The day after we arrived and settled in, the four of us decided to take a stroll along the beach. Bonnie and Julie were going to look for scuba diving tours, and we were going to line up our fishing expedition. Before we even stepped out of our resort’s ground, however, we were offered free lunches drinks shopping discounts entertainment free boat ride, from two very enthusiastic island boys — just for spending an hour watching a short video and touring Captain Morgan’s Resort. It is part of the burgeoning time-share business on the island. When our hostess reviewed the short list of qualifying criteria, she determined that we were not eligible since we were not accompanied by our husbands, the true decision-making members of our families.
At a stall along the beach, we saw a coatimundi. This one was a family pet, although moments later, we were offered one by a young boy for $100 bucks! The ones we saw here are of the white-nosed coati, but apparently there are several species of them in this region.
I think it was the next day that Bonnie and Julie went scuba-diving at the Blue Hole. This was on Bonnie’s bucket list, so I am happy she got to experience it. Left to her own device, Bonnie would probably be in the water all day long, perfectly happy looking at marine life. They left at 5:30 a.m., because it takes a couple of hours to get there by boat. I can’t remember what Bonnie said, but I think this might have been the deepest dive they have ever done. They told me about all the things they saw down there, including something spotted (eagle ray? shark?) Aside from my fear of all that water above me, scuba-diving just seems like an awful lot of work to spend a few minutes underwater. Then there is all that equipment you got to lug around. I suppose if I were to come face-to-face with a spotted shark, I might change my mind. Unlikely, though. Snorkeling is just fine for me.
Michelle and I really look forward to fishing every time we come down here. This year was the best yet. We had new tour guides — well, one new tour guide, Eric Henkis who owns and operates Uprising Tours. Clifford Lewis we had met on a previous trip. He was working with another tour operator at the time. We started out with Clifford casting the net for sardines to use as live bait. Instead of staying on the calmer side of the reef (the flats), Eric took us through the channel (one of 7 at this island) for some deepwater fishing. (It was much choppier on the other side, and I thought I was going to toss my cookie.) I was at the front of the boat, while Michelle and Bonnie were at the back. The person at the front (me) would typically cast the line for, while the people in the back would sink the fishing lines — down to 100 feet or more — to catch fish like snapper. Within maybe 5 minutes, I got a bite! It was a huge kingfish (well, huge to me). Here is a picture of Clifford holding up the kingfish. I’m not sure who caught what next, I think Bonnie got a couple of snappers, I got a triggerfish (with lips!!), and Michelle got a big barracuda with snapping teeth.
When we came back through the channel to more quiet water, we all went snorkeling and free-diving. Michelle and Bonnie brought back several conches, and Clifford dove for 5 or 6 lobsters. It was near the end of the crustacean season — if the conch measure less the outstretched span between your thumb and pinky finger, you got to throw it back. Eric and Clifford then took us to a nice beach and prepared and cooked the food Belizean style, over a pit with coconut husks. It was delicious! But it wouldn’t be complete without some Marie Sharp’s Belizean Heat sauce. We cooled that down with rum punch and Belikin beer. And then Bonnie tripped and stubbed her toe getting back on to the boat.
If you travel to Ambergris Caye and are interested in the best fishing ever, contact Eric/Clifford by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call them at 622-7413 or 620-9410 (local numbers). An all day excursion (fishing, snorkeling, beach BBQ) typically runs around $350 USD. (BTW, it’s a $1USD:$2BZD exchange rate.)
It’s really too bad I don’t have any pictures of this dog to show, but this little guy really stole our hearts. Actually, he was not so little. He was some sort of Doberman mix, so we called him “Dobie.” Dobie had wandered into our resort, into the pool area, looking for water. Being animal suckers, all of us, we led him back to our room and gave him water and all of Coco’s cat food. Naturally, he spent the night. At some point (probably a rum punch or two later), I decided that whatever means necessary, I would adopt him and bring him back to the States. (He LOOKED at me. I don’t mean the casual glance. The guy locked eyes with me and looked as if he understood every word I spoke.) Sometime in the middle of night, I woke up with a mild panic attack. What about our girls? They would never forgive me. So in the morning, Julie and I and Dobie trotted off to the SAGA Humane Society, where the lady at the front desk immediately said, “Oh Snoopy! There you are.” Apparently Snoopy is quite a ladies’ man, and not the first time he’s gone “missing”.
The last tale I want to share about our Belize trip is actually on the main land. We took a ferry (at 7:00 a.m.!) from San Pedro to Belize City. It took over an hour and a half (because we also picked up passengers at Caye Caulker) to get to the mainland. Allen Dawson from Experience Belize Tours picked us up from the dock, and was basically our tour guide for the rest of the day. We first toured the outskirts of Belize City — Allen was very knowledge of the local history, and I learned a lot sitting in the front of the van with him. From Belize City, we went to Altun Ha, one of the few remaining Mayan ruins in the vicinity. Even though we have been to a few of these, it never gets boring. It is just a fascinating civilization. If you climb up to the top, you can see for miles around. Fortunately, my vertigo was kept in check — unlike the time we climbed all the way up Chichen Itza and I had to scoot back down on my butt.
From here, it was a long drive to the Baboon Sanctuary. We stopped along the road to eat — unfortunately, I can’t remember her name, but her Belizean Chicken was just simply awesome. (I tried to make this at home later, and while good, it was nowhere near as impressive.) I don’t know why they called it the “Baboon” sanctuary, but we met with a Black Howler Monkey family!! Because it is an endangered species, sanctuaries such as this one were set up to conserve, educate the public, provide research, and encourage tourism. The older monkeys did not want anything to do with us, but the three youngest ones, including a four-month old, will take banana treats right off your hands!
Then we went cave tubing! It was a really hot day, and we were all getting pretty crabby inside the van. Plus, it was a really long hike to get to the “top” of the river where we would float downstream. This is now low season and the water does not run so deep. At several places, our guide would holler “Butts Up”, and we would have to hoist ourselves up on our inner tubes. The actually length of the river is probably ten times of what we went through. Inside the cave, it was pitch black; the headlamps we had on hardly illuminated much except for what was right in front of us. But the water was refreshing and it was a nice way to spend a hot day. Bonnie finally broke her already damaged toe from stubbing it on a cobble stone. Next time we travel anywhere together, I will recommend steel-toed boots.
It was a really nice tour, and our guide Allen really made the trip fun. My only recommendation would be to fly the puddle jumper from San Pedro to Belize City. Getting there on the ferry in the morning wasn’t too bad, but the trip home was just awful since we were all tired and the boatride was pounding. Tip: Sit near the back of the boat where your innards are less likely to be jostled around. But don’t breathe in the diesel fumes.
If you want to do the ruins/baboons/cave tubing tour, please contact Allen Dawson by email at email@example.com, or by phone at 011 501-225-2981. If I remember correctly, this all-day guided combination tour, including lunch, is around $100 a person.