Published: February 21st 2012December 13th 2011
The bus from Flores in Guatemala to Belize City involved another 5am start. Luckily, it had both leg room and headrests so we could sleep to the border. Crossing was easy and the roads changed noticeably on the other side. There were less potholes, signs marked speed bumps and speed limits. General order prevailed on the roads. No guns in sight either. We made the 10.30am ferry to Caye Caulker but only just. The ticket seller hustled us from the car park to the ticket booth to ensure we did and guaranteed us a price for tickets which turned out to be half price. The lady at the counter had to double check before putting it through. Welcome to Belize! The ferry was fast, the weather fine and the views of passing islands a sight for sore eyes after our jungle stay.
Caye Caulker is a small, wind blasted island towards the north of the country. It’s a popular backpacker and holiday destination with many reasonable waterside accommodation options and $10 lobster on offer at most restaurants any time of the day or night. People in Belize speak English, a carry-over from their days as a British colony,
and many are black, descendants of ex-slaves on other Caribbean islands. Reggae and hip hop is the music of choice and can be heard in most restaurants and bars. Not all locals are super-friendly though, some seem downright inconvenienced to check you in or take your order but generally the vibe is relaxed. (Different to Guatemala, where we found that nearly everybody was very friendly). At night, the local hoods come out to sell weed and other drugs on along the main drag.
We travelled with a cool Irish couple we met, Mark & Sarah throughout Belize. Sarah and Ash shared horror stories from the local hair & beauty therapist (Ash was nearly blinded and Sarah nearly got an interesting hair colour). It showered frequently and heavily while on Caye Caulker. We waited out one at the Lazy Lizard bar overlooking The Split, where Hurricane Hattie split the island in 1961. The whole bar watched a crazy Labrador play catch with a coconut in the water a few times before tearing it apart ferociously. He didn’t even drink the milk after!
Dive trips to the famous Blue Hole depart from Caye Caulker (among other
places). The trip takes a few hours and is rather unpleasant in a small speed boat on open sea, especially as there was no toilet on board for a whole day trip. We got rained on and had no shelter and got bounced around a fair bit. When we finally arrived at the blue hole we couldn’t even tell we were in it! Think the experience is best appreciated from the air. The dive was short as down at 42m but swimming around an underwater cave (complete with stalactites, stalagmites and columns) was pretty impressive even though the sharks didn’t turn up. The other dives at Half Moon Reef and Lighthouse Reef were fantastic, eagle rays abound. Lunch was really tasty, potato salad with chicken in an orange sauce, plus our time chilling on the small island of Half Moon Caye watching the circling red footed booby birds was fantastic. The trip was well worth it.
All 4 of us caught a Raggamuffin sailing trip from Caye Caulker to Placencia spending 2 full days cruising through tiny islands, snorkelling and sunbathing and the nights camped out on islands. Ade and Mark learned how to spear fish but
they hadn’t quite mastered it by the end. Ade did catch 2 tiddlers but the crew refused to cook insisting they were better used as bait. He was disappointed! There were 2 boats, a mainly couples one and a singles party boat. The first night we stayed at different islands, ours was the deserted, microscopic Rendezvous Caye, a small patch of sand topped with a few palm trees and surrounded by fringing reef. We spotted glowing fish in the water and drank rum punch until late. The second night was on Tobacco Caye (200ft wide by 400ft long) where about 20 people live year round. This island had a bar, a restaurant and rooms for rent although we still pitched our tents and slept in the sand. With both boats docked there was a bit of a party atmosphere and everyone mingled. Food on board was great, with fresh fish, shrimp and lobster featuring for dinners and full cooked breakfasts. Plenty of snacks and drinks were available all day which were included in the price. The weather on day one was immense although it got progressively worse as the 3 days wore on. Our final day was mostly at open
sea, bouncing around in the wind and rain, nursing hangovers while listening to power ballads at full blast, captain’s choice. At least it wasn’t Bob Marley again....
Placencia was a pleasant surprise. The water was calm, no waves and the beach was thin but long and very few people to share it with. There were many hotel and guesthouse options and the food was terrific, DeViner’s and Rumfish Y Vino standing out. We didn’t have time to dawdle though with Christmas around the corner and a 2 day transit to get to our next destination, the island of Roatan off Honduras. We’ll be back hopefully, some day, for a dive and island hopping trip.
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