After landing at the Belize City airport, and coaching myself through my first realization of, “you are now alone in third world countries for 3 weeks. You committed, love it or hate it – can’t back out now”, I hoped in the front seat of the cab and took off to the water taxi terminal.
Figured now was as good a time as any to learn how to strike up random conversations. My cab driver, a devoted husband and father of two (he was friendly to say the least), went on to warn me about the dangers in Belize City and to watch out for the ‘Reggae Men’. I had to convince him that I had my head on my shoulders and I wouldn’t be paying the way for any local who wanted to follow me along my journey.
Belize City was not pretty or welcoming. I was happy to wait only a few minutes before jumping on board the water taxi (headed for Caye Caulker BTW!). I snagged the front seat, opened the window and breathed in the salty air and felt at home. Words cannot describe how the water makes me feel, any body of water really. A piece of my soul is water molecules I think, I feel complete when I find myself in the area.
It was here that I met two adorable German girls; they were headed to the same hostel as me (perfect!). For the record, it’s that easy to make friends while traveling solo. The three of us ended up spending the first few days together, before they moved on to the next island and I stayed put.
A kind local walked showed us the way to Bella’s Hostel. Thinking about it now I am not sure where he came from or what was in it for him. I assume he worked for a hostel on the island. I had emailed Bella’s Hostel, so I had a dorm bed ‘reserved’ for me, the other two were out of luck and had to stay at Dirty McNasty’s across the street. Yes, that’s an established business name. From the stories I heard, Nasty does paint an accurate description. Fun party hostel thought!
Bella’s was a perfect first hostel experience for me. It had the chill local vibe I was looking for. Hammocks on the deck, bikes for you to take as you please, water access with canoes to use out the back, busy little kitchen-living room area and dorm style bunkrooms. It was $12 American dollars a night, 25 BZ Dollars.
Caye Caulker for me was all about the water sports. I was there to do my Open Water, PADI certification. Decided I should get out into the water before I actually try to scuba, so snorkeling it was! I have never experienced snorkeling like that. The amount of marine life you see is mind blowing. This was out on the Belize Barrier Reef, which I learned is the second largest reef in the world – Great Barrier reef in Australia being the only one larger. The boat took us out to 3 spots, one of which being ‘Shark Ray Alley’ and holy was there sharks and rays. Nurse sharks, the ‘gentle’ ones; come up to the boat like kittens in the kitchen when you open a can of Tuna. They swarm when they hear the boat engines, because they know there is food for them. The captain throws a bunch of dead fish in the water for them and says – JUMP IN! I jumped off the other side of the boat, naturally. The rays actually bothered me a bit more than the sharks. They come and swim so close to you, and stare. I think they were checking me out more intensely than I was checking them out.
The third stop was where I saw the Green Turtle. Finally, my bucket list item, ‘swim with turtles could be checked off’. They were so CUTE. This area was far to over crowded by tourists, most swimming after the turtles, naturally scaring them off. There must have been 20 boats anchored off the reef, and all taking snorkeling groups through the waters. At one point I brought my head up and realized myself and another girl were in the middle of some other tour group. Took us five minutes to find our guide again. Amazing there is so much wild life when so many humans were out there daily. I did ask my dive instructor later that week about the animals. He said at night they all leave and go about their business, so they are coming to these areas of the reef by choice. Maybe they like to people watch.
Now all night, all I could think about was starting my PADI the next day – I was like a kid waiting for Santa. Went out for dinner that night, I was amazing how much ‘American’ food there was everywhere – sandwiches and burgers, expensive one at that. Caye Caulker wasn’t cheap in general though. I ended up buying food to cook in the hostel for most of the week. Lived off of eggs – which by the way, you buy from the shelf. That was weird to me!
One food highlight was making fresh Conch Ceviche. We brought up a few Conchs from our dive (so cool!) and Joey and the guys at the dive shop cleaned it up, chopped up the veggies on the dock and there you had it. It was delicious, and obviously very fresh. Ceviche is a big ‘local’ food in Central so having a cool story behind it made a good memory.
Anyways, I highly recommend doing your dive certificates in places like this – the ocean is your pool! When I signed up online, it said 4 days and made it sound intense. It wasn’t. It was SO easy. Ended up being two and a half days too, which was awesome. I also highly recommend Frenchies Dive Shop. They were fantastic, and my instructor, Joey, well he was exactly what I hoped for in a dive instructor: Confident, relaxed, knowledgeable, patient, friendly and cute.
Immediately finishing my last dive I was already talking about my next one. I need to time my next trip so that I can find the whale sharks – that’s a check mark waiting to happen for my bucket list as well. I did see a beautiful Spotted Eagle Ray on one dive. It was beautiful how it ‘soared’ through the water. And the fish – I felt like I was in the Finding Nemo. Every time I blinked I was amazed by a new species.
Last note – the party scene! It was solid, as you would expect. I group of us ended up trying to drink all of the rum on the Island, a few nights in a row. I highly recommend a day in the sun at The Split (remember H2O), than heading to the I&I Reggea Bar for some dancing and bad decisions. Watch out for those from Australia, the UK and Canadians – especially when we make up a group together. I think combined we partied harder than the locals.
Now, 5 nights and 4 beautiful sandy island days, I am off to Guatemala…
Note: this follows the party night I mentioned above; hung-over boat rides may beat any hung-over car ride I have suffered through in the past.
Enjoy the pictures.