Caye Caulker Travel Blog› entry 15 of 19 › view all entries
We drive to Belize City for our first view of the Caribbean and board our water taxi for the short journey to the tropical island of Caye Caulker. Once a pirate lair, this tiny but beautiful island lies 34km northeast of Belize City and about 1.6km inside the greatest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Speeding through turquoise waters during the one-hour water taxi transfer is a highlight in itself. We reach our beach hotel and book up excursions for tomorrow. I choose a snorkelling trip to Shark Ray Alley.
It's off to dinner and drinks at a bar that has been recommended to me,The Lazy Lizard.
Recent history of Caye Caulker began when Mestizo refugees from the Mexican Caste Wars arrived. The area that became the village on Caye Caulker was formally purchased by Luciano Reyes around 1870. Lots were sold to other families, most of which still have descendants on the island today. The influence of these families is still very apparent.
With few inhabitants, food could be grown with sustainable methods of agriculture. The coconut and the fishing industry became important economic staples of the island.
Large scale lobster fisheries arose in the 1920's, when the lobster trap was introduced to the caye by Canadian Captain Cook and modified for use with the spiny lobster by Marcial Alamina. In 1960 the Northern Fishermen's Co-operative Society Ltd. was formed with thirty plus members including some women, which allowed fishermen to export both fish and lobster, eliminating the middleman. Due to its great success, the cooperative became a model for other cooperatives in Belize.
Caye Caulker is also noteworthy for its tradition of ship building. The Young and Alamina families historically are known as skilled shipwrights constructing wooden sailboats with a frame construction.
Fishing continues to be an important industry, but tourism has gradually become an important force on the caye as well. Since the 60's and 70's, when small numbers of hippies found their way to the caye, tourism has grown each year and many islanders now also operate restaurants, hotels, or other businesses in the tourism industry.
Despite the growth of tourism, Caye Caulker remains a small village with a distinct cultural flavor not necessarily found in large-scale tourist development. Almost all the businesses are locally owned, vehicles larger than golf carts almost never roam the streets, and lodging is small scale and relatively inexpensive compared to many other tourist destinations.