Celebrating Nature in Belize’s Rugged Toledo District

Belize offers expats the opportunity to live in picturesque ocean communities for a fraction of the cost they would pay back home. These locations house many expat communities and, as such, provide most of the amenities you’d expect to have in your hometown. Expats frequently live quite comfortably on a budget of $2,000 or more per month.

Other benefits include free (or cheap) healthcare (I once got a troublesome tooth professionally pulled for $1.50—including anesthesia), they accept U.S. dollars, and their first language is English. Personally, I also like that you can drive here from the States—which means short flights or long, adventurous drives for me and/or my children should they want to visit.

You can live comfortably here in an environment that looks like something taken directly from a Caribbean-paradise postcard.

But there’s another side to Belize. A more natural side. Expats like me, who prefer a rugged way of life to the more affluent lifestyles further north, gravitate to the southernmost part of the country: The Toledo District.

This raw, undeveloped area appeals to my need to escape the concrete jungle in favor of a real one. The terrain in this district requires an entirely different mentality (and wardrobe) from the more upscale, tiki-bar-style locales up north.

From my home, I can often hear the calls of wild howler monkeys who perch happily in the mountains to my south. They often sound as if they’re right next door and I could look out the window and see them. The loud squawking of flocks of wild local parrots often pervades the entire lane on which I live, and their jovial antics are truly a sight to see. Many locals have pet parrots who live upwards of 30 years in the branches of the mango trees in their yards.

These are just a few of the sights and sounds you would be hard-pressed to see and hear in more developed areas.

I love the nature here. Untouched, untarnished, adored, and revered—as do many expats in this part of Belize—which is why, when the Toledo Institute of Development and Environment (TIDE) has their annual festival, we flock to the three-day celebration which helps raise funds for this NGO to protect and educate people about the priceless beauty and resources, particularly in this district.

Last weekend, I attended the “TideFest” along with other expats in the area to help support this wonderful organization. After paying my $1 fee, I ventured through the many tents and vendors, viewing everything from authentic Maya articles to Garifuna drums for sale.

Aside from the food, drinks, drumming, entertainment, and activities that were happening, the main reason I chose this day to go was because of the fishing tournament. I appreciate that these events pull us all together to honor Belize’s natural beauty, but while watching locals and expats alike struggle to win the prize for the hudut-eating contest is always a riot, I confess I love the excitement of waiting to see the winning fish.

This is one event where people of every age, race, culture, and color join to show support for this phenomenal group of conservationists who are dedicated to learning about, teaching about, and preserving this hidden gem in southern Belize, and it makes me proud as an expat to see it.

Untouched nature is why I came to this part of the country, and knowing this group works tirelessly to preserve the beautiful jungle that I now call home, makes my $1 a bargain.

Oh, and the winning fish? A 21-pound Barracuda.

As much as I love fishing, I don’t think I would want to pull my line up with a 21-pound barracuda on the other end of it! Thankfully there are countless gifted local fishermen who happily do it for me, and all I have to pay is $2.50 a pound.

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