12 hours, a (very long) bus ride, one border crossing and a boat ride later, and we were on the beautiful island of Caye Caulker.
Of all the stops on our itinerary, this was the place I was most excited for. As soon as we approached the jetty and I caught a close-up of the island, I knew I was going to love it. Lush azure waters, a sandy perimeter and colourful shops and houses dotting the 3-street-long island. I mean, how could you not fall in love with this mini haven?
Playa Del Carmen may have had the picture-perfect beaches, but Caye Caulker was winning in the attitude stakes; the island’s motto: GO SLOW, MON! (Think Caribbean – a big influence on the island, perhaps even more so than it’s Latin neighbours). Originally part of the British Empire, Belize is an English speaking country (although the locals often speak a mixture of Creole or Spanish), and so it’s also an easy destination for non-Spanish speaking tourists to get by.
After dropping our bags at the Paradise Hotel, we followed Kaylie on a short ‘tour’ of the island which took all of 10 minutes and soon I was racing back to the hotel to jump in the shower before we reconvened for dinner. En route, I passed a guy driving a golf cart and as I raced passed him, he shouted after me “Go Slow!”, a welcome reminder for a Londoner like me to take advantage of the more laidback lifestyle whilst I had the chance.
After quickly changing, I headed back up the main street to join the rest of the group at Pat & Stell’s where we were set to try the island’s delicacy, lobster. Kaylie had been raving about the delicious lobster all day, more than whetting our appetites for dinner that night, but when we arrived, we found out that supplies were low and so had to opt for the second best option instead, lobster curry. It was still mouth-wateringly delicious though, and after a huge strawberry daiquiri to wash it down, I was ready for a night of dancing at IandI, the island’s reggae bar.
Sadly, when we arrived the bar was practically empty and with no dancing to keep us energised, the early morning start soon got the better of us and we decided to call it a night, hoping that tomorrow (Christmas eve) would be a little more lively!
Christmas Eve Shenanigans
The Ragamuffin boat trip is one of the highlights of staying on Caye Caulker which is why as soon as we arrived, we booked on to a tour departing the next day. The crew were in great form as they stepped on board, Christmas hats in tow and I knew we were going to be in for a fun day.
I chose a prime sunbathing spot on the top deck and made the most of the morning’s rays before we stopped of for our first exploration of the world’s second largest barrier reef. Call me spoilt, but after snorkeling the Whitsundays (the Great Barrier Reef in Australia), the Ningaloo Reef (Western Australia) and the Blue Hole (Egypt), I was extremely disappointed with the lack of colourful coral and sea-life below. I didn’t want to seem unappreciative, but where were all the fish?!
After drying off on deck and eating some delicious seafood curry for lunch, we approached our second snorkel spot of the day. I was half tempted to stay on the deck and work on my tan but then…
I heard a commotion at the front of the boat. One of the crew members was throwing some food over the side, and the next thing I saw was this…
Nurse Sharks..surrounding our boat! Welcome to Shark Ray Alley!!!
Now, I’m all for a bit of adventure but come on, I’ve grown up watching Jaws, so I was a little dubious about getting into the water with a pack of 5ft sharks. But the crew assured us it was safe and I must admit, I was keen to get a little adrenalin pumping through my veins.
So, I jumped in (on the opposite side of the boat to the sharks of course!) and slowly swam around. After a few minutes swimming at a safe distance and coming to the conclusion that they weren’t going to eat me, I started edging closer and closer until I eventually reached out to where our snorkel guide was gently holding onto one of the sharks, and I stroked it. Yes, I STROKED a shark!
Just the thought of it has me grinning from ear to ear, I don’t know why I was so exhilarated by the experience but I guess when your every instinct tells you to get away from the shark and then you end up stroking one, it can make you feel almost giddy with excitement. When the stingrays showed up a few minutes later, stroking one of them was like stroking a kitten in comparison.
I was still hopping around with excitement when we got back on deck and the disappointment from the first stop had long been forgotten. The third stop, at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve wasn’t really anything to write home about but overall the trip had been a huge hit. When we climbed back on board, it was time to shut off the engines and hoist the sails as we slowly glided back to dry land. The ceviche and run punch came out, the party music came on and the dancing began.
By the time we reached dry land, the rum punch had hit in full force. I dried off at the apartment, changed outfits and then stumbled back up the street to Rose’s restaurant. Thankfully the lobster catch had been a bit more abundant that day. We queued outside, selecting our lobsters or swordfish as we waited and then sat down to the most delicious seafood dinner I have ever tasted (and that wasn’t the rum speaking, I can assure you!)
But still, no dancing..well, not until our Christmas night out…
Tops tips for Caye Caulker:
Breakfast at the Amor y cafe
Dine at Rose’s for the most divine seafood.
Don’t miss the Ragamuffin Boat tour!