It doesn't matter how many times you tell me that particular breed of shark won't bite, I'll still skip a pulse or two when one brushes stealthily past my calf. And that's before the metre-wide stingrays turn up to the party. Snorkelling through the Belizean barrier reef, the world's second largest after Australia's, isn't something you'll forget in a hurry.
Caye Caulker is a thin slither of Caribbean paradise, just off the coast of Belize, a country with a distinctly different flavour to its Spanish-speaking Latin American neighbours. The Creole character of its inimitable inhabitants ensure that this tiny island is most definitely larger than life. Brace yourself for a slow pace, things don’t move out of strolling gear here, to give you an idea if you’re feeling too lazy to use your feet the main form of transport is the caye’s sturdy fleet of golf buggys.
Laidback vibes aside, the real reason to make a visit is for biological beauty. Turqoise blue waters stretch out from the caye’s eastern beach towards waves crashing gently over a reef, just a mile in to the distance. There you can find an alien world of natural nooks and crannies, bursting with tropically flourescent sealife, a boat trip out to investigate is the only real option.
Our day with E Z Boy Tours Belize began in the bay spotting seahorses before feeding by hand leaping tarpon fish. Once out at sea at our first stop the boat was quickly surrounded by nurse sharks and stingrays. Tentatively we each entered the water for a closer look. Invitingly sparkling seas filled with omninous looking creatures feels almost juxtaposed, but everything we see glides along with a undeniable elegance.
Later we see giant turtles, life that lumbers on land but moves adeptly through wavey water. Other tours include trips to the Great Blue Hole, made famous by diver and environmentalist Jacques Custeaux, the stunning Turneffe Atoll area as well as fishing trips too.
If you’re the sort who prefers to appreciate their sealife via a knife and fork, you’re in luck too, you can find lobster on the menu pretty much everywhere. Barbecues gently browning shellfish and meats can by found lining beaches throughout the day, head to Chef Kareem’s Unbelieazable Lunch for the best stuff. For some real local flavour try Martinez Fast Food for brown stew chicken and a revitalising homemade ginger beer.
The best pick after dark is Chef Juan’s Kitchen and Pastries, with a choice of coconut curries plus lobster in a lipsmacking lime, garlic and chilli marinade, and it’s BYOB too. Or failing that you could just slurp ice cream on the beach all day.
After a proper feed you’ll find that thankfully burning a few calories beachside isn’t difficult, with plenty of watersports available from the serenely relaxed stand up paddle boarding, through wind surfing to exhilerating jet ski rides. All viable options to keep punters busy before beer o’clock.
Happy hours get under way around three, the happiest tends to be over at the Barrier Reef Sports Bar and Grill, which gets pretty raucous as the day streches on, probably because you can sink rum for punch less than a couple of quid a cup. Karoake sessions tend to turn in to a bit of a free for all, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself on the dancefloor you’ll likely end up with a microphone under your nose sooner rather than later.
For something more relaxed a trip on the free water taxi to Koko beach on the next island along is a similarly an afternoon experience not to be missed. The Split hosts most of the island’s time wasters during day time, where you can sip cocktails interspersed with refreshing submersions.
Sundowner seekers should make their way to the Iguana Reef Inn to soak up those final rays, pelican feeding time is a sight worthy of distracting onlookers from the most beautiful of sunsets. After all that warming up I & I Reggae Bar hosts the afters, and believe me when I tell you there is no holding back on that particular dancefloor.
There’s an eclectic mix of cabanas, hostels, guest houses and hotels dotted all around the island, with something to fit every budget and desire.
The perfectly situated Seaside Cabanas are a great choice for your lodgings, the beachfront hotel sits right next to the dock for connections to the mainland and is centrally placed in terms of the islands best bars and restaurants.
Attractive, comfortable and spacious rooms will make you feel right at home, but the real draw is a beautiful pool and rooftop jacuzzis, from which you can admire the gorgeous sea views. The only decision to make most days is which one to choose for a dip.
Tim enjoyed a snorkelling tour with E-Z Boy Tours Belize, who have been offering organised and bespoke sailing and speed boat trips to fit any requirement or group size for over 20 years. For more details and to book click here.
Tim stayed at Seaside Cabanas, who offer a variety of inviting rooms, a private pool and jacuzzis, in the best location on the island. For more details and to book click here.