Best of Central America

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After spending an awesome few months travelling the length of Central America, from Cancun in Mexico to San Blas in Panama while taking in as much as I could of each country. I thought I’d run a little summary of my highs, lows and favourite picture from Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Mexico

Just a small part of the trip due to cheap flights into the resort airport of Cancun. We took in Cancun and Tulum before heading to the border with Belize.

Highs
– An easy introduction into Latin America
– Gorgeous beaches of Cancun and using the pool/bar of the Ritz for free
– Scuba Diving at the Underwater Museum
– Swimming in a cenote (a crystal clear freshwater lagoon) where limestone rock has given way into an underground river
– Delicious sugar cane mojitos with free buffet in Tulum

Lows

– Cycling a very heavy bike in 40 degree heat turned out to be a bigger challenge than expected

Favourite Picture

Converted VW Beetle (an iconic car of Mexico) used to make sugar cane juice for mojitos in Tulum.

Sugar Cane Beetle

Belize

Such a relaxed country that feels so British Caribbean. The people really were the highlight of Belize, you will struggle to meet such friendly and relaxed souls anywhere else in the world.

Highs

– Hearing people shout “You got to Belize it!”, “Unbelizeable”, “Drink but don’t get drunk” and “Woah man, it is hot today”. Really made us laugh!
– Relaxing and reading on the beach in Placencia
– Luckily finding a tubing company to float through caves and appearing on local TV

Lows

– Despite 3 attempts, not being able to dive the Blue Hole due to weather and lack of numbers to make a trip

Favourite Picture

Many a day was spent relaxing in the beach town of Placencia on these colourful sun loungers. Bliss.

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Guatemala

We popped into Guatemala as we travelled south through Belize to see the stunning Mayan ruins at Tikal before returning to the country after we’d visited Honduras. On our second stop we spent much of the time taking a crash course in Spanish, soaking up the town of Antigua and visiting Lake Atitlan.

Highs

– Climbing temples lost in the jungle Tomb Raider style at Tikal
– Cooling off in a bar in Flores watching the sunset
Learning Spanish and attempting conversations about football with my fantastic tutor Rolando
– Staying in a Guatemalan apartment in Antigua and being able to settle in a place for a couple of weeks

Lows

– Foolishly jumping into a lake with my sunglasses on top of my head only for them to sink to the bottom
– Going from the high of speaking Spanish with my tutor with a clear accent to not being able to understand another person’s accent

Favourite Picture

I’ve chosen this as the view from the tallest temple at Tikal where you can see others poking their heads above the canopy. I also loved Antigua where I became addicted to Instagram.

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Honduras

Honduras was a strange one. It really has the highs and lows of travel. One of the main reasons to visit was Katrina taking her PADI Open Water course while I took the rescue qualification. Sadly while here we had trips to the hospital and police station but still came away having loved the country.

Highs

– Qualifying as a PADI Rescue Diver – just one more step towards Divemaster
– Taking in the La Ceiba carnival, the largest in South America
– Zip lining in the jungle followed by a massage and a dip in natural hot springs
– Climbing underneath a waterfall in the morning and spending the afternoon relaxing at a brewery

Lows

– Katrina being taken ill and going to the hospital for an endoscopy
– My wallet being stolen in La Ceiba

Favourite Picture

I’ve chosen my picture of the amazing Pulapanzak waterfall which you can climb right behind and jump around pools underneath. Great fun!

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El Salvador

Our stay in El Salvador was relatively brief. We came here for a bit of surfing and to see a lesser travelled part of the region. We turned out to be pretty poor surfers but enjoyed the chance to cool off thanks to some less sunny weather. San Salvador gave us a taste of urban metropolis for the first time in a while.

Highs

– Taking in the incredible scenery of the Pacific coast
– Sampling some great food in Juayua
– Making the most of western life in San Salvador’s malls and cinemas

Lows

– Finding out I’m not very good at surfing while getting caught in a riptide

Favourite Picture

I love this shot of a surfer meeting his match on this wave in Playa El Zonte. Watching other people fall off made me feel slightly better about my own performances.

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Nicaragua

A fertile land of volcanoes and lakes would sum up Nicaragua pretty well. We took in Leon, Managua, Masaya, Granada and Ometepe. Despite being bogged down with a mysterious fever like illness I loved my time there, so that must say something for the country.

Highs

Climbing an active volcano, sliding down in on a sled before climbing another, sleeping on the summit and descending the next day for a refreshing lake swim
– Scuba Diving in a volcanic crater lake
– Playing ‘Quetzalympics’ with a random bunch of people we’d just met
– Getting over my paranoia of horse riding amongst the beautiful scenery of Ometepe

Lows

– Feeling incredibly ill when all I wanted to do was explore
– A strangely high number of incidents of waiters trying to exploit tourists

Favourite Picture

Upon arriving at the peak of the El Hoyo where we to camp for the night we could not see the sunset as the fog rolled in. Thankfully sunrise in the morning made up for it!

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Costa Rica

The jewel in the crown of Central American tourism, Costa Rica is where you will find many holiday makers. We spent just a week here but enjoyed the experience back on the beaten track.

Highs

– White water rafting on Class III & IV rapids near La Fortuna
– Watching all kinds of wildlife like Attenborough in Tortuguero
– Randomly finding a softball game in Puerto Limon being played by some very out of shape players gave us a good laugh

Lows

– Spanking our budget with the highest prices we’ve had so far
– Being a little disappointed by other tourists behaviour when watching turtles lay eggs on the beach

Favourite Picture

I love my photo of this lizard blending into its habitat in Tortuguero. This part of Costa Rica was like a mini Amazon rainforest.

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Panama

Central America saves the best till last. Panama has gone straight into my top 5 favourite countries. We took in Bocas del Toro, David, Santa Catalina as well as longer stays in Panama City and San Blas. A combination of stunning scenery and the buzzing capital city kept us well occupied.

Highs

– ‘Glamping’ on the pristine Red Frog beach in Bocas del Toro
– Scuba Diving with sharks, rays, eels and countless fish in Coiba, part of the same chain of islands as the Galapagos
– Celebrating Katrina’s birthday in the luxurious Trump Hotel in Panama City, the tallest building in Latin America
– Getting stuck in the paradise that is the San Blas islands while waiting to sail to Colombia

Lows

– Going to visit the Baha’i temple outside Panama City to find it closed for renovation work

Favourite Picture

I went a bit photo mental in Panama as I’m sure my Instagtram account will show. However the one I keep looking back on is this incredible island in San Blas. Will I ever see paradise quite like this again?

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Capture the Colour

Following my my last blog post I received an email from someone about a photo blog competition by Travel Supermarket called Capture the Colour. The idea is you post 5 pictures, each focusing on a particular colour – Blue, Green, Red, Yellow and White.

Here’s my selection from a variety of my travels.

Green – Lizard in Costa Rica.

This cute little fella was seen while canoeing in the waters around Tortuguero and featured in my my recent blog post. These lizards are known locally as Jesus Christ Lizards for their ability to run across the water. After taking this photo he made a speedy getaway across the plants!

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Blue – Love is in the Air in England.

Possibly my favourite photo taken in the UK during a ‘Staycation’ in 2010. While working for BAE Systems I scored some tickets to the Royal Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. This incredible display by French version of the Red Arrows, the Patrouille de France, took my breath away. Taken on a (sometimes rare 😛 ) clear summers day!

Love is in the Air

Red – Bruce Lee Warriors at the Shanghai Expo.

On a dull, grey, wet and smoggy Shanghai day during the 2010 World Expo these artistic statues depicting Bruce Lee as the Terracotta Warriors supporting iconic Chinese buildings brightening the gloom. I love art that mimics or references things. And after all, Red is the colour of China.

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Yellow – Belizean Sunset.

Another photo from my current Central and South America trip is this stunning sunset that welcomed my arrival in Dangriga, Belize. After a long and sweaty afternoon on buses it was a welcome relief to chill out with a cool Belikin Beer (“drink but don’t get drunk man”, said passing Belizeans on bycycles) and watch the light fade. A little stereotypical for Yellow, but sunsets are the best!

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White – Mini Romanian Snowman.

We all love making snowmen in the Winter right? I spotted this cute wee snowman on a short trip to Bucharest a couple of years ago. As I was walking down the avenue a little boy was killing time to make this on a bench while waiting for his mum in a shop. I snapped the photo just after he was dragged away home.

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As part of the contest I now need to nominate 5 other people to take part. So here goes.

Dollface Travel – Myself and Katrina get quite competitive about photography!

Hazell Eyes – I’m sure Hazell can come cup with some good ones of SE Asia.

The Adventures of a Dr – There’s been some amazing Latin American photos on his blog lately.

Chasing Horizons – I just love the photo on their home page.

Heather on her Travels – I’m sure Heather has a ton of cool photos and she gave one of my posts a nice mention here.

Acting like Attenborough

So I’ve made it into Costa Rica – the poster child of Central American tourism. It’s an shock to the wallet after months in places like Nicaragua and Honduras which to a northerner like me ain’t good.

However, despite a being swindled by overly bureaucratic immigration officials on the Costa Rican side of the border (more on that in a later blog post) I’ve grown to like the place.

One of the highlights was visiting Tortuguero (literally meaning place of the turtles) to see giant Green Turtles lay eggs on the beach. I actually found the experience to be a bit of an anti-climax, we saw one big turtle give birth but much of the spectacle was spoiled by too many American tourists making noise and jostling for space. I felt sorry for the turtle.

Beforehand, we headed out in a canoe with a guide to look at the local wildlife. I wasn’t expecting too much but I was sold on the idea by the guide and he didn’t disappoint. In just a couple of hours we saw 3 types of monkey, sloths, many beautiful birds, insect, turtles and caymans.

I’m not the best at wildlife photography – getting there slowly – but here are some of the better snaps. Enjoy.

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Talk about camouflage!

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Camera and cayman eyeing each other up.

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Turtles basking in some rare sunshine.

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Sea birds soaring over the jungle.

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Monkeys climbing for fruit.

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Beautiful plumage as a Python once said.

Kinda scary looking fella!

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Swallows – almost like from the movie.

Just hanging out.

If you enjoyed these you’ll find many more awesome Central America photos on my Instagram account here.