Travel to the zoo…

Left Tobacco Caye this morning just before nine and had a nice easy crossing, a following sea and very smooth. All went well until we got to Dangriga where we had to negotiate a very narrow, very shallow opening to the channel. Oops we ran aground! So the guys all jumped off (the young guys) and pushed and pulled and more guys waded in from shore and soon we were free then docked shortly after.

We caught a shuttle to the bus depot where we were to take our only chicken bus of the trip. (Roy is not big on chicken buses!) There was a bus just pulling out and they tossed our packs in the back while we climbed aboard. Oops, no seats! The conductor assured us there would be seats in minutes as people would get off. So we used our well trained sea legs and stood. Soon someone got off and I made Roy sit…knowing how unpleasant this all was for him. I actually enjoyed standing – the wind was keeping me cool. Soon I had a seat too and the miles were flying by. Unfortunately that didn’t last long. Our bus died about 2/3 of the way to Belmopan…something about a broken cable. We limped along at two mile an hour for a bit but eventually the driver just pulled over at the side. Another bus would be along shortly…haha the buses are packed and there was no way there was room for us. About half the people got on, some jumping through the back door. With luggage, not a prayer!

Some guys went to a telephone pole and pulled some wire off one of the guy wires and they jury rigged a new cable and after about an hour delay, we were underway again. Then the driver decided to pick up time. OMG it was a white knuckle ride! Even the local guys at the back were shouting to the bus driver to slow down…”If you get me killed mon, I’ll kill you”, they shouted. Cell service was working and we google mapped our route and counted down the miles!

At the bus station in Belmopan, we were waiting for our next bus when we were approached by a taxi driver offering us a taxi. It wasn’t that expensive and Roy on another chicken bus is probably not going to happen in this lifetime, so we jumped in and were soon headed to the Belize Zoo – well actually the Education Centre, which is about a mile past it. (Just as well we were in a taxi as the bus would have dropped us at the zoo and we would have had to walk to the Education Centre). We arranged for our driver to pick us up tomorrow and take us to the airport. He is supporting two kids at university and said he would really like the fare. He was fun to drive with, full of stories and tips for travel so we were glad to give him our business.

We got settled into the Yellow Headed Parrot Pond House. The pond has lots of fish, birds and one resident crocodile (which I did manage to see). Nice cabin, a bit rustic but has everything we need and beats Belize City. We have a huge, screened-in deck, and overlook the pond. Our accommodations include dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. They run a shuttle to the zoo so once we got settled, that was where we headed.

Grabbed a quick lunch in the restaurant at the zoo then wandered around for a couple hours. It is a great zoo – yes, animals are in cages. But they are nice cages. The zoo was started in 1982 when a woman came to do a documentary film on the rainforest. She used animals that were being kept as pets and when she was done she was left with 20 of them that owners didn’t retrieve. So she decided she would use them to educate people on the animals of Belize, dispelling some of the myths around them. And the zoo was born. Now they take in abandoned pets, confiscated and wounded animals. Most of them will never see the wild again but they are well cared for here.

Some of the animals were pretty amazing – a few jaguars, ocelots, incredible birds. I got some good shots through the wire caging and was doing great until one of the ocelots leapt at the fence where I was taking pictures with all four feet and scared the crap out of me!

Dinner in the communal house and then we headed back to the zoo for a night tour. It was interesting and we had a really good guide who told us lots about the nocturnal animals we saw. Not really conducive for good photos…

And so ends another great adventure.

Thank you everyone who followed along, especially those who took time to leave comments. Always nice to know someone is enjoying this with us. Tomorrow we fly out of Belize City through Houston and on to Vancouver. Overnight in Vancouver then home the next day.

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Last day on Tobacco Caye…

No sunrise this morning. The skies were cloudy and it looked like some weather was going to blow in.

Breakfast of banana pancakes, bacon, juice, fruit and coffee. Said farewell to our table mates as they are headed to Hopkins.

The wind is still on the other side of the island so we are missing our cooling breeze. We decided we would see if we could kayak around the island in the wind. It was hard work and a little rough but not too bad. Once back inside our little lagoon it was very pleasant.

Someone threw some lion fish heads in the water and all the little fish were having a feeding frenzy. Apparently lion fish are a serious problem here, an introduced species with no predators and a nasty sting.

Love these needle nose guys…

Lunch was tostados with beans, chicken, cheese and tomatoes. They were tasty and I couldn’t finish mine. Food here has been good except dinner last night. We had fried fish that was tasty but there wasn’t much of it. Roy got a head and I got a tail. By the time you picked through the bones there wasn’t much meat. But we had coconut rice and an actual salad…small but it tasted so good! I am craving a good salad.

We lounged around most of the afternoon. I had a walkabout, watched the guys shell conch and the rays swim around their feet looking for handouts.

Bought a few things from the local souvenir table and went over to check out how rough it is for snorkelling. The woman at the souvenir table gave me a very nice conch shell. But she said she had to write in it or I wouldn’t be allowed to take it home. Take only pictures and all that…we are in a park. But there are about a million of these shells on the shores and they are cracking more every day so maybe they think there is an endless supply! She assures me I can take off the writing with nail polish remover when I get home.

By mid afternoon it was time to cool off so we headed over to the snorkelling dock with our gear. Tons of seaweed in today so we had to swim through it…kind of gross. But there were lots of fish once you got past it, some bigger ones today. No sign of the rays while we were swimming but as we sat on the deck after, sure enough they swam by.

There’s a volleyball court just below us. The only kid in camp is organizing a game. We are the keepers of the spotlight. The switch is in our room. Prizes – fresh-picked coconuts!

Praying for no wind and dead calm seas tomorrow when say goodbye to our little piece of paradise and head by water taxi to Dangriga. From there we are taking the chicken bus to the Belize Zoo where we will be spending the night. We decide to stay there rather than Belize City as everything we read about it said not to…I came across a map of Belize City…instead of showing tourist sights, it showed the territories of the gangs…yikes!

Our journey is almost at an end. Not sure about wifi and/or cell service tomorrow but I will have lots of time in airports the following day.

Another day in paradise…

Started the morning with another gorgeous sunrise…and nothing on the agenda. Thinking maybe we should delay coming home!

Breakfast at 8 – scrambled eggs with beans, cheese, sausage, watermelon and fry jacks – good fry jacks! These were light and fluffy, still hot and with a bit of jam, very tasty. Lots of hot coffee.

Today we were to move into our beachfront cabana. We were told we could stay where we are if we wanted. The girls we shared the upstairs suite with were leaving so we would have the whole upstairs to ourselves. We peeked at their room, looked at the beachfront cabana and compared our options. We decided if we could move from our closet room into their palatial room, we were better off to stay where we were…huge living room, nicer bedroom, nicer deck, better wifi and now the whole place to ourselves. No problem, says David.

Before…

After…

So now we have a huge room with a queen and a double bed, lots of room to spread out, a nicer and much bigger bathroom and lots of pillows and towels! We also inherited the chaise lounge which to this point has only served as a laundry rack and now, two hammocks!

Today, the winds have shifted. Our side still has the noise of the surf but we have almost no wind. Across the island and around the snorkelling area there are big winds and waves.

I decided to try out the “glass-bottom boat”. The bottom is actually plexiglass and not very clear to look through so pictures through there didn’t even make the first cut! But it was fun to be out on the water. It’s low tide so our little lagoon is a bit shallow…I ran aground a few times. Lots of fish and birds around…

We almost ran into two herons sitting low in a tree by where we bring the kayaks in and out. The first one was sitting so low in the branches and I almost didn’t see him. The other was up a few feet and I didn’t notice him until I was just a few feet away. You could see them getting their feet ready to jump but we were able to get quite close without getting into their safety circle.

Lunch was a big tuna wrap. Our numbers have dwindled as eight people left this morning leaving just eleven of us. A few newcomers arrived after lunch and more late afternoon. The poor manager still doesn’t have a list of who has booked and what they paid for. But so far we are still in our nice room with no sign of being evicted!

We had a lazy afternoon, mostly trying to find some breeze and shade. Coolest place is usually in our living room where we have been getting a great crosswind. Not today!

I walked over to the snack shack to get a bottle of water. We have free water refills here but my bottle seems to have disappeared. Think I might have left it on the sailboat. The snack shack was closed. Nobody was buying anything so he went home for a nap! Met a lady and her daughter selling souvenirs, nice ones…handmade jewellery from the conch shells and beautiful shawls…not handmade but nice anyway. Very reasonable prices and we have spent so little on extras here that I may actually buy something!

It got so sticky we decided to go for a short snorkel. We stayed in fairly close to the lagoon and docks as it was still quite rough out. The water is just so nice to get into, warm as can be and a nice breeze to cool off after. The water was a bit murky today with all the wind and waves but there were still lots of fish and we got totally surprised by a couple of giant rays! I had seen them earlier around the dock, gnawing on some fish skin someone had tossed. Very cool to watch them. I guess they must be there all the time because I heard someone say they had names. Was not really expecting to be quite so up close and personal with them though!

Back for a nice HOT shower and a little relaxation on our big deck. And that’s about it for our efforts today! Tomorrow…more of the same!

Tobacco Caye…nice spot to wind down our vacation…

Not a great sleep last night as it was very muggy in our room. Finally got up and opened the door to the deck and let in a nice breeze. By 6:30 it was apparent that sleep was over so I decided to go out on our deck. Half the world was already up and wandering around with mugs of coffee. Didn’t take me long to find it and being such a nice wifey, I brought my sleeping husband a cup. It rained again last night and was cloudy this morning and really windy.

Breakfast was at 8. They actually ring a bell…it really does feel like summer camp! Eggs, Johnny cakes, ham, cheese and juice. Just the right amount of everything. Condiments include a kind of very spicy pickled hot pepper and onion mix. Whew! nearly burned my throat out! Roy loves it.

After breakfast the winds died right down and we decided we could manage three things today without too much effort…a walk around the island, a kayak around the island and a snorkelling session…oh, and probably a nap, maybe even two but who’s counting?

The island walk took all of fifteen minute including stops at the only bar and restaurant, three docks and three other resorts. The bar sits over the water at Reef’s End Resort. The best place to snorkel is off this dock.

Met a bunch of birds that looked like deserted babies. Not at all timid and didn’t move far when we arrived…maybe they were just hung over.

Also passed by the local residences that I am pretty sure would be condemned anywhere else.

There are eight full time residents on this tiny island! The rest are tourists and seasonal workers. It’s a nice place to visit but I couldn’t imagine living here. Everyone is very friendly and the place is totally laid back.

Our resort faces east so we get the constant crash of breakers on the reef. The other side of the island is fairly quiet. Our dock is in the shade in the afternoon which is nice because it is HOT! I put on sunscreen first thing but not sure how much actually stayed on over the sweat!

Next order of business was to circumnavigate the island in kayaks. The kayaks are very nice, light, and easily paddled. They even have a “glass-bottomed” one that we might try next time.

The paddle was easy, mostly just a nice float. The water is so clear. You think you are in a couple feet of water but it is actually ten! Passed the big yachts anchored just off shore and navigated through all the snorkelers then back to our dock.

Tons of little fish in the water, a few pan sized ones and a few spots where it could have been an aquarium with all the colour. That effort took us a half hour and earned us hammock time until lunch!

Lunch was a large plate of really tasty spaghetti. Too much for me so I ate half so I had room for that little piece of banana cake. That effort resulted in serious exhaustion that required more hammock time.

Eventually we found ourselves some snorkelling gear and wandered down to Reef’s End. The water is lovely and warm, with the odd trickle of cold when you get out past the end of the reef. Tons of fish…black and blue and blue and yellow and striped and some silver with with black dots on their tails. It was a bit murky in spots but over the sandy places, quite clear and certainly good enough for us rank amateurs.

Decide to go get a sunset shot on the other side of the island. One big cloud in the West…right where the sun sets!

Met some locals cleaning their catch of the day, a yellow fin jack fish. While I was there I could hear a baby osprey crying. I looked up and in came mama with dinner. There are times when I wish I had a better camera!

Off to dinner in a few minutes…wonder what Carmen has created tonight?

Ho hum, tomorrow will probably be more of the same. My blog may just say “ON VACATION”…

Travel day…

Up for a nice sunrise this morning. Water was calm and not much wind…perfect for our day of sailing.

Mr Boots, our taxi driver, picked us up shortly before 9. Had to move the almost completed forty pounder of Johnny Walker Black from under my feet so I could get in! Mr Boots was chatty and colourful, regaling us with tales of his background. Just a short ride, fortunately!

We climbed aboard our sailboat, which was a lot smaller than it seemed when we motored past it the other day. Stowed our packs in the bow and then tried to find a spot to perch. Not a lot of deck space!

We motored to the mouth of the river then the sails went up and we were off. The wind had picked up considerably and we were soon flopping up and down on the waves. It was supposed to take us about three hours but the journey turned into more like six! Our destination was directly into the wind so we had to tack back and forth a few times. I thought we would never get there!

Fortunately after about four hours, we stopped at another caye well short of our destination. We motored into the dock and got off to stretch our legs, have a bathroom break and get a snack and water. (Needless to say, I was limiting my fluid intake while on the boat!) The resort on this particular island runs about $450US a night! But they were cleaning up the sargassum and the smell was rank. As it rots, it gives off sulfur dioxide – oh yummy, rotten egg smell! Glad to get back on the high seas!

We motored from there to the next set of cayes, slowing briefly at Bird Island. Hundreds of frigate birds flew overhead or perched in the trees. The male has a red neck and when courting, he blows it up like a giant balloon. Very weird looking but I guess it impresses the females.

Another few minutes and we rounded the corner and could see our tiny island off in the distance. We could also see a line of breakers way out…the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef aka the Belize Barrier Reef. This reef is second only to the Great Barrier Reef in size. Our little island sits right on the reef. Our captain decided at this point we should come in under sail. I would have been just as happy to keep motoring!

Tobacco Caye – our little island…

As we approached, the colours were amazing. The water was only about twelve feet deep, even though we were a half kilometre off shore. The sandy patches were an incredible turquoise and the water is unbelievably clear.

We docked and offloaded all our gear then walked across the island…about fifty meters…to our hotel, JoeJo’s on the Reef. It’s been a bad day here…all the reservations were a mess. They didn’t even have us but then they didn’t have anyone as the owner who lives in the US failed to send a list to the manager. Everyone who arrived today faced the same thing. What a mess! We booked a beachfront cabana over 8 months ago and when we arrived they didn’t even have a cabin. In fact, they didn’t even have us listed! I showed my email with my confirmation. I felt kind of bad for the poor guy because no doubt he faced this several times today. They tried to put us in a room but I insisted they at least put us in a suite!

The suite is not really even a suite. We have a tiny room with a bed and private bathroom and we share a living room and kitchen with another room. It’s fine, though. The bed is comfy, although my side is against a wall and I will have to perform gymnastics getting in and out. It’s all clean and our neighbours are Canadian sisters from Toronto!

Took a short walk down to the dock, watched some of the local birds and relaxed on the loungers. The reef is directly across from us with a little lagoon separating us. You are not allowed to walk on the reef but can snorkel around it. We have free kayaks, stand up paddle boards, snorkelling gear and okay but not great wifi. Our suite is closest to the router so as good as it gets. Cell service is non-existent so all my gigs of data that I got specifically for this part of the trip are not going to be put to use.

Our suite in the main building…upstairs on the right…

I decided to walk to the other side of the island, where we had landed. I walked out on the wharf and discovered some beautiful rays in the water…down about four feet maybe?

Meals are communal and dinner was served promptly at 6:30. We have assigned seating. It seems everyone at our table just arrived today. The others had a rough crossing in their water taxi…but theirs was mercifully short compared to ours. Dinner was tasty…rice, meatballs and salad with a bread pudding cake for dessert. Lemonade or water to drink and tea or coffee after for those who were interested. Enjoyed the company at our table for a bit afterwards then headed back to the room. It will be an early night. That sailing just wiped us out!

LAZY day…

Sometimes you just need a day to do nothing! Today was it.

Met our neighbours from Pennsylvania and Atlanta over breakfast today. One couple was leaving and the other just arrived. Continental breakfast of fruit and tortilla wraps with beans in them. Good coffee.

We spent most of the day enjoying our deck chairs and hammock. It was dead calm this morning, no wind at all. But the weather changed every five minute it seemed. We watched as walls of water came in over the sea…then ducked inside for cover. The water is beautiful colours that change as the sky changes…love the turquoise but it doesn’t show up on camera.

By noon it had cleared and the winds stayed down. We ate lunch at Tina’s which is a local landmark. Ratty looking little shack but really good food! We sat and watched the local kids play soccer, ride horses along the beach and mostly just be kids.

Lunch was amazing. Roy had conch in creole sauce and I had shrimp in the same sauce. Both came with rice and beans and potato salad. The prices are in Belize dollars; divide by two for US dollars. Either currency is widely accepted, although you do get a bit better deal if you use local currency.

We had planned to walk around town today but the looming rain clouds before lunch then the heat after, made hanging around the cabana a logical choice. We did a few blocks of Main Street…there isn’t much more than that!! Catholic Church, community park, tiny library, lots of restaurants and a few tour companies. One end of town is village and the other is resorts. We are more towards the village end.

It got warm enough to lure me into the water for a short swim. Lovely and warm and this morning they raked the sargassum off our beach so a little more pleasant than yesterday. The sand looks nice but is a little rough under your feet!

Roy waiting for pelicans…they refused to cooperate for pictures!

Us tomorrow…although our boat is a little bigger!

Late afternoon the winds picked up and by sundown it was cooler. Nice sunset – we kind of get it from front and back, west and east.

Still very pleasant for our walk to find a new spot for dinner. So many choices but many are closed on Sundays. We ended up back at Peer’s where we had lunch yesterday. I have shrimp Alfredo of which I ate about a third and Roy had the biggest pork chop I have ever seen, at least an inch thick. Dessert was red velvet cake, served warm with really nice ice cream…what the heck, it’s our last night for choosing. Tomorrow we sail to Tobacco Caye where all our meals are provided…kind of like summer camp but better, I hope! Not sure how good the wifi will be so there may be no posts for a few days.

Fish tales…

Last night just after we got back from dinner the skies opened. It was too dark to see it but we could certainly hear it on our roof. Just poured. We wondered if we would wake up to rain and have a wet day out on the water. Rained a couple more times in the night but by morning it had stopped and the waves had died down a bit.

Began our day with an early pick up at 7. Managed a cup of coffee before we left and took our bagged breakfast with us to eat on the boat.

Irving picked us up and drove us to where Levi, our captain, lives on the river. We loaded up the boat and headed out. Because it was so windy there was some question as to whether we would get out on the open water. Levi stopped a few places to point out various birds and iguana in the trees. The river was beautiful, calm and deserted.

We had a few strikes in the river but didn’t manage to get anything into the boat. We trolled back and forth over the spot where we had a few strikes. Levi has been fishing here for his whole life so knows the spots.

We passed the boat we are sailing to Tobacco Cay in a few days…hmm it doesn’t look that big!

We headed to the mouth of the river and Levi and Irving asked if we wanted to go out in the rough or just stay in the river. We said were were easy and let them decide. So out into the rough water we went. Huge waves and spray over the sides. I was on the “wet” side but the water was warm so it wasn’t too bad. We hit a couple of rain squalls but nothing serious. We went out a long way, almost to the cays that sit just inside the big reef. It was pretty sloppy trolling in the waves but the water was beautiful with bright turquoise Caribbean colours.

I caught a couple of small lizard fish, ugly little guys that got tossed back. Then Roy landed a beautiful king fish, about 10-12 pounds. Irving was great with instructions and handy with the gaff!

I had one big strike – so big it bit through the metal leader! I know…that sounds so much like a fish tale about the one that got away but really…he did! We caught nothing more for ages so headed back to the river. Much nicer ride back in the following sea!

We started trolling as soon as we were back in the river. Nice to be in calm waters again. I caught a nice snook, also about 10-12 pounds, but definitely bigger than Roy’s! He was a big fighter so it was fun to land him. Irving was not quite so handy with the gaff this time. The fish kept flipping out of his aim and I thought he would knock it off for sure. But he manage to finally gaff it on the third or fourth try and get it on board.

Our morning ended back at Levi’s place. They asked if we wanted any fish but we told them no, they could keep it. We have nowhere to cook it. Then they offered to arrange with the restaurant next to our hotel (that is managed by Levi’s daughter) and have them make us fish and chips tonight. We ate fish and chips there last night and it was really good. But having it made from your own fresh caught fish…that sounds even better!

We left happy…

Went off exploring for lunch then spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on the deck. The wind is just howling and there are huge whitecaps. The local kids managed to turn it into a lot of fun!

Fish and chips was really good…and made even better because it was free. Seems we supplied the restaurant with enough to feed their entire evening crowd.