Kicking back on Caye Caulker – Belize
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Kicking back on Caye Caulker - Belize

Caye Caulker - where the denizens, on land or on the water, have that laid-back Belize Caribbean quality.

"Hey man, be happy," the locals are likely to call out when you first arrive on Caye Caulker, a tiny island in the Belize Caribbean. Situated on a reef of some 200 cayes, and blessed with a fascinating mix of Rastafarian, Garifuna and Creole culture, Caye Caulker offers a Caribbean experience at its most laid-back and affordable best.

Only seven kilometres long and 600 metres at its widest point, you can stroll the town in under ten minutes, walking the sandy lanes where hibiscus and bougainvillea bloom. Once the hangout of pirates, Caye Caulker’s main industries today are lobster-fishing and its own special brand of locally-run tourism.

It's a typical Monday morning on Caye Caulker Frigate birds wheel in lazy circles above a shore lined with coconut palms. Down the colourful main street of pink, blue and white clapboard shop fronts, strides a bare-chested Jimmy Brown, dreads hanging to his waist, carrying a milk crate of vegetables and lobster tails. He turns right on to a weathered jetty that juts out into the bluest of seas. Casually striding across to his boat Faith he greets his waiting group of travellers exclaiming "It's going to be heaven out on the reef today." Excitement and anticipation is on everyone's face. We are off for a day's sailing and snorkelling on a reef only second in size to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Feet trailing in the aquamarine waters, we ride the lee rail as Faith diligently slices through the waves. If I could paint the perfect picture of a man in his element, then it would be Jimmy at the helm, salt in his dreadlocks and a grin on his face. "I've been sailing nearly all of my life," he says. Most days of the week he's out on the water with a group of visitors. There's no need for him to advertise. Word of mouth soon gets around that his sailing trip is the ultimate way to experience the reef. If Jimmy isn't available, there are plenty of other local characters offering sailing trips.

Out first port of call is alarmingly known as 'shark ray alley', though Jimmy is quick to reassure everyone, they are harmless nerve sharks. As the anchor drops, a dozen dark shapes materialise in the clear water. Clutching a conch shell full of bait Jimmy leaps in. Eventually we all follow, some hanging onto the boat's rails, feet kept well clear on the shallow sandy bottom. At least a dozen stingrays glide about in frenzy, some even squeeze between people's legs as they search out the scraps.

Suddenly everyone spots a shark. All snorkels jerk to attention and hearts beat faster as the sharks move in for the food. As exciting as it is, you can't help but wonder if the practice of enticing large groups of any creature into one area with food is a good thing. By the end of the day as Faith sails up onto her pier, everyone is reluctant to end the day. But with thoughts of the institutional sunset drink at the Lazy Lizard, we eventually disembark, sun burned, salty and satisfied.

At 8.45am the next morning, the first water taxi of the day arrives bearing a boatload of visitors. Generally easy to spot for their lack of a tan, they march down the dock at a million miles an hour. Harry the water taxi skipper watches the phenomenon. "The fastest thing usually on this island is a kid on a bicycle," he says with a grin.

Criss-Cross, a local Rastafarian who makes his living as a luggage porter, manoeuvres his three-wheeled taxi cycle into position. He soon has a job escorting two British backpackers to some accommodation in town which ranges from no-frills guest houses to larger four-star establishments. ...


(1241 WORDS)


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Attached Files

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An-impressive-view-over-the-Altun-Ha-complex-of-ruins-from-atop-the-temple-of-the-sun-–-Image-credit-Andrew-Marshall.jpg
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