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Caye Caulker, Belize: Swimming with Sharks

Caye Caulker: The Lowdown

Situated approximately 20 miles from the coast of Belize City, Caye Caulker is a member of a small group of dazzling limestone coral islands sheltered within the protection of the Belize Barrier Reef. The popularity of the island broods from its reputation as a tropical budget-friendly departure from the savage barrios of Belize’s former broken-down capital. Every year the popularity of this laid back, creole-influenced island continues experiencing steady growth as backpackers and budget travelers exchange their trekking boots for a comfortable pair of sandals to enjoy the long, slow island lifestyle.

What Makes Caye Caulker Special?
Easy accessibility, unparalleled friendliness, and affordability are a few great reasons to consider paying Caye Caulker a visit, but the true draw of this casual Caribbean atoll lies is the incomparable abundance of exquisite marine wildlife combined with the picture-perfect diving conditions. If you decide to do one thing during your visit to Caye Caulker, make certain to book a reservation with one of the many aquatic excursion companies on the island. Two of the most reputable organizations are known as Raggamuffin Tours, and Mama Star. On a personal note, I booked with Raggamuffin and had the time of my life.

Departing on a sailboat for a full day, three stop tour of the reef, you’ll receive quality equipment, instruction and service. Between each stop and on the way home you can revel in the sights while enjoying music, fresh fruit, sandwiches, shrimp ceviche and a seemingly unlimited quantity of highly potent rum punch. As the tour progresses you’ll need to summon your courage as the boats captain begins chumming the water into a frantic state of feeding frenzy along a section of reef known as Shark and Ray Alley. If you need to reread the last sentence please be my guest.

Gazing in amazement as the dorsal fins of potential 12 foot sharks break the surface you’ll grab your mask and flippers and descend into the water against all natural instincts. If this sounds dangerous or even crazy, you might be right, if not for the fact that this event takes place on a daily basis without the occurrence of bodily injury outside of kicking your foot against the reef in excitement. The truth is that aside from the perpetual conditioning of the animals to the presence of humans, this species of shark are a harmless variety known as the Nurse Shark, which despite the lack of teeth still stir up a lot of excitement. There remain a few other highlights to the trip which I’ll leave to the imagination so that you may experience them for yourself.

The Island of Caye Caulker-

Although Caye Caulker is situated along the fringes of the world’s second largest barrier reef, its earthly composition leaves it almost completely devoid of anything resembling a proper sunbathing beach. Aside from spreading a towel atop one of the many boat docks lining the 14 miles of shoreline, the best place to catch a tan is located on the north end of the island where Hurricane Hattie split the island in two before demolishing Belize City in 1961. The resulting devastation carved out a deep channel which now deposits enough sand for sun worshipers to get their fix. On Caye Caulker, this section of beach simply known as the “Split”.

Up the Islands main strip you’ll be sure to encounter a variety of modest hotels, restaurants, and markets selling everything from cigarettes to Coca-Cola. Friendly street vendors pass the day in shady spots offering homemade specialties ranging from brownies and cakes to tamales and freshly-cut fruit. Others work away on hand crafted keepsakes to match the needs of souvenir obsessed tourists. If you’re looking for cheap, delicious eats; do like I did and consider stepping off the main strip to frequent mom and pop restaurants like “the Little Kitchen”, or “Glenda’s”. They’re not hard to find and you can easily satisfy your tingling taste buds for around $4 USD.

The people and Rastafarian culture of Caye Caulker were the most appealing aspect of my visit to the island. The fact that everyone speaks English allows you to easily make connections and find out information that’s sometimes hard to come by in Latin American countries. The locals are as warm and friendly as any group of people that I’ve yet to meet in my years of experience traveling. It’s definitely not a secret that the majority of the population also has a very loose stance on the use of marijuana which is considered to be the healing of the nation. Although it remains illegal, don’t be surprised if you’re propositioned get “Aire” at some point along the journey. I’ll conclude as they do on the island with a simple one word salutation, “RESPECT”.

via Caye Caulker, Belize: Swimming with Sharks | Latin Hostel Guide.