Belize was our last Central American country to visit and we budgeted a total of 11 days here. Partly because we found the prices for everything in Belize to be prohibitively expensive and party because we were both tuckered out at the end of a 3.5 month trip, we decided to take it easy in Belize and not plan too much to do. Other travelers had raved about the Mayan underworld at the famous ATM cave so we decided to splurge for that tour while in San Ignacio. The rest of our time in Belize was spent in laid back Caye Caulker, where we signed up for three separate snorkel trips. Our original intention was to SCUBA the Blue Hole, but we honestly couldn’t justify the hefty price tag just to say we did that dive. It was a good choice, as we enjoyed our snorkel adventures around the Belize barrier reef. Luckily for us, even though it was out of season, we spotted a manatee in the open ocean! Our very first sighting of a manatee and it did not disappoint. Belize spoiled us with fantastic weather and gorgeous sunsets, and it was very tough to pull ourselves away from this little slice of paradise. Belize pleasantly surprised us, as we did not have high expectations based on other traveler’s reviews. We enjoyed this country more than we thought we would, and perhaps next time we can afford the pricey daytrip out to the Blue Hole.
Tropicool Hotel, San Ignacio, $20 a night for a double room, shared facilities. Room was very comfortable and excellent value. We had a raised bed, fan, desk and chair in the room. The WiFi was super strong and fast. Owner is a nice guy named Wally and he gave us the rundown for places to eat, tours to book, etc. Early check-in was not a problem, and our room was cleaned daily if we wanted. No laundry is allowed in shared bathroom sink or shower, but you could wash your clothes/sneakers in a bucket in the garden outside. Checkout is at 10 am, which was perfect since our bus to Belize City left at that time.
Yuma’s House, Caye Caulker, $18 a night for a bed in a 4 bed dorm, shared facilities. Youth hostel located just a few feet away from the ferry terminal. Owned by Susanne, the hostel is clean, comfortable and affordable. The shared facilities are kept clean, and there are 2 kitchens for self caterers. Free drinking water during office hours (7 am – 7 pm). Our 4 bed dorm had 2 bunk beds and 4 fans, which kept the room cool. Small lockers for our bags, so only valuables could be stored there, with our clothes stuffed under the bed. A few hammocks to lounge on in the shared area. WiFi is weak and unusable, but that seems to be the norm for the island. Overall, this hostel was neat and clean and an affordable option for pricey Caye Caulker.
25 Mar: Depart Guatemala, enter Belize. Go to San Ignacio
26 Mar: San Ignacio
27 Mar: ATM Cave Tour, return to San Ignacio
28 Mar: San Ignacio
29 Mar: Bus to Belize City, ferry to Caye Caulker
30 Mar: Caye Caulker
31 Mar: Snorkel trip, Caye Caulker
1 Apr: Snorkel trip, Caye Caulker
2 Apr: Caye Caulker
3 Apr: Snorkel trip, Caye Caulker
4 Apr: Caye Caulker
5 Apr: Ferry to Belize City, taxi to airport
25 Mar: Exiting Guatemala was a breeze and getting stamped into Belize equally as easy. From the border, we only had another 14 km to go until San Ignacio so we put our bags on the bus to make it easier to offload once we reached our destination. Thankfully, we were dropped off near our hotel, so it was a 5 minute walk to reach Tropicool Hotel, our home for the next 4 days. We checked into our room and Wally, the owner, gave us a brief rundown on recommended restaurants in the area. Our double room is great value at only $20 a night. Lunch was at Ko-Ox Han Nah, which means “let’s go eat” and it was pretty good. We stuffed ourselves silly for $24 with a lamb burger and a pork quesadilla (which was massive). We also chatted with a travel agent about the ATM tour, and she advised us to look into the Crystal Cave tour instead which was equally as good but a lot more challenging. We contemplated it after lunch and took a siesta in the midday heat. By late afternoon, we hit the streets and asked around at a bunch of travel agencies for the ATM versus Crystal Cave tour, and we ended up booking with Mayanwalks, which was more expensive than their competitors at $95, but they had great reviews and everyone seemed quite happy to use them. A group of 10 had just returned from the caves and they were standing in the street drinking rum punch…it looked like they were happy and satisfied. After chatting with another rep, we finally pulled the trigger and made a booking for Wednesday’s ATM tour.
26 Mar: Lazy day today. We slept in despite the mockingbirds doing their best to wake us up. Our morning was spent researching campervans and calling USAA and Progressive to get insurance quotes. We also chatted with the DMV to find out about whether we could register our vehicle in Florida as out of state residents. Then we chatted with Becky’s folks and found out that they were looking for help with her nieces in Texas..would we be able to spend a month babysitting them? We really didn’t want to as our USA road trip would be impacted, but we felt obligated to help out. Lunch was at a nearby Chinese restaurant (Maxim’s) and it was OK. The sesame chicken was good but the sweet and sour pork was pretty disgusting. After our incredible Chinese food in Antigua, it was disappointing to have mediocre Chinese food in Belize. Especially when there are so many ethnic Chinese living here! Back in our room, we did more admin stuff until it was time to stuff our faces again. This time, we decided to have a typically Belizean meal at Cenaida’s which Wally had recommended. Great recommendation as the prices here were super cheap and the food was great. Two thumbs up! We decided to skip packing for tomorrow’s excursion until tomorrow morning…procrastination is best.
27 Mar: Got up at 6 am because the mockingbirds were super loud early this morning. We were at the office early and got our shoes and waited patiently for everyone else to show up. Our group was quite large (16 total split between 2 guides, Hector and Eric). First we had to pile on a bus and drove 30 minutes to a grocery store where everyone was urged to stock up on snacks. Then a further 7 mile drive along a bumpy dirt road to the starting point of the ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) hike. By 8:30 am, we were at the parking lot and our group was split into 2, and we got Hector as our guide. Each one of us grabbed helmets and a head torch, and off we went. One minute into the walk and we were plunged into a freezing cold river that reached neck level. Hector caught one of the girls in our group taking photos on her camera so he sent her back to the bus to drop it off. It is a very strict no go to bring cameras into the cave after severl people dropped theirs onto the artifacts and damaged them. Apparently, no cameras have been allowed into the cave system since 2012, which really isn’t such a bad thing. Thankfully, Mayanwalks gives everyone a copy of some of their photos after the tour, which was nice to have for memories sake. We hiked another 30 minutes until the starting point, and Hector had all of us consolidate our water bottles together. Apparently, we are not going into the cave with them. Then we plunged into the river once again and entered the mouth of a cave. What a way to start our tour! Since we had left so early, we were one of the first groups into the cave and that was nice, because we were able to leisurely take our time while going through. As Mayanwalks had promised, no one is rushing you through the caves! We swam, scrambled, crawled, scooched, and pulled our way deeper and deeper into the cave. Hector would periodically ask us to turn off our lights and give us a briefing in the dark. The cave tour was very interesting, and we learned why the Mayans would enter into the cave to perform acts of self-mutilation or sacrifice as they progressed deeper and deeper once the situation got more and more dire. Drought was the primary reason, and most of the sacrifices were to the rain god Chac. About half way through the tour, we took off our shoes and climbed higher into the caves where we got to see the artifacts that the Mayans had left behind in the cave. As Hector described, this was actually a unique open air museum, with the ceramics, tools and skeletons left in their original places. ATM was discovered in 1986 by Dr Thomas Miller, and opened to tourists in 1997. Only 37 guides are authorized to bring tourists here (maximum of 8 tourists per guide) so that limits the numbers of visitors each day. Our group of 8 was pretty cool, and we enjoyed everyone’s company. All too soon, we climbed up the final ladder and reached the hidden surprise of the cave, a crystallized skeleton in a rock tomb. This last sacrifice victim had been disemboweled, and there is debate whether the skeleton is a male or female. It was turn around time and we had to exit the same way we entered. Unfortunately, there were lots of groups now, so we had to wait as some areas of the cave became log jammed. As we made our way back out, we had to slide and crawl through some tight spaces…so much fun and a little bit dangerous! This would never be allowed in the US as someone would get hurt and then try to sue. We loved it and exited the cave in a pretty jubilant mood. Our whole group seemed elated, although all of us complained that it felt a bit too short, ha ha. Back at the parking lot, we quickly rinsed off, changed, and hung our clothes out to dry. Then it was lunch and rum punch time. Rice, pasta and chicken for lunch and free flowing rum punch….not bad at all. We were happy and tipsy by the time we had to load back on the bus. It took another hour to reach back to San Ignacio and we were shocked to discover it was nearly 4 pm by the time we got back to our room. Full day tour indeed. There had been progress on our campervan since we had been gone so we spent some time doing coordination for Becky’s folks to do a test drive for us later this week (and make payment if the van seemed to check out). Dinner was going to be a repeat meal at Cenaida’s but it was closed to our dismay, so we went back to Ko Ox Han Nah which was packed. Luckily, we only had to wait 5 minutes for a table as turnover was pretty fast. Dinner was super filling (massive burritos) and no room for dessert.
28 Mar: Today was a fairly relaxed, lazy day. Becky finished the post for Guatemala before lunch while Robby researched several cruise options for us to take with his mom. By midday, we took a break for lunch at Cenaida’s which was good although Robby’s grilled fish was a stingy portion and Becky’s grilled steak was very generous. Back in the room, we chilled and used the super fast internet. By late afternoon, we decided to walk around taking photos of the murals around town, since we had neglected to do anything “touristy” around San Ignacio. Dinner was burgers (beef and lamb) at Ko Ox Han Nah as we were tired of Belizean food by this point. It was delicious and we left feeling super stuffed. Since our bus tomorrow wasn’t scheduled until 10 am, we had plenty of time to pack in the morning so we didn’t bother getting ready tonight.
29 Mar: Got up and packed our bags. For breakfast, we went to the local market where we grabbed some bananas (10 for $1 Belize). After stocking up on some snickers, we gave Wally our room key and headed over to the bus station, arriving well before 9:45 am. Good thing we were early as a queue formed as soon as our bus pulled in and the latecomers struggled to find good seating. We lucked out with our seat, scoring the emergency exit row which seemed to have extra leg room. Our bus tickets cost $10 Belize each and the ride was very smooth and comfortable. In no time, we had pulled into Belize City where we grabbed our bags and walked over to the ferry terminal, located 1 km away. Thankfully, the tourist information office in San Ignacio had given us coupons for the ferry, so we saved a lot of money and got our return tickets for only $32 US for 2 adults. The ferry left at 1:30 pm, so we had some time to eat our snacks for lunch. An entrepreneurial man sold us his wife’s homemade granola bars for $10 Belize and we liked his hustle so much that we didn’t even bargain him down. The ride to Caye Caulker was very quick, taking only 40 minutes. We were crammed in to a tiny boat, but luckily we were sitting next to a window so we could escape if need be. On Caye Caulker, we immediately liked the vibe and felt that 1 week here would be the perfect way to end our Central American adventure. Our hostel was incorrectly labeled on Maps.me and we later realized it was right next door to the ferry terminal! We checked in and paid for our week up front, and were given room #4, and took the bunk bed closest to the door. Then we wandered around looking for SCUBA centers and snorkel options as we wanted to see who to book our adventures with. Diving here is very pricey and we may have to forego it to snorkel instead. We’ll see! Dinner was at Southside Pizza, which was OK. Our waitress was great and she earned a huge tip from us. Back at Yuma’s, we played scrabble and went to bed at 11 pm. Our one roommate came in at midnight and immediately flipped the light switch on..she is not considerate at all!
30 Mar: Today was a pretty productive day! We woke up and had the last of our cereal and reheated a slice of pepperoni pizza from last night for breakfast. Then, we happily discovered that the WiFi that was down all afternoon yesterday was actually working today which was good, especially since we were standing by for a call from mom and dad to let us know the status of our van. They had driven down to do a test drive, and if all went well, the van would be ours. Joey sent us an email telling us all was good and to give them a call and sure enough, the 3 of them were sitting around chatting like old friends. We are now the new proud owners of a 2002 Roadtrek van! With less than 60,000 miles on it, we thought it looked great for our new campervan. Next step was taking care of the insurance, and luckily, we were able to do everything online with Progressive. After emailing Joey a copy of our insurance, we walked around town to talk to all the SCUBA shops to get quotes for the Blue Hole. We also tried to see if anyone could offer manatee tours that would allow us to swim with them, but the ones to Swallow Caye were in a protected marine zone, so you could only observe them from the boat. Someone recommended Anwar Tours and we got an instant good vibe about this place. We didn’t want to book right away so we told the rep, Rico, that we wanted to think about it. Back at Yuma’s, we had a tuna sandwich for lunch and made a concoction of rum and grapefruit juice. We decided to pull the trigger on our snorkel trips and visited Anwar Tours again. Rico agreed to give us a deal of $60 each for the full day snorkel and the manatee tour, and we accepted. On our way to go swimming, we stopped by a dog shelter and played with the dogs. The dogs here receive a ton of love. There were two different families wanting to adopt the dogs to take home! Good for them…we just wanted to play with the puppies and dogs. Then it was a walk down to the Split which was packed with sun worshippers. Robby wasn’t feeling the vibe so we walked around the corner to the local beach, and took a dip. The water felt great and the local kids were having a blast playing around in the water. Our rum concoction didn’t last long, and we realized we should have brought a bigger beverage bottle! Back at Yuma’s, we downed a bit more and feeling tipsy, we stumbled over to Auntie’s for dinner. On our way there, we met the couple that we did the ATM tour with that lives in Scotland, and chatted with them for a bit. They were enjoying Caye Caulker as much as we were and it was nice to see them again. Dinner was fried chicken and BBQ ribs which only cost $24 Belize…what a deal. A neighborhood dog came by when we finished our meal begging for our bones. We happily obliged and headed back to Yuma’s. Neither one of us could keep our eyes open past 9:30 pm…we were in bed early tonight. Blame it on the rum!
31 Mar: Up at 7:30 am for a breakfast of scrambled eggs and leftover pizza. Today was our full day snorkel trip with Anwar Tours, and we were at the shop fifteen minutes early so that we could make payment and get our snorkel gear sorted out. Becky opted to borrow a GoPro, and we sat outside waiting for everyone to show up. There was quite a sizeable group, and we were worried about having too many people on our boat but luckily, there were two groups – the full day and the half day snorkel trips. Our group only had 6 people (Hilly from Hong Kong with Sergio, her Mexican boyfriend, and an American couple), and we were led by Howell at our tour guide. It was a really fun day, with Howell taking us to a snorkel site to assess everyone’s abilities. It was an old conch graveyard, with a resident leatherback turtle. Too bad the turtle wasn’t around today but there were quite a few fish to keep us entertained, including a trunk fish and a barracuda. Next stop was the famous Hol Chan marine reserve, which was excellent. We saw two eagle rays, eels, tons of fish, and even a bunch of SCUBA divers below us. There was a swim through tunnel which was fun. Howell had to lead us on this guided portion of the tour, because the marine reserve officials do not allow snorkelers to do their own thing. Our next stop was another snorkel site and there was a turtle munching away on sea grass that didn’t seem to mind our presence. We got some nice GoPro footage of it and watched it surface for air. Then it was time for lunch, and we munched on our fish burgers. Robby saw Howell’s lunch box of rice and beans with Caribbean chicken and he had food envy! Next stop was the shark/ray alley and that was a lot of fun. The nurse sharks are attracted by bait and they swarmed the boat. Howell told us to enter the water on the other side of the boat, so that a hungry shark didn’t take an inadvertent bite out of us. It was cool seeing the swarming sharks and rays jostle amongst themselves for a bite to eat. Last snorkel stop was a shipwreck, and Howell advised us against swimming inside it. However, a knucklehead from another boat just couldn’t resist and he lost one of his flippers inside the wreck. We watched as he made attempt after attempt to retrieve his flipper and Becky thought the fool might drown himself inside the wreck. Success on his 6th attempt, and he emerged with flipper in hand. What an idiot! On the ride back to Caye Caulker, we were on the lookout for manatees but it was not meant to be. Our next to last stop for the day was the feeding of the tarpons. These massive fish live near a huge underwater cave, and they are protected in Caye Caulker. We were taught how to feed them sardines, and told to video it using slow motion. The results were hilarious, as the fish would leap out of the water to steal the sardines from our hands. Very cool and lots of shrieks of laughter all around. Our last stop of the day was to visit the seahorses located just off a pier. They blended into the seaweed and ropes, but eventually we spotted about 4 or 5 of them. What a neat experience to see them so close to shore! The seahorse sanctuary really works as they have thrived in this area. We met either the owner or manager of the Iguana Reef Inn, and he explained how the sea horse project started a few years ago. Howell told us that our tour would end here, so Becky popped out her SD card from the GoPro and left the rest of our snorkel gear on the boat since the guys said they would take care of it for us. Thanks guys! We said goodbye to our new snorkel friends and Hilly told us to come back to Iguana between 5 and 5:30 pm, as they did a pelican feeding every afternoon before sunset. Apparently, Iguanas is one of the best sunset locations on the island. We had just enough time to take a shower and rinse our clothes before wandering back to Iguanas for the pelican feeding. A cute Israeli girl does the daily feedings, and she offered to let us feed the pelicans if we wanted to. There were at least 2 dozen pelicans vying for sardines, not to mention the frigate birds and gulls soaring overhead for a free meal too. After the feeding of the pelicans, another bucket of sardines is brought to the pier for the nurse sharks and sting rays. The sunset from here was spectacular, and we enjoyed our time at Iguanas immensely. Dinner tonight was spaghetti with turkey kilbasa sausage. It was super tasty and Tigger gave us sad eyes in an attempt to get some food. We weren’t sure if Susanne would approve of her pets being fed so we resisted, but Tigger is working hard to endear himself to us!
1 Apr: Another great day today! We got up at 7 am for breakfast which was scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, onion and garlic and ate the last of our bananas. Our snorkel excursion wasn’t scheduled until 9:30 am so we had some time to relax in the hammocks until then. One of the coconuts fell near us and at that point, we realized how many coconuts were in the trees high above us…it would have been very dangerous for one of them to fall on us so we didn’t linger long after that. At Anwar Tours, we were quickly given our gear and a GoPro and then we took off. The other group of 3 were already there and had been waiting on us, and we thought we were early! We introduced ourselves and met Bobbie and Steven from San Pedro, Belize and Linda from Utah. Linda is Bobbie’s sister so it was a family excursion that we had decided to crash. The fantastic thing was all of us were keen to see a manatee! Our guides today were Andrew and Aiden, cousins who were born and raised on Caye Caulker. Andrew explained that manatees really like warm, calm water and even though we were technically out of season, there had been one sighting of a manatee last week so maybe we would get lucky. Of course, there were no guarantees and we knew our chances would be remote but fingers crossed! Our first stop was on the north side amongst a coral patch. Andrew had once spotted a whopping 6 manatees here at this spot before, even though it was quite rare for so many of them to be consolidated in the same area of the ocean together. Normally there would only be a mother/calf pairing, not 6 adults in the same vicinity. We were on the hunt but no luck. Andrew did point out a green sea turtle, and Becky spotted an octopus. Back on the boat to our second snorkel site, which was a bit further away from the north point. There were actually quite a few tour boats in the distance, but we had this site to ourselves. Again, no luck even though we searched and searched. There was a tiny eel, lobster and fish. Back on the boat, we took a break for lunch. Our chicken and rice meal was quite tasty and plentiful. At this point, we were realizing how elusive the manatees can be, especially in the off season, so our hopes weren’t high on spotting one. On to our third snorkel site. Two nurse sharks kept circling around, and we jumped in and tried our best to find a manatee. And we struck out a third time. Boo! There were lots of needlefish, and we spotted a yellow stingray. Later on Andrew told us that the yellow stingrays pack a lot of poison, and they like to bury themselves in the sand near the shore. Back on the boat, watermelon and pineapple was cut up for us, and Bobbie and Steven were sharing chips and salsa and Nilla wafer cookies. A huge sting ray swam in the crystal clear water towards us, and we were able to take some nice photos of it from the boat. Since it lingered, we figured we’d jump in and take some GoPro footage. Then a nurse shark came by, and Andrew threw a fish into the water, so the nurse shark swam around in circles trying to find the food. Pretty cool to get some video of that before we moved on to our final site, the back end of Caye Caulker. Since we were so close to the island, neither one of us thought there was a chance in hell we would see anything. But eagle eyed Aiden spotted a manatee surfacing for air in between the channel. We jumped in and another boat slowed down to see what we were up to and their customers jumped in as well. We had a brief glimpse of the manatee (which was hauling ass), and then a third boat (Mario’s) came speeding up to us and the manatee bolted immediately, diving deep into the murky water. Thanks a lot Mario! We kept swimming, hoping that the manatee would eventually resurface and luckily it did. So we managed to get some video and observe how it swims in the water. Linda at one point got a bit too close to the manatee and it got spooked, diving down quickly. We pursued it and managed to get a bit more video of it swimming around, surfacing for a quick breath, and then diving back down. For some reason, we thought manatees were slow moving creatures. Not this one! It was moving so fast, and later we found out it was a juvenile. Perhaps it was spooked by the boat’s motors, which are the #1 killer for manatees. We had 20 minutes of swimming with the manatee which was magical, even though the water was super murky. Back on the boat, we excitedly told the rest of the group about our experience, and everyone was happy we had spotted a manatee. We will definitely share our videos with Bobbie since we were all on the quest to find a manatee together! Our last activity was to feed the tarpon, and it was as much fun as yesterday. Bobbie had a “slow motion” option on her phone, and the videos were hilarious! Especially as the tarpons open their huge mouths and stole the bait from our fingers. Andrew tried to find a resident crocodile for us to see but it wasn’t around. So we puttered over to the other side of the island and grabbed all our gear before thanking Andrew and Aiden for a lovely day. Back at the shop, we returned our gear and said our goodbyes to Bobbie and Steve (after telling them about the seahorses and pelicans at Iguana Reef Inn). At Yuma’s, we took a cold shower and rinsed off all our gear and clothes before relaxing a bit. Then it was off to Iguana Reef to view the pelican feeding and watch sunset. This could easily become our evening ritual! For dinner, we went back to Auntie’s and had the t-bone steak and chicken fingers. It was OK…cheap and filling. Our evening was spent in the front section of Yuma’s where a strong evening breeze blew in. It felt a bit chilly after the hot weather today! We’ve decided to take it easy tomorrow, since we are getting a lot of sun exposure and don’t want to overdo it.
2 Apr: What a lazy day we had today. We got up at 7 am for breakfast (leftover pizza and homemade Belizean granola bars), and then sat around the common area on our computers all morning long. The WiFi was weak but at least it appeared to be sporadically working. The only break we took was for lunch, which was tuna sandwiches. Then it was back to lounging around on our computers. By 2:30 pm, Becky couldn’t stand it anymore so she demanded a break from the “office” with some beach time. We found a small section of beach to lounge on and a young dog surprised us by coming up to lick our faces. He was very playful and thought we would be good entertainment for him. We tolerated his playful antics for a while before finally sending him on his way again. Neither one of us wanted to take cold showers at night so we decided to rinse off before sunset. Armed with our own rum concoction, we walked down to the split for another pretty sunset over Caye Caulker. We haven’t had a disappointing one yet! Dinner was at Chef Juan’s which was highly rated by other travelers. It lived up to the hype, serving up good food fast. Prices were fair and the desserts were surprisingly good. Two thumbs up for Chef Juan’s!
3 Apr: Slept in until 7:30 am this morning. Breakfast was scrambled eggs with hot chocolate. Poor Robby was trying to balance two plates while climbing over a hammock and his flip flop got caught on the edge of the hammock and down he went. Somehow, he managed to keep the plates mostly upright and just barely missed smashing his head into the wooden bench nearby. Tigger happily sauntered over and ate his fair share of scrambled eggs and cheese…then he came over to beg for more! We had plenty of time to kill before our half day snorkel trip today so we relaxed in the hammocks until it was time to go. Back to Anwar tours for a third time, and we paid $30 each for our tour and got our snorkel gear. Becky borrowed a GoPro and off we went. Our group size was 8 people and 2 locals joined us to make a total of 10. Little did we realize but the snorkel site was close to the island of Caye Caulker. Our first stop was to a section of the Belize barrier reef, the second biggest coral reef in the world and it was a guided swim. Our guides today were Omar and Howell (who we had on our full day tour), with Omar leading our motley crew. 6 of our fellow snorkelers opted for a life jacket, and a few of them appeared to struggle in the water. We saw an eagle ray, eel, various corals and fish, and a sting ray. One of the guys wearing a full face snorkel mask started having problems and Omar cut the snorkel short, leading us back to the boat. Fingers crossed our next two stops are not guided ones as we much prefer snorkeling on our own. Stop number two was the shark/ray alley and there were quite a few cruise visitors around on boats carrying over 30 people each. What a zoo! Omar warned us that because today was cruise day, the sharks wouldn’t linger as they had lots of food from everyone. Sure enough, the sharks came by, got fed, and took off. We did enjoy seeing the rays swim in formation and found the nurse sharks here to be much smaller than the ones on the full day tour. Our last snorkel site was the best one, at a location called “Coral Garden”. It was very pretty, with loads of fish – barracuda, Bermuda chubs, striped snapper. We had about 45 minutes to snorkel here and took the maximum amount of time allotted. Back on the boat, fresh fruit had been served and we chowed down on pineapple and bananas. Then it was off to see the seahorses and tarpon. A young girl named Emma reluctantly fed the tarpon and sure enough, her entire hand fit into its mouth and got scraped up which traumatized her slightly. She was sure that she had been bitten. It didn’t help that a similar aged kid on the docks screamed in terror after an identical tarpon feeding experience! Poor Emma will never want to feed the fish ever again. Omar and Howell dropped us off and we returned our gear to the shop. Back at Yuma’s, we took showers and then made lunch (tuna sandwiches and mac n’ cheese). Tigger immediately gave us sad old dog eyes and we fed him some mac n’ cheeese which he loved. That dog is going to miss us big time. After lunch, we had a brief siesta on the hammock, before heading out for sunset. But first a walk to the Split to scope out where we would hang out tomorrow. By the time we got to Iguana’s, the pelicans had already been fed but we were in time to watch the frigates swooping in for sardines. Sunset was beautiful as always. Iguana’s is our favorite sunset spot in Caye Caulker. For dinner, we went to a local shack that Omar had recommended, Meldy’s. We ordered the fried conch and creole fish for dinner and sat back to wait for a while. The family of 4 (Emma, her brother and mom and dad) also showed up, so we swapped tables to allow them to eat together as a family. Our dinner was massive, and our meals were tasty. The total bill for our meals and drinks (beers and lime juice) was $64 Belize, which was our most expensive meal to date. However, it was pretty good and we left feeling overstuffed.
4 Apr: Our only agenda for today was to relax at the Split. So we slept in, had a late breakfast, and strolled over to the Lazy Lizard to find a shady spot out of the scorching hot sun. The entire joint was empty at 10 am, but it quickly filled up with day trippers and later risers. It got packed, and lots of alcohol was consumed by 10:30 am…people are definitely in vacation mode here! We hung out reading our books and taking a dip in the swimming hole before escaping from the sun under our shady spot. By 2 pm, we were starving so off to Auntie’s for lunch. We ordered the chicken burgers with fries which was a pretty good deal. Tigger jumped up and ran over to our table as we decided to eat our late lunch in the sandy courtyard. He ended up scoring some fries dipped in chicken juices with his sad puppy dog eyes. A relaxing afternoon in the hammocks rounded out the rest of our day and we decided to hit Iguana Reef Inn for one last pelican feeding and sunset. What a great nightly ritual as it never got old watching the pelicans getting some food. Dinner was at Chef Juan’s, who served up a killer chicken curry in coconut sauce and fish dish. We couldn’t resist sharing a dessert (chocolate cake), and left feeling utterly stuffed. Another great meal at Chef Juan’s! One of our roommates had decided to upgrade to a private room at a resort, so there was only 3 of us in the dorm tonight.
5 Apr: It appeared that everyone on our floor was checking out today, and we were all catching the same ferry! We had cereal for breakfast along with the last of our hot chocolate, and greeted Susanne when she arrived to man the reception area. After dropping off our key and thanking her for creating a little oasis on Caye Caulker, we walked over to the ferry and waited for the 8 am boat. Good thing we arrived early as it was a bit crowded on board and we managed to get decent seats by the window. We were back in Belize City by 8:45 am and had to wait a few minutes to retrieve our luggage. Since the taxi fare was a preset rate ($25, non negotiable), we grabbed the first driver we saw and were on our way to the airport. Checking into our flight was a piece of cake and before we knew it, we were getting stamped out of Belize. Even though we had heard other backpackers complain about how Belize was their least favorite country, we ended up really enjoying our last Central American country. Yes it was expensive, but we enjoyed all of our activities and tours here.