandemic but was only recently launched this year. And according to a Tourism Officer at the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, the process was a thorough one. From applying for funding to assessing Belize’s southeast coast, the project aimed at uplifting women as well as targeting climate change. Oftentimes, funding for projects of this nature goes toward archaeological sites, which Belize has no shortage of. But this time, leaders wanted to put a spotlight on what makes Belize so appealing to travelers: its people.
“We wanted to do something different,” tourism officer Dary Correa said. “We wanted to promote the culture but at the same time, the criteria is based on [the] empowerment of women, especially in small businesses.”
After multiple resubmissions and assessments, Belize was one of only three countries in the Caribbean that were granted funding by Compete Caribbean to launch the project. The hope was to instill economic growth in marginalized areas that were deeply affected by not only changing environments but by the pandemic as well. With funding from the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and others, the project’s budget totals US$375,000. However, the real work was only just beginning.
Potential Lies Ahead
Like most things that are of utmost quality, a project of this nature will naturally take time to refine. But the framework is there since both Dangriga Town and Hopkins Village are teeming with cultural wonders. Already there are some members that are eager to welcome travelers. Correa says most of the budget will be used for product development in training members, capacity building, and more marketing materials. It’s also his hope to secure funding that’ll assist members with infrastructure development such as equipment and better facilities.
Humans’ instinctive nature is to connect with others, and there’s no better connection than seeing a culture thriving in its element. What’s more, with the newly launched Garifuna Trail, travelers will be glad to know they are directly supporting marginalized and indigenous communities. In Dangriga, you can learn exactly how authentic Garifuna drums are made — perhaps even take one home as a souvenir! In coastal Hopkins, venture to Palmento Grove for an immersive experience in Garifuna culture, complete with cultural clothing and lessons in cooking traditional foods.
Each and every stop on this Garifuna trail is bound to be a life-altering experience, one that cannot be replicated anywhere else but in Belize. So for your next Belize vacation, make sure to add a few stops on Belize’s southeast coast to your itinerary. You might never know what memories – and friendships – await.