‘Welcome to Paradise’ a tall Rastafarian calls out to us as he cycles by one handed while holding a bottle of Belikin beer, ‘take it easy man’ and he gives us a big toothy grin from under his deadlocks. The motto on Caye Caulker is ‘Go slow’ and it’s easy advice to follow.
Big Blue Jeep had been left parked up at the Ramada Princess hotel in Belize City and we took the bouncy 45 minute water taxi over crystal clear shallow waters to spend a week on tiny Caribbean island Caye Caulker.
Having beaten off the Spanish at the end of the 18th century to protect the flourishing logging industry, Belize continued to be owned by the UK as British Honduras until 1981 when it was handed Independence and became Belize. A very young Queen Elizabeth is still on the Belizean Dollar currency and English is the spoken language. There is a distinctive Carribean accent with the Creole language mixed in, along with widely spoken Spanish. Not having to think how to communicate in Spanish for the week was a welcome break, however we did still naturally say ‘hola’ everywhere we went!
Being 4 miles long and about half a mile wide there are no cars just a few service trucks and everyone either walks, cycles or ambles around at 5 miles an hour in golf buggies. Our home for the week was tropical rustic Hummingbird Cottage, only a 10 minute walk from the town. Bicycles were provided to get around on – now it’s been many, many years since I was on two wheels and as the saying goes ‘it’s just like riding bike’ clearly this didn’t apply to me…I needed stabilisers! I wobbled and squealed, thankfully with the lack of cars I could gain my balance all over the dusty roads and remember how to cycle. Bikes would be so much more fun with comfy seats for lady parts!
For the most of the week we opted to walk around and there was no chance of getting lost. The village has 3 main streets; Front Street where the busy restaurants, bars, dive school offices and water taxi jettys are. Middle Street with cheaper eats, Chinese run supermarkets and the only town bank. Back Street with calm waters, BBQ restaurants set up in the owners back gardens and plenty of boat docks that are perfect to sit with a beer to watch stunning sunsets.
We found costs to be higher than expected even though it’s billed as a backpackers low budget destination, no kidding really as it’s an island where everything is imported and it’s a captive market. Restaurant dinners were generally $10 – $20 US / $20 – $40 BZD. Although the currency is Belizean Dollars, the US Dollar was accepted everywhere with a 2 to 1 exchange rate. We had $300 US spends for the week, which included our border exit fees! We found a delicious stall selling mini meat pies for $1 BZD each and we dined like Kings at a restaurant called Syds where they made the best fried chicken, mash and coleslaw EVER all for $9 BZD. Good job we were walking everywhere or would have ended up looking like the fat pie man on Front Street. Belizean Rum was super cheap and rather enjoyable too!
With Belize having a British history, I was really hoping to find UK TBags for sale as I love my morning cuppa and my stocks are perillously low. We didn’t find any but we did find HEINZ BAKED BEANS they were ridiculously expensive compared to UK prices but the simple pleasure of eating beans on toast was heavenly.
Seb Coe will be getting a call from me, as I have found my Olympic sport – sea kayaking! I’m crap at pretty much all sports, but once I had settled into my kayak I was immensely happily and most amazily, actually good at it! We paddled through ‘The Split’ and out to the sheltered west side of the island where we saw stingrays, massive tarpon and lots of little dinky fish just cruising through the sea grasses.
Caye Caulker doesn’t have any natural beaches so most people hang out at ‘The Lazy Lizard’ drinking local brewed Belikin beers and listening to reggae. The Split was formed when Hurricane Hattie blew through the island in 1961 with result of the Caye being split in two. It’s now the place to sunbath, snorkel and just relax in the very shallow waters with friends.
We loved our week on this chilled out quirky island with its colourful buildings, friendly people and its Carribean reggae vibe. Watching sunset with rum in hand – oh yes we did find a dreamy island life….