Goa move over…I think we have a winner. It took us 30 seconds from landing in Belize to fall in love with it! For starters, the local languages were English and English Creole (sounds just like English but in a really Jamaicann accennt mannn), which was very welcomed after about 2 weeks of just Spanish! It was like Jamie had a voice again! He suddenly took over all conversations with airport staff and taxi drivers! 🙂
For those of you contemplating how to get from Belize city to one of the Islands you can either fly directly out of Belize International Aiport for about $60-70 each For a one way ticket (rather than take a taxi to the municipal airstrip, which costs another $30), or take the water taxi for about $20 each + $25 taxi to the port, also one way. We chose to fly to Ambergris Caye, our first island stop and take the water taxi back to Belize on our return for two reasons. First, our airline Maya Island Air was flying directly to Ambergris Caye (which saved us the faff of getting to the municipal airstrip, and after a 17 hour journey in, we were in no mood to get on yet another nearly 2 hour boat journey). Second, our final Belizian island stop was Caye Caulker which was only about 20 mins from Belize City which made a shorter bumpy boat ride back to the mainland.
Belize, formerly known as British Honduras was colonised by the British in the 1800s and was previously inhabited by the Mayans BC. Britan and Spain fought over Belize like everything else, in vain for several years! Belize got rid of the British and gained independance in the 1980s and all that now remains is the English language and a photo of a 30 something Queen Elizabeth on the Belizian dollar.
Ambergris Caye is the largest and most inhabited island off the coast of Belize city and San Pedro, the capital is the most popular holiday destination to several sun worshippers from all over the world. Well, mostly Americans. If you dont mind being surrounded by Americans and your ideal holiday consists of sunbathing, sitting in a rubber tube in the sea while you sip on a beer in the day, eating loads of freshly caught seafood and bar hopping at night, Belize is the ideal destination for you. Bear in mind that this comes at a price! In comparison to its Central American neighbours like Nicaragua and Guatemala, Belize and Costa Rica are THE most expensive of the lot. Belize is relatively cheaper than Costa Rica, but still rather expensive.
After a 10 minute flight. Yes, you heard 10, our first day in San Pedro began with mouthwateringly fresh Ceviche and a cold Belikin (the local beer). We were located in south San Pedro which is the ideal place to set base as it is lined with bars and local eateries. While San Pedro is rather touristy anyway, being downtown is far enough away from the large resorts and hotel chains to make for a warm, not so touristy environment. Speaking of food..man do the Caribbeans love their food! In comparison to Costa Rica, the food was a million miles ahead. Practically anything you could possible imagine was available and packed full of flavour and a hint of spice in true Carbibbean style! The rest of our day was spent drinking a LOT more Belikin, rum punch and sitting in a rubber tube in the sea at the Palapa Bar listening to some great 80s ans 90s tunes! We tried not to go too crazy as the next day involved a 7 hour snorkelling trip on a sailboat. So we bid our farewells to some new found friends and called it a night.
Our second day began with skipping breakfast from the fear of being sick at sea due to a raging hangover, and boarding a small 8 seater vintage sail boat captained by George the most chilled out 60 something Rastafarian we have ever met and Teddy our snorkelling guide who was luckily just as hungover as we were, so told George to ease into it! Our itinerary for the day involved 4 stops. Shark ray alley, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Coral Garden and Manatee bay. The intention was to make a stop at each location, dive in, snorkel around for a bit and get back on the boat. The only difference was that there was free rum punch on the boat all day and freshly caught fish cooked for lunch. Ideal.
First stop. Manatee bay. David the guy who booked our tour for us told us that it was Manatee mating season so the likelihood of seeing one or more was about 80-90%. As we approached Manatee bay we saw a couple of boats leave in haste and warned George not to bother as they couldnt find any Manatees. But George insisted that we stay positive and give it a go. By this point we had spent an hour on the boat roasting in the sun, severely dehydrated from getting back on the booze, so I didnt really care if we saw any Manatees I just wanted to get in the water! Our boat finally docked and off we went. An hour later we had seen a turtle, a shark and no Manatee. The current was heavy and we were exhausted from fighting it. Just as we were about to turn around to go back, Teddy tapped me on the shoulder and turned me around. Lo and behold there was a huge male Manatee right behind me, investigating what us humans were doing in his territory! Another snorkelling group saw the sight and quickly swam closer to ctach a glimpse of the big guy. After this wherever we went a Manatee followed. An even larger female swam so close to us that our flippers nearly touched her.
Second stop. Shark ray alley. Where you can snorkel with sharks and sting rays. As you do…They’re nurse sharks though so I wouldnt worry! No sooner did the boat arrive and dock, than the sharks appear on the surface! So I wont lie it was nerve racking trying to jump in the water. We downed a few more rum punches, bustled up the courage and jumped in, in the hope that we wouldnt land in the jaws of a shark. What we saw underwater was absolutely increadible. Hundreds of fish, about 20 sharks no joke, several sting rays, turtles, and eagle rays. I have never been so happy and scared at the same time ever!
Third and fourth stops Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Coral garden. In all honesty, while this was a beautiful beautiful reef, I would highly recommend snorkelling off the edge of the reef rather than on top of it to see a lot more wildlife and coral. If you are a diver, the Turneff elbow is meant to be a beautiful spot to dive off the reef too! All in all, I have never swam in clearer water with this much wildlife to see in such a short space!
The rest of the afternoon was spent drinking rum punch, and eating freshly caught conch ceviche (which we randomly found btw) whilst sailing back to the mainland with major bragging rights and severe sunburns!
Food & Drink
The first and only tip for you food lovers wanting to experience local cuisine and fresh sea food. Try and talk to as many locals as possible. If you are like me, in that you would talk to a tree given the chance, you should have absolutely no problem getting to the best eateries! While you can get anything you want in San Pedro, from Pizza to Curry, we were more interested in eating as much fresh seafood as possible. Our favourite eateries were as follows:
- Sandy Toes: for some fresh ceviche and fish salad! Also some great tunes and amazing bar tenders!
- Lily’s Seafood grill: the best blackened (caribbean spice covered) fish ever!
- Caramba: this place needs no introduction. When you arrive you pick your sea food outside. It is then priced up for you and you go in with a plate of the same. The kitchen cooks it however you like! (Tip: haggle with the guy outside). Rather pricey but what you end up with is pretty damn good!
- Estel’s dine by the sea: For the best fry jack’s in town
- Nook’s: for the nicest staff and the sea food platter!
- Caroline’s kitchen: For a traditional belizian breakfast!