Seeing Caye Caulker through the eyes of the Broad
There is a reason that the motto of Caye Caulker is “Go Slow” – it’s too hot to get anything done faster. The little island off the Caribbean coast of Belize is a world in itself. The moment you step off the water taxi, the energy turns to a slow meander. After a decent amount of rain for days prior, I was happy to be amongst the palm trees and reggae music.
The island doesn’t actually have any beaches, which might turn some travellers off. It’s an island made of limestone coral meaning there is no real sand. However, it also seems to have kept a low radar because of this and it’s certainly not lacking in beauty.
Caye Caulker has become a popular destination for backpackers and budget travellers, probably because there are no resorts or big chains taking up the waterfront. Case in point: we stayed at the misleadingly named Dirty McNasty’s Hostel for about CA$13 a night. What did we get with our stay? A private bathroom, two fans which needed to be set to full blast at all times, and free rum punch after 8pm.
The island is full of small shops, family run restaurants or people simply cooking out of their homes and creating makeshift restaurants. It all adds to the vibe and makes for some tasty, cheap meals.
We wanted to try as many local eateries as possible and knew that we would have to try barbeque lobster at some point during our stay. We decided on Wish Willy’s, an outdoor restaurant ran in the front yard of a local lot. For about CA$10 we had lobster, rice and veggies, and of course there were a couple of rum punches to accompany our meal.
I would highly recommend finding the man selling coconut bread out of the bin on the back of his bike. It’s five Belize dollars – a bit expensive on a backpackers budget – but totally worth it for the fluffy, warm, and filling cake.
It would be pretty easy to do nothing but eat and drink for the entirety of your stay on Caye Caulker, but there are also a number of travel companies set up to offer an array of activities on the water.
Raggamuffin Tours had come highly recommended to us from multiple people, so it was an easy choice to sign up for the full day tour on their catamaran. They also offer a three-day cruise down to Placencia in Belize, which is a route a lot of travellers take in order to hop down to Honduras.
It was a beautiful morning, and even though the weather report had said we would get rain for the entire week things were looking good as we boarded the boat.
Cruising on the water, we watched other boats go by, cracked open our sunscreen for the first time and listened to Bob Marley, as sung by the crew.
I had never been snorkeling before, and since I wear contacts I’m pretty used to shutting my eyes tight underwater. Once I became accustomed to breathing in a mask, I got really excited to see the ocean floor!
We made three stops on the tour and each was equally full of life. I saw my first manatees and stingrays and swam with nurse sharks, something I never really thought about doing until coming to Belize.
After all three stops, I was pretty drained so it was the perfect time to lie back, drink some rum punch and sail toward the shore. We had another quick stop for a swim just as the sun came low on the water.
Whether you are coming to Caye Caulker to blissfully do nothing, or try any and every water activity invented, it is all possible. I hope this tiny island keeps its roots and doesn’t develop into just another resort island. At least if it does, it will take a while because… you know, they’re going slow.
Seeing Caye Caulker through the eyes of the Brit
“Hey mon, how ya doin? Welcome to paradise.”
Those were the words that greeted me when I arrived on Caye Caulker, the diminutive island just off the Caribbean coast of Belize.
After speaking Spanish (or a strangled version of it) throughout Mexico, I have to admit it was rather strange to be back among the British, in this case in the Belizean sense of the word.
Belize was initially colonised by the British in 1862, and it gained independence on 21st September 1981. Coincidently, the day we arrived on Caye Caulker was the 33rd anniversary of their independence and they were celebrating it in style; fireworks on the beach and a reggaeton open-air disco on the school’s basketball court.
One of the things I was really excited about doing on Caye Caulker was diving the Blue Hole, one of the world’s most popular dive sites.
The Blue Hole, otherwise known as the Great Blue Hole, is a large submarine sinkhole two hours off the coast of Belize, and the site was made famous by Jacques Cousteau who declared it one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. Divers have been flocking there ever since.
Diving deep down into that blue abyss and seeing a number of grey Caribbean reef sharks swim below me was a real highlight, one that I didn’t really expect (more on this in a separate post).
The next day the three of us did a Raggamuffin Tour sailing and snorkelling along the coast.
Run by Charlie, a British expat, and her husband Jimmy, they have been sending people on the sea for the past two decades.
After sailing for about an hour, the first thing we came across while snorkelling were manatees.
As they swam towards me, just metres underneath the surface of the water, one of the manatees did a playful barrel roll, and it was easy to see a certain amount of grace to these cumbersome creatures.
After snorkelling with manatees we were swimming with stingrays and sharks, you know, as you do.
To finish off, we had ceviche and rum punch while listening to some choons on the deck of the boat, the perfect way to end the day.
Otherwise, days spent on Caye Caulker seemed to find a comfortable routine around cervezas and rum punch.
At around two-ish we would go to the Split, the bar at the end of the beach, for a drink and to catch some rays.
This would meander into the evening where we would start drinking at the Sports Bar before moving on to I-and-I, the no-reggae-songs reggae bar. Almost inevitably, we would end up in Voodoo, the dingy but extremely fun local club.
Being an island, for food there’s the fruits of the sea on offer, and every night we were eating an assortment of fish and lobster, often being grilled on a makeshift barrel barbeque right in front of us.
The motto of Caye Caulker, and one you see on signs all around the island is “go slow”, and the little island in Belize certainly offered a much slower pace of life compared to that of Mexico.
If you’re looking for a chilled out Caribbean coast vibe then you can go wrong with Caye Caulker. It really is paradise.