Published: November 4th 2012October 30th 2012
Conveniently enough, our hotel had helped us arrange the flights directly from Orange Walk Town to San Pedro. We left our car at the hotel, and took a quick cab over to, well, the airstrip rather than airport. There was a small office, an unpaved airstrip, and a sign. The 'check-in' took about 30 seconds, and we began to understand why our hotel had recommended being there 15 mins in advance only (to which of course we didn't listen..). We had a nice chat with, uhm, let's call him a ground steward, though, who seemed to be quite well informed about life across the Americas, and was keen to quiz Steve on life in Canada. Telling any Belizean about the winter temperatures in Canada is always a guaranteed hit ;). Just like our cab driver, he was also complaining about corruption in Belize. Oil finds seem a good thing for the economy at a first glance, but apparently the local population see little benefits come their way. And industries that provide revenues to normal citizens, such as sugar canes, have to make way to access the oil. So many Belizeans would be quite happy to keep the oil where it is.
And then, our private plane arrived. 4 seats only, for the pilot and co-pilot, and the two of us. How cool! The 20 minute flight provided us with some amazing views over the Belizean wetlands, the ocean, and the island. I genuinely would have paid the 100 usd for the return even just for the great views, it was incredible. Pictures can't sufficiently reflect the experience, but see attached some anyway. When we landed, a cab took us in 5 mins to our hotel (Mata rock resort). Despite the fact that it was 9 AM only, we could already get in to our room directly on the beach :). Traveling from the one side of London to the other would have been more hassle than this trip door-to-door...So there we were, in Ambergris Caye. The island is fairly small, about 40 km long, of which part hardly accessible, and only 2 km wide. Most people, including the hordes of American tourists that spend their time here, get around by golf cart, which creates a
funny setting. (Small) golf cart traffic jams in town are not uncommon. We were still getting used to the prices in San Pedro, and we thought 70 usd per day for a little golf cart was a bit silly - we'd find our way around without. As we walked to town the first time, we were offered a ride by Joe. He was a retired American who'd moved to Belize several years ago, and was on his way to an event of the animal protection charity he was part of. Joe was explaining he and his wife used to run a home design company back in Boston, and they had now moved here, only a few hours away by plane from their kids. They were still working around 20 hrs a week in Belize, since, as Joe said, you can only do so much diving, snorkeling, swimming and yoga. Tough life ;)!
Overall, San Pedro is a lovely destination - nice weather, good food, friendly people, laid back atmosphere, good swimming, snorkeling and diving, and easy flight connections to the cultural sights in the rest of Belize. Despite that, I
am guessing when Madonna wrote her song, it was still a bit more 'pure'. The island is very popular with Americans, in particular for honeymoons, and that was already very noticeable even in low season. It's not like there are loads of tourist scams, most things are actually very well arranged (for instance pretty much all hotels 'arrange' airport pick up and drop off, which means they pay your cab driver a fixed rate and you don't need to worry about anything). The food and drinks are good too, and so was the snorkeling tour we tried. The prices are about twice as high as elsewhere in Belize though. Partially this is because virtually everything needs to be imported (resulting in a whopping USD 6 charge for a small pot of peanut butter), but for a large part it´s also just the huge popularity with western tourists.But I can understand it's worth it for many people. We had a really nice time there, relaxing at the beach, wandering around town, cycling, snorkeling around the reef (where we also got to hold a nurse shark
:)) and enjoying good seafood. Our cycling trip to the north of the island gave us the chance to see some of the high end resorts. These are typically reached by water taxi, as the roads are limited and bumpy (so we mainly cycled over the beach). But there are restaurants, bars, and watersport facilities nearby, so I guess there's little need to go to town unless for a flight towards any of attractions on the mainland.
The journey back to Cancun was easy - cab picks us up from hotel and drops us off at 'airport' (5 mins), we check in (1 min), get a breakfast burrito and wait for plane (30 mins), fly to Orange walk town (20 mins) where our taxi back to the hotel and thus our car already awaits us (10 mins trip), and we drive across the border to Cancun (around 5 hrs). The only exciting moments were us by accident ´illegally´ crossing into Mexico (no one stopped us, but we went back to get the stamp!), and looking for a gas station across the border with an almost empty tank (gas is twice
as expensive in Belize)..
..I know, it´s a very nice life we´re living.. ;)
There are more photos below