Nearly nine months after we first met, Martin and I took our first international trip together to Belize. If you're wondering where in the hell Belize is, don't worry--it's definitely not an easily recognizable country for a lot of people. Located in Central America, Belize is sandwiched between Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean sea. As a result of its unique placement and colonial history with Britain, Belize is a blend of hispanic, Creole, and European influences, making it among the most diverse regions of Central America. This was our first official Gemini Connect company trip to Belize to initiate our business with Santiago Juan, owner and operator of Hanna Stables and Nabitunich.
Mission: Visit Belize and collect multimedia for Hanna Stables.
Countries Visited [/tw-column]
Miles traveled [/tw-column]
Photo shoots completed [/tw-column]
Miles walked [/tw-column]
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Miles ran [/tw-column]
How We Ended Up in Belize
Several months earlier in May 2012, Martin ventured to the country via a Groupon Voucher, when he serendipitously met Santiago during a horseback riding tour of Hanna Stables. In an effort to revive his family's legendary tourism business, Santiago had begun by offering horseback rides to the Mayan pyramids, which was how he and Martin first met. However, Santiago intended to also re-open the lodge and cottages on his property to tourists and guests, but he needed some multimedia materials to promote this side of the business. Thus, Martin and I were among the first guests to stay at Nabitunich, and our trip was dedicated to photographing, filming, and documenting every single tourist service that Hanna Stables and Nabitunich would offer to businesses.
Our trip to Belize also came during a major transition point for Martin and I. Not only was it our first trip as company partners, but it also served as a bit of a career break before he accepted a new job role and I began my journey of self employment. As a result, we spent the first part of the trip apart. Martin went on vacation in Mexico, while I ventured to Las Vegas and Orlando; we reunited a week later in Belize to begin our shared adventure. This was Martin's second trip to Belize (in that same year!), and my first to Central America in general.
After reuniting at the airport in Belize City, we quickly hopped aboard a water taxi and were whisked 20 miles away to Caye Caulker, one of the most magical islands I've ever visited. A rather small limestone coral island off the coast of Belize and the Caribbean Sea, Caye Caulker spans just 5 miles (north to south) by 1 mile (east to west). There are just about 30 small hotels on the island, as well as small shops and restaurants in the main town of Caye Caulker Village. It's very walkable (we walked the entire island by foot), and no vehicles are allowed except for golf carts. During the day, we enjoyed water sports including kayaking, watching for manatees and dolphins, and snorkeling the famous Shark Ray Alley and Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. It was truly among the best ocean-related experiences we've had (and yes, I held a real shark). By night, we enjoyed the lazy nightlife scene on the island, sipping Belikin beers and eating fresh caught $5 lobsters.
We spent several days in blissful paradise on Caye Caulker before we packed up and headed back to mainland Belize. From Belize City, we hopped into a private car and headed 90 minutes inland to the mountainous town of San Ignacio, where Hanna Stables and Nabitunich are located. The next 2 weeks were also a whirlwind of adventures, as we received the best hospitality from our host, Santiago. With a goal of sending us on every major tourist attraction in town for the sake of documenting it for his website, we did pretty much every tour known in San Ignacio.
- Signature Hanna Stables Tours: Xunantunich Mayan ruins, San Lorenzo Organic Farm, and Actun Kan Mayan ruins by horseback.
- Other famous attractions in the region: Mayan ruins (Caracol, El Pilar, Cahal Pech), Mountain Pine Ridge, ATM Cave, Martz Farm Treehouse Cabañas; and a day trip to Guatemala to stay in Flores and explore Tikal ruins and national park.
In addition to seeing and experiencing all major tourist attractions in San Ignacio, we also spent a signifcant amount of time shadowing Santiago and documenting life at Hanna Stables and Nabitunich. The resulting product was not only a huge collection of images, but also a refreshed website for Hanna Stables, complete with an online booking system. Success!
Updates as of 2015:
Check out a recap from our second trip to Belize in 2014
Learn how we created a profitable business in Belize with no outside investment