Southern Belize isn’t all about what’s under the water –there is a lot to see and do on land.
Our visit to the jungle near Monkey River was enlivened by our guide Evar, a guy on a first name basis with every tree, bird and drop of water in the area.
En route to tiny Monkey River Village, Evar spotted a manatee as well as ospreys, blue herons, brown pelicans, and several crocodiles including one very large specimen. Who knew kingfishers nest in holes they dig in earth banks on the sides of rivers? (Evar.)
In the jungle, we carefully avoided trails of stinging ants to get up close and personal with termite nests (the termites, which are tiny and not at all like the northern ones that eat houses, taste like a cross between pepper and cinnamon), iguanas of various types, gumbo-limbo trees (how can you not love that name?) and the poke- and- dough boy plant, so called because tongs for cooking or removing coals were made from the fire-resistant wood of its trunk. It must have been an R &R day for the famous Howler Monkeys but Evar managed to scare one up so we could hear it yowl.
Another day, we dropped in at Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn, a very manicured, pricey resort. The Maya Beach Hotel and Bistro struck me as a lot more fun—only five beach- basic rooms but easily the best restaurant in the area and one that could hold up its head in any company judging from my Belizean version of bouillabaisse, the appetizer of tiny yellowfin tuna tacos on a bed of wasabi guacamole and the excellent wine list. In Placencia itself, The Secret Garden restaurant is also very good, run by an American couple. Rumfish y Vino is said to be a top dining spot but we didn’t have time for it. We did, however, sample the terrific gelato at Tutti Frutti and have a drink at the Barefoot Bar, a place everyone drops into.
The area also has Mayan ruins although the more impressive ones are further north and we ran out of time. Life is indeed a beach.
Caramelized Bananas (ours were served as a garnish on a great grilled shrimp dish but they would be terrific with yogurt, ice cream, or on their own)
2 medium firm bananas, peeled
1/2 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup dark rum or orange juice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
Cut bananas in half lengthwise. Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and lay the banana slices on top, cut side up. Cook undisturbed for 20 seconds, then add rum (or orange juice) and cinnamon. Cook for 10 seconds, then turn bananas carefully and cook for 45 to 60 seconds more, basting with the pan sauce. Divide the bananas between 2 dessert plates, drizzling the sauce on top. Serve with ice cream or frozen yogurt.