Posted by Goran Matesic on December 18, 2000 at 18:45:12:
Just got back from what I would consider a trip of a lifetime from Caye Caulker. Tracy and I went to Caye Caulker to get married and we dragged along 20 of our friends and relatives for the trip. We had a pretty good idea of what to expect from early pictures that were posted showing the devastation caused by Hurricane Keith. I must admit that I was a little unsettled as we drove through the back streets on our golf cart from the air strip to see some of the real damage caused and also what I would call exposure of junk that is probably normally hidden by dense vegetation. Lets not forget that this is a "lowish" budget island and the shanty shacks are for me, part of the "island charm" and experience - it's not Cancun (and lets thank christ for that). Personally I would have gone to Club Med if I wanted a bullshit cultural vacuum vacation.
For the record I will post a couple of photo's soon of what the island looks like right now, give me a few days.
As far as the trees are concerned my estimation of trees lost compared to some of the pre hurricane photo's on this web site are about 50% to 60% of palm trees gone and probably close to 80% of ground vegetation (including the mangroves at the back of the island which took the brunt of the hurricane, the mangroves look really sad, totally stripped of vegetation and full of trash up to a meter above sea level- to be fair you only notice this damage from a kayak as you cruise the back of the island). Sound bad, well it's not, the island has lost none of it's charm from a visual stand point. If your like me and you have never been there before you would not know the difference, the front of the island is really cleaned up and it is slowly working it's way back to the lee side. It just seems like an island with sparse vegetation, it's NOT a barren hell hole, anyway, a picture tells a thousand words and I'll get on it soon.
To anyone out there who is put off by this information on the vegetation - don't be because you will be missing the whole point of the Caye Caulker experience. I have never met a more beautiful bunch of people in one location, I can't tell you how many great people we met, the generosity and spirit of the locals is something that we should all learn from. Almost everyone we came in contact with was helpful, friendly and genuinely pleased that we were there.
The snorkelling is just great, although a boat excursion or long slog out to the reef on a sea kayak is really the only option for quality snorkelling (nothing much to look at right off the beach or at the split - there is also construction debri underwater at the split which ruins the experience. Clarity is ordinary as well).
One of our group is a keen diver who has dived extensively in the Caribbean, Australia and Mexico, he did the blue hole dive trip that included three dives at different locations he described two of the dives as the best dives he had ever experienced.
One little note of warning there is a quite a bit of construction going on, as the locals are repairing or improving their housing and/or business', be prepared for the odd chainsaw or power drill in the morning. I got the impression that most of the work has already been completed and if you plan to travel anytime in January I'd say all hurricane work would have been complete and it will be back to general maintenance and repair only.
I believe almost all the restaurants and bars were up and running with only a few still under re-construction or waiting on more tourists to arrive before the doors open. I'd hate to pick highlights of the bars and restaurants each had their own special charm and we trully did not have a bad meal whilst on the island.
So if you have any doubts about an upcoming trip to Caye Caulker, don't worry, the things that make this island special can never be destroyed by a hurricane, if your holiday destination is decided upon by a head count of palm trees, I'm afraid you are going to miss a very special experience, if you love the culture of Central America and the Carribean, if you love sand lined streets, if you love sand floors in bars and restaurants, if you love warm azure blue water, if you love not 'breaking the bank' every time you order a drink, if you love to party, if you love to be mellow, if you love to swim with rays and 'cuddly' sharks, if you love free diving through underwater caves, if you love the sun - IT'S ALL STILL THERE!
Special thanks to Tina, Wendy, Diane, Ilna, Maurice, Todd, Barbara, Heather, Mary Joe, Janice, Happy Harry, your hospitality will never be forgotten. I can't mention everyone else but thank you all for making us feel so special.
As a final note although we may not have seen Caye Caulker at it's prettiest everyone of our 20 guests can't wait to get back there and do it all again!!!
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