Monday, May 29, 2017

Belize Trip - Day #3 Water Caye to Billy Hawk Caye

On Day # 3 our plan was to do some more snorkeling outside the reef early in the morning, then head over to Twin Cayes and do some exploring of the mangroves, hopefully see a caiman. After that, head across to the Blue Ground Range and possibly camp at Hangman's Caye.

Always start the day off with a good cup of coffee. Robbie's expresso maker was the most important piece of kit we had!

Some pics from our early morning snorkel:

Our route for the day
After our morning snorkel, we headed across to explore Twin Cayes. Lots of cool little mangrove 'tunnels' to sneak into. I love the places that you can get in a kayak. We heard there are caiman in this area, so we kept our eyes open, but didn't have any luck.

2km crossing to Twin Caye
Exploring the mangroves

Making our way around
A lot of little nooks and crannys to check out
We saw a big splash here, but couldn't find the creature that made it. Maybe a caiman?!
Next, a 4km crossing to Hangman's Caye. Saw some dolphins and a sea turtle along the way
It got really hot!
The 4km crossing got pretty hot, 38.4C. There was absolutely no wind also. I thought I was going to perish. Making crossings like this, in the mid day heat, with no breeze to cool you off can be a bad idea! By the time we got to Hangman's Caye, I was really overheated, had to unzip my pfd and keep dunking my hat in the water to cool off. The water was 28C, so that didn't help much either. When we finally landed, we all sat in the water up to our necks to get our core temps back down. I was pretty much done at this point, and wanted to camp on Hangman's, but I have to admit, it wasn't the best location for camping.

Landing at Hangman's Caye
Not the best place in the world to camp, but from what I understand, there are no camping fees
After a small lunch, and a chance to cool down, Rob convinced me to paddle another 4kms to Billy Hawk Caye. In hindsight, it was a very good decision, but I have to admit, I wasn't too fussy on moving at that point!

Lots of islands in the Blue Ground Range
How I kept the sun off my head. Next time, maybe a wide brimmed hat?
Very happy to finally see Billy Hawk Caye
What a welcome site.
Alex Sabal and his family own and run Billy Hawk Caye Campground. What a spot, and boy did we ever feel lucky to be there.

More on our stay at Billy Hawk on my next post.....

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Belize Trip - Day #2 Afternoon Visit to Carrie Bow Caye

After spending the morning snorkeling outside the reef, we headed back to Ricks place to grab lunch. It would have been nice and easy to flake out on a hammock for the rest of the day, but you have to take advantage of every minute when you are on a trip like this. We hopped in our boats and made the short hop south to Carrie Bow Caye.

Short hop, 1.66 kms each way
Carrie Bow Caye is in the middle of the picture, off in the distance
 On Carrie Bow Caye sits one of the worlds foremost marine research stations, owned by the Smithsonian Institute. We were told that if no scientists are present, we may be able to visit and get a tour, so we decided to check it out.
As we got closer, a couple who are caretakers of the site approached us by boat to tell us that we couldn't visit the island, but Rob talked them into giving us a little tour, as no scientists were present at the time.

2 families that were anchored nearby on a sailboat were also invited for the tour
The wet lab. The entire building was built to be hurricane proof

Not a bad spot to do some research
The outhouse. What a view when taking care of business! Apparently outhouses like this are no longer allowed to be built on the cayes. When this one is wiped out by a storm, or collapses, they are not allowed to replace it.
Trees are so important here, whenever they see a coconut tree sprouting, the put shells around it to protect it.
After the tour, we headed back to Water Caye, with a stop along the way for some snorkeling

My plan to protect my toes this time, duct tape!
While snorkeling, we had a visit from this huge remora. I didn't know they got that big. This guy was about 3 ft long, and had a hook hanging from his mouth. Looked like somekind of demon fish to me!
Some nice little reefs with lots of fish in between water caye and Carrie Bow Caye, but the current is strong there, so its easy to get drifted off the reef and onto eel grass.
Amazing colours. The pictures just don't do it justice of course

That concludes Day #2 on the cayes. More to come tomorrow hopefully.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Belize Trip - Day #2 Snorkeling at Water Caye

On day 2, we got up at sunrise to head outside the reef and do some snorkeling. We were told that early morning is the best time, so we followed that advice. After about 10 mins of paddling we were outside the reef and dumped over the sides of our boats. We used a technique call 'drift snorkeling', where you tow your boat behind you by the bowline. Two things to watch out for: getting tangled in your bowline, or someone else's. Also watch for getting too close to the reef and getting pummeled onto the reef by waves.

So much life everywhere you look

Lots of beautiful Coral

Brain Coral

Spotted Eagle Ray


Be careful when walking on the beaches. Lots of stingrays around
My flippers tore the crap out of my toes. Make sure your flippers fit nice and snug, or this could happen to you!

That was how we spent the morning, and that's all I have time to post right now. Lots more to come!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Belize Trip - Day #1 Tobacco Caye to Water Caye

We were eager to get going on our way, so as soon as we had our boats packed, we hit the water to head west to Tobacco Range to do some exploring.

A scan of the area from British Admiralty Charte #1797

Our route for day #1
Tobacco Caye Paradise. You can camp here for $10 per person/per night
Or you can rent one of these for $35 per person/per night. Not bad!
Heading to Tobacco Range
You can see a stand of palm trees on Tobacco Range, which is the only place to camp on this island. You could camp here for free from what I understand, but it didn't look like the nicest place in the world to camp. Also, there are lots of mangroves in this area, meaning lots of bugs, which could make for an unpleasant night if there is no wind.

Landing to check out the island
Me trying to break open a coconut. The entire trip Rob was determined to get a good coconut, which proved to be easier said than done!
Heading south on the western side of the range
Fishing shacks on Tobacco Range
After exploring Tobacco Range we decided to head towards Water Caye to camp for the night. instead of just heading straight for it, we paddled back over to the reef and followed along side it the whole way south. You can hear the constant roar of waves breaking against the reef, it is amazing the shelter that it provides. Don't be tempted to get out of your boat and walk on the reef, that is strictly forbidden and carries a pretty hefty fine if you are caught.

The Belize Barrier Reef
Water Caye
On Water Caye, we camped at Rick's place, which I believe is called Bamboo Camp. Rick is from New Jersey originally, but his mother was from Belize. He left the chaos of the US to live on and island in the Caribbean. Not a bad idea! Rick and his family were very friendly and helpful. Camping there is $20 per person/per night.

The beach at Rick's place. We arrived just as the sun was going down
Rick's house. You can see the cisterns used for storing rainwater, and the shower setup on the right
Ricks 'Living Room', and his dog

Our campground
Not bad!
Sunset on day #1. We spent the evening on the dock sipping rum and planning the next days snorkeling.