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Belize is a birder’s paradise, including on Ambergris Caye.

Posted on 15 Feb, 2013 in the Belize News|Portofino News|Portofino Vacation Journal Category. Comments Off on Belize is a birder’s paradise, including on Ambergris Caye.

Belize is a birder’s paradise with hundreds of local and seasonal migratory species. The jungle areas of the interior are popular amongst those who are serious about birding, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience some of this nature-loving activity on Ambergris Caye.

Over the past 11 years guests from Portofino Beach Resort not only have been enjoying their vacation including diving, sailing, caving and much more. But every day our guests are amazed with all the different tropical birds onsite.
Waking up by the sounds of a group of wild red-throated parakeets is a daily happening here at the resort.

Located at Portofino’s Restaurant you will find a Zericote, Scarlet Cordia which is a native slow-growing tree that breaks out in blazing orange clusters of flowers, which are very attractive to Hummingbirds. So when our guests enjoy their meals outside the balcony, overlooking the sparkling blue Ocean, they will see very often a Hummingbird.

Is this an Altamira, Hooded or Baltimore Oriole? They definitely look very much alike, but Hooded it is! Ambergris Caye is a favorite destination to spot many different Orioles. Their breeding habitat is open areas with trees, especially palms, were the nest is a tightly woven poncho attached to the underside of a leaf or tree branch. The picture you see below was taken by Myah McNeill – Casado here on our Portofino grounds.

One day, we were so surprised to see The Bare-Throated Tiger-Heron spending hours at our swimming pool as they normally are seen by wooded rivers, swamps and lagoons. The Heron waits often motionless for suitable prey such as fish, frogs or crabs to come within reach of its long bill… but we wonder what this beautiful one was looking for at our pool? The only prey he could catch were some of our guests lounging in the water.The size of a Bare-Throated Tiger-Heron is about 80 cm (28–32″) in length and weighs 1200 g.

Ready for a walk on the Beach? Well then you will definitely be spotting the Magnificent Frigatebird, also known as Man of War. Why this name? Well, this species feeds mainly on fish, and also attacks other seabirds to force them to disgorge their meals. Frigatebirds never land on water, and always take their food items in flight.

These are just a few birds you definitely will see when you stay here at Portofino. But that doesn’t mean that you will be spotting many more.From Pelicans who fly over the Resort around cocktail time after a whole day of fun, to others which are listed on Ambergris Caye’s most popular website owned by Marty Casado.

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By Nick Kontis July 25, 2012

When the Belize Tourist Board suggested that I take a trip to explore the ”Central American Nirvana” once known as British Honduras, I quickly jumped at the opportunity. A trip was arranged by the tourist board to visit to the Belize Zoo, and a stay at Cave’s Branch Resort for a “bungle in the jungle.” After three days in the jungle rappelling and spelunking (cave diving), I was off to my next adventure and the reason most travelers come to Belize. A trip to Belize’s barrier reef. A trip to see Belize’s Caribbean underwater wonderland. As much as I was intoxicated by sights and sounds of the jungles of Belize and my tree house room at the Cave’s Branch Resort, it was time to head to the beach for some scuba diving.  A stay at the famous Portofino Resort on Ambergris Caye.


Welcome to Paradise Undiscovered – Portofino Resort After a short flight on Tropic Air from Belize City to San Pedro, the airport and main city on Ambergris Caye. I was met by Jan Van Noord, owner of the Portofino Resort. As I have a love for the Dutch, the moment I met Jan, all 6 foot 7 of him, I  knew right away that we would become good friends. Such was the case with Jan and his wife Sandra. The Dutch-Belgian couple left Europe with their two small children for a life in the tropics. I asked, “why Belize? and why Ambergris Caye?” Jan assured me that I would soon understand.

Aerial view of the Portofino Resort

One reason why people come to Ambergris Caye is to dive the Blue Hole

The Portofino arranges fishing trips of a lifetime. Fly-Fish for Permit and Tarpon

Don’t care to dive? Grab a Kayak from the Portofino for a fifteen minute trip to snorkel at ’Mexico Rocks’

Belize is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef. Only the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia is bigger. Close to 190 miles of unobstructed reef run the length of the entire nation. Of the 200 plus islands of Belize, the largest and closest to the barrier reef is Ambergris Caye, a water sports mecca. Discovered by Jacques Cousteau in the 70s, the underwater aquarium of Belize attracts divers from throughout the world who come to dive in the azure waters, and mingle with its lively array of sea life. Scuba divers come to Ambergris Caye from all over the world to plunge to depths of over 100 feet deep into the world famous ‘Blue Hole’ and to dive with the array of rays, sharks, turtles, and colorful fish at the likes of Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. Belize and Ambergris Caye is also home to one of the best kept secret fishing destinations in the Caribbean. With plenty of saltwater flats, reef, river & deep sea fishing. Fly fishing for Tarpon, Permit, Bone Fish is among the best in the world.

Cute, quaint, and laid back – San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye

San Pedro town boasts a vibrant nightlife filled with restaurants, bars, shops on three main streets. A hassle free town. What I soon discovered was a laid back, friendly Belizean vibe. The Mayan and Caribbean mixture works well. Sprinkle in a few Americans, Canadians and European, and you have the perfect mixture for a trouble free country. All of its citizens seems to get along. I was amazed, living part of the year in Mexico, and being well traveled, I’m quite use to people trying to sell me a time share, tour, or a meal. In Belize there were no pushy sales people at all.After a couple of Belikin Beers, the local beer of Belize at Fido’s Restaurant and Bar. It was off to the Portofino Resort. Although road travel is possible on Ambergris Caye. The main form of transportation is by speed boat, or water taxi .The Portofino Resort is north of San Pedro town. The six mile ride to the Portofino by fast boat takes around 20 minutes. The Portofino also owns its own boat to transport its staff and the guests to and from the Portofino and San Pedro.

Perhaps you just want to spend your days at the Portofino sipping fruity rum drinks by the sea

Upon arrival I was greeted by the very professional hotel manager Lorraine, who had many activities planned for me. She showed me to my room in the Lower Mansion Suite. I soon found out that staying at the Portofino, being a small resort, is like staying with family. The service and hospitality was among the best I’ve had at any hotel I’ve stayed at. They say that exceptional service and the employees attention to detail of every guest are the key components to a most enjoyable hotel stay and vacation, making you want to return again and again. The staff went overboard in caring for all of my needs. The Portofino restaurant, Le Bistro, served up breakfast, lunch and five star gourmet dinners on the second level of the resort with picturesque views of the reef and crystal blue Caribbean water.  The menu is a European-Caribbean fusion and is prepared to perfection by the Portofino European trained head chef. The lobster melts in your mouth. As they say, “hats 0ff to the chef.”

Portofino’s – Honeymoon Suite

Portofino’s Sunflower Villa

The reason you come to Ambergris Caye is to enjoy the surrounding waters. Lorraine and her assistant, Sandra planed my stay by arranging day trips from the Portofino to the local sights to snorkel, dive, fish, sail and more. The Portofino staff takes care of every detail, and guides you to the best trips to make your Belizean adventure an unforgettable experience. The Portofino only uses the most trusted operators for your excursions. Having my base at Portofino Resort made the trip a breeze. Normally on travels I have to do all the ground work to plan my trip. But staying at Portofino, the goal was to relax and dive. My goal was to go on as many dives as possible, and my new friends took care of everything.

The beauty of being a diver in Belize and staying at the Portofino on Ambergris Caye is, with the exception of the Blue Hole dive, which is a four hour boat ride in each direction, the distances to any dive spot can be no more than an hour. The barrier reef almost touches Ambergris Caye. One spot, ‘Mexico Rocks’ is accessible by taking a 15 minute kayak ride, right off the Portofino Resort beach. The beauty of these turquoise blue waters is that a snorkeler can almost view as much sea life as a diver, and have as much fun.

Meals fit for a king – Five star dining at Portofino’s –  Le Bistro

At night, you can hang out by the Portofino bar and have your meal at one of the best restaurant on the island, Portofino’s Le Bistro restaurant overlooking the Caribbean or take the Portofino boat or a water taxi into San Pedro for a bit of local flavor.After five nights at the Portofino sadly it was time to say good bye to the Portofino and say good bid farewell to Belize.As I told Sandra and Jan as I left, and to quote Arnold Schwerznegger, “I’ll be back.”

Special thank you to the skilled pilots of Tropic Air for getting us to and from the mainland to Ambergris Caye

Getting There:
American Airlines, Delta, Taca and United are the major airlines flying to Belize City.
Feeling adventurous? San Pedro Ferries offers a daily two hour speed boat from Chetumal, the southernmost Mexican city in the state of  Quintana Roo to San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye. Tropic Air and Maya Island Air fly within Belize.

The Portofino Resort at night

Where to Stay:
The Portofino Resort is the perfect place to call home on Ambergris Caye.

Jaguar’s Temple Night Club is a favorite spot for island nightlife

Where to Eat:
Le Bistro restaurant at the Portofino Resort if you wish to stay at home.
For a night in town try Elvi’s Grill for their Mayan Buffet, Caramba for Mexican specialties, Blue Water Grill for sushi nights and grilled fish, Fido’s Restaurant and Bar for pub grub in a friendly atmosphere including live music. Jambel Jerk Pit for spicy and flavorful, but not too hot Jamaican Jerk, Mangoes for Caribbean and Cajun fare.

Many a graceful Blue Spotted Stingray at Ho Chan, Shark Ray Alley

Tour Operators: Professional and Trustworthy
Searious Adventures:

Amigos Del Mar – Diving

Ambergris Divers

Nick and Dive Master Elvis

About the Author:
Nick Kontis – Travel Expert and Founder of the World Travel ListNick Kontis started out as a world traveler at an early age traveling back and forth between California and Greece every summer. But it was a backpacking trip around the world at age 24 that proved to be a life changing experience. After traveling by car, train, plane, bike and, boat around the world, it would be this trip of a lifetime that would lead to a life as a travel entrepreneur and world traveler. Nick has been on both radio and television. Featured on Arthur Frommer’s television show, and referred by Lonely Planet writers. Frequently mentioned as the “father of around the world airfares.” Arthur Frommer once said, “If Jules Verne were alive today he would use Nick to go around the world in 80 days.” Nick and his various travel companies have sent over 10,000 people taking their dream trip through airfare discounts of as much as 50% off the airlines published fares. Now Nick promotes travel through his World Travel List and ‘Trip Rambler’ by World Travel List. Having traveled to over 80 countries Nick hopes to inspire others to travel the world. Follow Nick’s “passion for travel” on the World Travel List.

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Posted by Laura:

Belize is a favorite scuba diving destination for many people.  However, it is a very diverse destination and there are many places that you could go to, each with very different diving opportunities.  Some of these are suitable only for more advanced divers, so you do need to make sure that you remain safe.  If you are wondering how safe Belize is, it really depends on where you choose to dive and what your experience and skill levels are.

How Safe is Belize – What Not to Do

Many people visit Belize on a cruise holiday and expect that they will be able to dive.  However, the docking station for Belize is Belize City, which is not a good place for scuba diving.  Many rivers mouth into the ocean there, making the waters brown and murky.  You will need to travel at least an hour to reach a good diving destination with good visibility.  Of course, cruise ships do try to cater for divers, but you will probably be left disappointed with the dive sites they offer.  Many people say that they dived in Belize and were left very unimpressed, but this is because they only spent a day there and dove on sites offered by the cruise ship operators.

Belize Barrier Reef

One of the dive sites that is quite interesting in Belize is the Barrier Reef.  The most well known sites here include:
Caye Caulker
Ambergris Caye
St George’s Caye
Caye Chapel
Let’s review these sites in a bit more detail.

Diving Belize – Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye

Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are two very popular islands for divers as there are other activities to do there as well.  Diving here is quite challenging, so do make sure you have the right level of experience.  The reef itself is fascinating.  It runs the entire length of Belize, all 175 miles of it, and at times comes up to the surface.  This means that it can be very difficult to get to the open sea for divers, who will need to take a boat.  These boats need to negotiate Cuts – natural paths leading through the reef to the sea that are deep and wide enough for boats to pass.  If you suffer from seasickness, this is probably not the best place for you to go.  Particularly between December and April, the waves are really bad and you will feel the boat crashing down.
If you are able to dive in these areas, you will certainly increase your skill levels.  It is an incredibly challenging dive.  This does mean, however, that you will feel comfortable on all other dives from thereon, of course, as it can’t get more difficult than this.  Of course, another benefit of diving these areas is that there is much more on offer than just diving, including a vibrant nightlife, cave tubing, Mayan ruins and fantastic shops and restaurants. If you are planning a trip to Belize and and you would like to stay on Ambergris Caye we can recommend  Portofino Resort. This resort run by Sandra en Sjoerd Jan van Noord will make your trip even more special.

Diving Belize – The Belize Atolls

Atolls are bodies of water that are surrounded by a reef.  There are four of these in the entire Western Hemisphere, and three of these four can be found in Belize.  They are:
Turneffe Atoll
Glovers Reef Atoll
Lighthouse Reef Atoll
The fourth atoll is the Chinchorro Banks, which is just south of Cancun, Mexico.
Atolls have reasonably calm waters, making them more suitable for less experienced divers.  The visibility is fantastic and the underwater world itself is absolutely mesmerising.  The downside is that there is little else to do but dive, so this is not a suitable location for a family holiday where only one party enjoys diving, for example.  It is possible, however, to go on a daytrip to the Lighthouse Reef Atoll and the Turneffe Atoll from Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, so you may be able to combine the two.  There are several lodges and resorts around the atolls, so you will be very comfortable.
Whale Shark Diving in Belize
It has been found that Whale Sharks migrate to Belize at the Gladden Split.  This happens at the same time as the spawning season of the Snapper, between March and June each year.  If you want to witness this fantastic feat of nature, try to go during a full moon, as you will be able to see the Snappers spawning.  It is possible to get to this reef in around an hour by boat from many of the main resorts.  Glover’s reef is the favourite atoll of many because of this wonder of nature.
Be safe and enjoy, but don’t go beyond your skill levels.

Photos courtesy of Canesaurus
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