We have been to Belize twice before on charter boats: first in 2001 (when we met and adopted Lucy)
and then again in 2010. Even though I’d love to say that Lucy recognized her homeland, I think we were more excited anthropomorphizing her nostalgic reaction than she was to return. Honestly the best part is that she is still with us after all these years and we were able to share another great experience with our favorite hound.
Belize is bordered by a barrier reef (supposedly the longest one in the northern hemisphere) which only allows entry at certain points. These can be treacherous and often require passing with the sun clear of clouds and well overhead. The reason for this is that where the reef is not sticking above the water, it lies only a few feet below and you can only tell it is there from the different color of the water. In bad light, they are invisible. Charts show shipwrecks dotted along this reef virtually every few miles. It would be real easy without modern navigation aids to trip right over it. When Pete and Chris came over from Roatan, they slowed down and had to wait for hours outside the reef for some squalls to pass before the light was good enough for them to see the reef entrance. However, they got inside and anchored in the cute little town of Placencia, where I met back up with them after my sojourn to the Sundance Film Festival.
On previous trips to Belize we focused on the northern part of the country so we were thrilled to explore the southern cays, mangroves and the outer atolls.
(Word of the day ATOLL – a ring-shaped coral reef or a string of closely spaced small coral islands, enclosing or nearly enclosing a shallow lagoon. You’re welcome cross word puzzle lovers 😉 They lie outside the reef and reaching them requires passing back through the reef. The waters all around Belize are crystal clear and very shallow.
It is a world of difference when you are on a charter boat (think rental car) zipping through the shallow waters of Belize without a second thought compared to gingerly putting along in your own boat through the shallows praying you won’t run aground. We draw 4′ and at times we were uncomfortably close to the bottom.
After our rock encounter in Panama, we were at first a little gun-shy. But the bottom is mostly sand and the few coral heads that do stick up are easy to spot.
After a few weeks of this dance, we were considering 8′ really deep water. Back in California we would have had a fit if we strayed into 8′ deep water. The Belize atolls are delightfully remote and populated only by quirky little dive- or eco-resorts where everything is shipped in by boat.
We continued our diving adventures with our pals Charlotte and James on Pegasus at Glovers’ Reef and Turneffe Atoll. The water in Belize is beautifully clear and full of coral and sea life.
We had a blast but a norther (strong wind from the north) was threatening and these islands do not have safe places to anchor with protection from north winds. So we hustled back inside the barrier reef and ducked into the Cucumber Beach Marina to wait it out. For our fellow boaters, this marina is well protected and a good place to pick up/drop off visitors at the airport. Belize City itself is worth a look if you are there but I wouldn’t make a special trip. But check out of the country there was fast and simple.
From here on we were back in familiar territory and didn’t spend too much more time. We couldn’t pass up a stop at Caye Caulker, an island with no cars, but loads of rastas, hippies and young people out exploring the world. Its a fun stop and we spent about a week there.