Nov. 30-Dec. 6: Belize: Sarteneja and Caye Caulker

On November 30 (day 30), Danielle and I left our hostel in Tulum, and made our way towards the Mexico-Belizean border, staying the night in the city of Chetumal. There, we stayed at one of the dingiest hotels yet, Hotel Ucum, where we got very little sleep due to partying outside our window at the courtyard pool. However, it had a small TV on which we watched the BBC including Top Gear, so that was nice.

We left Chetumal on the 1st of December, and made our way into Belize. The officers at the border were extremely friendly and helpful, and hearing English again was interesting and somewhat welcome. We got through the border relatively quickly, and made our way to the small town of Sarteneja, where we'd booked an Airbnb in 'rustic' cabins on an organic farm from the 1st to the 3rd.

Getting to Sarteneja was a bit of an adventure, as the GPS and Google Maps disagreed on the best route. We decided to half listen to both, and ended up taking rough dirt roads and two cable ferries while intermittently experiencing torrential downpours. The rain turned much of the roads to mud, and most of the many potholes were filled. We arrived at Backpacker's Paradise in Sarteneja to find our cabin was very rustic indeed – filled with ants and geckos as well as flying insects as well. No matter, while staying at Backpacker's we enjoyed our time and spent it wandering around town in the rain, hanging out in the screened lounge area/kitchen, and walking to the nearby Shipstern Conservation & Management Area, a privately run, non-profit which unfortunately was undergoing renovations when we visited but still allowed us to walk their trails, free of charge. While there we saw various birds and insects, and also spotted a small gray fox.

On the 3rd of December (day 33), Danielle and I left Bilbo at Backpacker's in Sarteneja, and took a water taxi from Sarteneja to Ambergris Caye. From Ambergris Caye we took another boat to Caye Caulker, where we stayed from the 3rd to the 6th. On Caulker we stayed at Bella's Hostel in a private room. The place was okay, but I'm not a huge fan of hostels. A perk of Bella's was that there were a few canoes available for use free-of-charge, which Danielle and I took advantage of. While canoeing we say rays, and many tarpons, as well as what we believe must have been a manatee.

As well as canoeing and wandering around the small Island's town, Danielle and I also walked to the very northern(EDIT: southern) tip, at times slogging through the mud, on rough trails. The caye is somewhat of a strange place, and I never quite figured out if I liked it or not. Like most of Belize, the shoreline is almost completely mangroves, with very little beach to speak of. While I don't mind mangroves, it does make swimming somewhat difficult. That said, some of the docks on the very northern tip were pretty.

Most notable about our time on Caye Caulker, was the snorkeling trip we splurged on. At USD$65/person, it was one of the most expensive activities we did, but well worth it. Belize is home to the second longest barrier reef in the world, and if you're visiting Belize and not going diving or snorkeling you really are missing out. The downside however, is from mainland Belize the reef is much to far away to swim too, and even from most of the many cayes it is the same. Therefore, you must use a boat and in our case a tour boat.

Just as an aside, while we were sitting on the dock waiting for the rest of the group that was joining us on the tour (we didn't know them beforehand), the leader of the youth travel group that was joining us on the boat recognized us from the coffeeshop in Tulum – small world?

While snorkeling we swam with turtles, rays (including seeing an eagle ray), a great variety of fish, and most impressive, swam with nurse sharks. Jumping into the water with over-metre-long sharks below you is an experience I won't soon forget and really was unreal. As mentioned before, I don't have any underwater housing, so no photos were taken while underwater. On the open boat, we brought a backpack with towels, water, etc. Also unexpectedly included in Danielle's backpack was her laptop, accidentally left inside and brought along into the marine environment. Amazingly, the laptop survived, seemingly unscathed, even with the backpack remaining damp for days and days later.

On December 6th (day 36), Danielle and I left Caye Caulker and returned to Backpacker's Paradise in Sarteneja where we stayed a final night in Belize camping in Bilbo.

From the pier in Sarteneja.

A frigatebird flying above Sarteneja's pier.

One of the many docks on Caye Caulker seen at sunrise.

This fisherman was hand-fishing off the dock just begging to be photographed.

A dock at the very northern tip of Caye Caulker.

Attempting to dry our clothes in the incredibly high humidity of Caye Caulker.