Has Belize Been Spoiled?
Twenty-seven years ago, David Ewing Duncan wrote a magazine article about a secret tropical gem called Belize, inspiring a wave of adventure travelers that changed the tiny country forever. Braced for a few stabs of guilt, he went back with his son and found that paradise was different, but not completely lost.
This memory comes from my first trip to Ambergris Caye, in 1987, back when few outsiders knew about this idyll off the Belizean coast. Those who did stayed mainly in palm-thatched huts with few frills. The sole town, San Pedro, had a small airport, a few open-front bars, and two sandy, unpaved streets. There was at least one luxury hotel on the far north end of the skinny, 26-mile-long island, near the Mexican border, and a handful of American and British expats had erected bungalows near San Pedro. Mostly, though, Ambergris attracted hardcore divers ogling the reefs and fly-fishermen pulling in a profusion of tarpon and bonefish.
Now, 26 years later, I was back, about to tumble backward off a dive boat into those same weirdly glowing waters. I had returned to spend some time with my 18-year-old son, Alex, before he left for college—and, I suppose, to revisit memories logged by my twentysomething self.