why Belize is a must visit (not just for the Royal Family)

We were also able to see how close Guatemala was, a border between the two countries in dispute since the 19th century. “That’s why I’m pretty happy to be part of the Commonwealth,” Darren said.

Relations were not always so strained; the Maya of Xunantunich were possibly allied with the Guatemalan city of Naranjo during their heyday around AD 700. Just 300 years later, they abandoned Xunantunich, possibly following a devastating drought. It is the lack of water that archaeologists say is the cause of more than a dozen skeletons and broken pottery in the ATM cave; they were sacrifices to the rain gods.

It seemed ironic, then, that while the Mayans sacrificed their children out of desperation for water, our visit during the dry season turned out to be pouring rain when we began our adventure in Ambergris Caye. The largest of dozens of islands off the coast of Belize, Ambergris’ big-ticket excursion is the Great Blue Hole, a submerged, sunken limestone cave where experienced divers dive halfway into its dark depths 410 feet. We had intended to snorkel its 984ft circumference and soar over the deep blue inkspot in azure seas, but both trips were scuppered by storms.

And so we did what the locals do and took a breathtaking journey in a golf cart from our beachside idyll at Victoria House over speed bumps and potholes as we followed the traffic flows towards the bustling town of San Pedro. Here, amidst colorful dive shops and stalls selling carved wood, not far from the ferry disgorging its load of schoolchildren from the mainland, we found the Belize Chocolate Company, run by Brits Chris and Jo Beaumont.

“We love the people here. Everyone is friendly. And there’s no fast food anywhere in the country,” Chris said, handing us a chocolate covered honeycomb that was infinitely better than a Crunchie.

No fast food franchise

There may not be a McDonald’s or Burger King, but there is the Truck Stop, where pizzas, tacos and ice cream are sold in converted containers. It looked good too, but we had a reservation at Elvi’s Kitchen, one of the best restaurants on the island. Here, with our chairs in the sand under a picture of the Duke of Sussex during his visit to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, we munched on street corn and fish in Mayan spices steamed in a banana leaf.

We unwittingly followed in Harry’s footsteps later, when we moved from reef to rainforest to stay at the Lodge at Chaa Creek, which expat Mick Fleming opened with his wife, Lucy, the year Belize gained its independence.

Edward K. Thompson