For more on what brings us to Belize for a year, read The Belize Move.
Lori and I spent her holiday break traveling around Belize and Guatemala for 17 days with her brother, Dan. Dan and I spent his first afternoon in Belize taking a drive up the Old Northern Highway to Altun Ha and attempting to reach Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary (which didn’t turn out quite as planned). After meeting up with Lori in Belize City the following day, we caught a water taxi to our next stop, Caye Caulker.
Friday, December 20, 2013
Lori and I loved Caye Caulker the first time around and were excited to spend more than 24 hours there on the second go-around. This time, we spent three nights at Mara’s Place on the north end of town (a few hundred yards south of the Split). Mara’s was fantastic. Still fairly basic, but very clean and tidy, well-maintained and recently updated. Rooms have hot (and cold) showers, which is nice in December and January when the night time temperatures can be chilly. No A/C (at least not for the room we paid for) but fans (and the constant Caulker breeze) were more than sufficient during our stay.
After checking-in to Mara’s, we threw our bathing suits on and headed straight for the Split, which was just as clear and wonderful as I remembered, if a tad bit cooler than August.
After cooling off in the Split, we spent some time relaxing on Mara’s private dock, which juts right out from the guesthouse.
Later in the afternoon, we took Dan down the main drag, then back up the beach past a number of sleepy little bars, until we reached this place packed to the walls with ex-pats, retirees and tourists. Generally, we’d skip over such places, but this place seemed to be the most happening establishment in town and we were curious what all the fuss was about.
We found some stools and were just getting comfortable when a freak squall came through, forcing everyone to take cover inside the packed bar as the band rocked out with a Neil Young classic and rain streamed in from open windows and various parts of the ceiling. We ordered some fairly large beers and found a table with a retired couple. Moments later, the tequila lady came around with shots and we were downing tequila shots with these guys. It was fantastic.
With a belly full of beer (and tequila) we found our way back to Enjoy Bar and introduced Dan to Belizean lobster, before heading back to Mara’s for an early bedtime.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
On our second day on the islands, we spent the day in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, 30 minutes north of Caulker. We did, however, make it back to Caye Caulker for a beautiful sunset on the Split.
After the sun went down, we made a beeline to Rosa’s Bar and Grill, and were extremely happy we did.
Fresh grilled catch, smokin’ on the grill, with choice herbs and spices…is your mouth watering yet?
If not, let’s try this…freshly caught local lobster, snapper, grouper, crab claw…
It was a tough decision, that we did not take lightly. In the end, we decided to get the most gargantuan beast Ms. Rosa could offer up for sacrifice and split it between the three of us…with a plate-full of three tasty sides and some big beers. For a moment I thought the boat back from San Pedro had sank and this was St. Peter’s welcome at the Pearly Gates…which, if I do say so myself, would not be a disappointment.
After multiple hours of mouthwatering, heavenly goodness, we somehow managed to roll ourselves over to I&I Reggae Bar. It was well past opening time, but nobody was there. We found later that the party at I&I doesn’t usually start til 10:30p, even on a Saturday, but we were absolutely content having the entire place to ourselves and trying out every type of swing imaginable.
Needless to say, we slept quite well that night.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
The next morning, we were greeted by skies of infinite blue and sunshine; perfect for a day of sailing and snorkeling along the Belize Barrier Reef!
Our snorkel excursion didn’t set sail until 10am, so we had plenty of time to head to our favorite Caulker breakfast spot, Amor y Cafe, and take a little walk to the leeward side of the island, which we had not explored much.
Lori and I had been wanting to take a snorkeling trip in the northern cayes for months, and Dan’s visit presented the perfect opportunity to do so. There are a lot of snorkel outfits on Caye Caulker and it may seem hard to choose. Most of them are on solid outfits. It all depends what you’re in to. If you only have a half day to spend, there are good companies who will get you out to the reef on a fast skiff and have you in and out of the water 3-4 hours. There are even a wider variety of options for those with more time.
We chose Raggamuffin Tours because we had heard good things, but also because we weren’t in a hurry. Raggamuffin is the only snorkel outfit on the island with vintage monohull sloop sailboats, and on a day like today, we were definitely in no need or want of a motor. In high season, the boats can get quite full, but if you’re on one of the smaller boats (yellow or green, as opposed to the big red one) it doesn’t seem like too many on board.
Our boat, Ragga Gal (photo from Raggamuffintours.com)
Our boat was called “Ragga Gal.” Our captain, Shawn, was awesome, and loves the reggae beats. He was also our head guide (of two).
The itinerary for the day included sailing up to the part of the reef off of the southern tip of Ambergris, making three stops along the way: Shark & Ray Alley, Coral Gardens and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. While Hol Chan is supposed to be the most popular and best in the area, I really enjoyed the first two much more, due to the shallow depth, excellent visibility and abundance of marine life. Over the day, we saw Loggerhead turtles, nurse sharks, stingrays, Spotted Eagle Rays, and a ton of colorful coral fish.
As part of the tour, we got a tasty lunch, along with bottomless rum punch and ceviche on our cruise back to Caulker. Hol Chan Marine Reserve fees and snorkel/mask/fins are also included.