Friday, November 14, 2008

Beautiful Belize

This week I think I actually found a true tropical paradise. An island with excellent scuba diving and kitesurfing, rooms on a white sand beach for less than $20, exquisite seafood, and all-day happy hours with drinks for less than $2. If the Cayes of Belize had devushki, I would never leave.

Belize, a small country in the NE of Central America, is home to the 2nd-largest Barrier Reef in the world, so I had to check this out. I took a boat to Caye Caulker, and immediately fell in love with the easy-going vibe of the place. It’s one of the few places I’ve visited that the locals seem more chilled out than the dazed backpackers who hang out there. Within 2 days my new South Dakotan mate Orion & I knew everyone on the island, and had sampled much of the delights that this wonderful place has to offer.

Caye Caulker’s sandy main street seems to have more crab than pedestrian traffic, and the only vehicles are golf carts. The houses tend to be painted in some shade of pastel (helping me recover from my El Salvadorean pastel allergy), and every second shack or makeshift restaurant offers a new variation on how to cook the local lobster, conch, or other seafood (except the damn crabs or lizards, which are everywhere). Despite the pastels & golf carts, the island has no attitude, and everyone is greeted on the street like an old friend (with permanent happy hours, pretty much everyone IS an old friend by the 3rd day).

Anyhow, back to the diving. Arguably Belize’s most famous dive site is the Blue Hole. The Blue Hole was originally an above-water limestone cavern, which was submerged over time, and then a section of the roof collapsed to create the large, perfectly circular hole in the reef that exists today. The Blue Hole is over 150m deep, but a dive to about 45m takes you into an eerie swimthrough world of giant corkscrew stalactites hanging from the roof as you are circled by schools of curious ~2m grey and hammerhead sharks. One of the world’s truly unique dives.

The next few days were filled with more of the same, punctuated by visits to other cayes and a Full Moon party, until a large piece of glass perforated my flipflop and my foot, spilling blood down the stairs of my favourite watering hole, telling me it was time to move on to Nicaragua. Apparently there is such a thing as too much paradise.

Photos are here.

Worldguide is here.

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