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Why Belize? Setting the Scene and Getting There

First stop Caye Caulker


View 1998 Belize, Tikal, Atlanta, and Cozumel & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

Charles Darwin referred to the Belize Barrier Reef in 1842, in his study of the origin and evolution of coral reefs. He described it as "the most remarkable reef in the West Indies" Since then it has become renowned as the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Nearly 260 km long, it runs from the northern border of the country, where it is only about 1 km offshore, south to the Sapodilla Cayes.
large_1c97f980-e677-11ea-b1b8-4d016ec4c498.JPG
In 1996 the reserve system was designated a World Heritage site due to its vulnerability and the fact that it contains the most important and significant natural habitats.

Prequel

One of Bob's life goals was to visit Bermuda on his own sailboat and then sail down to the Virgin Islands. Bob did get to buy his dream boat, but we haven't sailed on it to Bermuda. We have visited both Bermuda and the Virgin Islands but not on our own boat

From 1995 to 1998 we made two trips a year - one at Thanksgiving and one in the winter (January-March). My husband started this round of travels (the ones before we retired in 1999) by saying we were going to Bermuda for Thanksgiving in 1995.

I had always wanted to see the tropical jungles, so in the winter of 1996, we visited Costa Rica

Thanksgiving of 1996, we went to Barbados for a week.

Because Bob wanted to re-visit the Virgin Islands (His first visit was courtesy of the U.S. Navy), we chartered a sailboat in the winter of 1997. Bob wanted to see if I could live on a boat. I took the opportunity to get certified in SCUBA. I did the check-out dives from the charter
My scuba instructor

My scuba instructor


(I took a course in the late 60s, but this time it was a national certification). We did another charter in the Virgin Islands at Thanksgiving with the same people but a different boat.

One of my life goals was to dive the Great Barrier Reef. So our winter 1998 visit was to Belize. Because I didn't see any possibility of diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, I figured this would be the next best thing.

We bought our sailboat in May 1998. So our last trip of this series was to Cozumel in December 1998 when I did some more diving and Bob took a course and got his own Open Water certificate.

End Prequel

We bought our trip through a California travel agent that had been recommended to us by the guy that we used for the Virgin Islands charter trips. I emailed him, talked to the guy on the phone and arranged a VERY low cost trip of two weeks. My notes say 'to Belize Transfer Services $750.00'
c338dca0-e7b2-11ea-aa99-874829696b79.JPGFiguring travel insurance cost

Figuring travel insurance cost


I got a booklet of vouchers, but just before we left, the main person that I had been dealing with apparently got sick, and the person that took over for him didn't complete all the notifications. When we presented our vouchers, some of the people and businesses didn't know that we had paid in advance and sometimes they had not been told when we were to be there or even that would would be coming.

I wrote a trip diary in a book that my mom gave me called
The Compleat Traveler's Journal and Record Book

The Compleat Traveler's Journal and Record Book


In addition to the mainland of Belize, with Belize City, and the Cayo District (uplands near the border), Belize also has many cayes (pronounced keys) ranging from fairly large like Ambergris to very small. We started out at Caye Caulker, transferred via a snorkeling trip to Hol Chan to San Pedro (Ambergris Caye), flew to the mainland and rented a car and drove to Placencia, and then drove to the Cayo district where we left the car and took a two day trip to Tikal.

All the pictures from this trip were taken with point and shoot film cameras because I didn't have a digital camera at the time.

Thursday 26 February 1998

My email wouldn't let me log on this morning. I went to the library and got their Belize guides. (I had bought Frommer's guide to Costa Rica and Belize for our Costa Rica trip, so I tore it in half and took the Belize part with me.)
List of books checked out of the library

List of books checked out of the library


I stopped the mail and packed. I had a small hard side roller bag, a softside bag, and a very large bum bag. I took 3 bathing suits, my dive console and wrenches, my mask (with diopters for reading watch or gauges underwater), dive light, snorkel, dive skin, dive log, dive camera, one extra pair shoes, a pair of Teva sandals that I'd gotten for Costa Rica, T-shirts, a long sleeved shirt, light-weight long trousers (not jeans they are too heavy). underwear, socks, nightgown, one jumper (a sleeveless dress), sweater, plastic poncho, hat, sunglasses, binoculars, DEET, sunscreen, 400 ASA film, a panoramic and a regular point and shoot camera plus some snorkeling cameras, first aid kit, medications, flashlight, pocket knife, travel alarm, tissues, plastic bags, an extra pair of glasses, traveler's checks, a mesh bag, a Camelbak (a biker's water bottle worn on the back with a bite valve) and of course, passport, tickets, and vouchers.

At that time we lived about five miles from BWI, so we could just get a local taxi to the airport.

Friday 27 February 1998

Woke up early and signed on and received and sent email. Dressed and had two bagels. The taxi came early and we got to the airport before 5. Went through the line pretty quickly and we checked two bags - one for each of us. We each carried the other bag aboard. The plane was to be full - they were offering $300 to take the next flight.
Flight 975 - Depart BWI 07:05 am - non-stop to MIA. Seats 10A and 10B Equipment 727 Stretch. Continental Breakfast Arrive Miami 09:40 am
But in fact the man next to us moved so that we had all three seats to ourselves.

The plane in Miami was late arriving. We could not board at 11:25 because the plane was not there yet. If you are going to have to be somewhere in Belize by a certain date, it might be a good idea to fly in a day in advance so you can deal with any snafus. Book as early as possible to get the best rate and try not to have a lot of connections to make. Especially if you book early, reconfirm about a week prior to departure, and when you get to Belize, reconfirm your departure flight. You could fly to Belize on American, Continental, US Airways (U.S.), or Grupo Taca (El Salvador). Continental flies out of Houston, American has flights out of Miami and Dallas, US Airways flies out of Charlotte. Taca flies out of Houston, Miami, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco. I prefer AA of course because my daughter is a pilot for them and we can get discounted tickets. You will land at the International Airport which is - like most of larger airports - not in Belize City.
Flight 2103 Depart MIA 11:25 am - non-stop to BZE Seats 11A and 11B Equipment 727 Stretch. Lunch Arrive BZE 12:44
Belize from the plane

Belize from the plane


As we came in over Belize
Flying in - the shadow of the plane below

Flying in - the shadow of the plane below


we saw
Fires in the woods

Fires in the woods


(from the big plane). We did not land in Belize until 13:30. The guy on the aisle next to us (who was originally from Scotland) told us that the water taxi did not run after 1 pm (which was not true but we didn't know that)

The Belize airport did not have A/C. We had a short wait for our bags and after we went through customs and immigration, we walked over to the local counters and bought a ticket on the plane to Caye Caulker for $42 each. Flying is the most time efficient way to get around in Belize and one of two ways to get to Caye Caulker. An advantage of flying is that it is quicker, and you can easily find out about flights at the airport. The disadvantage is that it is more expensive.

There are several airlines that fly to Caye Caulker, or from Caye Caulker to Belize City Municipal Airport or San Pedro (Ambergris Caye). The two Belize airlines are Maya Island Air and Tropic Air. Island Air also has flights to Caye Caulker.

Tropic Air ticket to Caye Caulker

Tropic Air ticket to Caye Caulker


Boats leave from Belize City (so you have to get transportation from the International Airport which will cost something and also take some time) and cost US $15 for a round trip. The boat ride takes about 45 minutes. I figured that the price by air was not that much more than it would have been by taxi and boat, especially since we thought that the water taxi might not be running.

We got on the plane right away - just the two of us
Plane to Belize City

Plane to Belize City


and flew to the Municipal Airport where we got onto a smaller two seater plane and flew to Caye Caulker.

Airplane to get to Caye Caulker

Airplane to get to Caye Caulker


The pilot did all the pre-flight talk (about life preservers etc) himself. There wasn't room for everyone (Bob, me and one other guy) in the passenger compartment, so I got to sit in the copilot seat.
Cockpit from copilot's seat

Cockpit from copilot's seat

Leaving Belize City

Leaving Belize City


As we flew we could look down in the water and see the wakes of the boats and the little islands, beaches and reefs.
large_573117722359695-Flying_out_t..ye_Caulker.jpglarge_668624-Flying_to_Caye_Caulker_Belize.jpg
The flight was 12 minutes. The runway in Caye Caulker was a single track.
Landing strip on Caye Caulker

Landing strip on Caye Caulker


We landed, and got out, There was someone waiting at the Caye Caulker airstrip to go to San Pedro when we arrived and after he got aboard, the plane took off to ferry the other passenger to San Pedro.

Bob carried our luggage as we struggled through the sand under the hot sun to try to find our hotel.
Bob slogging across the sand with my wheeled bag

Bob slogging across the sand with my wheeled bag


Roller bags don't roll worth a hoot in sand. The people from Belize Diving were there taking someone on a golf cart tour of the island, and they rescued us - they took our stuff (i.e. me and our luggage) on the golf cart to the edge of the beach. The beach was harder sand, and easier walking.

We checked into Ignacio's Cabins with Ramon's mother
Office of the Ignacio's with golf cart

Office of the Ignacio's with golf cart


and dropped the bags on the bed. It was pretty close to the airport, but a distance away from everything else (at least as far as you can be on Caye Caulker). Just north of Shirley's Guesthouse and south of the Anchorage Resort. They had a check from our agent for us, but did not realize what days it was for, so we got the end cabin #14 which does not have hot water.
Our starting point - Ignacio's Hut #14

Our starting point - Ignacio's Hut #14

I think some of the other cabins do have hot water. It also did not have towels or toilet paper. Ramon, who helps run the place gave us toilet paper and gave us towels under protest as he said he did not usually supply them. The cabins are mostly on stilts on the beach. They have windows with screens and louvers, and a Casablanca fan. The photo shows
Wooden louvered windows (with curtain pulled aside for air circulation), Casablanca fan, clothesline (with a towel on it), and small chest with our water bottles on it

Wooden louvered windows (with curtain pulled aside for air circulation), Casablanca fan, clothesline (with a towel on it), and small chest with our water bottles on it


Bob's shirt is hanging on a nail. The sign says that the room is $45BZ a night but I think we paid less than that

Our cabin had a single and a double bed. The double was very bouncy (which my husband didn't like), and the bottom sheet was a synthetic which pills and is like sleeping in sand. Also in the room was one chair, a rack on the wall, three wall shelves, and a couple of clothes lines, including one on the stair landing.

Bathroom

Bathroom

The photo shows the toilet and sink. You can see my toothbrush on the sink. Some reading material (travel literature) is on the floor under the sink. The shower is in back of photographer. There is only one tap because we only have cold water. It was hot outside, so a cold water shower wasn't really a problem. No soap was supplied - bring your own.

The shower and sink drained directly out the bottom to the sand below. The toilet presumably went to some kind of septic tank or holding tank. We were told not to flush toilet paper, and that was also the case in other places on Caye Caulker as well. So you wipe yourself and put the paper in the trash can (which was not emptied) . It is very important that you follow those directions.

There was no mirror in the bathroom or anywhere else, no soap, and no place to put anything in the bathroom except the sink or the toilet box. There was a night light and electricity in the bathroom, and one overhead light in the cabin.

large_43334596668816-Door_to_stair..ye_Caulker.jpgThe manager don't want no Rastas or drug dealers in the room or the yard

The manager don't want no Rastas or drug dealers in the room or the yard


East side of room with the cabin door closed. Shows one of the three shelves and the sign that says "I the manager don't want no rastas or drug dealers.." Our mesh bag for laundry is hanging on the end of the shelf. The curtains do not completely cover the windows - just the top part. Didn't find much need for bug repellent because there was a breeze when we were there

284676192485873-Near_the_ent..ye_Caulker.jpgLooking out of room

Looking out of room


Cabin door is open to the porch for increased breezes (propped open with the chair). One of the several clothes lines (for drying bathing suits etc) was on the porch. There is a hanger on the line.
Beach in front of Ignacio's Huts

Beach in front of Ignacio's Huts


There is a dock, with some chairs on it. People usually swam or sunbathed from the dock, rather than from/on the beach because it was quite shallow near shore and tended to have seagrass

We were actually quite comfortable here except for the bed and the lack of a mirror.
Picturesque but basic Ignacio's Huts

Picturesque but basic Ignacio's Huts


We decided that we needed to check out the next day's activities, so we walked slowly in the heat to the Post Office.The streets are sand
Sand on road in back of hotel

Sand on road in back of hotel


There were almost no internal combustion vehicles on the island. There were said to be a beer truck, and maybe two other cars. All transportation was by foot, bike or golf cart. I went barefoot which was a mistake. It made my heels very sore. At home I can walk on gravel, or go barefoot in the snow. I go barefoot all the time and have tough feet. But the sand is very abrasive. So I had to wear shoes, which was a bummer. Caye Caulker is the perfect place to go barefoot.

The Post Office gave us directions to various places. We went up to Driftwood Dive shop where we we had a voucher to go on a snorkeling tour the next day, and they said "No problem". We also talked to the folks at Belize Dive.

Caye Caulker including the north mangrove end on the other side of the Split is only about 5 miles long. There are three streets. Front Street, Middle Street, and Back Street. We thought about renting a golf cart, but they were $15/hour and we didn't think it was worth it. We stopped by the bookstore "Seeing is Belizing" and bought a map for BZ$18.00,
Front of the map

Front of the map


Map of Belize

Map of Belize

Caye Caulker section of the map

Caye Caulker section of the map


and Bob bought some water for BZ$1.50.

We had dinner outside at the Sand Box (BZ$43.00). Recommended for Belizean-American seafood by "Belize First"'s editor Lan Sluder. We ate outside and had some trouble with flies. Sand floor inside and patio outdoors. I seem to remember eating at a picnic table with other folks.

Website says Open everyday from 7:00 am until 9:00 pm. Named the Sand Box because of the sand floors. Also notorious for the names of regular customers carved into the backs of the chairs. The most diverse menu on the island with daily specials - and they almost always have everything on the menu. A well-designed inside space decorated with local artifacts and a pleasant outside garden for dining. Having everything on the menu is important, and is not always the case at these places. Prices on the menu are in Belize $$. Divide in half to get US$$ prices. We paid US$22 for two without drinks.

Then we walked back to the cabin. It was windy. Bob went to bed early.
Our hut

Our hut

Total expenses today in US$
$470.00 - plane fare (half of two round trip tickets with our daughter's 20% employee discount)
10.00 - A taxi to the Baltimore airport including tip
- Bag Breakfast on plane to Miami
- Hot Lunch on plane to Belize
42.00 - Plane to Caye Caulker for two
9.00 - map
21.50 - dinner
unk (maybe $23) for Ignacio's Huts
0.75 - water
$553.25 in US$

28 February, 1998 - Saturday

The first full day in Belize we took a trip with Driftwood Dive shop to see the manatees.

Bob got up at 5 to take a pill (my notes don't say why). Note: We didn't drink the tap water here.

I got up and sat on the john for about an hour to write in my journal because it was still dark and there was a little light in there - I didn't want to turn on the ceiling light in the main room. Then I went back to bed.
Ignatio's Huts

Ignatio's Huts


Most of the time, we walked into town on a path along the shore

Scenes along the shore

Scenes along the shore

Shoreline fisherman

Shoreline fisherman

668836-Walk_along_shore_Caye_Caulker.jpgWalk Along the water

Walk Along the water


at least as far as the cemetery
Cemetery from the beach

Cemetery from the beach


and which point we could take a short street up to Front Street or Middle Street.
Corner of Front Street - The yellow building is some kind of government headquarters

Corner of Front Street - The yellow building is some kind of government headquarters

Movie theatre with billboard of showtimes

Movie theatre with billboard of showtimes


We didn't avail ourselves of this opportunity, but apparently people show movies or more probably video tapes of movies in this little building. The sign says that the movie is $5.95 and will be at 8:00 pm. The bottom of the sign advertises Conch Shells for $5.00. I wonder if they'd take a trade.

The building has solid shutters on the windows to cut out the light, but after dark there wouldn't be too much problem because there's not much in the way of street lights on Caye Caulker. You will need a flashlight if you are out at night because there were obviously no street lights along the path.

Coffeepot and sign for restrooms

Coffeepot and sign for restrooms

We had breakfast at The Other Side of the Moon because all the other normal breakfast places were closed that early. They had fry jacks on the menu, and I thought that would be fish, but it isn't. Fry jacks are a traditional dish in the Belizean cuisine. They are deep fried dough pieces served as a breakfast item, and can be shaped as circles or triangles. They had a self service coffee urn which we didn't sample because we don't drink coffee We had a good breakfast at US$15 US for two including tip. Bob had french toast and I had scrambled eggs and fry jacks.

Then we went down to Driftwood Dive Shop to do the manatee and snorkeling tour. This was the second one of our vouchers. (The first one was for Ignacio's Huts). One of the main activities for visitors to the cays is scuba, but there's a lot of snorkeling too. Because Belize has such an extensive reef system, that also means that the beaches are narrow. The reefs keep the surf from grinding up rocks into sand and building wide beaches. So snorkeling is most often done from small boats.

The open outboard boat named Baby Blue.picked up guests from various hotels, We were with ten other people This was more than usual because one of the other tours that was supposed to go - didn't. The people included a tour group of eight - Colleen from British Columbia, Alexandra from Germany and the other six from the UK (Clyde, Mary and her husband, Phil, Heidi and two names I can't read) plus a little girl and her mother from Austin TX who were supposed to go on the other tour. Madone and Rocque ran the boat.
Approaching the manatee "zone"

Approaching the manatee "zone"


It was hot in the boat and somewhat crowded. There was no canopy on the boat. We sped to the manatee area.
Sign in manatee area

Sign in manatee area


Here they turn off the engines and pole the boats into the area.
Poling the boat toward a manatee

Poling the boat toward a manatee


Not only do the boats not use motors, but they are limited to a certain number at one time. We were not allowed to get out of the boat or touch the manatees. I understand that these restrictions were initiated by the Belizeans running the tours themselves.

Manatees are hard to photograph because the water reflects into the camera and conceals their outline. They only stick their nostrils up out of the water to breathe and not their whole head.
Manatee just under the surface

Manatee just under the surface


Also they don't breathe very often, so you are waiting and waiting, and just as your camera shuts down, they stick their nostrils out and they are back under again before you can turn it on again. But we did see one or two of them

Then we were supposed to go to Goff Caye, but Rocque thought there were too many people there, so we went to Sergeant Caye instead. Roche dove down and showed Bob what fire coral was,
Fire coral

Fire coral


and then we snorkel circled the island. Bob and I both had disposable snorkeling cameras.
Coral patch at Goff Cay

Coral patch at Goff Cay


50480-06.jpgSnorkeling

Snorkeling

668924-More_snorkeling_pictures_Caye_Caulker.jpgparrot fish on the right

parrot fish on the right


I got a photo of a big barracuda, but I can't find it
5e7c4a20-e674-11ea-be13-09e2d3d12f64.jpgFish

Fish


I was astonished at how much branching coral there was.
Staghorn or Elkhorn coral reflected in the surface

Staghorn or Elkhorn coral reflected in the surface

large_1763384-cb_Under_Construction_Caye_Caulker.jpglarge_668926-More_snorkeling_pictures_Caye_Caulker.jpg668923-More_snorkeling_pictures_Caye_Caulker.jpgElkhorn coral

Elkhorn coral

large_2486028-more_coral_Caye_Caulker.jpg 668787-Elkhorn_coral_Caye_Caulker.jpgElkhorn coral

Elkhorn coral


Sergeant major fish

Sergeant major fish

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We had no lunch because we hadn't known to bring any, and they didn't know that we wanted it. When it was time to go home, Roque had to borrow fuel from another boat to be sure he would get us back to Caye Caulker.
Leaving the caye with the 18 palms

Leaving the caye with the 18 palms


Rocque dropped us off at Ignacio's. Then we walked (18 minutes but with shoes this time) back to the Driftwood Dive shop (which is at the other end of the island). Driftwood will fill a container for you for 50 cents US, which makes water much cheaper.

Rocque has girls working on commission to sell snorkel trips and fit people with fins and snorkeling gear (we had our own masks and snorkels so we didn't need that). But since none of the people on Caye Caulker had known that we were coming, we decided to ask them to call Ruby's in San Pedro to be sure that our reservation for there would be OK.

Then we went back down to the Other Side of the Moon and had wings and drinks ($16)
Bartender behind bar

Bartender behind bar


before we went to Seaing is Belizing for a slide show on the "Reefs of Belize" ($10 for two). which I thought was a lot, but it was very worthwhile.
Reef Life Slide Show

Reef Life Slide Show


Then we had dinner at Rocque's house - this was coupon #3. It was very good even though he didn't know that he would be doing this - this was another coupon where the Belize Transfer Service person hadn't told someone that he had sold something to us.
Lobster pots waiting for season to start

Lobster pots waiting for season to start


He cooked lobster and we had a baked potato and a side salad. It wasn't the lobster season, but he was a lobster man so he had some that he had gotten during the season. His wife was off with his children on the mainland investigating schools, because people in Belize have to pay for their education, and secondary schools are not available on Caye Caulker.

Bob is sunburned inside his elbows, and I have a rash in my armpit and a scrape on one finger.

This was a flash picture taken on a walk back at night. I was trying to take a picture of the land crab when he was out of his hole. But the developer wrote something on the negative so he is hard to see.

This was a flash picture taken on a walk back at night. I was trying to take a picture of the land crab when he was out of his hole. But the developer wrote something on the negative so he is hard to see.

Today we spent

$15.00 Breakfast
1.00 water
10.00 tickets for slide show
16.00 wings and drinks
unknown amount for dinner at Rocque's
unknown amount for Manatee and Snorkeling
unk (maybe $23) for Ignacio's Huts
$42.00 US.

Sunday 1 March 1998

Today was diving day. Belize Diving Services is the name of one of Caye Caulker's best and longest operating dive shops (It was established in 1978) and that was the one that the Belize Transfer Services sent me to. The shop is owned and staffed by
Kathy's card

Kathy's card


Master Instructor Kathy Dalton and Master Scuba Diver Trainer Dawn Williams. I did two dives with Kathy and Dawn. I had a brand new underwater camera which took me a couple of dives to get used to.
Great white egret

Great white egret


All the breakfast places were closed because it was Sunday, so I got cereal and juice at the market ($3.64). Bob went to Castaways to get a sandwich for my lunch ($5.00 and he had breakfast there after I left for $6.00 because they wouldn't substitute tea for coffee (which we don't drink) and he had to pay extra for it.) while I got fitted for a BC and got my dive computer mounted. This was coupon #4 which was one 2 tank dive with tanks, weights and belt included. I paid $1.00 to the decompression chamber fund.
Voucher for Dive Services

Voucher for Dive Services


A man came by and said that he thought the weather was too bad to dive, but I don't know what he is thinking - the weather is fine. At that time they had an old WWII boat, but it worked. As we left the dock we saw heaps of conch shells in piles on the shore,
Piles of conch shells

Piles of conch shells


and I saw two CSYs (boats like ours) moored or anchored on the backside of the island. One was a ketch with a blue stripe, and one was a standard rig walkover with a maroon stripe.

In addition to the bad weather man, Vicky and David, a couple from Alaska were to be diving with me, while Nick and Margo from Holland and Chris were doing the PADI Open Water Dives three and four with Kathy. Vicky was about my size and impressed me because she said that being our size was like walking around carrying 100 lb sack of flour all the time.

On the first dive I had a problem with my depth control. Dawn (dive master) took us on the first dive,
13696699668632-First_Dive_Tr..ye_Caulker.jpgFirst Dive Trip in Belize

First Dive Trip in Belize


but she had a migraine and didn't do the second dive. We anchored between dives, and they supplied oranges and water. They let Oscar (who was driving the boat and a lady who was with him go in and snorkel while we were anchored.
Fellow Divers

Fellow Divers

Filefish

Filefish


The second dive I did better but I didn't manage to get together with David and Vicky and Oscar.
large_2486055-Dive_Dive_Dive_Caye_Caulker.jpg286233052486052-Another_pict..ye_Caulker.jpgFrench angelfish

French angelfish

French angelfish

French angelfish


I ended up coming up with Chris. On the way back, we saw two blue sharks chasing a baby eagle ray.

When we got back, we rinsed off the equipment, and I walked back to Ignacio's. Bob was there.

About 5:30, we walked back to Popeyes to buy pizza, garlic bread and a couple of sodas. It cost $19.00.
Heron waiting for pizza?

Heron waiting for pizza?


We couldn't eat it all, but they wanted extra money for a box to take it back to the Hut, so we carried it back in napkins.

Spent today in US$
$3.64 cereal and juice for breakfast for me
3.00 Bob's breakfast at Castaways
Unknown amount for dive trip
2.50 sandwich for me
2.00 water and juice
1.00 decompression chamber donation
19.00 pizza at Popeyes
unk (maybe $23) for Ignacio's Huts
31.14 Total

Monday March 2, 1998 Leaving

We have a battery operated clock radio with us, and we have found BCB (Belize Broadcasting) on the radio and the weather forecast said 10 to 20 knot winds. The fan was on all night, but there was some breeze.

When we got up, the bed was completely de-sheeted. We packed, and ate a couple of pieces of pizza for breakfast. Bob walked to the Caye Caulker Bakery
2485922-From_website_Caye_Caulker.jpg
and bought some breakfast rolls for $2.30 BZ and took pictures of the tanks and the gas station
Gas for car and boats

Gas for car and boats


and generating station (at the time he was an above ground oil tank inspector for the Department of the Environment).
Sitting at the end of the dock waiting for pickup

Sitting at the end of the dock waiting for pickup


We walked out to the end of Ignacio's dock at 10 a.m. to be picked up for snorkeling at Hol Chan and transfer to Ambergris Cay. Note how straight the dock is.

Posted by greatgrandmaR 19:24 Archived in Belize Tagged planes boats diving snorkeling caye_caulker manatees ignacio's_huts sand_streets Comments (4)

Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Alley from Ambergris Cay

San Pedro

semi-overcast 86 °F
View 1998 Belize, Tikal, Atlanta, and Cozumel & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

2 March 1998 continued

After we were picked up at Ignacio's, we went to the Driftwood Dive shop and got our flippers (flippers take up too much room to pack and carry with us, so we just get or rent them at each place) and I got another water refill. We loaded all our luggage onto the boat including the breakfast rolls that Bob just bought, because we aren't coming back here.

There were eight other people with us. There were two couples. One Spanish speaking and one a man and woman traveling together who had just met on the trip. There was also a pair of men, and we picked up a single man at the Split. Then we went to Hol Chan and paid the ranger $5.00 BZ.
Ticket to Hol Chan

Ticket to Hol Chan


Hol Chan which has now been a Marine Reserve for 12 years, so the fish have had time to grow very large, especially the groupers. The boats were on moorings.

Julio led the dive and he told us to stay with him.

First we went to the where the rays and sharks and morays were. Bob had packed three of the snorkel cameras, but we used up the other snorkel camera, and I finished up the dive camera film.
Guide diving down

Guide diving down

Guide with ray and Bob's arm

Guide with ray and Bob's arm

Guide with a stick

Guide with a stick

1763385-More_snorkeling_pictures_Caye_Caulker.jpgSnorkeling at Hol Chan Underwater Park

Snorkeling at Hol Chan Underwater Park

large_51189420671095-Snorkeling_at..ergris_Cay.jpg71560229671535-Snorkeling_at..ergris_Cay.jpgSting ray and someone's flipper

Sting ray and someone's flipper

stingray

stingray


Julio petted the grouper and played with the sharks.
Guide holding a nurse shark

Guide holding a nurse shark


He also feeds the green moray a fish at the end of a long pole.
53685263671543-Moray_eel_lur..ye_Caulker.jpgMoray being fed a fish

Moray being fed a fish


I don't know if I approve of this activity or not but it sure pleases most tourists. They had a dive ladder over the side of the boat and I almost pulled Julio in when I tried to get out that way. It was easier to get on using the ladder on the stern.
Boat from underwater

Boat from underwater


Then we went to another site which was primarily fish and coral.
Clear Beautiful Water

Clear Beautiful Water

Sergeant majors

Sergeant majors

Fish

Fish

large_671086-cb_Under_Construction_Ambergris_Cay.jpg
large_668757-Snorkeling_at_Hol_Chan_Belize.jpg
Julio was towing one of the ladies around who couldn't swim.

We got back on the boat - everything wet and some people cold.
Ruby's from the beach

Ruby's from the beach


We got off on Rubie's pier, registered and got room #2 on the 2nd floor. The hotel people were very helpful. The room was not made up yet so we sat outside and ate the breakfast rolls.
Looking down from our room

Looking down from our room


We had two single beds with a night table between the beds, and a rack with coat hangers and a place to put suitcases. There was a standing fan, and a bookcase. The bathroom had a mirror, and hot water (unlike Ignacio's Huts in Caye Caulker). It took us a day to ask how to turn off the bathroom light. The switch was behind the mirror.
Sink and shower with towel drying

Sink and shower with towel drying


Outside on the deck (second floor), there were chairs and a table, and there were lines outside (with clothespins) to hang stuff to dry. It faces right onto the beach, and there is a pier. The only disadvantage of this hotel is that it is a little noisy.

I went down to the dive shop. I tried to phone, but you can't use a credit card to phone inside the country. So I went in person. This operation was partly run from the hotel which is on the inside of Barrier street so I went there first. Then I went to the dive shop pier. The pier is the same one that Driftwood Dive shop uses on their snorkel trips. Back to the hotel. Bob went to get a shower and I tried to use the pay phone, but it took my BZ$ and then when I connected they couldn't hear me.

I walked six blocks down to BTC (Belize Telephone Company) and made calls to car rental, Placencia and Cayo to check on whether they knew we were coming. I went to a pharmacy and bought some ointment for the rash under my arm on the way back. After I had a shower, I discovered that I'd left both the Camelbak and the vouchers someplace. I found the Camelbak in the Coral Beach hotel. The vouchers weren't at the pharmacy. I walked back to the BTC and they were closed, but the door was open and they had the vouchers. Walked back. I hung up the clothes to dry. Bob is not feeling well.

We went to Celi's for dinner
Looking out toward the dive pier

Looking out toward the dive pier


They had excellent food and service. The catch of the day is around US$10, broiled, fried or stuffed, and comes with a side order such as fries, beans and rice or cole slaw. Most other entrees are around US$8 to $12. Kids can get fish or chicken fingers, burgers and fresh juice drinks (watermelon, lime, orange, pineapple). You can dine inside or in a screened area by the beach. We had snapper ranchero, steamed rice, and Caye lime pie. US$28.75 including tax and tip for two.

Now to bed.

Expenses in Belize dollars
$2.30 pastries
7.50 phone company
16.60 water, drinks, jelly and bread
6.60 cups and 3 sprites
10.50 ointment
57.33 Celi's
unknown Hol Chan snorkel
unknown Rubie's
$50.42 Total in US dollars

Tuesday 3 March 1998

We went down to Rubies to have breakfast.
Looking out the front of the hotel - the bakery is below the window

Looking out the front of the hotel - the bakery is below the window


There was a small bakery/breakfast place run by the family that ran the hotel. There were a few tables inside or you could take the food out. We had breakfast here, but most of the stuff is too sweet for my taste. The rum cake is very good, but not for me for breakfast -- US$3.25 for two. They will juice just about anything. I never heard of watermelon juice before - also sweet. I didn't really like it. I felt queasy.

Got ready to dive. Voucher #7.
Coral Beach Hotel and Dive shop voucher

Coral Beach Hotel and Dive shop voucher


They rented me tanks, weights and a BCD at the dive shop. I was the only diver, and had a guide all to myself. They had no wrenches to put on my dive computer. So I came back to the hotel to get them. George the dive master was late. We went out to Tre Coco. The sea was choppy. I discovered I had forgotten turn on the camera and of course we saw a sleeping nurse shark and a huge barracuda. We saw a big sea turtle swim past, completely ignoring us. It was so cool. I was unhappy not to get a picture of him/her. I also forgot to rinse my mask but I could see OK. I had some problem with my buoyancy - either too heavy or too light. We did a 5 min decomp stop on a buoy rope as I was having trouble maintaining level. George put air in the BCD to come up and the valve stuck open. We came back a little later than we said we would. Went back to the hotel and the maid was in the room.

While we were gone, Bob went to take more photos of oil tanks. (His job at the time was as an above ground oil tank inspector.)
Car ferry

Car ferry


I hung up the dive skin to get dry, showered and went to Little Italy.
large_670761-Was_Little_Italy.jpg
They gave us Ice water!! at the table which none of the other restaurants did. We had the lunch buffet - there was a nice selection. US$15 for two without drinks. We went back to our room and I had a nap.

I went back to the dive shop. We went to Tuffy Walls for the second dive. This was a drift dive so George brought along someone to run the boat. It was windy so we couldn't go out too far - the water was really rough outside the reef.
large_3637410-Biggest_Reef_Belize.jpglarge_3637409-Biggest_Reef_Belize.jpg3637411-Biggest_Reef_Belize.jpglarge_3637412-Queen_Angel_Belize.jpg
Saw lots of fish and another huge barracuda. Had the camera on this time but I thought it was a 36 exposure roll and it was only 20. We went by a big sailboat from Georgia - it was named XIV. Came back and I took care of my gear.

We walked up to Elvi's kitchen for dinner. There is a tree inside the restaurant that goes through the roof.
Frangipani tree inside

Frangipani tree inside


Belize First says: "Doña Elvia Staines began her restaurant as a take-out burger stand in 1974. It has grown in fame and fortune year after year, until today it is probably the best-known restaurant in Belize". Bob had the fried chicken and I had chicken with coconut rice and a salad.

We sat at the window and watched car and golf cart traffic. Most of the transportation is foot, bike and electric golf carts. There are more cars on Ambergris than on Caye Caulker though, and at night Barrier Street is one way and Pescador Street (the middle street) is one way the other direction to control the cruising traffic jams. Streets are busy at night. People ride bikes or golf carts with a flashlight as a light.

We window shopped a little on the way back to the hotel

Expenses in Belize dollars
$ 6.50 breakfast
3.00 gallon of water
30.00 lunch
50.00 dinner
unk 2 dives
unk Rubie's
$44.75 Total in US$

4 March 1998

Slept late. Got 07:15 weather forecast on the radio - 88 deg F inland - 86 deg F on the outer cayes - cloudy - wind 10-20 knots E/NE low temp 77 deg F at night - water temp 82 deg F. ......Same old - same old.

We can hear conversation of others from the next room and down on the first floor.

Got up and went out. After we cashed some Traveler's Checks at the bank we ate breakfast at the Island Cafe - fresh squeezed fruit juice and some johnny cakes. They have all the usual egg-and-bacon basics including fried potatoes, but you could also enjoy the burritos and huevos rancheros.

Shopped and bought local made black coral and silver jewelry. Saw a cute little house with figures inside, but didn't buy it. They told me that it would be extra if we used a credit card, so I paid in cash.
List of purchases

List of purchases

Then walked up to the phone company. Called Windy Hill (they are doing our Tikal excursion) to try to get the Jaguar Inn (at TIkal) phone number. They didn't have it. Called the international operator information - she didn't pronounce Jaguar the same as we do but she gave me the number. Then the international operator said I needed to deposit $50.00. I talked to three different people. Finally got a man with pretty good English who say they had plenty of room the 12th but no private bath on the 11th. Also checked the Mayan air flight.

Took some pictures of the town and infrastructure on the way back.
Street scene

Street scene

Electrical worker

Electrical worker

Statue in roundabout

Statue in roundabout

Playground

Playground

Park with fake Mayan pyramid

Park with fake Mayan pyramid

672927-Street_scene_Ambergris_Cay.jpgScenes around Ambergris

Scenes around Ambergris

Scenes around Ambergris

Scenes around Ambergris


School kids wear uniforms. Streats are sand. Floors are sand in some restaurants too. Belize has many different kinds of people.
Amish woodworking shop

Amish woodworking shop


Even on Ambergris a lot of the woodworking, and food distribution is done by the Amish. We saw an Amish man and his son delivering eggs in a little wagon that they were pulling.

Went to the room and then walked down to Estels for a late lunch. Tuna sandwich and iced tea. No lemons or lemonade on the island. I get a lime slice in my iced tea.

Bob was watching sailboats come in an anchor from our balcony. I took a nap and then got ready to dive. We left to go out to Hol Chan about 5:30 pm. George is one year older than our son Rob. He comes to the dock on a bike. He works for the dive shop - he doesn't have his own boat.

We were the first boat out there but didn't have to pay as the park rangers weren't there at night. Another boat came in on the south side. The Hustler boat with the twin 200's moored on the pink buoy and then two more boats came in.

The dive guide told me under no circumstances was I to let the considerable current sweep me out beyond the reef because they wouldn't be able to find me. I actually didn't have any trouble with the current - it wasn't that bad. We got down and were looking around when someone from one of the other boats came down on top of me. I had a certain amount of trouble aiming the camera so that the whole animal that I was taking a picture of was in the picture, so my photos weren't as good as they normally were. We saw some of the same fish we saw when we snorkeled here during the day.
Fish at night

Fish at night


But we didn't see any lobster when snorkeling.
672894-lobster_Ambergris_Cay.jpgLobster

Lobster

672891-fish_Ambergris_Cay.jpgFish at night

Fish at night


In addition to the two lobster,
Moray eel

Moray eel


we saw two green morays, a spotted moray, a large shrimp and sea urchins. A particularly interesting thing that one would not see during the day was a parrot fish taking a nap in a mucus cocoon tucked away in the reef.
parrot fish getting some zzzs

parrot fish getting some zzzs


Then just at the end of the dive, this sting ray came swimming out of the dark with his eye glowing. It made him look kind of spooky.
Stingray

Stingray


Came back to the boat. I was weighed too heavy.

Got back, showered and hung things up to dry. We had dinner at the Holiday Hotel Wednesday BBQ on the beach.
Beach Barbecue on Wednesdays

Beach Barbecue on Wednesdays


Live music and spicy barbecue which was one of the cheapest meals we had. After the BBQ, when the sit down restaurant part of Celi's was closed, we came here for dessert.
Celi's for Ice Cream

Celi's for Ice Cream


You walk up to the windows on the street and order and then get your food. Or in our case, coconut ice cream. Then went back to the hotel.

Expenses in Belize dollars
$19.00 Breakfast
13.00 phone Tikal
25.00 lunch Estels
150.00 jewelry for gifts
unk night dive
5.00 tip for George
31.00 BBQ dinner
unk Rubies
2.50 ice cream
$122.75 Total in US dollars

Thursday 5 March 1998

It was windy last night and I didn't sleep well. Grumpy this morning. It is Bob's 62nd birthday. Finished packing and took our bags to the airport
Airfield

Airfield


and got a boarding pass.
large_96044_01.JPG
Airport at San Pedro

Airport at San Pedro


From the plane taking off

From the plane taking off

Taking off from Ambergris

Taking off from Ambergris


View of Ambergris from the air

View of Ambergris from the air


We left on the early flight. On the plane with us was a family of six that ate at Celi's the first night. They are going on to duPlooys. The plane went to the International airport first.
From the plane

From the plane

Next - renting a car

Posted by greatgrandmaR 12:36 Archived in Belize Tagged belize dive snorkel ambergris hol_chan Comments (4)

The Unique Belize Zoo and Diving down to Placencia

Renting a car and Conquering Belize Roads


View 1998 Belize, Tikal, Atlanta, and Cozumel & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

5 March 1998 continued

I tried to call but the rental car people don't answer the phone.

You can fly to Caye Caulker, Ambergris, Placencia, and several of the major lodges have airstrips. Maya Island Air had 9 airplanes which ranged from 7 to 13 passengers. While you have to fly or go by boat to the outer cays that are islands, Placencia, Cockscomb Basin, the zoo, the other Blue Hole, St. Herman's Cave, Mountain Pine Ridge and the Cayo District are places that are easier to visit when you have your own wheels.
The car we rented

The car we rented


We went to the International airport first and then to the airport in Belize City. We were picked up and taken to the rental car place.
Car rental contract

Car rental contract

Rules for the car rental

Rules for the car rental

Accident rules

Accident rules


They gave us a magenta Geo Tracker - a horrible color, with high mileage (95.5 thousand miles) and not new. The car wasn't particularly comfortable on the washboard roads, and the soft top didn't keep out the dust worth a darn, but it did have A/C. It had a plaque on it that indicated it had come from TX. I charged the car rental on AmExp because I was told that I wouldn't have to get the extra insurance that way. We had packed a soft side cooler for use in the car - we could keep lunch and drinks there.

A problem in general with the rental cars here is that they are pretty beat up, and often have flat tires. We talked to a couple that had 4 in one day. We were lucky, and only had one although the tires were threadbare.

After we rented the car in Belize City, we loaded our luggage into the car and headed out on Western highway. We stopped off for a visit at the zoo.
The toucan says "This map is free. It's not your Admission Ticket"

The toucan says "This map is free. It's not your Admission Ticket"

Zoo ticket

Zoo ticket


The Belize zoo is a most unusual place in that it is for the animals and local people rather than for the tourists. It came about because there was a TV series being considered, and an animal trainer was hired to train the animals.
Zoo history

Zoo history


Then the project fell through, so she begged and borrowed funds and established the zoo.
Zoo map

Zoo map

Zoo animals

Zoo animals


Keel billed Toucan

Keel billed Toucan

White Lipped Peccary

White Lipped Peccary

Puma

Puma


Monkeys

Monkeys

Ducks

Ducks

Crocodile

Crocodile


Margay

Margay

Jabiru stork

Jabiru stork

lCoati mundi

Coati mundi


We didn't see the tapir.
54746098673378-A_Stroll_Thro..ion_Belize.jpgPuma

Puma

Apparently now, you can join in supporting the zoo by getting a membership or adopting an animal. You can also stay at the zoo overnight.

Zoo information

Zoo information


We had lunch at the zoo snack bar. There wasn't much seating. The lunch was very expensive. We each had a chicken leg and wing, rice, beans, coleslaw and coke.
19980305-104696044_10.JPGSolar Energy Display

Solar Energy Display


I bought the Cockscomb Park book. Then I went back to the bathroom.

Went out the Western Highway to the Southern Highway. We stopped for gas near Dangriga
96997_01.JPGAbove ground tanks

Above ground tanks


Getting gas

Getting gas


and I wanted to buy frozen water and a dove bar but I discovered I had lost my checkbook which had my driver's license and a lot of cash in it. I knew I had it in the zoo. I guess it dropped out of my pocket when I went to the bathroom. One of the girls at the gas station phoned back to the zoo for me with her cell phone. Someone had turned it in. It was too late to go back for it so we went on to Placencia.
Southern Highway

Southern Highway


From Dangriga south, the Southern Highway was unpaved and corrugated. Traveling about 40-45 mph was smoother than traveling at 20 mph. In order to make people slow down, trees or heaps of dirt or large ropes are put across the road as speed bumps. These are called 'sleeping policemen'.
Tradewinds from a boat (from their website)

Tradewinds from a boat (from their website)


We checked in with Janice at Tradewinds just before they closed at 5 (1700) and were put in the Queen Conch cabin. I think this was probably a better cabin than we should have had, as it had a nice kitchen with stove, sink, and refrigerator, utensils, etc. It was really nice to be able to put water into the refrigerator and make ice out of bottled water. The cabin also had two double beds (each with a bookcase headboard), and a rack for hanging. There was also a standing fan. There was a private bathroom with a shower. On the porch outside was a table, chairs and a hammock. There were four or five other cabins on the beach. The cabin is cleaned every day and Janice is very nice and helpful.

Disadvantages: You have to walk in about a half block through deep sand, which is hard with suitcases especially. Next door is a policeman with a pet rooster who starts crowing on and off at about 2 or 3 a.m. Sheets were a stiff scratchy chiffon- like material. There is no parking. When we asked where to park, we were told to park anywhere, so we parked in front of the fish market co-op. Apparently we were blocking an access point, but no one said anything to us about it.
d3c184f0-e997-11ea-a9e7-55db996222df.jpg
One reason why there was no parking is that Placencia's 4,000-foot long “main street” is a pedestrian-only sidewalk.

We walked out to the Gallery for dinner. Lan Sluder of Belize First says:
"The Galley Restaurant and Bar should not be missed by jazz lovers or those who enjoy good food. Cleveland and Julia Berry fix a fine T-Bone (US$8), as well as Creole style lobster (US$12.50). Try their famous 'Seaweed Drink' - similar to egg nog with a pleasing flavor and a shot of brandy for good measure. Locals giggle and say, "It's good for de back mon!" by which they mean it improves a man's performance of his husbandly duties. Who can say?" The Galley and Tentacles are where the action is at night. Unfortunately, when we were there Tentacles was not open.

The lady in charge came out and asked us whether we would eat salads. When we said that we would, she said that many tourists refused to eat fresh vegetables, and that she was tired to serving them to have them ignored. I had conch steak and my husband had steamed shrimp- when we asked if we could have it steamed instead of fried (as on the menu) they were glad to comply. Fresh salad for each of us and grapefruit juice. US$24 for two.

I arranged to do a dive tomorrow. Showered and got stuff out.

Expenses in US$
$227.91 car rental, tax and insurance
2.50 tip maid
15.00 admission to the zoo for two
20.00 Jaguar book
10.50 Lunch for two
12.24 gas
2.50 food
1.00 phone call
24.00 dinner
unk plane trip
unk room in Placencia
$315.65 total in US dollars

Friday, 6 March 1998

I left Bob asleep in bed and took my stuff over to the dive shop.

I did two dives with Seahorse Dive Shop.

Brian Young is a local Belizean who had a very respected dive shop with local dive masters. The other dive shop was run by New Yorkers and they were not appreciated by the local populace. Brian's shop offers snorkeling, Mayan ruin, river tours, fishing etc. Whale shark tours are also one of their specialties. Brian's wife supplies lunch to those who don't want to bring their own.

They have 3 boats. The 25ft boat is powered by one 115 hp Evinrude and is capable of servicing four to six divers at one time. The smaller 19 ft skiff is powered by a 85hp Yamaha outboard and is capable of carrying two to four divers for a more individualized dive experience. The two smaller boats are also outfitted for fishing and trips up the spectacular Monkey River.

The main boat is a 33ft craft powered by twin 150 Yamaha outboards. This boat is capable of carrying 14 divers. That was the one we used as we had both divers and snorkelers. It takes longer to get to the reef from Placencia than it does from the northern cayes like Caye Caulker and Ambergris.

I rented a BC, fins and tanks. I brought my own mask, snorkel, regulator and dive computer. Unfortunately, because Brian was involved in doing a check out dive on the beach, we went with another dive master. He was very passive aggressive and seemed to be somewhat prejudiced against fat old ladies. He refused to give me the right size fins until I'd gone back twice, and he completely refused to give me a BCD that was large enough - he said they didn't have a size larger than an XL, and I needed an XXL. The XL wouldn't meet across the front. They gave me 18 lbs of weights.

He told me that I should be his buddy. After all of us got suited up and signed the forms, we assembled at the boat. In addition to myself there was a couple from Canada, and an unattached man-a retired Navy (CPO I think), a young German girl with a mod haircut and a couple from Boston. He was a supply officer in the Navy. A total of 8 divers counting the guide and 10+ snorkelers and their guide. A lot of them came from the Green Parrot with their own lunch. Among the snorkelers from the Green Parrot were Penny from Dallas and a couple from Washington State.

We ran out to the cay and dropped off the snorkelers, and then did our dive.. It was to be the usual drift dive with the boat following and picking up people as they ran out of air. I got in first and by the time we started out I was down to 2500 lbs. There was some current and the guide set a cracking pace. I kept up but at the end of about 30 minutes I was down to 500 lbs. I was comfortable, but at the end I was too light and came up a little fast. The divemaster may have been surprised that my air lasted almost as long as his.
large_52104918674465-Placencia_Div..ia_Village.jpgPlacencia Diving

Placencia Diving

Angelfish

Angelfish


We saw this shark sleeping in the bottom of one of the canyons and I swam down to take a pictures,
Shark

Shark


which the divemaster didn't approve of.
Shark

Shark


We came back to the cay for lunch. As we were coming back to the caye, we saw one of the older ladies in the snorkeling group had been caught by the surf and couldn't get up. The dive guide laughed at her predicament and made rude remarks about it. (He was not a nice person.) The lunch had been prepared by Brian's wife and it was very good. Fishballs, beans and rice and coleslaw with watermelon and cookies. OJ or water. I used the end of my film up snorkeling.
large_61049248674463-Placencia_Div..ia_Village.jpg snorkeling

snorkeling


The boat ladder came down on my foot at the lunch stop. Ouch.

We did another dive. The Canadian couple didn't go this time. This time they added 4 more lbs, and I had to have a little air in my BC. We saw some more sharks
Shark

Shark


and a green trigger and a spotted moray that I didn't get a picture of.
Placencia Diving

Placencia Diving

Placencia Diving

Placencia Diving

Little blue fish

Little blue fish

Surface of the water

Surface of the water


When I surfaced, I handed my dive light to the guy in the boat, and he dropped it. I couldn't get down to it because I'd already handed up my weights. I couldn't get the dive master's attention either, because just about that time, a school of wild dolphins came around - one a big male with a scar on his back. The dive guide was very excited about the dolphins. He was the only one in still in the water.

After we all got aboard, the dolphins followed the boat for some time. Unfortunately I was out of film. We picked up the snorkelers and returned to Placencia. I was really tired, but I felt that I had kept up pretty well for a fat old lady, and I was also getting the hang of the camera.

Walked home and found Bob in the hammock reading a book. He had walked around the village - cracked open a coconut, done some laundry (by hand and hung it to dry on the porch), done some marketing and had a relaxing day. He also collected some coconuts and left them on the porch. THey disappeared. Apparently all the coconuts off the trees are spoken for.

We tried to go to Tentacles for dinner but they were closed. A cruise ship is anchored offshore. We walked up to Omars for dinner. A long walk for me.
Omars

Omars


They were out of everything. There was one girl doing everything, and there was a long wait. I got a chicken burrito which was very good, but HUGE and tea and lime juice. They were out of pineapple juice, soft drinks, beer and ice cream

Tomorrow we drive all the way back to the zoo to get my checkbook/driver's license/money.

Posted by greatgrandmaR 11:22 Archived in Belize Comments (4)

Strange Encounter after a Hot Hike

Back to the Zoo and visiting Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve

sunny 93 °F
View 1998 Belize, Tikal, Atlanta, and Cozumel & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

Saturday, 7 March 1998

Stann Creek District includes the whole peninsula with Placencia at the end of it, all the way up to Dangriga.

We waked at 6:45. Got up and ate and orange and got ourselves together and left.
Sun Glare

Sun Glare


We took the Manatee Highway shortcut from Placencia all the way back to the zoo. This road is completely graveled and unpaved. It is mainly used by heavy trucks transporting produce or freight. Bob says that at 45 mph the washboard smooths.
Manatee Highway behind a trailer

Manatee Highway behind a trailer

Manatee Highway

Manatee Highway


We picked up my checkbook completely intact with all the cash. I made a $20BZ donation to the zoo.

We drove back - the drive on the Manatee HIghway was uneventful. Saw great blue heron, some hawks and vultures and a road runner. Saw the second green snake this morning water lilies and yellow flowered trees. Also some banana and orange and grapefruit trees.
Water tank

Water tank


We stopped for lunch in Dangriga. Kids were getting out of school at lunch. Saw "Burger King" but there was no place to park. Dangregia is a strange town. We had hamburgers at the Silver Star Cafe which is really a Chinese restaurant. Grocery across the street was Chinese also - shut at noon.
From the restaurant

From the restaurant


Toilet was locked with a tiny padlock. Didn't flush well.
Lock on the bathroom

Lock on the bathroom

A delivery man made a delivery while we were there. The delivery truck was blocking the main road so we went back of the police station.
Construction

Construction

Leaving Dangriga

Leaving Dangriga


When I was at the zoo before, I had bought the teacher's guide to the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve
large_d42838c0-ea15-11ea-99c2-b782feeada7b.JPG
which is about an hour's drive north of Placencia. I thought we might drive up from Placencia, but since we had to go to the zoo to get my checkbooks, we did it on the way back to Placencia instead. It is is managed by the Belize Audubon Society

The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is below the Maya Mountain's Cockscomb Range. The area was declared a forest reserve and a "NO HUNTING" area in 1984 to protect the large jaguar population and other resident wildlife. The sanctuary was expanded in 1990 to include the entire forest reserve, resulting in a totally protected area of over 100,000 acres. The Cockscomb Basin, ringed on three sides by high ridges and mountains, rises from about 300 feet above sea level to approximately 3675 at the summit of Victoria Peak, the country's highest point.

The sanctuary headquarters is reached by a six-mile entrance road from the village of Maya Center. We drove down to reserve, paid and signed in. The single track road was very rough.
Entrance road

Entrance road


We had to ford the water on the road into the park. Bob said we should have had a big sponge to wash the (dusty) car off.
Stream to be forded - drought level

Stream to be forded - drought level


This was in February (the dry season), in the middle of a drought. So even in the dry season, you need to be aware of road conditions.

The website says:

Travelers should be aware of current weather conditions while traveling during the rainy season (particularly the months of June to October). Highway south of Belmopan are subject to flood damage. For your safety we recommend carrying the following provisions when visiting the Cockscomb reserve : insect repellant, food, and a water container for hot days on the trails. "
For overnight camping contact BAS office, Belize City.
Please sign the park register at the Craft Shop in the Maya Center before proceeding into the park.
Permits are required for people passing through the park to climb Victoria Peak.
Remember that all wildlife is protected in this park.
Please do not disturb, harm, or attempt to capture any animals or birds.
Please do not disturb, collect or remove any plants or trees.
No person shall remove any antiquities or other objects of cultural or natural importance.
Do not litter. Please leave trash in litter bins.
Cooking is allowed only at designated areas.
No fires should be lit along the trail.
Please do not bring pets into the park as they interfere with the wildlife.
Firearms are not to be taken into the park.
Please stay on trails.
Please do not destroy or vandalize the facilities provided. "

I can CERTAINLY attest to the fact that you need to carry water and insect repellant when you visit the Refuge. There is no place to get anything to eat either. So if you plan to be there during a meal time, you must bring your own

There is a visitor center with a small interpretive museum, and several beautiful jungle trails which criss-cross the sanctuary. They are labeled as to difficulty and length. A self guiding tour booklet is available at the visitors' center which highlights jungle flora along a scenic trail.
Map from website

Map from website


There is a picnic area and for campers there is a rainwater cistern for drinking water
Cistern

Cistern


and for bathing, fresh water is drawn from streams. A campground for large groups as well as cabin spaces are available at modest fees.
Foriegn Ticket

Foriegn Ticket


There is a fee of BZ$2.50 for Belize citizens and BZ$10.00 (US$5.00) for non-Belize citizens. After we paid our admission fee, we went through the exhibits
Old Jaguar cages.  In the old days when jaguars were trapped or caged, they used such as these. Even then, jaguars are capable of escaping

Old Jaguar cages. In the old days when jaguars were trapped or caged, they used such as these. Even then, jaguars are capable of escaping

After that we went to the bathroom
Bathrooms

Bathrooms


Plant

Plant


Banana trees

Banana trees


We set off on the shortest trail going to the river (the River Trail). The ranger thought there was a picnic table and a place to swim at the end of this trail.
Trail sign

Trail sign


It was a scorchingly hot and humid day - the Ranger said 93 deg F. We tried to stay mostly in the shade.
Bob beside the trail

Bob beside the trail


We couldn't help notice the carpet of yellow petals from the flowering trees on the path. I asked the name of these flowers and was told what it was, but I didn't write it down and the name was one that was completely unfamiliar to me, so it just didn't stick in my head.
Yellow flowers on a tree

Yellow flowers on a tree


I had hoped we could swim in the river, but not only was there no place to change, but the banks were steep and I wasn't sure I could get in without getting hurt let alone think about getting out.
River at the end of the trail

River at the end of the trail

River

River


So I didn't swim - although I would have liked to - it was EXTREMELY hot.
Wilting vegetation

Wilting vegetation


Since there wasn't even a place to sit (no picnic table), we turned and walked back to the park headquarters. Saw a belted kingfisher.
Bob ahead of me on the River Trail

Bob ahead of me on the River Trail


Except for the birds, we didn't see any animals. However since jaguars are nocturnal, this was not a surprise.
large_0f069a90-e9a8-11ea-8587-63753426a3fe.jpg
We drove back down the 6 mile long road. A very common sight were the weaver bird nests in the trees.They looked like some strange kind of gourd. We also saw a lizard.
Yellow blossoms on the entrance road

Yellow blossoms on the entrance road


After we left the preserve, we drove back out and stopped at Maya Center the Mayan village and bought a hair clip and a copper fish as gifts for our family. Then we set out down the Southern Highway.
Sleeping Policeman on the way back to Placencia

Sleeping Policeman on the way back to Placencia


Here we had one of the strangest encounters of our trip. We were at a detour, and a man flagged us down. He said he recognized the car from when it was parked at the co-op. His name was Mr. Martin. He asked us where we were going, and we said Placencia. He said his truck was broken down and he had just been to town to buy stock for his grocery store in Placencia. So he didn't want to leave the truck unguarded and his cell phone was losing its charge. But he had his young daughter with him and he asked us if we would take her to his wife in the store in Placencia and give his wife's uncle a message to come and get him. The little girl looked about 14 months old. So we agreed, and he gave us a bottle for her and her diaper bag. After we left him, I was thinking of all the ways that this could be a problem - would we be accused of kidnapping? I held her in my arms all the way down to Placencia. The drive took over an hour so I had plenty of time to worry. The child was very good and just lay in my arms. We found her mother and delivered both the child and the message. The mother wasn't particularly pleased and I hope she was mad at her husband and not us.

Then went back to Kitty's for dinner. We asked if we could eat there without a reservation, and they said to go up and ask the waiter. (Who said yes) We told them about our recent adventure and they were as astonished as we had been.
From the restaurant to the beach at dusk

From the restaurant to the beach at dusk


Kitty's Place: Fine Dining while Barefoot: Dining is above the gift shop which gives a good view out to the cabanas and the beach. Service is excellent, and the meal was the best I had while in Belize. Bob had grilled snapper fillet coated in fresh papaya and spicy jerk seasoning, and I had seafood lasagna and both were excellent. Saw some other folks with really yummy looking big thick steaks. Excellent veggies (zucchini and carrots) and rice. Also had sinfully rich chocolate cake for dessert. US$36.25 for two including tip, no drinks,

When we got back to our cabana, we both read some before bed.

Expenses (US $)
$9.23 gas
10.00 donation to the zoo
4.50 lunch
10.00 admission to the reserve
36.25 dinner
unk Tradewinds cabana
$69.98 US

Posted by greatgrandmaR 09:03 Archived in Belize Tagged hike placencia cockscomb_basin dangriga manatee_highway Comments (6)

St. Herman's Cave and the OTHER Blue Hole

Driving the Hummingbird HIghway


View 1998 Belize, Tikal, Atlanta, and Cozumel & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

Sunday 8 March 1998

Bob trekked the stuff to the car and we checked out of Tradewinds. Janice was really angry at some excursion people who were invading her property with the intention of picnicking. We got gas and we stopped at the grocery for more water, bread and oranges. Drove up to mile 37 of the Hummingbird Highway
Hummingbird Highway

Hummingbird Highway

675663-Approaching_a_one_lane_bridge_Belize.jpgApproaching a one lane bridge

Approaching a one lane bridge

There it is

There it is


Another one

Another one


before the road deteriorated - passed Mr. Martin's truck on the way.
large_42234538667173-paved_road_on..ia_Village.jpg
675667-Old_Hummingbird_Highway_Belize.jpgHalf paved Hummingbird Highway

Half paved Hummingbird Highway

735c1830-ea75-11ea-add8-29f561f54031.JPGInformation and map BHNP

Information and map BHNP


We stopped at Blue Hole park headquarters.
Blue Hole National Park ticket

Blue Hole National Park ticket


There are three entrances to the park which is twelve miles southeast of Belmopan on the Hummingbird Highway. This puts it in the Cayo District, and not in Stann Creek or Belize Districts as I would have guessed.
Blue Hole brochure

Blue Hole brochure


The ranger marked the trail on the brochure,
Marked trail

Marked trail

Rules for Blue Hole NP

Rules for Blue Hole NP


but we elected not to walk from the headquarters to the cave. We used their composting toilet.
Directions for the Composting toilet

Directions for the Composting toilet


large_c2ea4240-ea35-11ea-a2a2-479f0def8f3b.jpg
St. Herman's cave is part of the Blue Hole National Park (BHNP). It is located 400 meters from the Hummingbird Highway.
St Herman's Cave part of the brochure

St Herman's Cave part of the brochure


From the website:
"The cave has archaeological importance. Pottery vessels, used for the collection of "Zuh uy Ha" or virgin water from cave drippings, along with spears and torches, have been removed from St. Herman's Cave for study by the Department of Archaeology in Belmopan. Thanks to the Belize Government, permission has been granted to BHNP visitors, admitting them to St. Herman's Cave without the usual permits required for entering caves. Permission must still be obtained from the Department of Archaeology to enter Mountain Cow and Petroglyph Caves, which are beyond the border of BHNP."
Path

Path


The cave is a large sinkhole, 60 meters wide, funneling to a 20 meter entrance which is part of a lattice of sinkholes, caverns and creeks. We walked 1/2 mile to cave and then down the steps and part way in. To make it easier for visitors, concrete steps have been built over the steps made by the Maya who used the cave during the Classic Period (0- 900A.D.).
From inside the cave looking out

From inside the cave looking out

Stalactites

Stalactites

large_2449053-Another_picture_San_Ignacio.jpgStalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites


A surge of cool, damp air can be felt when you approach, in contrast to the high temperatures outside.
It was nice and cool in the cave. My camera lenses and my glasses fogged up. It was also really dark.
Inside the cave, the camera flash doesn't go far

Inside the cave, the camera flash doesn't go far


We used a dive light as a flashlight, but we didn't go back much beyond where we could see the entrance as we didn't have a guide and weren't sure we could find our way back to the entrance.
Blue Hole section of the brochure

Blue Hole section of the brochure


Then went back and went to the Blue Hole. The Blue Hole is a popular recreational spot, where water on its way from a tributary to the Sibun River, emerges from a collapsed karst sinkhole. The pool, from which the park receives its name, is a beautiful sapphire blue that is about twenty-five feet deep. After a short run through a natural jungle setting, the stream disappears into a large underwater cavern.
Faintly Blue Hole

Faintly Blue Hole


When we were there, the blue wasn't very pronounced, and it was way shallower than 25 feet, but Belize WAS in the middle of a drought.I had to change into my bathing suit in the latrine because there was no other place to do it. This was quite cramped.

I took some pictures with the snorkel camera but it was quite dark
large_x37301_26.JPGBlue Hole Fish (taken with a snorkeling camera)

Blue Hole Fish (taken with a snorkeling camera)


and these pictures are extremely poor quality. The photos of me
Me floating in the Blue Hole

Me floating in the Blue Hole

Me getting out of the Blue Hole

Me getting out of the Blue Hole


were taken by Bob with a primitive point and shoot camera with no settings for exposure.

It is very cold water - too cold for Bob to do more than paddle his feet, but I loved it (it was a fairly hot day).
Bob sitting on the stairs watching me

Bob sitting on the stairs watching me


Trails in the park

Trails in the park

Animals in the park

Animals in the park


After I finished swimming we had a picnic lunch.

We drove to Clarissa Falls arriving about 3.
Clarissa Falls bus stop out by the highway

Clarissa Falls bus stop out by the highway


This is a working farm. It has a camping area, a trailer park, animal sanctuary and cabins (mostly made of mahogany and thatch) which either have a private bath or don't. There are community bathrooms and showers for those who don't have private baths. The cabins were on the river. Many people swim in the river. (I swam in the river.) It is also possible to ride horseback, go tubing or floating in the river, or get a canoe or kayak and go boating. There is a charge of $1 for the sanctuary
large_IMG_2910.JPGClarissa Falls brochure

Clarissa Falls brochure

Map

Map


Chena was extremely helpful and welcoming, and we were sorry not to have more time there. The electricity was off because of low water in the river. As we arrived, we had a flat tire.
Our car parked in the shade

Our car parked in the shade


Bob unloaded the car after he fixed the flat.
Double cabin

Double cabin

There was an unfortunate arrangement of the bathrooms so that our bathroom backed up to the other side's bedroom. So they could hear us and we could hear them doing whatever we were doing in there, and when in there could hear what they were doing in the bedroom if anything. They were speaking a language that I didn't know, so perhaps they couldn't understand us either.
"Closet" behind entrance door

"Closet" behind entrance door


We had a double and a single bed, and there were several places to hang things and hangers.
3424731-Beds_fan_and_window_Cayo_District.jpgSingle and double bed  fan and window

Single and double bed fan and window


There were two windows with shutters (but no screens or glass), and a fan. There were no insects so we didn't miss having screens and we never needed the fan.

Prices from their website as of 2005
Corner of the camping area with some of the vehicles and tent in the camping area

Corner of the camping area with some of the vehicles and tent in the camping area


Camping ..............$7.50 per person
Bunk House ......$15.00 per person
Cottages ...........$37.50 per person
Suites ........................ $175 per suite
Student rates available and vary according to size of group.
Room and 3 meals available for aprox: ....... $42.80 per person
Please note all bathrooms on the premises have hot and cold showers,and fans in the rooms
Bathrooms

Bathrooms


After we checked in, we explored the property.
Mahogany thatched cabins

Mahogany thatched cabins


large_ad320b40-ea76-11ea-add8-29f561f54031.JPGThings to do at Clarissa Falls

Things to do at Clarissa Falls


I had another swim in the river and then showered. We came up for dinner
Tourists prayer from Clarissa Falls

Tourists prayer from Clarissa Falls


This was posted in the restaurant - it is taken from something Art Buchwald wrote. It says

Prayer for Tourists

Heavenly Father, look down on us, Your humble obedient tourist servants whoare doomed to travel this earth, taking photographs, mailing post cards,buying souvenirs and walking around in drip-dry underwear

Give us this day divine guidance in the selection of our hotels that we may find our reservations honored, our rooms made up and hot water running from the taps

We pray that the telephones work and that the operators speak our tongue

Lead us, Lord, to good, inexpensive restaurants where the food is superb, the waiters friendly and the wine included in the price of the meal.

Give us the wisdom to tip correctly in currencies we do not understand. Forgive us for under-tipping out of ignorance and over-tipping out of fear.

Make the natives love us for what we are, and not for what we can contribute to their worldly goods.

Grant us the strength to visit the museums, the cathedrals, the palaces and the castles listed as "musts" in the guide books. And if, perchance, we skip an historic monument to take a nap after lunch, have mercy on us for our flesh is weak.

For Husbands Only

Dear God, keep our wives from shopping sprees and protect them from "bargains" they don’t need or can’t afford. Lead them not into temptation for they know not what they do.

For Wives Only

Almighty Father, keep our husbands from looking at foreign women and comparing them to us. Save them from making fools of themselves in cafes and nightclubs. Above all, please do not forgive them their trespasses for they know exactly what they do.

There is also a restaurant and a full bar which is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Our accommodation included 3 breakfasts and one dinner.
Restaurant

Restaurant

Cats sleeping on the restaurant floor

Cats sleeping on the restaurant floor


They have a limited menu (it is always the same and is on a plastic card), but everything is cooked fresh to order. There were lots of vegetarian selections. Dinner is about US$23 US for two and includes spaghetti dishes, rice dishes, seafood, sliced beef, etc. I didn't write down what we had this night, but we both apparently had the same thing.
Bob going down the steps from the restaurant

Bob going down the steps from the restaurant


Electricity was restored about 6:45 pm. Went to bed after dinner.

Expenses in US$
$15.63 gas - 6.3 gal (2/3 tank)
9.00 Blue hole 2 admissions
0.50 coke
3.00groceries
unk Clarissa Falls cabin ($37.50?) and dinner - included in our coupon (about $23)
$28.13 Total, US$

Posted by greatgrandmaR 12:42 Archived in Belize Tagged river cave blue_hole cayo_district clarissa_falls Comments (4)

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