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Slowing Down in Caye Caulker

Eleanor Hughes

Contributor

Belize’s Caye Caulker lies 21 miles northeast of Belize City in the Caribbean Sea, a 45-minute water taxi ride from Belize City. With English spoken in a sing-songy lilt, it’s easy to communicate and the tropical climate makes it a great place to escape the winter. There is a rainy season from July through to October, but it’s still warm! On arrival, its colourful cluster of brightly painted low-level buildings on the northern tip of the island makes it look crowded, but stepping onto white sandy streets you’ll find the only thing going faster than walking pace are golf carts and bicycles, and maybe the occasional runner. ‘Go Slow’ signs refer to life, not the non-existent cars.

Island Life

Decent internet is difficult to get, but who needs it on holiday! No need to search for the best restaurants, they’re all within walking distance, just try a different one every night. You’ll find all the tour operators you need on Front Street, on the east side of the island fronting the sea or Dock Street, running from the main dock. You won't be needing a map. The island is a mere 8.2 kilometres from north to south and 0.25 to 2 kilometres wide. Wandering is pleasant in the shade of palm trees, taking in the local way of life.

Walk dead-end side streets past locals’ homes perched on stilts and colourful concrete buildings. You'll eventually come across tiny bays on the western side where you can swim to cool off before continuing on. Front Street offers a number of bars, some situated on the water or on its edge, to relax at while watching boats come and go or soak up the sun. Sit under thatched umbrellas in the water enjoying a cocktail at the Lazy Lizard at the end of The Split. You can either try to emulate the island vibes (laidback) or occasionally get moving and try out a number of activities which take in the natural beauty of this Caye and its surrounds.
Caye Caulker Island, Belize

Credit: photosounds

Snorkel the Barrier Reef

Caye Caulker lies 1.6 kilometres from the world’s second-largest Barrier Reef. Hol Chan (meaning ‘Little Channel’ in Mayan) Marine Reserve is a little over 6 kilometres off the southern end of Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island, and centres on a cut in the reef around 9 metres deep and 23 metres wide. The Marine Reserve includes Shark Ray Alley where snorkelers can swim amongst nurse sharks, stingray and a coral garden full of tropical fish such as beaugregory, angelfish, parrotfish, trumpetfish and long-spined sea urchins with a variety of coral – some resembling brains and leafless trees, others are like purple-veined fans. There are also seagrass beds where you may even be lucky enough to swim with a turtle.
Shark Ray Alley

Credit: Lucie Petrikova

Fly over the Great Blue Hole

The hour round flight from Caye Caulker to the Great Blue Hole takes passengers over a sea of colour - turquoise, aquamarine and azure - punctuated with a few green islands. The Barrier Reef, marked by a white line of waves stretching for kilometres, is followed by Turneffe Atoll which adds shades of green and yellow. It's mostly blue as far as the eye can see before, with rocks or coral appearing like mottled blobs, ink stains on a blue paper. Part of Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the Great Blue Hole comes into sight.

It’s a giant turquoise eye, surrounded by the edge of the reef that looks like a squiggly white line from above. A rusting container ship also sits on its edge, while yachts sail by in the distance. The beauty is gob-smacking. Dive trips can be undertaken to the Great Blue Hole from Caye Caulker with boats taking two hours to reach the site. Suitable for experienced divers only.
The Great Blue Hole

Credit: Globe Guide Media Inc

Kayak the Caye

Hire a kayak and paddle along the lee side of the island, across the Split, to the barely populated northern island, which is also part of Caye Caulker. Follow the mangrove coast while looking out for pelicans and blue and white heron on shorelines or resting on posts. You might catch a glimpse of a tarpon below you. If it gets too hot, stop on the shoreline and take a dip before continuing on. The current can get strong, especially if the wind gets up, so best to stay close to shore or let someone know your plans. Alternatively, try out paddle-boarding.
Kayaking the Caribbean, Caye Caulker

Credit: Travelstarter

Go Fishing

There are a number of fishing charters on the island and with the barrier reef, mangroves, and saltwater flats, a range of different fishing opportunities are on offer. Try fly-casting or trolling. Species which can be caught include tarpon, bonefish, barracuda, snapper, marline and bonito. It is possible to fish off docks around the island but ask first, as some are privately owned by locals or hotels. If you’re wanting a change of scenery, catch a water-taxi to Ambergris Caye (San Pedro) for the day. This island is also laidback, but a lot larger than Caye Caulker.
Tarpon fish, caye caulker

Credit: Diego Grandi

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