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Published: November 10th 2016
I've wanted to visit Belize for longer than I can remember, but I can't remember why! I'm sure there was something that made it stand out to me all those years ago. One of the added appeals now was that not that many people visit. It's often missed from backpacking tours for being too expensive, but I was very excited to get here and explore! I didn't really know what to expect, and how the food and culture would vary from Mexico, but I also didn't want to research too much as that would ruin the surprise!
I can say I've been very pleasantly surprised! As soon as we crossed the border the landscape seemed to change, which was strange. We were greeted with fields of sugarcane, a far cry from the endless cacti driving through Oaxaca. There is also a more colonial feel to many of the houses.
Everything I have heard previously about Belize city is to avoid it, that is dangerous and crime riddled. Getting off the bus I was greeted with smiles, friendly advice and chatty locals. The same can be said for the ferry terminal when we got there, and the bank we visited on the
way. I certainly do not get the impression it's an awful place like most people would have you believe. (I later spoke to people who stayed there a night and they said whilst it seems a little quirky for an ex capital it certainly doesn't feel unsafe.)
First stop in Belize - Caye Caulker.
Caye Caulker is the main backpacker stop in Belize, and the only part most people visit. We found 2 friends on the bus and got the last ferry over in the dark, so couldn't see much until we arrived. You are greeted by golf cart taxis once you're off the boat, as the island is so small it doesn't have many vehicles. The roads are also tracks of sand. I already know I'll like the place!
There is not much to do on Caye Caulker other than swim, relax, go on snorkelling trips and drink rum punch! This leads to a great few days.
We opted for a full day trip snorkelling in Hol Chan marine reserve, home to the famous Shark Ray alley. We went with Ragamuffin tours who operate out of sailing boats rather than speedboats. There was a very full group our day
so we got put on a classic wooden yacht rather than the busy catermaran, with only 3 other people. This was great as it was a more personalised tour, and we beat the other boat to all the snorkelling stops so we could see more with less of us in the water.
Our first stop we were surrounded by stingrays, swimming all around and below us. This was amazing, I've never swam with rays so close. There was also a very friendly turtle with them, who is obviously used to humans and would come within touching distance, although I resisted the urge to touch it. It did mean I could photograph him well though.
Our second stop was with the nurse sharks. The sharks are fed fish heads and guts, but this is a conservation effort to try and combat the rapid global decline in shark populations. This also means there are a lot of sharks to see! When I got in the water there were around 25 nurse sharks, ranging from around 1ft to over 6ft, swimming about and eating the fish guts. The sharks are very graceful creatures, and amazing to see so close.
After a lunch stop
we did a guided snorkel in the Hol Chan channel, where we saw eels and coral, as well as some coral fish, and our final stop of the day was coral gardens, for more coral fish. I also got to follow a parrot fish going about his day, which was fun. The boat trip was finished off with Shrimp cerviche for everyone else, and rum punch. The other 3 people on the boat didn't drink, which meant more free rum for us! We got to see sun set from the water before heading back to shore too.
Next stop: San Ignacio
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