We had an early flight from Flores to Belize City. The plane had space for 12 passengers, but we were only 9. We took a taxi to the dock, and arrived just a few minutes before the ferry/water taxi was leaving. Another hour and we arrived at Caye Caulker, a beautiful limestone coral island (8 x 1,6 km) surrounded by turquoise water. It has become a popular destination for backpackers, and is a good base for dive trips to the Belize Barrier Reef.
There’s pretty much just two streets on the island, the one by the beach which is full of restaurants, bars, hotels, dive shops and tour companies, and the one in the middle, which is more residential but with a few restaurants and the local bank and ATM. The main means of transport was golf carts, bicycles or just walking, since nothing was far away anyway. The motto off the island was “Go slow”, and we quickly adjusted to the relaxed pace. People were in general very friendly and often stopped to talk on the street. We did sometimes have a little trouble understanding their charming Carib-English dialect though.
We went on two dive trips while we were here. The owner of our hotel (Ocean Pearl Royal) was married to the owner of the closest dive shop (Frenchie’s), and since they also had great reviews we decided to go with them. The most famous dive site in the area is by far The Blue Hole, a perfectly circular limestone sinkhole, dark blue in the middle of all the turquoise. We heard that this dive was a bit overrated, but Frenchie’s offered two other highly rated dive sites on the same trip, so we agreed to go. The boat ride there started at 6 am and took two hours. We were split into groups based on experience, and since we are certified as advanced open water divers we got to be in the group going deep. We jumped in close to the reef surrounding the hole and the middle seemed like a huge bottomless pit (it’s 124 meters deep and 300 meters across). The deeper we got the more we could see that this once was air-filled caves, with massive limestone stalactites hanging down from what was once the cave ceiling. It was quite cool to swim under the enormous overhangs and zig-zag between the stalactites, but we could only stay 8 minutes at this depth (40 meters) before working our way up the wall again, and in that part there was not much to see at all. Our second dive of the day was at Half Moon Wall, which was worth the 2 hour boat ride alone. The coral reef was amazing with lots and lots of fish, and in the deeper part there were plenty of large reef sharks swimming around. A few of them came really close to check us out. We also came across three dolphins playing around and blowing bubbles on the bottom. Amazing dive site! We stopped for lunch on Half Moon Caye, a small island declared a national park. We walked to a watch tower to watch birds, but did not at all expect the view we got. There were birds everywhere, mainly red-footed boobies and frigatebirds. The closest ones were so close that we could touch them. It also seemed to be mating season, since most of the male frigatebirds had inflated their bright red gular pouch. On the walk back we saw a few lizards and hundreds of hermit crabs. Our final dive of the day should have been at a dive site named The Aquarium, but we had some snorkelers in the boat and the conditions were too rough. Instead we went to Lion’s Den on the other side of Long Caye. We had another great dive there with eagle rays and turtles as the highlights. On the way back to Caye Caulker the crew served fruit, crackers and as much rum punch as we could drink. We were all pretty happy when we arrived there.
Our second dive trip from Caye Caulker was a bit further south at two sites named Spanish bay and Gallows point. We were in a small group, and had two great dives. We touched a sea cucumber, saw several eagle rays, a moray eel, a barracuda, a juvenile spotted drum and a few lion fish. On the way back we stopped at St. George’s Cuay, where a local family were running an aquarium. They had several local spieces that are almost impossible to spot while diving, and they were also rescuing marine animals and releasing them when they were strong enough to survive. And as always plenty of rum punch on the way back.
We decided to move to an island a bit closer to the dive sites, so the rest of our time at Caye Caulker we mainly relaxed and checked out the local restaurants and bars. The split is where most people go for a swim, and the local bar (Lazy lizard) is full of people in swimsuits showing off, flirting and hooking up. We had fun watching the madness for a couple of hours, while enjoying some live reggae music. We were hanging out in the back yard with our German neighbours, drinking local rum and planning where to go next. We watched the beautiful sunset from the pier behind our hotel and had cheap drinks during happy hour. On our last evening we went to the restaurant next door (Wish Willy) with the Germans, and the owner, Maurice, sat down with us. We soon felt very much at home, went to get our own beers, brought the rest of the rum from our hotel and Maurice was pouring us vodka shots. He took us to a Jamaican nightclub, where we were literally hanging in the bar (wooden swings) and had a great night with the locals.