Do you know where your banana slept last night?

Posted: August 22, 2014 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
Tags: ,

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We’re always looking for recommendations from friends, blog followers, locals, travel magazines/guides and more for our next adventure while here in Belize. Surprisingly, we found an attraction right here close to us in Placencia, a banana farm tour. Recommended by friends, we emailed Evin Zabaneh who is in charge of the tours and set up an appointment which is required. Funny thing is we drive up and down the road from Placencia to Southern Highway and always often see the sign. We had been curious anyway.

On the day of our tour, we were warmly greeted by Evin at the entrance to the farm directly off the Placencia Peninsula Road. The entrance is clearly marked, you can’t miss it. We followed her down a well maintained dirt road for a few miles to the actual farm.

The tour began in the air-conditioned comfort of the main office with a brief history of banana production, both in Belize and worldwide and how the banana gained popularity in United States and Europe. We were shown a video that was extremely informative, entertaining and filled with interesting facts we did not know about Belize’s agriculture. After the film and a little more information gathering we headed out into the fields.

As we toured the banana fields, one thing we can say about Evin is that she is very prepared for her tours with sunscreen, bug spray, and even rain coats if necessary. Cold water and restrooms are also available at the main office which we came to several times during the tour. It is obvious to us from the beginning that a great deal of thought has gone into this tour, and we were in for a treat.

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Walking through row upon row of banana plants was interesting and fun. It certainly gives you a different perspective than driving down the road and seeing them from your car window. The smells, looking at the direction in the way they grow, and realizing how fast they grow was eye-opening. Every step of the way, Evin pointed out unique things about the banana plant and what it takes to get a banana to your table. She is extremely knowledgeable, articulate, and engaging. We found the tour very informative, and at times we found some humor in the work.

At several points we saw a worker riding what seemed to be a conveyor belt type machine hauling bananas, and also saw bananas being put in diapers. There were demonstrations all along the way.  We also discovered how fast bananas grow. The process is quite complex and surprisingly laborious. The bananas do not just grow quietly from the plant without a great deal of effort and consideration.

A highlight of some of the things we learned were, banana plants grow daughter plants that have to be nurtured and controlled. Black Sigatoka, a disease caused by a fungus is a constant issue, and the timing for harvesting is very critical for a quality banana. Evin currently has an article published about “Bananas in Danger: TR4 Panama Disease” in the Nov 2013 –Jan 2014 issue of the BelizeAgreport.com magazine. She’s an expert in her field.

Watching the workers pruning in a methodical manner, determined in the past by trial and error, the banana bunch is placed inside a blue plastic bag. This helps to keep the pesticide on the bananas, protect the bunch from sunburn, and aid with the faster development of the bunch. It takes approximately 8 weeks in the bag before the bunch can be harvested.

Once a bunch is ready for harvesting, it is cut off from the plant. A worker carries the bunch which can weigh between 40-80 pounds and hangs it on a special made conveyor belt system that will carry the all the harvested bunches to the processing area. Our tour then proceeded into the shaded area of the banana processing facility where the fruit is processed, packed and shipped. This area is full of many skilled workers along an assembly line of measuring, cutting, spraying, weighing, and packing.

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There are usually four harvest days per week (weather cooperating) with 2000 boxes of bananas being harvested, sorted, and packed ready for transport each of those days. All of the bananas from this farm are exported to Great Britain.

Finally, a delicious sampling of fried bananas topped off the tour back in the main office. This banana farm tour and our tour guide, Evin, exceeded our expectations. We learned a great deal, enjoyed the demonstrations all along the way, and developed a much greater appreciation for the iconic banana.

We highly recommend that you come and see for yourself how the world’s most popular fruit makes its way from the field to the shelves of your local grocery store. Evin is a delight as a tour guide so you will not be disappointed.

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Bunches of Fun Banana Farm Tours are set on Sagitun Farm, just minutes away from resorts on the Placencia Peninsula and a quick drive from Dangriga and Hopkins. They are Belize’s exclusive banana farm tour.

Tours operate on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday
Tour times are 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and 2 p.m. Tours last 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Bookings are essential!

Contact information: Evin Zabaneh

Email:  bunchesoffuntours@gmail.com       Belize phone number:  501-624-4297

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