Caye Caulker

Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
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Trip End May 02, 2010


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Flag of Belize  , Belize Cayes,
Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wanted to get the express bus at 8.30am from Dangriga so had to take the 7am bus from Hopkins. Had hoped to have breakfast/coffee first in the onsite restaurant that supposedly opened at 6.30am – their loss, especially as there was no-one to pay – had to leave the money for my room in a pot by the door!

Heard so many scare stories about gangs & drugs & violence & tourist attacks in Belize City that I didn't even gripe at paying $3 for the taxi to the water taxi terminal, even when he dropped me at the one without a departure for 2 hours. Walked 5 mins down the street to the San Pedro terminal which stops in Caye Caulker and is about the same price. It was a nice flat crossing – that barrier reef comes in handy for several things!

First impressions are of colourful wooden houses and long docks stretching out over the seagrass into deeper water. A sandy "street", wide enough in places for golf carts, extends along the windward side for a km in both directions to the edge of the village in the south, the Split in the island to the north.

My search for good cheap accommodation took me south, after friendly staff at Tina’s Hostel kindly agreed to keep an eye on my big backpack. Had originally hoped to get an apartment for a week but prices were prohibitive. In the end I settled for a wonderfully ramshackle detached stilted cabana with private bath, balcony & hammock overlooking the ocean. Managed to get a good price ($20 a night is considered good here!) – the place is really quiet, right on the south of the village and even has wifi signal, at times, in the cabana.

I really like the island, the laid-back vibe and it’s friendly people, except for the persistent touts who try & make out they’re doing you a favour! Despite bars & restaurants oceanside being pricey, it is possible to eat & drink more cheaply, buying beer from the supermarket and finding the small local places on the leeside of the island, where for instance you can get a small meat pie or cinnamon bun for only 50 Belize cents!

Found a Cuban restaurant to hang out in Sat night - shame I didn't dress accordingly, as the food was 30% cheaper if you ate it at a table in the water! Still, did win a free beer at musical chairs! There was a good atmosphere, live music, dancing & some Cuban characters, one of whom took a shine to me. Within seconds of my arrival, he was telling me about his assets & it's enhancements, (3 pearls inserted at the age of 17 by a family member) and then he whipped out his mobile phone to show me the photos!

Thought about diving the Blue Hole, the most famous dive site in the country, but wasn’t impressed with the 2 dive shops on the island that go – went with an outfit from San Pedro. They were a bit cheaper and generally go every day. Sadly, they too, take very inexperienced people for a 40m dive in large groups but I have to try & switch off when I see this & just concentrate on enjoying my dive. The boat was big & comfortable, important for a trip 2 hours each way and they kept us fed & watered before & after dives, starting with coffee & buns at 6.30 when the boat leaves and finishing with good strong rum punch at about 4pm to keep us happy for the ride back. Didn’t have a huge amount of time after lunch on Half Moon Caye to see the nesting red footed boobies and their babies but definitely worth doing. Had a near escape, while looking up into the trees for the fluffy white chicks, when a hail of white excrement fell from above, just missing me & my camera!

The Blue Hole, though full of sediment, did have spectacular stalactites & mites even in this part though it was too dark to photo very successfully – did manage to get a glimpse of 3 bull sharks, my first ever confirmed sighting, though they do look very similar to nurse sharks from that distance & so I may have unknowingly seen them previously!

Our second & third dives, Half Moon Caye Wall and the Aquarium at Long Caye were good gentle drift dives along a deep wall covered with impressive soft corals, huge barrel sponges and massive gorgonians. Unfortunately I missed seeing the hammerhead despite seeing the school of permit it was supposedly chasing, but got really close to a nice eagle ray on the 1st and saw a nice loggerhead turtle on the 2nd.

Were diving with good bunch of people and met up for breakfast the next morning to share photos. A Scots guy, Mark, was heading to Honduras so I managed to offload my remaining lempiras – had discovered too late 2 stashes I’d hidden, so let them go at a loss as I’m unlikely ever to return.

Haven't yet had a winge about the beer here in Belize, so here goes - expensive and minute bottles, 284ml! Still, they do have stout, so I've been sticking to that, though not sure if black excrement is a normal side effect?

Heard there was a seahorse sanctuary here and read there was a massive underwater cave system too. Headed leeside, slightly North of Belize Diving's shop, to check out the former, not a sanctuary, just a place they like to hang out. Hanging out on the weed along the sea wall & docks, mainly brown males blending with the weed but a yellow one too. Also masses of upside down jellyfish, bonefish and sea hares, all easily visible from shore. A little further north is the entrance to the cave system - access for experienced cave divers is a 90' deep sinkhole slightly offshore, followed by digging your way through sand into a massive chamber and 20,000 feet plus of caves - no-one has ever reached the end! Near the entrance a big school of massive tarpon hang out. Possible to see it all from shore, if you're cheeky, but best to hire a kayak for $10 an hour.
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