Belize City and San Ignacio

Belize Travel Blog

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Well I skeddaled from learning Spanish to a sort of English speaking country - Belize.

English speaking is slightly a stretch as more than half of the population predominantly speak Spanish and the majority of the rest speak Creole. Though they can speak normal English too.

Creole is a dialect of English with a strong twist of Caribbean rasta. I could understand most of it but I definitely won´t be speaking it fluently anytime soon.

I got to Belize City with a fistful of notes proudly showing the Queen´s head. I knew that Belize is part of the Commonwealth however it still gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling seeing (a very young) Queen of England staring back at me, at the airport of a small island called Caye Caulker in negative 15 minutes I skedaddled on the next water taxi.

Nurse Shark
Now this thing could shift with it´s 3 massive engines. You could just tell by the big grin that the captain loved his big boy´s job and I loved him doing his best Mr T impression with each of his fingers proudly being decorated with a huge gold ring. I stayed at Caye Caulker - a backpackers haven, though by no means that cheap. It is probably mostly a backpackers haven as it is ssssoooo laid back. There are no cars on Caye Caulker only golf carts and bicycles, however the locals still like to jokingly put up ´Go Slow´signs and if you are walking fast they might tell you to slow down and chill.

The place is beautiful with ridiculously clear sea and coconut trees leaning over the white sand. It is not a beach resort though as the stretches of sand are mostly short and narrow.

Bicycles were a great way to cruise explore the island so I took the opportunity to ride along the airport´s runway as heck I will never get the chance to do that again. The island is definitely a place to chill with not a huge amount to do. The best things to do (not surprisingly) revolving around water. The snorkelling is great there, as is the scuba diving.

Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world - after the Great Barrier reef - and this makes for world class snorkelling.  Armed with this tidbit of knowledge we took a snorkelling trip out on a sail boat and got to swim amongst coral gardens and with sting rays and nearly a shark. Not a scary shark though just a nurse shark which are big girls and do not bite - instead they suck. Mind you one guy before us had a scary experience as a nurse shark tried to suck some food out of his swimming short´s pocket and was extremely reluctant to let go.
The trip was great and was topped off by conch ceviches (raw seafood cooked cold in lime juice) and as much rum punch as you could drink. I filled up my 1 litre water bottle and did a pretty good job of finishing it.

I took a trip into the mainland to go cave tubing at Barton Caves,fortunately it was not between Monday and Thursday as that is when the cruise ships come in and descend on the place in hordes.Floating sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly down an underground river flash light in hand and gazing at the cave´s formations was pretty cool. There were a labyrinth of caves - though I only went through a couple. The others have an interesting history as they were the site of Mayan ceremonial rituals. Some people think that they are still being used by the Mayans for these type of rituals, though they are meant to have stopped the ritual sacrifices!


 

Highlights of Belize:

- A budget-blowing, all-day sailing and snorkeling trip while on Caye Caulker.

Reef sharks, the rare manatee, stingrays, barracudas, moray eels, you name it, they were all there for the viewing, followed by freshly-caught conch ceviche, jugs of rum punch and reggae music on the slow sail back to the island.

- Fran´s Grill, Caye Caulker. Really just an outdoor barbecue and a couple of picnic tables on the side of the main road where, for $10, Fran grilled the fresh seafood of your choosing, and served it up with healthy portion's of baked potatoes and garlic bread, coconut rice and veggies, cheese-cake and rum punch.


 

- The Belize Zoo: The zoos I saw in Mexico made me want to cry but this one was run by a strong environmentalist and could give the Vancouver Game Farm a run for its money. It really felt like I was taking a walk through the jungle, albeit with electric fences everywhere.

Most impressive by far were the 2 jaguars, one spotted and the other pure black.

- The Aktun Tunichil Muknal cave near San Ignacio: this was another budget-blowing day trip that was probably the most exhilarating, Indiana Jones-meets-the Discovery Channel, 8 hours I have had on the trip. As part of tour we first drove about 90 minutes, half on dirt road, to the middle of nowhere. We then hiked for about 45 minutes, wading through a river 3 times, to get to the mouth of the cave. We then swam (often), hiked, and crawled, twisting and turning our way through the cave for about an hour so that we could reach the base of the "dry chamber", which involved further climbing up the side of the cave wall. In Mayan mythology, caves represented the underworld and a pathway to the gods and this dry chamber was an underworld like no other.

Pelican
Interspersed among crazy rock formations and long, natural staircases were Mayan artifacts, skulls and skeletons (sacrifical victims) that have been calcified to the floor of the cave. We spent 2 hours in the dry chamber looking around and could have easily spent another 2 hours taking it all in.

- Dark nights: not sure the rationale but Belize is an hour behind the Yucatan and so now the sun rises early - maybe 5:30 am - and sets early too - maybe 6:30 or 7.


 

travelman727 says:
Great blog and pics, John!
Posted on: Sep 08, 2009
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Nurse Shark
Nurse Shark
Pelican
Pelican
Stingrays
Stingrays
shark in coral
shark in coral
Coral up close
Coral up close
entering cave
entering cave
caving
caving
inside cave
inside cave
Mayan pottery ruins
Mayan pottery ruins
Sacrificial skull remains
Sacrificial skull remains
Remains of a female sarcrifice
Remains of a female sarcrifice
Dock
Dock
Spotted Jaguar
Spotted Jaguar
Black Jaguar
Black Jaguar