In March of 2013 I traveled as a business student from Minnesota State University Mankato on a Study Abroad tour throughout Belize for nine days. Our Study Abroad trip was planned by Atalanta Journey and the focus of our learning was on the production and marketing of chocolate in Belize including the practice of Fair Trade and sustainability. Our journey started in the southern community of Punta Gorda, where we stayed at the gorgeous Cotton Tree Lodge and ended Blue Tang Inn on the beautiful island of Ambergris Caye in San Pedro Town.
We experienced so many cultural and educational endeavors that it’s hard to talk about every single thing we did.
I’ll list off some of the highlights.
- Eladio Pop was a man with his own chocolate/agricultural farm tucked up in the hills of southern Belize. This was a highlight of mine, for he took us on a two-hour hike throughout the jungle where he grew all of his crops. Being such an educational man of the earth we learned so much about natural food and what it takes to be a person with a “green thumb”.
- Cave Swimming was one of the most amazing experiences we did while on our tour. In the Community of Blue Creek in the Toledo District, there is the hidden gem of Blue Creek Cave that needs to be on everyone’s agenda.
- Volunteering with Sustainable Harvest was a once in a lifetime experience. If you have a passion for helping others and making a difference then this company is just for you. Our particular volunteer group went to a village near the Guatemalan border where we helped make a couple of wood conservative stoves for two families in need.
- In the jungle surrounding the Cotton Tree Lodge our group adventured on a Night Hike. If you are interested in spotting some monkeys and amazing jungle creatures as well as getting educated on how one can survive in such environments then is activity is just for you.
- The Belize Zoo was one of the absolute highlights of my trip. There are so many exotic animals to be seen and appreciated, including a Jaguar! This zoo takes in many wild injured animals to care for. This is a must see to put on the agenda!
- We had the opportunity to meet with the owner’s of Belize Chocolate Company, who have a chocolate shop on the beach in San Pedro Town. We learned so much from them about starting up a business, operating, the many challenges they face.
- The last plan on our itinerary was to explore San Pedro where we went Snorkeling along with many other things. The Blue Tang Inn offers an exciting snorkeling or diving trips, where you can swim with the Nurse Sharks and Stingrays!
Here is a link to our Service Projects on our Facebook page.
Our trip consisted of more chocolate businesses and educational destinations throughout the country, but I just wanted to point out the variety the group experienced which made the trip much more diverse than I thought it was going to be. It was my first time to a third world country and we got to see so much culture that I haven’t seen with my own eyes. It was an amazing trip and I would go back in a heartbeat.
Mel Reger, MSU Mankato Marketing Student