Ambergris Caye, 2008

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Tackle Box

 

Its February again so it's time to go South.  Its been Belize for four straight years, recently Caye Caulker for 3 times.  I looked around for something as a change but couldn’t find anything that excited me.  I looked at Roatan and Costa Rica but finally decided San Pedro would be a change so we headed for Ambergris Caye.

The decision about where to stay is important.  In town is pretty active.  South of town is accessible and nice.  North of town can present some transportation challenges.  I decided life might be easier south of town rather than the north.  Whatever we needed we could find down there.  That proved to be true.  We got a two bedroom suite at Banana Beach. 

Banana BeachThe flights down were uneventful and we arrived in Belize at around 12:30.  We got to Banana Beach at around 2:00.  Check-in was a breeze and the suite was nice with a good view.  The pina-coladas weren’t bad either.  We went ahead and had dinner at El Divinio at the hotel since nothing else was close.  The grouper was very good.  We worked with Monkey Business Travel at the hotel to set up a snorkeling trip  to Bacalar Chico on Monday.

Sunday was deemed an exploring day.  We went for an early morning walk down past Victoria House before breakfast at ElBC's Divinio.  Breakfast was included in the price and was very good.  Victoria House is impressive to see.  There's a few pictures in the Around Ambergris album.  We spent the rest of the morning walking up the beach and wandering around town.  Jean from Trip Advisor suggested we go to BC’s for the BBQ.  The food was great and we met some nice people.  I finally got to hear Dennis Wolf sing Gringo in Belize, too.  We walked back to the hotel to work off all the food and Belikins.

View at San JuanMonday we took a snorkeling trip to Bacalar Chico.  Its a 20 mile boat ride without good cushions.  We went past Cayo Espanto to see all those $1700 per night places and headed to El Iguano a small island full of birds including young Roseate Spoonbills.  They were a splash of pink in the mangroves.  It would have been nice to have a better camera with me.  The trip continued to San Juan, the park headquarters.  Its an old Mayan spot but has been heavily excavated at this point.  We got a brief history of the place and had a great lunch.  Lunch is done and still no snorkeling.

From San Juan, you cut through a natural canal that the Mayans extended.  To your left is Mexico and to the right is Belize.  We headed to Bacalar Patch for the first snorkeling stop.  There was a lot of wind and the water was choppy.  The visibility wasn’t great because of all the sediment.  Still we saw several fish but the guide kind of rushed through it.  The next two spots were Barracuda Patch and Mexico Reef.  The fish were about the same there.  They sometimes see manatees in Barracuda Patch but we didn’t.   The sometimes can come down the beach side of the island and save a lot of time. We had to go back the way we came up because of the waves outside the reef so it was a long ride.  On the whole it was a nice day.  As a snorkeling trip, it left some to be desired.

Altun HaWe went to Altun Ha and the Community Baboon Sanctuary on Tuesday.  We wanted to go by boat but Monkey Business set it up as a flight to Belize City and a guide from there.  I decided later that was fine because it would have been another real long boat ride.  The problem they had was finding enough people to fill the boat.  We went to Altun Ha first to avoid the cruise shippers.  It’s a nice ruin and is larger than I expected.  We were a party of 3 with a guide.  When we got back to the parking lot, there were two large busses.  By the time we got back to back to the road, we passed 6 more busses.  Their experiences were going to be a lot different than ours.

From there it was off to the Baboon Sanctuary.  (Baboon being a British reference for howler monkey.)   We didn’t get near one but could see them.  There wasHowler Monkey a territorial dispute going on and they fight by howling.  It was loud.  Actually it was probably cooler than normal.  We stopped at an unusual place for lunch.  It was in Burrell Boom I think.  A lady was set up in a rickety shelter selling beans, rice and chicken.  It made a good lunch in a place I wouldn’t have stopped on my own.  Nothing like an authentic Belizean lunch.

We had an informal tour of Belize City on the way back.  Parts of it is more interesting than I expected.  The newer section by the water is kind of impressive.  The cost of the tour, including flights, was $150 which didn't seem to bad for all it included.  We made it back in time for dinner at Sunset Grill, even though we missed sunset.  Dinner was good but not significantly better than El Divinio.

Trends BeachfrontWe couldn’t go to Belize without stopping in Caye Caulker for a day.  We talked to Carlos Ayala for a while.  We stopped and met some of our daughter Moment’s friends.  There were several selling their crafts and arts at the new stands.  The Lazy Lizard has been fixed up some.  The picnic tables in the water looked nice.  A couple of guys were enjoying the diving board.  It looked like they had also reduced the beach area in an effort to shore it up.  We saw a new coffee shop over the water and a new restaurant where the sports bar used to be.  Rasta Pasta has moved but their location isn’t as good.

There are new condos completed and new ones underway.  There seemed to be a large condo or hotel going in by Chan's.  They haven’t changed to look of the island too much, yet.  One thing different was that the Chinese restaurant near Oceanside was gone.  Its building has become a part of the Crystal grocery store.  I don’t know if they moved elsewhere or not.

It was so hot on Caulker that we simply wilted.  We were told later that is was 102.  I wanted to walk around more but it turned out than none of us had anything left.  We caught the water taxi and headed back.  We didn’t feel like working too hard to get dinner and I talked everyone into getting a burger.  It turns out to be a good trick on Ambergris.  All we could find close by was a 12 oz burger at Banana Beach.  It was good but way too big.

Thursday we decided to just relax.  We knew some of the folks from the internet were meeting at the Tackle Box.  We wandered up to say hi.  We met Jean,Internet gang at Tackle Box Bruce, Ron, Faith, Jay and two nice folks from Las Vegas whose name I can’t recall.  It was fun meeting some of the other folks.  I think Sue might have decided Josh is her new favorite bartender.  We walked around town but more than one Belikin makes that dangerous.  The golf carts were swarming round.  If you rent a golf cart, note that some of the streets are one-way but there aren't signs.  Thursday was also Valentines Day.  The Blue Water Grill didn’t have anything open so we wandered down the beach.  We stopped at the Banyan Bay restaurant to get reservations.  They have a very nice setting out on the water.  They also had the most overpriced buffet I’ve ever had.  It was good but not as special as the price.

Black GrouperFriday we let Monkey Business set up a snorkeling trip.  From Ambergris Caye most of the trips have only two stops.  They go to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley but not the Coral Gardens.  We went with Alphonse and had a good time.  He spent a lot of time making sure people’s equipment fit and was working correctly.  From a pure snorkeling standpoint, this was better than Bacalar Chico.  For what its worth, the all day trips from Caye Caulker hit all three places with a stop for lunch in San Pedro.  Not a big deal but is different.  Dinner was at Fido’s (Fee-dohs) Sandbox below Victoria House.  Not cheap but good Fish in Coconut Curry.  Nice setting too.  At this point, we were all worn out from the busy week but had to pack and get ready to go home

Our flight from Belize was to Houston.  The first thing we heard was tornados and horrible weather in east Texas, specifically Houston.  Great!  Actually the flight wasn’t too bad.  I think the weather was further north than they expected.  Now we had a 3.5 hour wait to work through.  Or so we thought.

We were flying one of Continental Express’ 50 passenger Embraer 145 jets to Dulles.  Our plane came in very late from Palm Springs.  I think it was a little over an hour late.  Next they unloaded a different plane first and we had to wait.  Finally we boarded and pulled away from the gate.  That’s when the storm hit.  Another hour and a half on the little jet.  The plane is very uncomfortable and the extra time wasn’t appreciated.  If you fly one, your carry-on probably won't fit.  There simply isn't much room.  We finally got home 3.5 hours late but we did get home.

All in all, it was a very nice week.  The weather was good and the people were nice.  I’d do it again but Ambergris Caye may not be my first choice.  You can see some of my thoughts on why in my Final Thoughts