Climbing into a tiny 13-seater plane in Belize City, I started to question whether we’d actually arrive at our final destination in one piece. The airport staff chuckled at my worried expression through the window as they locked us in from the outside and we prepared for takeoff. Unable to hear the pilot over the engine, I fiercely clutched the armrests and braced myself for the longest 20-minute flight of my life. But as the wheels left the runway along the coastline, I caught my first glimpse of the intoxicating turquoise color of Chetumal Bay and couldn’t help but release my grip on the seat to capture the first of many memories from the trip.
After we touched down in Ambergris Caye, we made the arduous journey to our hotel - a 30-foot walk around the corner. We settled in with a visit to the pool, kicking off what would become a trip-long tradition of playing Mafia, followed by our welcome dinner at the hotel restaurant. We spent the first half of the week snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of Hol Chan Marine Reserve, swimming alongside several species of fish as well as stingrays, manatees and even nurse sharks! Those amongst us who were a bit braver dove through coral arches and laid along the bottom reeds to pet the stingrays, who were surprisingly eager to interact with visitors.
Later that week we moved inland, returning to the trusted 13-seater plane to transport us back to mainland Belize, followed by a car ride to San Ignacio near the Guatemala border. Along the way, we stopped at the Belize Zoo where we saw a mama and baby tapir, the national animal of Belize, and coaxed a couple of cute ocelots down from their perches to say hi. After our visit to the zoo, we continued on to San Ignacio and headed out for a local Mayan chocolate tour where we learned about the history of chocolate production and satisfied our sweet tooth with 90% cocoa bars.
The remainder of the trip focused on the local Mayan history, with visits to Xunantunich and Cahal Pech Maya, nearby ruins with plazas, temples and palaces partially excavated from the hillside. On our final day, we experienced a one-of-a-kind adventure to the ATM cave, where we swam, crawled, and climbed through limestone formations into a Mayan underworld. We guided each other through chest-height water and hourglass crevices where we had to turn our heads sideways just to pass through. We saw glittering stalactites and stalagmites and even Mayan skeletal remains from sacrifices conducted more than a thousand years ago. Through a week of exploring a new country together, playing many intense games of Mafia and asking countless get-to-know-you questions (such as “If money was no object, what would your dream job be?”), our Random Walk trip proved to be an amazing introduction to the Booth experience - you better Belize it.
Shout-out to our RW Leaders Neeral Gandhi, Olivia Korostelina and Tarun Mathur! Photo credits to Esther Kim.