FLIGHT FROM BELIZE CITY TO AMBERGRIS CAYE BY AIR &
RETURN FLIGHT FROM AMBERGRIS CAYE TO BELIZE CITY
Your first impression of Ambergris Caye is likely to be from the air,
because most visitors to the island fly into the Philip Goldson International
Airport at Ladyville just north of Belize City and then change to a local
commuter (the international airport has a new domestic section) for the
20-minute hop to San Pedro. Flights to San Pedro are day-time only.
You board your Maya Island Air or Tropic Air flight. The equipment is likely to be a small Cessna Caravan
or Twin Engine Islander. Hey, these are not 727s. It can be a tight squeeze
for larger passengers, and if you're small you may be sitting in the back
with the luggage. But both Maya Island and Tropic have excellent safety
records. They fly hundreds of flights a week with few if any problems.
As you fly the 35 miles to San Pedro, your little plane soars over several
islands, including Hen and Chicken Cayes, the larger Hick's Cayes, and then
Caye Chapel (site of a new small golf course, the only course in Belize).
The large caye just north of Chapel is Caye Caulker, the second-most developed
and most-populated of Belize's islands after Ambergris. Some flights make
a brief stop at Caulker before going on to San Pedro.
On a clear day, you get a great introduction to Belize's Caribbean Coast.
As your plane goes low over the transparent water, you'll see mangrove-
or sand-edged islands, coral heads, the sand and sea grass bottom, fishing
boats and sometimes the blur of large fish.
You'll come in over the south end of the island. Hol Chan Marine Reserve,
a popular snorkeling site, is just off the southeast tip of Ambergris. A
few houses dot the southern coast of the island, becoming more densely clustered
as you approach the town. Just a few hundred yards off the east side of
the island is the barrier reef. Usually the water inside the reef is a turquoise
color, while on the ocean side it is a deeper blue.
Ambergris Caye isn't a large island. It's 25 miles long and only 4 miles
wide at its widest point. Much of the island is low mangrove swamp, and
there are a dozen lagoons.
The air strip, 3,000 feet long, comes into view and within seconds you're
on the ground. As you taxi to the small airline buildings at the north end
of the air strip, you'll see, in the bright glare of the sun, the southern
end of San Pedro Town. Several popular hotels and condotels are at this
end of town. Most resorts meet arriving guests in a car or golf cart, but
if yours doesn't you can take a taxi or, if staying nearby, make the short
Aerial view of the runway at John Grief II airport in San Pedro, Belize
(Click image for a larger version)
Minutes from takeoff at International Airport
00:00- Taking off to the East, time starts as wheels leave the ground. You
can see Haulover Creek off to the right and the Belize River delta to the
right and front. Flying over forested flood plain.
1.15- Flying out to sea over the coast line, over shallow, murky water,
dominated by mud and very fine sand brought to the sea from the Belize River.
This is an area of silica based sand and mud deposition (called clastics
or siliciclastics by geologists) with minor carbonate sediment. There are
small islands on either side of the plane, the ones on the right are called
Hen and Chicken Cayes.
2.00- The water is clearing, this is still mixed clastic and carbonate
deposition, but the carbonate dominates, shallow water, four to six feet.
3.50- Shallow water carbonate bottom, the white areas are washouts with
carbonate sands and muddy sands and the brown areas are Thalassia stabilized
carbonate sands and muddy sands.
5.5-6- Low lying carbonate islands off to the right are the south end
of Hicks Caye, mainly mangrove vegetated with supratidal flats that are
flooded during high tides and after heavy rains. Note the brown patches
of Thaiassia on the carbonate sands and muddy sands on the sea floor.
9.00- Still Hicks Caye off to the right, further away.
From time to time you may note what seems to be car
tire tracks on the sea floor. These are very shallow
areas where skiffs with two motors touched bottom with
the propellers and broke up the Thaiassia. There is
no way to describe where these will be as the
Thaiassia grows back quickly and obliterates the
13.00- Caye Corker off to the right in the distance, a small new island
just forming, much closer.
15.00- The island off to the left is Congrejo Caye,and you can clearly
see the line of breakers off to the right that is the barrier reef.
16.00- Congrejo shoals off to the left, the barrier reef is off to the
right and Ambergris Caye is dead ahead.
Congrejo shoals are a series of tidal channels with new islands forming
between them. The northern part of the shoals already have been mangrove
vegetated and are partly above sea level. This is the process by which Ambergris
Caye is still growing towards the South.
17-18:00- Marco Gonzales Maya site is the area about 1/4 mile north of the
last tidal channel. The site stands higher than the surrounding swampy area.
You are now flying over the southern end of Ambergris Caye, note the vegetated
island with numerous interisland lagoons with shallow water. Note the abundant
coconut palms on the windward (east) side of the island and the occasional
fish traps. The fish traps are the little rows of posts extending out from
the island with the heart shaped ends (see Miscellaneous section).
19:00- San Pedro lagoon is to the left, the reef is to the right, you are now descending to land on that elongate
postage stamp, but they never miss it!
19-20:00- The wheels should be touching down on the San Pedro airport.
Click here for some photographs and more information on what you see on this flight.
Hop on board one of Belize's "puddle jumpers" and experience the scenic flight on Tropic Air's Flight from Belize City Municipal Airport to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye's John Greif II Airport. Veiw mangrove islands, the Great Barrier Reef of Belize and the famous islands of Caye Caulker and La Isla Bonita Ambergris Caye.