08 April 2009 | Belize
Lighthouse Reef was beautiful but we did not get a chance to stay long. Rumor had it that if you had not checked into the country upon arrival and were caught that the fines were pretty steep. So we did the responsible thing and headed to check in. Due to weather we ended up checking in at Cucumber Beach Marina on the mainland. Instead of us going from official to official to check in on our own as we typically do in each country, Cucumber Beach can arrange to have all of them come out to the marina at one time (for a fee of course) which worked out well for us since checking in anywhere else was going to be a hassle. We could not bring our boat into the marina because of our draft so we dropped the hook outside the breakwater in building seas. Within 5 minutes of anchoring we had the dingy in the water and outboard engine on, a nice clean collared shirt on to greet the officials and all of our paperwork in hand. We rushed into the marina to catch the team we needed to make our check in complete (which is usually Immigration, Customs, Agriculture, Port Captain etc). The policy in Belize is that each boat entering the country needs to be inspected. Kent politely let them know that the seas were building but they insisted. Five of them piled into the dingy and headed for Hiatus but apparently at the breakwater one of the officials turned to Kent and told him that it was not safe to take them out and to turn around. Luckily all our paperwork was completed (sans inspection) and we hurried back to our boat which was now really bucking and bouncing in the swells. We pulled up the anchor and sought protection from the wind and seas in nearby Robinson Cay (a quick 7 miles away).
Next morning we found ourselves up early to take advantage of calm conditions and heading toward Cay Caulker. To get to Cay Caulker meant we had to maneuver through some shallow splits. We spent at least 5 hours in water that was less than 10 feet deep! As nerve racking as it was, we made it without incident. Cay Caulker used to be one island before Hurricane Hattie split it into 2 islands. The official motto on Cay Caulker is 'Go Slow' and the 800 residents on the island honor it. There are 2 main sand streets that are at most a mile long and the only way to travel the island is by golf cart, bicycle or on foot. Cay Caulker is much less developed than the popular Ambergris Cay which is 20 miles to the north. Tourism in Cay Caulker is skyrocketing and so are prices, beachside restaurants charge higher than US prices and serve typical American style foods. We have tried a few local places that are pretty good and much more reasonably priced but nothing to rave about. The one popular food item in Belize is a hot sauce called Marie Sharp's and it is put on everything. It is a habanera pepper based sauce so a little goes a long way.
Belize City is on the mainland and 20 miles south of Cay Caulker and we took the quick 40 minute ferry over one day to take care of some 'to dos' and possibly some sight seeing. It is safe to say that we did not find that the town offered much for us. It is predominantly a stop for cruise ships so there were a lot of sunburned tourists running around paying way too much for things. Oh well, it certainly keeps a lot of Belizeans in business and made for good people watching.
There is some decent snorkeling here but we have found it not as colorful as in Roatan, Honduras. Because of the shallow waters around the reefs there are rays everywhere, first spot we went to snorkel had 10 big sting rays surrounding the dingy before we even got our fins and snorkel on and while they were neat to watch we did not want to jump in the water with them. The waters are very clear here, I know we keep sharing that fact but each place we visit on the Caribbean side seems to have clearer and bluer waters but then again I guess that is what you should expect when you anchor in 8 feet of water.
One of the most refreshing things about Belize is that English is their official language. Spanish and Creole are also commonly heard; but there is no need for either of us to massacre the Spanish language while in Belize. Yippee!
Last but not least the Photo Album is up to date, just click on the 'Photo Album' link and then whichever country folder you want to see pictures from.