isla

LA ISLA BONITA – UNFORGETTABLE THINGS TO DO

If you dislike boating, snorkeling, diving, fishing, anything that has to do with water, don’t even think about going to Ambergris Caye.  Everything there has to do with water, even if you want to reach San Pedro Town from any of the resorts you must take a water taxi. But if you do like clear waters, snorkeling and diving, good swimming, and watery excursions, this is one of the best places in the world. The world’s second largest barrier reef is just a mile and a half away and paradise, underwater. During the day everybody arranges boat trips to any of the diving sites around the island and have fun underwater. To keep up with the rest of them, as soon as we arrived to Mata Chica we made arrangements for wonderful day trips. Next day, and every day after, we woke up early and after a sumptuous breakfast, our tour guide  picked us up at the pier and the real adventure began.

HOL CHAN MARINE RESERVE  For a fabulous snorkel experience in warm, calm and turquoise waters, 100% visibility, among the lush coral gardens, schools of colorful fish, barracudas, parrot fish, sea turtles. This marine reserve is one of the top ten snorkeling and diving sites in the world. We were so fascinated with this huge aquarium that we didn’t realize it was time to move on to our next spot, the Shark Ray Alley.

SHARK RAY ALLEY  Was recently discovered by the dive operators of San Pedro when they found out that the local fishermen cleaned their catch just inside the reef and the offal attracted the nurse sharks and sting rays.  The place soon became a popular dive site.  They (the sharks) heard us approaching and began to swim around the boat looking for the feeding from the dive masters.  We enjoyed the show but no one dared to jump off.  Then, a bit warily, someone made up his mind and jumped into the water.  After a few minutes he was still alive and waving towards us, we realized it was harmless to swim around, so the rest of us jumped off. We agree this is a bit touristy, but we also must agree that everybody loves to tell the story of swimming with the sharks, even if those were nurse sharks.

CAYE CAULKER    This trip was really enjoyable.  We set off early as usual, for though Caye Caulker is only 20 minutes away from San Pedro, we had become snorkel addicts and wanted to stop again at one of the many snorkeling spots.  We abandoned ourselves to Caye Caulker around noon, we had some grilled fish for lunch at a barbecue on the beach and collapsed under the shade of some palm trees.  The atmosphere of the island is totally laid back, after a good nap, barefoot and laid back, we went to explore the island, which is very small and narrow.  There are only three sandy streets, bars, small and simple restaurants and gift shops gather at the southern end of the island. Nobody is on a hurry in Caye Caulker, go slow is the motto of the island.  Neither are cars, just a few golf carts and old-fashioned bicycles.  The small wooden houses painted in bright colors are spotted between the mangroves and palm trees, just steps away from the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. We did nothing, just walk the island, hang out in the sun and enjoy the peacefulness and a feeling of total freedom.  As the sun began to set down , we started to slowly sail our way back to San Pedro, with good music and good drinks.

GREAT BLUE HOLE  Ia a large underwater sinkhole off the coast of Belize, the deepest world natural formation of its kind and paradise for scuba divers.  In 1971 Jacques Cousteau brought the Calypso to the hole to chart its depths.

SWALLOW CAYE AND SERGEANT CAYE

We joined a trip to the Swallow Caye, a wildlife sanctuary and manatee reserve, with snorkel and beach barbecue at Sergeant Caye. Once we were in the marine reserve, the guide turned the motor off completely and poled the boat slowly around so as not to injure the manatees. The manatee is a marine mammal also known as sea cow, big and fat, it reminded me of a seal, though its closest relative is the elephant, has tiny eyes, two front flippers –very small, compared with the body and the tale is flat, paddle-shaped. It’s funny, because they can’t turn their heads, so they must turn their whole body to look around. They have no proportions at all, and may be that’s why they seem so graceful and gentle. They are very shy and like to stay underwater, so we just saw the nostrils of one of them before it submerged again. We were waiting and waiting, but we only saw faint shadows, bad luck.

We then continued to Sergeant’s Caye, a remote, tiny and uninhabited white island on the edge of the barrier reef. Halfway we stopped to greet some fishermen who came from conch fishing and they gave us some for our picnic lunch.

We approached the island, a tiny spot with tall swaying palms on white sand beaches in the middle of the Caribbean, a picture postcard of paradise, the child’s dream of the deserted island. We jumped off the boat and spent three wonderful hours in that paradise, snorkeling the pristine waters right from the beach. For lunch we had a conch ceviche, which was very tasty and returned just in time to watch the sunset on board and have dinner at Mambo.

ALTUN HA We arranged a full day trip to Altun Ha. We set off in a motorboat, full speed through mangrove estuaries towards the jungle.  Cruising up the Northern River we arrived to Bomba Village, a very small place where there are only a few natives who make and sell incredible wood artifacts from trees.  It seems they live there, I am not sure, for there is no power or running water.  A sort of old school bus took us in a bumpy – funny ride through sugar cane fields and small villages until we reached the ruins of Altun Ha.

Altun Ha Mayan Ruins

Altun Ha  by  sandy.redding

MARUBA RESORT JUNGLE SPA  After exploring the ruins we got into the bus again and headed to the Maruba Jungle Spa. We arrived there for lunch, served in an outdoor dining room in the forest, dishes placed on a giant palm leaf, and red hibiscus flowers decorating it all. After lunch the guide asked us if we wanted to have a body massage, and we agreed immediately. The massage therapist led us down a path through a tunnel of palms to the spa, small and rustic thatched roof cabañas.  The atmosphere was particularly hedonistic, soft music, sandy floor, white curtains swaying with the gentle breeze. We had a great aromatherapy massage, with essence of oils, excellent for reducing stress and improve circulation.  We spent the rest of the day swimming on the pool, which is particularly inviting under the waterfall and reluctantly left this exotic paradise in the middle of nowhere to return to reality.

Maruba Resort

Maruba Resort  by Camelia TWU

MATA CHICA  GOOD BYE  We spent our last day at Matachica sea kayaking and snorkeling in the barrier reef, just a mile away, resting and sunbathing at the beach. The next morning, the water taxi took us back to San Pedro and we took and island cab to the airport.

OTHER MUST DO

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