Welcome to the world of Chicken Buses. Old American school buses with minimal space and three rows of seats stacked to the roof high with our rucksacks. Belize City was our next stop, destination: Caye Caulker. It was pretty surreal to enter an English speaking country in Central America and we saw our first sight of Mennonites, who are similar to Amish but are more lenient with the use of technology. Originally they are from Germany but have taken residence in Belize and as hardworkers they are welcomed and accepted by Belize. Obviously they stand out quite a bit, and Abi the Aussie started her obsession and Googled everything there is to know about Mennonites.
We took a boat ride to Caye Caulker and checked into a really cute little hotel called Tropical Paradise which was located right on the beach. We put the patio to good use the couple of nights we were there, enjoying the drinks and the Caribbean lifestyle- Go Slow. Caye Caulker is a really beautiful island which you can easily walk or take a little taxi golf buggy. The main “road” is lined with bikes, little beach huts selling food/tours and restaurants with a real Caribbean feel- the music, the people walking bare foot and the friendliness.
An obvious tourist hotspot, but I didn’t realise it was such a popular place for English tourists! The island was full of them, it was really surreal. So much so that an American couple I met asked me why there are so many Brits here and if it was a really popular destination? News to me!
I went on a Ragamuffin full day snorkelling tour and it was such an amazing day and worth every penny! A nice little sail boat and a decent crew determined to give us all more Rum Punch to see us dancing on board. We sailed to 3 destinations, including Shark Ray Alley, where we saw so many nursing sharks and rays I couldn’t even keep count!
The first stop was to a reef and we were all enjoying the coral when all of a sudden the guide gave us a shout and told us to turn around and come and have a look… there, minding its own business, was a MANATEE!
I couldn’t believe it, snorkelling in the sea with a Manatee! It was so peaceful, and so curious that it didn’t just turn away at the sight of us, but instead came to check us out. An absolutely amazing experience and I can’t believe I swam with a Manatee in the wild. Incredible!
The last stop was to another reef, with sea grass leading up to the coral wall surrounded by turtles. I still love and will never get tired of seeing turtles, and we even saw a little baby turtle which hadn’t been tagged yet and one without a fin! This reef is a popular scuba diving destination and we saw a spotted eagle ray as well as deep tunnels to dive through with the fish, putting our lungs to the test. The waters were beautiful and so clear- all round incredible day snorkelling with beautiful fish, rays, sharks, an eagle ray, a manatee and topped off with cerviche and rum punch.
The day before was just incredible and really hard to beat, but the day Michelle and I went to the Blue Hole was unforgettable! We left our hotel at 5am to be treated to breakfast, ready for the 2 hour boat ride to the world famous diving destination. The boat was incredible with fresh water showers, navigation systems and it was all so new and amazing! 40m down into the Blue Hole are the formations in the limestone in which you can explore… according to the diving computers we had 6 minutes at this depth and I saw a bull shark which was incredible! Throughout the dive there were a number of reef sharks too… although there was little coral formations, the hole itself was just so impressive and surreal. I dove in the Blue Hole! Amazing!
Afterwards, we went to a reef, and it was the best reef dive I have ever dived. The water was just so blue, not like the turquoise waters of Cancun! It was pretty much like from Finding Nemo, the blue was just incredible, bright royal blue. We stopped off at a bird reservation with the plan of having lunch on the bird island, but it started to rain so we enjoyed the chicken, mashed potatoes and salad on board with the tables and chairs- amazing boat! The third dive of the day was great too and we saw more sharks, more spotted eagle rays and turtles! Awesome! To top off the day we spotted dolphins on the way back J They started to play with the boat and I have never seen them do belly flips like they were doing, it was incredible. They were jumping and twisting and it was great. Amazing day.
Dinner at Wet Wishes was just full of every meat you could imagine, fish, lobster, pork, beef, chicken, and it was buffet style brought to our table with potatoes, rice and of course, Rum Punch. We finished off the night at the one nightclub on the island with Karaoke. Of course I got far too into it and blasted out some classics but couldn’t survive on the dancefloor, so hot and sweaty! Caye Caulker was brilliant and it was a great couple of days!
Next stop in Belize was San Ignacio, on the way to Flores, Guatemala, and we stayed in an eco-lodge called The Trek Stop. Back to basics, a toilet drop with wood shavings, a shit load of mosquitos and cute little huts. The Crystal Cave, which we found out from Trip Advisor after the tour that it was for experts only, was pretty challenging the next day. The hike to the cave was kind of tough in itself, with steep climbs and slippery rocks/roots. By the time we reached the cave entrance, we saw the steep drop and the guide dropping a rope down to the bottom for us to climb down. Pretty daunting. Overall we spent 6 hours down in the caves and it was amazing. We went further than most groups go, exploring a place they call Wonderland, which was pretty spectacular with all of the sparkling formations.
The caving wasn’t easy and you can see from the pictures the narrow spaces we had to guide our bodies through, and the vertical walls we had to somehow find foot holes for… really tricky, especially in some places where the clay was slippery. Two of the girls, after following the guides instructions “Stay low, stay low” managed to rip holes in their trousers, which gradually grew throughout our time to expose their entire bum. Nice. Haha, such a funny 6 hours underground with Felicity shouting “Help, I’m stuck” and just general antics.
Something that did freak me out a little bit was that I was talking to one of the guides in Spanish and after turning around he says “Salllllly” and I turn around with a confused face thinking huh? And he asks me, “What’s your name again?” and I said Kim. Then he smiles and says oh yeh, ok. Then 5 seconds later he says “Sallyyyy” again. This time I was really like whaaaat?
So I turned round and said, oh but my sister is called Sally. He smiles. Then asks where she is and why isn’t she with me? Then tells me that I should “really spend more time with her…” At the time I didn’t really think anything of it as we had to really concentrate on the climbing and manoeuvring, but once we were out of the cave the other guide started telling us stories about the “Spirits” in the caves. I’m not a fan of talking about stuff like that as it is, especially after hearing stories in Mexico and their beliefs, but the guide told us so many stories about his experiences in life and it really freaked me out. Then I suddenly remembered with the other girls who had heard, what the man had said about my sister “Sally” and I started to really freak out that maybe something had happened to her and she was trying to reach me… really crazy. I also realised that straight after the man started saying all this stuff about Sally in the cave, he then gave me devil horns made out of clay for my hardhat… ahh! Really creepy.
Overall, it was a great week and Belize is an amazing country with so much to offer especially underwater!