Friday, June 11, 2010

Un-Belizeable Time in Ambergris Caye

There is, arguably a lot more to do on Ambergris Caye if you are in to exploring. The island is quite a bit bigger and with a golf cart rental it makes it easy to get anywhere you could possibly want to go. It's also nice to have when it's hot and humid out as you get a nice breeze as you are riding along.

One of the first things we did on the island after getting settled in our casita and returning into town was to visit the tourist information stand. It was basically a little room with lots of pamphlets and coupons for places on the island. The information lady gave us some coupons and told us of some great places we should eat. I think she got a kick back from sending us to these places (I saw her initials were on the coupon) but when you've never been somewhere you should pretty much take whatever suggestion comes your way. Especially if a free rum punch is involved.
The first place we ate was called Eliv's ( It started out as a burger take-out stand in 1974 where Eliv would serve her homemade hamburgers. Over time it evolved and with the help of her family, Eliv turned it into a full blown restaurant. A tree, which the stand was under, stands in the middle of the dining room where the restaurant was built around it:
My favorite part was that the whole floor of the place was sand. It's a nice feeling to be inside out of the elements and still have your feet in the sand. There was quite a bit of seafood on the menu and I went with the shrimp burger which was shirmp on a bun covered in bbq sauce and chad had fish tacos. The service was amazing and the staff were all very nice, knowledgeable and attentive. We arrived before the lunch "rush" but by the time we left it was pretty packed. Apparently it's a well known spot to send tourists visiting the island.

It started raining pretty heavily by the time we left the restaurant and despite having panchos we were soaked by the time we got back to our casita. I really recommend bringing a rain jacket or pancho if you are traveling to the country this time of year because when they say it's the rainy season, they really mean rainy. With the humidity it makes it a warm rain but with our golf cart having no windshield we were soaked:
But yet another reason to rent one, it made getting back to our casita that much faster. The downside of San Pedro is that there isn't much sand on the island to absorb the rain and I didn't see any type of drainage system like we have in the states so everything flooded. This caused deep ruts in the sand lined streets which we later saw people (city workers? volunteers?) shoveling sand in to even the "road" out.
I highly recommend bringing some sort of bug spray if traveling to the country this time of year as the mosquitoes became unbearable once the rain subsided. I would go to stand outside and have 10-15 mosquitoes covering any exposed skin instantly. Of course there is bug spray sold in stores but it was pricey, because what can you really do at that point?

After our one moonsoon of an afternoon the rest of the week ranged from overcast to bright and sunny with hardly any clouds in the sky. We came to appreciate the breeze and the clouds a little more after it really started warming up.

Since the swimming conditions were not ideal we began looking for another snorkel tour we could do. Belize is a diver's paradise but there isn't as many options for those looking for a day snorkel especially if you don't feel like the 2 hour boat ride to the Blue Hole. Walking along the beach we came across Tanisha's Ecotours ( which was attached to a bar that we had seen the previous day (it caught our eye because it extended over the water while the bar we were at was on the beach and very hot) which appeared pretty popular. Tanisha is actually the name of the 34 foot boat that Daniel, the owner and guide of the company, takes people on tours inland with. Since we had already snorkeled in Caye Caulker we asked them about a different tour and they told us we could head out to Mexico Rocks. It was about $35 per person plus snorkel rental (which we didn't know about until we showed up, that was an extra $5 fee) but well worth the trip because of our experience with Daniel. Chad and I did the afternoon tour so we were the only ones on the boat besides our guide and his 6 year old daughter (cutest girl ever and quite entertaining) so we really lucked out with a private snorkel trip.
On our way out to Mexico Rocks we were talking with Daniel and quickly realized we had not, in fact, snorkeled the Hol chan marine reserve as we had previously thought. If we had, Daniel said we would have seen not only the stingrays and barracudas, but also sea turtles and nurse sharks. Where we went had a smaller shark ray alley so we had it confused with the Hol Chan. This was disappointing to learn because we really would have liked to have seen the sea turtles, but we were already headed to Mexico Rocks so there was no going back. Well, something to save for next time.

Mexico Rocks had some great snorkeling as well as there were a lot of juvenile fish there. We saw some really tiny fish I would have never have known about had Daniel not pointed them out as well as a nurse shark hiding under some coral and a very shy puffer fish. My favorite had to have been the puffer fish or the damsel fish:
(note: I did not take this picture but this is one of the many kinds that we saw. It almost looked neon)

We snorkeled about 2 hours then headed back to the restaurant/ecotour site and had some excellent conch for dinner. Daniel said he is starting to focus more on the inland tours which involve the cave tubing, ziplining and mayan ruins tour. He really was a very knowledgeable guide committed to preserving the environment. He even said that when he sees fishermen out if they have caught a sea turtle he will pay them to let the turtle go in order to preserve the marine life in the area. He also has a friend who will be, in the future, organizing sky diving over the Blue Hole. I've never been skydiving before but can you imagine jumping out of a plane over this?:

You can count me in on that tour! I hope that next time when we visit Belize we can plan to do the inland tours because I'd really like to see the jungle (and the jaguars living there!) and cave tube. Of course these all day tours will run about $150 a person so I'll know to bring some extra money, just in case :)

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