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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Short but Un-Belize-ably Sweet

BELIZE | Tuesday, 28 December 2010 | Views [2265]

We crossed into Belize and despite the landscape being exactly the same as northern Guatemala we could tell that we were in a different country, but we weren’t expecting to find England! When we tried to speak Spanish to the first few people that we met they all responded in English, in fact it was hard for us not to say “gracias” rather than “thank you”. To confuse matters further the Belizian notes that we changed at the border all had a picture of the Queen on them.

Just as we were wondering if somehow we had magically returned to blighty for Christmas, we were reminded that we were still in Central America by our old friend the rickety chicken bus, but then just to throw doubt into our minds it was playing English Christmas songs on the radio.

Belize City

We continued our run of not visiting the majority of Central American capitals by bypassing Belmopan. Although Belize City was once the capital, due to the frequent hurricanes that cause havoc and wide spread damage during the hurricane season the capital was moved to Belmopan in 1970, which is the geographical centre of the country. Belize City is a small city in relative terms, where nothing is higher than 3 stories, in fact nothing in the whole of Belize is more than 3 stories, and it is believed that the tallest structure in the country was built by the Maya. Even the giant cruise ships that sit on the horizon would shadow the whole country if they were allowed to dock any closer! What there is to that city has a real Caribbean feel, from the people, the foods and smells of creole cooking on the streets. It may no longer be the capital but many consider it to still be the heart and soul of the country. We enjoyed watching the locals boat up and down Haulover Creek, which divides the city in two, even stopping at supermarkets to ‘dock and shop’.

From here we jumped in a taxi to head to our next stop...



Caye Caulker

Belize is home to the second largest reef in the world, so we went to Caye Caulker for a wet Christmas, that being it didn’t involve either rain or snow, just blue waters! Due to the high season there were a lack of cheap accommodation available, so we treated ourselves to a room with all the trimmings. The room even had good wifi to use Skype to call family and friends over the holidays, and you all probably know how that turned out! To say that Caye Caulker is laid back would be an understatement, the islands motto is Go Slow.

The island is divided up by three sandy paths, simply called front, middle and back street and the locals seem to just hang around the streets on their bikes, bottle of beer in hand not really making much of an effort to sell the goods they have on sale.

Tourists sunbathe on the docks or swim in the ‘Split’ between the two islands, which was caused by Hurricane Hattie, drinking cheap rum cocktails, until Cake Man Errol makes his rounds at 4.30 selling delicious freshly made cakes.

From the Caye you can also go on any number of tours to the surrounding reef, so we signed up with the cool sounding Ragamuffin tours for a snorkelling trip. The second site we visited is known as Shark & Ray Alley. We realised when we signed up that the nurse sharks and southern stingrays that the site is famed for would be fed by the guides to encourage them to come where we were would be snorkeling, but we were horrified and refused when the guide man-handled and held the animals so that we could touch and feel them. It wasn’t just our tour either, every tour boat we saw was doing the same thing. It seems that the tour companies feel that they have to deliver on the promise of the site’s name, and although the animals obviously come to the site to get an easy feed the handling of them isn’t a fair trade off. Our final site was in the confines of the Ho Chan Marine Park. The area has been protected for longer than other parts of the region and although the coral wasn’t as abundant as I would have expected there were plenty of wildlife to see, including tarpons, barracudas, turtles, eagle rays and a moral eel, thankfully none of which were touched.

If you’ve ever seen a picture for Belize tourism then you’ve probably seen it’s most famous attraction, the Blue Hole, an underwater sink hole around 300 metres across and 124 meters deep. The Blue Hole lies in the Lighthouse reef atoll around 43 miles from Belize City, so in Caye Caulker I signed up with Big Fish Divers to dive this natural wonder. In 1971 Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the top 10 dive sites in the world and he even dynamited the reef to provide entrance and exit points for his boats, so on our dive we were able to drive into the hole.

However, Cousteau spent weeks exploring the hole and due to the 40 metre depth of our dive we only had 25 minutes under water. The lack of sunlight prevents coral growth inside the hole, which means there is little in the way of fish, but at about 130 feet down we swam through an impressive stalactite formation, with some being over 20 feet in length. I knew that we may not see a great deal, but sharks are regularly found in the hole and the chance of seeing one and specifically a hammerhead was too good to pass up.

Thankfully all Blue Hole trips include two other dives and Half Moon Wall was a far better dive site with huge corals and an abundance of marine life, including a pair of turtles. For lunch we stopped on Half Moon Caye and had the traditional Belizian meal of stew chicken, which is the same as stewed chicken but there’s just no past tense in Creole English.

Walking around the island after lunch I was treated to a mini Galapagos, as it was breeding season and the magnificent male frigate birds had their red throat pouch inflated like a balloon and were using it to try to attract females. The island is also home to red footed boobies, which we didn’t see in the Galapagos either.

Our final dive was at Long Caye known locally as the Aquarium, and after descending it was easy to see why. We were surrounded by hundreds of different varieties of fish, including queen trigger and angel fish and a group of sargent majors and snapper engulfed the group swimming centimetres from our faces and followed us around for the whole dive. It was a great final dive and although the actual Blue Hole dive is probably not worth the hype and prestige, combined with the other two dives it was a great experience.

And that was it for Belize for us. There are more beaches and cayes to explore and there are a lot of Maya sites too, but as we have seen lots of those recently and have more to come in our next country, we decided we would push on to Mexico!!!!!!

Highlights

Favourite Place - We only went to Caye Caulker but it was great (Both)
Favourite Attraction - Snorkelling (Jo) Diving (Ryan)
Favourite Food - Cake Man Chocolate Cake (Jo) Anything with Marie Sharps Hot Sauce (Ryan)
Favourite Beer - Belikin (Ryan)

For those of you thinking of possibly travelling to the region:  Costs in USD

Accommodation - $25-50 for a private room in hostel
Restaurant meal - $5-10
330ml Bottled Beer - $2
500ml Soft Drink - $1
1.5l Bottle of water - $1.5
Bus - $ 2 /hour

Ryan y Jo

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/

Tags: belize city, blue hole, caye caulker, diving, snorkelling

 

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