sunset in Belize
How I stayed at a cat orphanage on the Belizean island of Caye Caulker, petted sharks and lived the local easy life
The boat literally raced across the Atlantic. Departing from the Mexican city of Chetumal, we headed to the Belizean island of Caye Caulker. Again and again the bow hit the water with full force. Suddenly another boat appeared in the distance and accelerated in our direction. Our boat stopped.
What's going on again? - everyone in the boat wondered after the pedantic bag check at the beginning of the trip had already caused displeasure.
Coast guards became suspicious
It was the Mexican Marines who forced our boat to stop here. They also searched our bags again and talked to the boat captain. But everything was fine, we continued.
Only a short time later another speedboat appeared, fully loaded with 6 heavily armed men, who were again very interested in our boat and its cargo. Again our boat held by force.
A woman who has travelled to Belize several times said that this is definitely NOT normal. This time the inspection also took much longer. Almost 1 hour the 6 men of the Belize coast guard checked our bags and interrogated the captain. It seemed like they expected a big drug shipment.....
Did someone notice that I had just announced on the Internet that I wanted to start a great career as a drug lord in Mexico?
Of course I had posted this only for fun on Facebook, but who knows, maybe "Big Brother" took it too seriously haha! Anyway, they found nothing this time and we could continue our journey.
70 cats await me in my accommodation
Thus I arrived a little later in Caye Caulker. The small coral island off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea stretches over almost 8 kilometres. The next bigger island is Ambergris Caye and is more popular with wealthier tourists.
How nice that there's a time difference of an hour between Belize and Mexico. So I could turn the clock back an hour.
Many Belizeans were already waiting at the pier to offer accommodation. I didn't need this, because I already had a reservation for the Pause Hostel. It is only a few hundred meters away from the boat dock, so that I could comfortably walk there.
The Pause Hostel is no ordinary hostel. The majority of the creatures that sleep here are not humans but cats. The good-hearted owner Madi has picked up a lot of abandoned, sometimes even mutilated cats from the street and now takes care of them touchingly. Altogether approx. 70 cats cavort on the area. Often you can also see the "legacies" (urine) of the animals, which are separated from he bed chamber of the humans by automatically closing doors.
I had booked 4 nights in a 10-bed room. The lady took me to the bunk bed where I was supposed to sleep. She assigned me the upper bed. Interestingly, the bed did not have a ladder. So I had to make an artistic interlude every time to be able to lie down in bed.
Despite temperatures of 35 °C, the room had no air conditioning, but a lot of stationary fans, which should not be switched on during the day to save electricity. The toilets were outside the house, in small separate cabins.
Immediately after my arrival the lights went out on the island, because the power had failed on the whole island. I couldn't remember the last time I experienced a power failure in Germany. While in Germany it is almost a miarcle when there is no electricity for a few minutes, on Caye Caulker Island it seems to be a daily occurrence. In any case, the power went out again some more times.
The small power station could be heard all over the island. As a graduate electrical engineer, it shocked me a little how freely accessible the power station was to everyone. A sign warned of the high voltage, but the fence and the control house were completely open. An evil soul could have shut down the whole island or could have been electrocuted while trying.
In search of cheap food
A little later I started looking for food, as it was shortly after 6 p.m. and it was already dark. When visiting the local restaurants, the high prices hit me like punches in the face. Paying the equivalent of around 20 $ for a pizza didn't occur to me. I was looking for a meal that was more in line with my tight budget and ended up at a small Chinese snack where a portion cost around 5$.
Besides the many Chinese restaurants, every supermarket was owned by the Chinese without exception. I don't know what just got the Chinese into this little country.
In Belize, people pay with Belize dollars, which is about half the value of the American dollar. The British Queen Elizabeth adorns the note, as Belize is part of the British Commonwealth. Unlike in all the surrounding states, people here speak English and not Spanish. However, Spanish, Garifuna and other Mayan languages are also recognized as official languages.
However, it was sometimes very difficult for me to understand the English of the locals. I understood even less when the inhabitants started to speak Creole English.
Belize is considered a melting pot of cultures, because African, Central American, some European and to a small extent Asian peoples clash here. Around one third of Belizeans are of African descent (like the Garifuna tribe)
The motto of the island is Go Slow. Everything goes a little slower here. You can see the noticeable Caribbean and reggae impact.
Looking for beautiful beaches (in vain)
With the beautiful view of the sea from our hostel, I was immediately tempted to jump into the water and cool off. But I wondered why nobody went in the water.
I asked the stoned Australian who worked there and he suddenly explained to me what happens to all the feces of the cats that live there. The staff dump it DIRECTLY into the sea in front of the hostel, so the cat shit is floating up on the surface of the ocean. I just didn't feel like going to sea there.
So I decided to visit the beaches of this paradisiacal island in another place. Unfortunately I had to realize that there are no real beaches on the island, only jetties. The most famous one is at the northern end of the island and is also called Split. The Split is a moat that separates one half of the island from the other.
In 1961 the country Belize was destroyed by a terrible hurricane, which broke the island Caye Caulker in 2 parts and as a result the capital of the country had to be moved from Belize City to Belmopan because the storm completely destroyed the first one.
Relaxed after-party atmosphere at the tourist hotspot
At the same Split tourists slurp with relish at their cocktails in island known bar Lazy Lizard. When you need to cool down, you jump into the cool water of the really damn blue water. But be careful, the big crocodiles smile at you from afar.
The atmosphere here felt a bit like the cosy end of a spring break party. So they now let their intoxication pass after they let it all hang out in Cancún at the legendary spring celebration. In addition, the vast majority of these large groups came from the USA. There are probably so many Americans here because the locals understand English.
I had never seen such a concentrated number of tourists in one place before. The entire northern half of the island is occupied by tourists, while the few locals have retreated to the south of the island.
During my hike I came across members of the Rastafari movement who had set up large tables in front of their house, instructing the unbelievers how devilish and repulsive oral and anal sex is.
Diving and cuddling sharks
After sunbathing at the jetty I returned to the hostel and got to know a Scottish guy who had almost finished his Latin America tour. His reports gave me great anticipation of everything that was yet to come. Together with him and some American boys we booked a snorkeling tour at our hostel for the next day. The price was quite steep, the fun cost almost 60 €.
Before we all jumped into the water, the captain handed out delicious rum punch for everyone. The whole underwater world looked even better with it. We saw a giant turtle and saw many more fish of the Belize Barrier Reef, the world's second largest reef system after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So we had to be careful not to destroy the fragile flora and fauna with our feet while diving.
A little later, a large group of sharks of up to 3 meters in size suddenly approached. But don't panic. The predators "just wanted" to be caressed. Or at least that's why they were lured in with all the fish bait. The whole thing was kind of a petting zoo on the high seas. The reef was full of boats, snorkeling tourists everywhere, who wanted to see a shark, more precisely an Atlantic nurse shark, at close range for the first time. Our tour guide even had so much courage that he even took up a kind of wrestling match with the giant shark.
It was impressive to see these predators in the wild, but it was the stingrays that frightened me the most just because of their eerie physique.
We returned to our hostel and noticed how strongly the sun had sizzled us. You should have been diving with a T-shirt on. Especially the extremely light-skinned Scot shone as red as a crab in the evening. The glowing sunburn and the heat made it difficult to sleep at night.
At the hostel I finally met Liz and Simon, a friendly Canadian-American couple who were just leaving, but whom I would meet again later on during my journey. The Canadian told me enthusiastically about his dive in Belize. His diving licence enabled him to explore even more of the fascinating underwater world.
In the evening I enjoyed the wonderful sunset directly at the Atlantic Ocean in the area of the hostel. I talked to an interesting Bulgarian, who has been travelling almost continuously for 5 years and who has set himself the goal of visiting all countries of the world. The Bulgarian got bored on the island, because there was nothing to do here except to lie lazily in the sun.
He had a point there. Anyone who wants to do something here has to pay a high price. Offered tours to the gigantic Blue Hole, 124 meter deep, off the coast of the island, cost several hundreds of dollars. You can fly over it by helicopter or dive in, which is only recommended for advanced divers due to the depth and the cave-like structure.
Idleness and early departure
Together with the Bulgarian I wandered around the island a bit. We decided to do without the golf carts used by many tourists, because the island is so small that you actually don't need them.
After we had explored almost the whole island and arrived at the mini airport, we turned back and went to dinner together. Again Chinese was on the menu - the only reasonably affordable one.
Consequently, we decided to leave the next day. I had already paid for another night and couldn't get it refunded, but still I preferred to leave the island earlier, not to have to eat Chinese for the umpteenth time in a row haha
The Bulgarian started already at sunrise and took the first boat to the mainland. I also met him again later in Guatemala without making an appointment or exchanging contact information. I took the morning boat to Belize City and continued on to the tranquil Belize town San Ignacio.