After visiting the incredible ruins of Tikal, our next stop was a slice of Caribbean living in Caye Caulker (pronounced “key corker”), Belize. To avoid long queues at the border, we took the 5 am shuttle from Flores for 132 GTQ / R 240 / 17 USD pp.
When we reached the border, we changed the last of our Quetzals for Belizian Dollars, from one of the many money changers that roam around the border. Surprisingly, his rate was better than the official exchange rate at the time. There didn’t seem to be a place to change money for a good rate after we crossed into Belize. Both Belizian and US Dollars are accepted for payment in the country.
We crossed the border on foot, and boarded the same shuttle to the ferry port in Belize City. The entire journey took just five hours overall, and we were able to get the 11 am ferry to Caye Caulker for 15 BZD / R 106 / 7.5 USD. Before we knew it, we were relaxing at our new destination.
About Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker – Where the pace is as slow as the waves.
If you’re looking for a very relaxed island, where time hardly moves, then Caye Caulker is for you. When I stepped onto the island on the 16th of December 2018, my worries instantly disappeared, the sound of reggae and dance hall music at every corner made me excited. In Caye Caulker, vehicles larger than golf carts hardly roam the streets. Despite the growth of tourism, this piece of paradise remains a small village with a distinct cultural flavour. It is a colourful island and has the kind of vibe that I always imagined a Caribbean island to have.
Caye Caulker is small enough that you can get by on foot if you want to. However, If you want to rent a bike, they are offered for about 15 BZD / R 100 / 7.50 USD) for 24 hours.
I found the island prices to be quite expensive. How can a packet of Doritos cost 12 BZD / R 82 / 6 USD? Imagine! Although, we did find an Asian restaurant that was really affordable, a big portion of chow mein was 7 BZD/ R 50 / 3.5 USD. I wasn’t complaining because this happens to be one of my favourite dishes.
The small island of Caye Caulker was split in two by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. Over the years, this natural channel has widened and this split is now the heart of the island. You can spend your days swimming and enjoy the sun with a cocktail in hand.
The current that runs between the two islands is extremely strong and many people have required rescuing from its waters. Therefore, swimming across the split to the other side is not advised. But guess what? There is a free boat that leaves every 30 mins. Well, the boat is free if you agree to spend a minimum of 10 BZD / R 70 / 5 USD at the bar. In exchange for spending money at the bar you’re given a wrist band which entitles you to a free boat trip.
Because tourists make up a huge percent of the island’s population, Caye Caulker has been going through a beach rehabilitation phase for the past few years. What I did find strange about the island is that there is no real sand beach.
Snorkeling and Spearfishing
In 1996, the Belize Barrier Reef was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The reef spans across about 900 km and is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. The coral reef itself, is a distance of approximately 300 km, making it the largest reef in the Northern Hemisphere and the second largest in the world, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Comprising of mangrove forests, sandy islands, and coast lagoons, this reef has made Caye Caulker a popular destination for scuba diving, snorkelling and fishing.
The Caribbean Sea has become Frederik’s hunting ground. So, we booked a snorkelling and spearfishing trip for 130 BZD / R 900 / 65 USD, with a lovely local by the name of Breeze. Most people on the island have the coolest names, I am not sure if they are made up or real, LOL.
While we were in the water, we realised that a nurse shark had swallowed some of the fish Frederik had caught, along with the line. He then had to tackle the shark to try get the line back! Please note that this was an attempted to save the sharks life. As much as it was a thrill to be up close and personal with this predator that so many fear, I was terrified but of course, still managed to capture the moment. Apparently, nurse sharks are not interested in humans as food.
If you’d also like to swim with nurse sharks and stingrays, there are tours offered to Shark and Ray Alley.
With dinner caught, at sunset we headed back to shore. When we arrived back at the dock, Frederik and Winston Alexander cleaned all the fish that was caught that day. I was excited to feed the Pelicans the guts and scrap from the fish, at first I thought they were going to bite my hand off!
Later that evening we had a braai and shared the meal with locals. It always feels pretty cool to eat the products of our (well, Frederik’s) hard labour and everything tastes better when you’re surrounded by turquoise waters.
The Belize Barrier Reef has so much to offer. If you are thinking about snorkelling, spearfishing or scuba diving while on your vacation, rest assured that there are plenty of companies to choose from. My suggestion would be to first walk around to compare prices and negotiate before making your booking.
We did not book accommodation before we arrived on the island, so when we got there, we walked around to compare the options available. We ended up choosing to stay at one of these adorable houses on stilts, at a cost of 54 BZD / R 380 / 27 USD per unit (each unit sleeps 2 people).
Please note that there are no resorts available on Caye Caulker, well, at least not that I am aware of. The best accommodation you can find is a high-end guesthouse with a pool, of which there are a few.
On Friday the 21st of December 2018, we left Caye Caulker. I would have loved to spent more time exploring Belize and hopefully I will do so in the future when I am not on a tight budget.
Thank you for reading,