Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Laid-Back Belize

(Through the eyes of tourists Glenn and Diana Vondra for the The Des Moines Register, Iowa, USA, October 11, 2009)

The puffy white clouds hung low over the shallow turquoise colored waters of the eastern Caribbean. Clean white sand was warm beneath our bare feet as we watched snowy egrets and brown pelicans glide through the deep blue afternoon sky. Fishermen in their two-man skiffs were returning from the out-lying reefs with their daily catch of red snapper. The fish would soon be served at restaurants in town, accompanied by an ice-cold local brew.
We were on Caye Caulker, about as laid-back a place one could find and not be camping out. Caye Caulker is a small sand- and mangrove-fringed island a 45-minute water-taxi ride from Belize City's International Airport. There are no cars or even paved streets on the island. Transportation is by bicycle, golf cart or foot.

The three-block main street of town is a jumble of colorful painted one- and two-story buildings housing funky bars, sand-floored restaurants and a few establishments offering snorkeling, diving and fishing excursions.

Belize is a small English-speaking country tucked away on the eastern coast of Central America between Mexico and Guatemala. Its landscape is diverse, with rain forests, mountains, underground caves, glorious waterfalls and maybe the most spectacular examples of Mayan ruins in the Americas. In addition, Belize's barrier reef is the second longest in the world, second only to Australia's Great Barrier.

We researched our travel adventure on the Internet and wound up renting a quaint little house on the lee side of the island for eight days at the end of February for $500. The house came with a boat dock, bikes and a sea kayak, which we used every day to explore the nooks and crannies of Caye Caulker. One kayaking adventure put us in an inshore lagoon where salt water crocs bellowed their disapproval at our intrusion.
For anyone heading to Belize with a hankering for its fabulous lobsters, make sure you go before Valentine's Day or after mid-July as lobster is out of season during the spring and early summer months. At that time, not only are the lobstermen prohibited from harvesting, but restaurants cannot serve lobster. While we were there, wooden, slatted lobster traps were lined up along the beaches and sandy side streets as men and boys repaired the traps in preparation for the start of the summer harvesting season.

Prior to arriving on Caulker, we spent a few days in San Pedro, which is the main town on the island one half hour by water taxi to the north. San Pedro has paved streets and motor traffic and is becoming more developed, with seven-story condos and resorts being built on the shoreline. The nightlife in town is a big attraction with the younger set, and we were advised that San Pedro gets pretty rowdy during spring break.
One cannot really appreciate Belize without going out to the reef and diving or snorkeling. The underwater world here is as rich and varied as the country's interior, with a tapestry of colorful coral and fish species. We hired a local guide to take us out to the reef and snorkeled away the better part of a day. The highlight was free diving and catching rides on four foot rays as they glided just above the white sand bottom. (From the Des Moines Register)

Glenn and Diana Vondra pause during a hike around Caye Caulker


Lizette Alamina-Gutierrez said...

Hey, that's my Dad's place depicted in the Caye Caulker photo where it housed my grand-parents' grocery store many many years ago even before I was born. Members of the Alamina family were very prominent boat builders in that time, including my Father, Norman Alamina, one of the tallest men on the island.

Lovely article and yes the islands are very laid back indeed. Hope it will remain that way.

Anonymous said...

Don't ya just love Caye Caulker? My son loved it so much he opened a restaurant--Herbal Tribe--A great place with lovely people. Hope to see you again on the Island