Travel Blog for Fredrik and Gunnhild

Belize

San Pedro – Ambergris Caye

20150124-1The former fishing village of San Pedro is the biggest city on the islands of Belize, located on the largest caye. The city have a population of more than 9000 and even paved roads and cars. 🙂 The main reason for us to go here was that the dive sites were a lot closer, instead of one hour on a boat it is maximum fifteen minutes. We stayed at Hotel del Rio, a little bit out of the city center, quiet but right on the beach. We had two bedrooms and a big balcony. Luxury! Two days we got up early and went out for two dives with the dive shop Chuck & Robbie’s. 20150122-1Since the dive sites were so close we went back to the shop between the dives for some fruit and snacks. Professional, fun and laid back people! The visibility was great on all dives and we saw several turtles, moray eels, groupers, nurse sharks, eagle rays, stingrays, dolphins, lobsters and lion fish. The reefs were also really nice with narrow channels, canyons and steep walls.

DCIM100GOPROThe third day we went snorkeling in the famous Hol Chan Marine Reserve in the morning. It’s on the southern tip of Ambergris Caye, and means “little channel” in Mayan. The site was nice, but we really regretted that we were snorkeling instead of diving, especially since we were with an unexperienced group and had to wait a lot. We also stopped at Shark-Ray Alley, where they were throwing food in the water to attract nurse sharks and stingrays. Not sure we like that, but have to admit it was interesting to see sharks pile up for food, and actually touching a stingray. 20150123-1-3In the evening we went back to Hol Chan for a night dive, and that was a completely different experience! We were a small group of six people where only one had tried night diving before. And we got kind of a challenge. Not only was it pitch dark, but we also had a very strong current. In the beginning it was quite narrow and everyone were staying close to the instructor, so we crashed into eachother a bit when trying to avoid hitting the reef. We all got a hang of it very quickly though, spread out a bit more and had an amazing dive. 20150123-1-2We saw hundreds of stingrays hiding in the sand, several moray eels (both green and spotted), sharks, eagle rays, large lobsters out walking, large groupers and snappers out hunting, a turtle and so much more. We ended the dive by kneeling at the bottom close to the boat and turn off all flashlights. We waved our hands around to make bioluminescence plankton light up. Really fun!

We walked into the city center a couple of times, but normally ended up in one of the beach bars instead. Too much people, cars and noise around the main square. Our favourite bar was probably Hurricane which was located over the water with great views, 20150131-1had good food, great drinks and often live music. It was the kind of place where they remembered your name and people kept coming back. We also bought fresh breakfast from the local bakery, and food in the evening from the Chinese fast-food place. This we enjoyed on our balcony while looking at the palm trees, the sand and the ocean. Wonderful!

Caye Caulker

20150116-1We 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.

20150116-1-2There’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.

20150117-1We 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. 20150117-1-2We 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. 20150117-1-3Our 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, 20150117-1-4a 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 20150117-1-5snorkelers 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. 20150119-1We 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.

20150118-1We 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. 20150119-1-2On 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.

Galapagos and Central America 2014/2015

In only 1 week it’s time for this year’s big adventure. We both have a month vacation in December and got one month off (unpaid leave) in January, so we will be traveling for two months. We will start in Quito, Ecuador and continue to the Galapagos islands.

On the Galapagos we have signed up to take the PADI Open water course and certificate at TipTop diving and then go on a cruise for 7 nights visiting Isabela, Fernandina and Floreana on Angelito I.

After a short stopover in Guayaquil, we fly north to Nicaragaua and have almost 7 weeks to travel around Central America before our flight home from Panama. So far we only have one thing booked in this period, and that is to spend Christmas at Hotel Villa Amarilla in Tamarindo, Costa Rica like we did two years ago.

In addition to Nicaragua and Costa Rica, we will probably visit Honduras, Guatemala and Panama, but with no itinerary planned we don’t really know until we’re there.

Destination Arrival
1 Quito, Ecuador 29 November, 2014
2 Puerto Ayora, Ecuador 2 December, 2014
3 Playa Las Bachas, Ecuador 7 December, 2014
4 Mosquera Islet, Ecuador 8 December, 2014
5 Dragon Hill, Ecuador 8 December, 2014
6 Rabida Island, Ecuador 8 December, 2014
7 Tagus Cove, Ecuador 9 December, 2014
8 Punta Espindza, Ecuador 9 December, 2014
9 Urbina bay, Ecuador 10 December, 2014
10 Elizabeth bay, Ecuador 10 December, 2014
11 Punta Moreno, Ecuador 11 December, 2014
12 Puerto Villamil, Ecuador 12 December, 2014
13 Punta Cormorant, Ecuador 13 December, 2014
14 Devil's Crown, Ecuador 13 December, 2014
15 Post Office Bay, Ecuador 13 December, 2014
16 Puerto Ayora, Ecuador 13 December, 2014
17 Daphne Mayor, Ecuador 14 December, 2014
18 Guayaquil, Ecuador 15 December, 2014
19 Leon, Nicaragua 15 December, 2014
20 Granada, Nicaragua 18 December, 2014
21 Tamarindo, Costa Rica 23 December, 2014
22 Ometepe, Nicaragua 27 December, 2014
23 Roatan, Honduras 30 December, 2014
24 Antigua, Guatemala 7 January, 2015
25 Lake Atitlán, Guatemala 12 January, 2015
26 Flores, Guatemala 14 January, 2015
27 Caye Caulker, Belize 16 January, 2015
28 San Pedro, Belize 20 January, 2015
29 Portobelo, Panama 24 January, 2015
30 Panama City, Panama 26 January, 2015
31 San Blas, Panama 27 January, 2015
32 Panama City, Panama 30 January, 2015