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Life’s that much better in Belize

There were a few other assorted characters I knew during my stay such as one I called Aruba girl (out of a stroke of genius because she was from Aruba and was a girl) whom I had met earlier in Belize.  A few others were on my list, whose names are penned in my journal but whose faces and personalities are all but gone from my memory.  Tony and wife (you can see I got to know her well), Alice, Maria, Sara, Old shadow guy (probably not his given name), and James, who I might actually remember.  My community of friends and acquaintances didn’t leave me in Belize either.  Five months later I was walking down the street in San Francisco and a guy stopped me and said hey, you were in Belize five months ago weren’t you.  It turns out that we had dinner together, but didn’t speak much because we were at opposite ends of the table, and there were about ten of us there.  It seems to happen to me a lot.      

I would say that day after day in Caulker is the same and if you heard me say that there would not be a hint of disappointment or resentment in my tone.  I would say that, but it wouldn’t be entirely true.  One day, Chocolate whisked me away for a dance with his beloved Mermaids.  Actually Chocolate is a permanent fixture on the Caye, like furniture.  He is a charming little man, with a sweet signing accent, creamy brown skin like well…chocolate, and a distinctive white moustache accompanied by a tuft of white hair.  If you ask him he will tell you he has been at it for more than 20 years.   What has he been at, you may ask, protecting his mermaids.  They are not actually mermaids, but they are still in the category of rare to see depending on where you come from in the world.  Ancient sailors were said to have been at sea (away from women too long or just gone completely nuts) so long that they thought they saw the mythical mermaids when they saw these creatures.  These “mermaids” were in fact manatees, which are also called sea cows or dugongs.  They abound in the warm waters of the Caribbean, but are endangered these days.  Chocolate fell in love (possibly too long at sea) with these creatures many years ago and has been trying to protect them while sharing them with others ever since

While in Chocolate’s care we were fortunate to see several manatees at close range.  Sure it was a manatee watching trip, but wildlife is not always so predictable.  I’m sure many have been on whale-watching trips that did not include the whales.   The manatees are truly magnificent creatures, and quite a joy to see. I apparently had not been out at sea long enough during my day trip however, because I did not see the resemblance to mermaids.  The most magical part of the experience however was watching Chocolate and his love for the animals.  We stopped a long way off from the suspected Manatee area, and turned off the motor.  Then we used a long stick to push our way along.  He was rather upset when other boats would cruise through engine blazing.  His first priority was truly to the safety of his beloved manatees, and not to the fattening of his wallet.   
We (as a group vote) decided to spend our snorkeling time on (well, off I suppose) Sergeant’s Caye.  I want to say words cannot describe this place, but that hardly seems fitting if I want to consider myself a writer.  It was not so much of an Island, but more of a lump of white sand that happened to be above sea level.  About one foot above sea level, was probably the maximum height for this Island.  Just clean white sand with a few scattered shrubs, the whole thing no bigger than about two tennis courts.  I eased off the bow into waste high blueness, and waded the rest of the way, not able to wait to go ashore.  I felt it was my Island as I spun around arms stretched out taking in the joy of being on the smallest Island I have ever seen, possibly in contention for smallest in the world.  In concentric rings around the Island were darker and darker shades of blue as the marine life multiplied and the water got deeper.  We spent a few hours lounging around and swimming behind Chocolate on a watery tour of a small part of the world’s second largest barrier reef.  It really does take a picture, not words to display the majesty of this small paradise.  It is a wonderful place to spend a few sun filled hours, but with no bar or Belizean chicken stew stand we were glad to have a boat to whisk us back to our temporary home.      

And back home we went, just in time to head to the Lizard for an afternoon of refreshments.  So with each day in place, and all of them (save one) looking the same, how did the nights shape up.  Similar (again) is the word that comes to mind, similar but without complaints.  During the happy hours the subject of dinner would always come up as stomachs would press the issue.  The plan was always to retreat to the separate abodes for a little freshening up then, on to the restaurant of choice for the night with the group of people of choice.  OK, so things weren’t identical, since the faces and places changed, but the basic game plan was the same.  The meals with friends, turned into drinks with friends at various Island nighttime watering holes.  I spent a lot of nights at the I and I bar.  It is a three story affair with rope swings at the bar, hammocks, candles and great music.  Inevitably a bed became a necessity and it was time to slowly wander back to the comforting arms of the Sandy Lane, to rest up for the next day of bliss.

This was written after my first visit to Caye Caulker.  I have since been back two other times.  Often when one returns to a place they loved during there travels it does not live up to the hype.  Often the love of the place was a combination of the people there at the time, your mood, the weather or many other factors.   None of the three times did Caye Caulker disappoint me, and the third there was a tropical storm was on its way in.  I strongly recommend you go, and go before they pave those roads.  

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