Caye Caulker, Belize

Hola chicos! First of all I sincerely apologise for not updating my blog sooner. I realise that I have some real work ahead of me as I try to catch up. You will also have to forgive any detail that may be slightly inaccurate timeline wise – Belize was almost 4 months ago! 

The Split, Caye Caulker
The Split, Caye Caulker

So it’s out of Mexico and on to Belize. More exactly, straight to Caye Caulker as we didn’t fancy endangering our lives in Belize City. Caye Caulker is a small limestone coral island that is about 5 miles long and less than a mile wide, allowing for a fantastic, isolated feel. Most tourists only stick to about a mile of the island where the main “village” is. It is split into two halves; the north, and the south islands. Many state this is the result of a hurricane, others say that the hurricane created a small gap, and the water way that now flows between the two halves is actually mostly man-made.

To get to Caye Caulker from Tulum we had to take a 4 hour bus journey to Chetumal, Mexico, on the border of Belize. From there we paid to take a water taxi to Caye Caulker. Immigration took forever and before we got on the boat we all had to place our bags in a line and stand facing them. A sniffer-dog (official name!) was then taken up and down the line whilst men in military uniform stood around fingering their rifles. Considering other border-crossing stories I have heard during this trip, this did not seem too intimidating.

The water taxi then took us to San Pedro where we all had to get off. Our bags were also unloaded as they needed to sort who was staying on San Pedro and who was going on to Caye Caulker. We then had to stand in another line whilst we queued for immigration into Belize. Luckily, there was a shop selling beers so, naturally, we grabbed a few to make the wait a little more bearable – our first taste of Belikin, a Belizean beer, served ice cold to us by a 9 year old…

“You better belize it!”

Now a significantly smaller group, we piled back onto the boat to get to Caye Caulker. We arrived after dark and made our way to our hostel – Dirty McNasty’s!! Karen and Sera had booked to stay somewhere else for their first two nights on the island so we arranged to meet up later that evening for dinner.

Dirty McNasty’s is well known amongst backpackers in Central America. Almost everyone I have met who went to Caye Caulker stayed there. For $20 USD you get a bed in a 16 bed dorm, a hearty breakfast cooked how you like it, free rum punch from 7pm (as much as you can handle), and they also cook evening meals for the price of $10 Belize (about £3.50). Meals usually consisted of lobster or spicy chicken wings and chips/rice – Nothing to complain about.

You cannot easily forget the fact that you’re in the Caribbean on Caye Caulker. Every turn of the head provides a fresh glimpse of golf carts, coconuts, crystal clear waters, conch shells, hash brownies, reggae, slightly bleached dreadlocks, and of course, beautiful black skin. (Calm down mother!)

I immediately adapted to the island’s “Go Slow” motto and I found myself completely and utterly stuck there for much longer than the four days I had initially anticipated. A lot of my time was spent simply lounging around on rickety piers, reading books, and topping up the tan (I could have been mistaken for a local when I left – no jokes).

Other than this, Caye Caulker is popular for it’s snorkelling and diving. Having already tried and failed at diving, I decided to do some snorkelling whilst Sera and Karen were still with me. The standard tour on Caye Caulker takes you to three places out on the reef: Shark/ray alley, Hol Chan marine reserve, and the Coral Gardens. Unfortunately, it was not manatee season and we were not lucky enough to see any turtles but this did not ruin our experience. We saw so many different kinds of fish, my fave being the rainbow parrot fish. We touched nurse sharks and rays. We tried negotiating the small paths through the coral gardens – this proved difficult as the strong tides from the reef kept threatening to push us onto the coral. Not wanted to damage anything, I gave up and swam over and around. Anyone looking for a good tour guide should seek out Caveman.

During my stay on Caye Caulker, I befriended a local who offered to take me night fishing, along with a couple from Canada. My previous experiences of fishing (mainly carp) have been pretty boring so I was eager to try a different kind. With an ice box loaded with ice, rum, and mixers and, I suppose more importantly, two or three bags of sardines we set out at around 5pm to make sure we got to the right spot just off of the South island before the sun had fully set.

Our target: red and black Snappers, a very tasty fish that is sold everywhere on the island.

The technique: none.

I’m joking. Brandon, the local, caught nearly three times as many fish as we did so there was definitely some technique involved. We were using only a line and hook, loaded up with yummy sardines to tempt the fishies. We simply flung out the hook, grabbed the line that was left in the boat, and balanced the line on our hands and waited for a slight tug on the line. At the slightest pull, we would have to bring in the line as quickly as possible and hope that there was still a fish attached to the hook. It was a slow start, and we found ourselves getting a little tipsy whilst waiting. It was completely dark, save for the blanket of stars. We must have seen maybe 6 shooting across the sky. I fancied myself as an overgrown Tom Sawyer and held the fishing line between my toes whilst lying down and whistling. I’m cool. I know. At 11pm we set off back to the North side with a bucket full of Snappers.
There is photographic evidence of my successes during this escapade, but unfortunately the couple never emailed them over.

 I said goodbye to Sera and Karen on Caye Caulker. It was a fantastic way to finish a wonderful time together! They were headed back up to Mexico for New Years Eve and a festival in Tulum, whilst I remained on the island for their crazy party I had heard so much about!

That reminds me: Happy New Year to all friends and family across the globe!

My New Year’s Eve was craaaaazzy! Everyone on the island was shipped off to the South Side of Caye Caulker to a rather swanky looking hotel for a beach party. Big bonfires, fireworks, piers lit with fairy lights with huts and swings. A huge marquee signified the dance floor, and a bar that was in danger of toppling over from the eager piss-pots on the other side of it. Annnd… that’s all I remember. I have a very good feeling that I danced – A LOT, and I have a brief recollection of chinese lanterns failing due to strong winds which I think I found hilarious. All in all, a good way to start 2016 – don’t you think?

The rest of my time on Caye Caulker was spent renting bikes, drinking rum, swimming across the split, and eating lots of delicious food; jerk chicken, rice, lobster, ribs, wings. We even discovered a fantastic little place that sold amazing hummus and baba ganoush. Seek out Aladdin’s if you’re ever there! There is also a very nice Chinese place which was surprisingly cheap by Belizean standards.

Verdict: Go to Caye Caulker!

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