11 March 2015
We have our bags ready at reception at 7.00am and head across to Let’s Go Eat for breakfast. I have a repeat of yesterday’s banana pancakes as we will need good sustenance today and there won’t be enough time to stop for lunch.
Our minivan arrives and our bags are loaded on top. We discover that our driver for today is Hugo’s dad (Hugo Snr) and we are joined by Adrian (the husband of Elida at A’Jaw Chocolate) who will be our guide for our first activity: cave tubing. It starts about an hour’s drive away and we discover that it is cruise ship day so hopefully we will be getting there ahead of the rush. We head over to get our tubes and life jackets and then set off for a 40 minute walk (with 3 river crossings) carrying our tubes rather uncomfortably.
We reach the cave entrance (where several other groups are getting started). Our tubes are tied together in 2 groups of 5- we are joined by another guide – and we hop on board, headlamps at the ready. Our guides have straps tied to the front to pull/steer us. The caves are quite wide and the water level is relatively low so we can float comfortably downstream looking at the various rock formations and hearing about Mayan history (although hearing was difficult). We are on the water for about 75 minutes, mostly in the caves and only have to ‘lift our butts’ once when it got shallow. ‘Wet photos’ courtesy of Jane Armit and her underwater camera.
Back in the van we have a chorus of Happy Birthday for Hugo and give him a card and a present of a reggae hat complete with dreadlocks (for him to wear to the reggae bar that night) – which he wears for the next part of the trip. We have about another hour to our next stop: the Belize Zoo. This is a very well designed and famous zoo that has only animals found in Belize – primarily as conservation/rehabilitation/animal rescue programmes. Hugo shows us round and we see tapirs, toucans, black jaguars and many more. Even though the enclosures are large and wooded, we manage to see most of the animals and are lucky to see some of the cats being fed.
Back in the minibus we head towards Belize City where we are to catch the 3.00pm water taxi out to Caye Caulker. We arrive in plenty of time to get our bags loaded and to indulge in an iced coffee in air-conditioned heaven before boarding the boat. It is a ferry really, seating about 100 people, and has a whole mix of different nationalities on board. Belize is a very multi-cultural society with Chinese and Garifuna (descendants of African slaves and Caribes) mixing with Maya, Spanish, Mestisos and a whole mix of foreigners, either visitors or residents.
50 minutes later we disembark at Caye Caulker, our first experience of a Caribbean island. We pay a man $1 to take our bags to the hotel by golf cart and walk on the sandy roads to the hotel “Chinatown“. There are no vehicles on the island, just golf carts and bicycles. It has a very laid back feeling.
Hugo has told us that if we want to do something we should take the first opportunity because you can never tell what the weather will do tomorrow. So Lily, Jane, Gill and I race back out again to take a Sunset Cruise. We board an old wooden yacht with our old seadog Captain and mate, and head out towards the reef into the setting sun. Once we have cleared ‘The Split’ we put up the sail and can go up front to sit on the deck. We are brought rum punch to help us relax!
We see Caye Chapel that has repeatedly sold for increasing $Ms – it has now been levelled and has a golf course that Tiger Woods has played on. The crew brings out take away containers with a delicious Conch Cerviche with corn chips for each of us, and we munch watching the sun go down. Then we turn around and sail back around the other side of the island in the dusk and then dark.
We arrive back just in time for Hugo’s briefing and orientation walk. Most of us book for the snorkelling trip tomorrow morning. We also visit the only ATM on the island but unfortunately several are unable to withdraw any cash. Cash seems to be the preferred option here and the optional excursions that we have all chosen are quite expensive (but we’re only here once). We observe that in general the face value of most things has stayed the same during the trip but in Mexico the exchange rate was 10:1, in Guatemala 5:1 and in Belize 1.5:1.
Some head off, all dressed up, for a dinner promising local delicacies but we are feeling in desperate need of a shower and not particularly hungry after our ceviche. We stop for a drink and snack at Bambooze and then head back to the hotel.
For this and other similar trips see:
Peregrine Adventures Travel Destinations (Comfort and independent tours)
Geckos Adventures Deals for South & Central America (for 18 to 30s)
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