British royal couple climb ancient pyramids in Belize, visit UK armed forces

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, view the ancient Mayan archaeological site and temple at Caracol on the third day of their tour of the Caribbean, at Chiquibul Forest, Belize March 21, 2022. ― Reuters pic
Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, view the ancient Mayan archaeological site and temple at Caracol on the third day of their tour of the Caribbean, at Chiquibul Forest, Belize March 21, 2022. ― Reuters pic

CARACOL (Belize), March 22 ― Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate yesterday visited ancient Maya ruins at Caracol in central Belize, climbing pyramids and exploring the archaeological site before going on to meet British soldiers at a jungle camp.

“Wow,” Kate said as the couple scaled a major temple and gazed at a panoramic view of the Maya ruins nestled among the lush vegetation of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve on the third day of their tour of the Caribbean.

The couple were given a private tour of the site, including the “Caana”, or the sky palace, which the Maya people thought would help them communicate with the gods. Caana remains one of the tallest structures in Belize.

The visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to the Central American country coincides with the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 70th year on the throne and comes at a time of growing scrutiny of colonial-era British conduct in the Caribbean.

After Caracol, the couple drank water collected in a water vine as they met military personnel from Britain and Belize during a stop at the British Army Training Support Unit’s (BATSUB) jungle training facility in the forest reserve.

Prince William split palm leaves to find water, and the couple were shown shelters and animal traps made from jungle materials as part of the survival techniques used by soldiers.

The visit likely stirred memories of William’s gap year travels to Belize more than two decades ago. The prince, aged around 18 at the time, joined the Welsh guards for a rugged trek through the jungle after graduating from Eton in 2000.

Before the royal couple had even left Britain, a protest by a few dozen villagers at a planned Belize tour stop prompted organisers to change Sunday’s itinerary in the country which was known until 1973 as British Honduras.

Residents of the Indian Creek village, which is embroiled in a land dispute with a conservation group backed by the royal family, said they were upset the couple’s helicopter was given permission to land on a football field without prior consultation.

The duke and duchess ended up dancing with villagers in a nearby location, and helping make traditional chocolate on Sunday as the second day of their Caribbean tour passed off smoothly.

Their visit takes place nearly four months after Barbados voted to become a republic, cutting ties with Britain’s monarchy but remaining part of the British-led Commonwealth of Nations.

William and Kate are due to depart Belize this morning, and move on to Jamaica and the Bahamas.

Debates over colonial-era abuses and plans to seek reparations for slavery in Jamaica could push more countries to follow the recent move by Barbados, academics say. ― Reuters