Caye Caulker: Learning to breathe underwater on Belize’s Barrier Reef

Letter 179

Something that was high on my Belize Bucket List was diving on the reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. I definitely ticked it off and completed my Open Water PADI training throughout six dives on this stunning reef. I completely fell in love with diving, and with the small, characterful island of Caye Caulker, where I spent almost a week. I filled the rest of my days with hammocks, puppies and yoga and I loved it.

Belize Caye Caulker Diving 28

 

PADI Open Water at Frenchie’s Diving School

I decided to do my diving course in Caye Caulker for a number of reasons. I had never been diving before, and had barely even snorkelled, but it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Although it might not be the cheapest place to do it, I feel like I got a lot out of it, especially doing all of my training in the most unbelievable underwater paradise.

Frenchie’s also added to the experience. It’s a locally run diving school with super friendly instructors and they are super keen to make the experience the best possible. I was also lucky that my training was with just one couple, so we had our instructor, Mario, between the three of us. I’ve heard stories of one dive master to about 20 students, so we felt very lucky. Caye Caulker is also only a 5 or 10 minute boat ride to the dive sites, so it was the perfect location. I paid $400US for the 4-day course, which included one day of video/book training, and 6 open water dives over 3 days, plus the training dives. These are normally in a pool, but for us it was the shallow part of the reef, where fish and rays swam around as we completed the mask and rescue drills – quite an experience.

Check out Frenchie’s website here.

Belize Caye Caulker Diving 5Belize Caye Caulker Diving 17Belize Caye Caulker Diving 24Belize Caye Caulker Diving 29Belize Caye Caulker Diving 32Belize Caye Caulker Diving 33

The reef itself is absolutely incredible. I have nothing to compare it to, but I thought it was amazing. I only have photos from the last two dives, but everything I saw was beautiful. Colourful coral, interesting fish and huge sting rays made it such a brilliant experience and I cannot wait to dive again soon!

Belize Caye Caulker Diving 7

Belize Caye Caulker Diving 9

This is a Parrot fish – really vibrant green, though this is dulled underwater.

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I would like to add that all of my underwater pictures were taken on my trusty Crosstour that I bought for this trip. I didn’t want to shell out loads of money on an overpriced gopro and instead just wanted something simple to capture my underwater adventures. I paid about £30 (it was on sale from £43 – still a bargin) and I have been so impressed with it. The photos and videos are good quality and it’s been super easy to use.

 

Link to the Crosstour camera I bought (amazon)

 

Caye Caulker

As I said, I spent almost a week on this island and I really grew to love it. It has a true Caribbean vibe to it mixed with a backpacker atmosphere and incredibly friendly locals. Compared to the average backpacker, I stayed a long time. In my dorm room alone I saw three different groups of people come and go during my stay. It also meant that I became very friendly with a lot of locals who I saw and chatted to every day. When it was eventually time to leave, I felt a bit sad because I’d felt so at home there and felt really lucky to have had such a lovely week on the island.

KEY INFORMATION ABOUT CAYE CAULKER

  • To reach the island of Caye Caulker, you must take a boat (obviously). You would typically do this from San Pedro or Belize City. The boats aren’t too expensive – around 20BZD (£8) from Belize City and a little less from San Pedro (I believe).
    • It does work out cheaper to get a return if you know you’ll be using the same route to get back (I should’ve done this but didn’t).
    • There are a few different companies so try to get the cheapest if you can be bothered. I think I paid 25BZD to get to Caye Caulker from Belize City and then only 17BZD to get back (I had a voucher).
  • There are plenty of hostels and hotels on the island. I stayed at Yuma’s House, which has a great location and good facilities, but for me it didn’t have much of an atmosphere and I missed this.
  • You can walk everywhere, or can hire bikes. The island is so small.
  • It is more expensive than other places (except San Pedro), so you would be looking at around 25BZD (£10) for a meal and drink at a restaurant, or about 15BZD (£6) to eat and drink froma  street food vendor (normally with some tables and chairs to sit at. You can also grab burritos or breakfast fry jacks (super popular) from street vendors for less than 5BZD (£2)

 

The Island

This small sandy paradise is cute and colourful, with great cafes, restaurants and street food. It’s enjoyable to wander around and you’ll see the same people over and over which is always fun. There’s not so much to actually do on the island, and most people spend their days slowly wandering around, drinking and eating, and of course relaxing or partying at the Lazy Lizard on the Split. Everyone spends time here and it’s a lot of fun. Drinks might be slightly overpriced but its a great atmosphere. Just don’t eat here because there are far better places.

Belize Caye Caulker 2

Belize Caye Caulker Island 1

The famous Lazy Lizard juice. CAUTION: it’s green, sticky and more alcoholic than it feels.

Belize Caye Caulker Island 2

Yuma’s House, where I stayed.

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Dog and Cat Shelter

One of my absolute favourite things about Caye Caulker was the animal shelter which is run by the lovely Kenny. He takes in abandoned kittens and puppies, nurses them to full health and then goes about finding them a forever home. He takes such good care of all of the adorable animals here and ensures they go to good homes only when the time is right. He’s located on the front street on Caye Caulker, and you’re likely to walk past daily, so do stop off. You can stop for a while to give some much needed cuddles, or can take out a dog for a walk. Every little helps. He takes donations of money, food or treats and you can also use his facebook/go fund me to donate when you’re home. Such a good cause and it made me happy every afternoon to see these beautiful animals.

Website about the shelter

Belize Caye Caulker Animal Shelter 1

Belize Caye Caulker Animal Shelter 2

This is Ross who was brought in to Kenny by an American guy who found her in Belize City. I met him and he was so lovely and caring, coming to visit little Ross and Kenny every day. Kenny had taken her to the vets and got her all the medication she needed and will now nurse her back to health over the next 3-6 months. Unfortunately her sister didn’t make it, but Ross seems like a survivor!

Belize Caye Caulker Animal Shelter 3

She spent all afternoon napping in my lap.

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Sunset

As Caye Caulker is such a small island, you can’t miss the sunset from the west side. I went most evenings to catch the sunset and it just seemed to get better each day. The best place to watch it is in and around the Iguana Reef Inn. They have a dock to walk out on and take in the view. They also feed the rays and sharks later on which is fun to see! I love a good sunset and these may have been some of the best I’ve seen.

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Yoga

Another of my favourite past times on the sleepy island, was morning yoga at Namaste cafe with the wonderful Jessie. She is honestly one of the best and nicest teachers I’ve ever had. She really listened to and watched the class and adapted her teaching to match the individuals. She asked what people wanted and created a selection of movements seemingly off the top of her head (I realise she probably does prep a lot, but she seemed so natural and instinctive). She’s been doing this on the island for over 10 years so she’s very experienced and lovely to talk to. Another bonus is that the classes do not have a cost and are just based on donation. This makes it accessible to everyone and she has a completely full roof terrace every day, twice a day!

I didn’t take any photos – but here is the website for more info.

Classes are every morning at 8 and 10.

 

That pretty much sums up my week on Caye Caulker. Lots of diving, playing with dogs, relaxing in hammocks, eating gorgeous food and enjoying some morning yoga sessions. It was a really enjoyable week and I made great friends with locals and ex-pats, more so than travellers for the first time ever I think. The community on Caye Caulker is really unique and it has a great feel to it.

Next stop: Hopkins

 

From Lou

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