• Name: Paul McLerran
  • Locations:Virginia, United States
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beyond Touring: Touring with a Purpose in Belize

These are not the average tours. They combine individualized or small group educational surveys of the most fascinating features of ancient Mayan sites with the chance to truly "give back" to the local host communities in a meaningful way. The tourists on these journeys "earn their keep", so to speak, and take away something special -- that great feeling that they have made a difference -- leaving the place they visit a little better than it was when they arrived. I am referring to that little-known company that designs affordable programs and itineraries for discriminating, service-oriented travelers who want to experience something beyond the beaten path. Known as "Beyond Touring", it provides specialized tours of selected archaeological sites in Belize in combination with the opportunity to become involved in community service programs for the associated current host populations.

Many of the tours focus on an examination of the impressive ancient ruins and artifacts of Lamanai, an ancient city that boasts over 3,000 years of human occupation. At one time it had a population of approximately 50,000, and archaeological investigators have found evidence of over 800 structures. Nestled within a tropical forest, one can also view a wide variety of birds and mammals here, including a large resident population of Black Howler monkeys. But the most important part of this experience entails a more hands-on activity: Coupled with the touring, participants have the opportunity to employ their time and talents on meaningful projects that assist the nearby Indian Church Village Library. The projects, focusing on such things as literacy development through after-school programs and Spring or Winter break literacy programs, are designed to benefit the residents and children who use the facility. Subjects and areas of concentration usually depend upon the needs of the community and the interests and skills of the tourist-participant. Moreover, the activities provide opportunities to get to know the local residents and culture in a much more intimate way, something that traditional tours cannot possibly match. Finally, as a parting gift for giving back, many of the tours end with a few days of relaxation at Belize's famous and beautiful barrier reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you are interested in becoming a part of this unique travel experience, you can find out more by visiting the website at www.beyondtouring.com.

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