We landed in Belize in the tiny Philip Goldson Airport. It was four of us graduate students excited about the prospect of an exotic spring break adventure. We planned to spend the first couple of days in Amergris Caye, the largest island off the coast of Belize. Set in the Caribbean, it houses the town of San Pedro and is about a mile away from the second largest reefs in the world. After a 30USD cab ride to the water taxi terminal where we depart for the island, we realized we had about an hour to kill. So we deposited our luggage at the terminal and walked around the area in Belize City. When people warned that there wasn’t much to do or see in Belize City, they weren’t kidding. The area was impoverished and lacked anything spectacular. Finally, we boarded the water taxi and two hours later, we were docked at the beautiful island of Ambergris Caye. We made our way to our “budget lodging” called Conch Shell Inn. It’s located in the middle of the island; a walk to the south end of the island showed us that that’s where the fancy resorts were, but in retrospect we were glad we stayed in the middle where it was mostly locals and less touristy.
We woke up the next morning to cloudy skies, a little apprehensive about the impending rain. Since it was our last full day on the island before heading back to the mainland, we knew we had to maximize our time! We decided on a snorkeling tour with Ecological Tour which cost us about 40USD. A speed boat took up to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, about 4 miles off the southern tip of the island. Hol Chan is Mayan for “Little Channel”. The channel was established about two decades ago as a sanctuary for the marine life and it definitely did not disappoint! The corals and other marine life were absolutely breathtaking! It’s surreal to imagine a world under the sea, as elaborate and beautiful as the world we live in. My friend took some pictures with a waterproof camera that I hope to post soon. To read more about the inhabitants of Hol Chan and how to get there, you can go to http://www.holchanbelize.org/.
After swimming around with our guide for a couple of hours, we made our way to Shark Ray Alley with the hopes of swimming with real nurse sharks! Unfortunately, the weather was not agreeable as it was cold and rainy. We did catch a glimpse of one nurse shark, but were otherwise disappointed. The boat ride back to the San Pedro had to be the bumpiest and most painful boat ride I have ever experienced! However, the Hol Chan experience made the entire morning totally worth it despite the rain.
We grabbed lunch at Waraguma, one of the hole in the wall restaurants that is renowned for their enormous burriots. And they did not disappoint! The burritos were freshly made and served steaming hot. The veggie burrito was surprisingly flavorful and inspite of the enormity of it, I managed to eat almost all of it. Then we grabbed some ice cream at a little joint that showcased a picture of President Obama and his girls eating ice cream at the same store when they were in Belize! Who knew we were in such great company?! Next we decided that we wanted to rent out some paddle boats and race each other. After about an hour of intense leg workout racing our paddle boats, we decided to grab drinks at a local bar called Takklebox. I resorted to my favorite Michelada and reveled in the relaxing atmosphere. It was hard to believe that just two days ago, I was cranking out papers in frigid NYC. The bartender told us that we had to check out the world-famous “chicken drop” that was going to be taking place in a few hours. Decidedly curious, we headed over to Pier House, where this event was to take place.
We were ready to experience some Belizean nightlife, so we headed to Fido’s for dinner and drinks. Our waiter Julio gave us the best service in the house and also informed us that ladies’ night at Wet Willy’s was the place to be that night. After a few more drinks, we headed over to Wet Willy’s which was packed with people- both tourists and locals! What was common was everyone’s desire to have a blast! Good old top 40 music served as a backdrop for some dancing and mingling with the locals. In fact, our waiter Julio joined us after he got off work! After a wild night that involved some skinny dipping (shh!) we headed home.
The next morning was absolutely gorgeous! Unfortunately, we had to leave around noon to head back to mainland, but we tried to get some sun in before we had to leave. We grabbed brunch at Lily’s…my huevos rancheros and papaya shake totally hit the spot! Finally, sad to leave the beautiful island on such a gorgeous day but excited about the next leg of the trip, we headed to the water taxi terminal back to to Belize City. Next up…the quaint town of San Ignacio and a rustic jungle lodge and lots of Mayan history!