Caye Caulker is my favorite color

img_0440This is the blue out of your crayola crayon box. That unbelievable “no-filter-needed” cerulean blue that doesn’t look real- even in real life. This is Caye Caulker.

In celebration of Hannah’s last few days in Belize, we departed on an un-Belize-able weekend getaway. (HA. Un-Belize-able. You can’t even blame me for using that pun because I swear to you, it is on every single tourist t-shirt in the country) Puns aside, this island is something magic. Maybe it’s because I never went to Disney World or other fancy Caribbean destinations as a kid, but the seaweed littered, rocky beaches of the southern coast of Cape Cod simply cannot compare. A quick 45 minute water taxi can transport you to this little piece of paradise directly from the port in Belize City. Be warned though- this isn’t a cruise ship. It’s a full throttle speed boat with people packed in like sardines. The whole way there. Prepare for wind. See video for our reactions to this part of the adventure:

 

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” Go Slow” is Caye Caulker’s motto- and trust me, it’s not just a suggestion. You can feel it as soon as you step off the water taxi- you’re on island time now. It’s actually nearly impossible to move quickly. The only form of transportation on the island are golf cart taxis that roll along sandy pathways barely wide enough for a car. Although the island is so tiny there is really no reason to use them. Wandering on foot, or by borrowed bicycle, is by far the best option for getting around. You might find yourself moving even slower than usual if you’re suffering from a lobster food coma, or if you’ve been sipping rum punch in a hammock all day.

Despite our inevitable participation in the lobster-eating and rum-punch-drinking, Hannah and I’s main purpose on Caye Caulker was snorkeling. There are dive and snorkel shops every few feet on the main pathway of Caye Caulker and it can be a bit of a daunting task to choose the right one. Luckily, as soon as we arrived at our hostel (Bella’s Backpacker’s), a fellow traveler immediately gave us a raving review of Stressless Tours- a new eco-friendly shop on the island. It’s hard to argue with that, so we set off to book with them for the next day. (*Side note:* All snorkeling tours are a standard price of $65 USD on the island- but it’s well worth the money)

One life-changing lobster dinner and a picture perfect sunset later, we were off to bed to prepare for the long day ahead.

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Sunset on Caye Caulker island

The next day was a reality check.

I’ve never had a snorkel in my mouth, I can’t remember the last time I swam for that long continuously, and I forgot what true seasickness feels like. Despite the fact that I pulled 2 consecutive all-nighters last semester, I’ve never experienced physical exhaustion quite like this snorkeling experience. Yet every time we jumped off that boat, it all just melted away. It was really just breathtaking.

From here, I really don’t have any photos or video that can possibly explain how insane this trip was. For a while I had some serious regrets about not renting a GoPro for the occasion, but now I’m glad that I didn’t have the distraction. I think by really looking around, instead of fiddling with a camera, I got the most out of the experience. Just know that it was absolutely mind-blowing.

For the most representative footage of a Belize Barrier Reef snorkeling experience please see Finding Nemo. Our tour guide was essentially Mr. Ray.

Betraying Boston

I recently had a religious awakening.

No, it’s not quite what it sounds like. I had a religious awakening through… LOBSTER.

Everybody knows these guys:

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Photo Credit: New Meadows Lobster

Bright red. Boiled and served with butter & lemon, a pile of coleslaw, and corn on the cob. Maybe a cup of clam chowder if you’re feeling fancy. And the whole thing has to be laid out on top of a checkered red tablecloth. The set-up of course, must include some minor hardware to disassemble the meal, and maybe even a plastic bib for the over-dressed diners at the table.

As a die-hard-drink-ice-coffee-in-a-blizzard-New Englander, I knew thought that this was the only way to eat a lobster apart from a COLD (yes cold) lobster roll with mayonnaise (not butter). I apologize if I have stepped on some toes in the highly controversial “Hot vs. Cold” lobster roll debate, but this is just how I feel. I can’t help it!

But the Caribbean lobster experience is totally different from anything back in Boston. To start- they’re not the same lobsters. Instead of the giant-clawed beasts from the cold waters off of Maine, we have these guys: The Caribbean Spiny Lobster.

Without those giant claws (instead they have two massive horns that stretch out for several inches), the main source of meat is in the tails. Grilled to juicy perfection, seasoned with garlic & “complete” spice mix, and finally drizzled with a balsamic glaze… it was simply unbelievable. The perfectly cooked lobster practically fell out of the shell.

Wish Willy’s on Caye Caulker served not one, but two lobster tails, with a heaping pile of summer squash salad, rice, and spicy papaya salad. The result? A hefty food coma which I rode out lounging in a hammock while enjoying the island breeze. All of this? Less than $10 US. 

My name is Alexis. I am a born & raised Bostonian, and I will never be able to appreciate a New England style lobster again.

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Weekends are for the Iguanas

“Do you want to hold an iguana,” certainly isn’t the first thing you’re expecting to hear in the morning. But this past Saturday, that’s just about how my day started. While we were too tired from our first week of work to make it to any of the major tours, Hannah and I stayed in San Ignacio to get a taste of the local activities. The first stop? – The Green Iguana Conservation Project at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel.

Balanced just at the top of the major hill in town, the hotel sits on the edge of the rainforest that grows up the banks from the Macal River. The tropical green leaves provide the perfect tree cover for a shaded iguana enclosure. The iguana project started over 20 years ago when the population of green iguanas in the area started to decline because of hunting. The meat of an iguana, known as “bamboo chicken”, as well as the eggs, were considered a delicacy in this area. Now it is illegal to hunt iguanas out of season, but there still remains a need for supporting the redevelopment of the population.

Our guide, Zhawn, introduces us to the alpha of the iguana community community, Gnome. At first we were confused because although Gnome is a green iguana, he is not green at all. As it turns out, male iguanas turn orange during the mating season. As the dominant male, Gnome is extra orange. The large flap under his chin, called the dewlap, helps him get all the ladies while he waves it back and forth in a territorial mating display. The dewlap is also helpful for absorbing extra heat and regulating body temperature.

All in all, Gnome seems pretty satisfied with his life in a protected enclosure with his 15 lady iguanas.

We were also lucky enough to meet some of the baby iguanas. Their names are Pride and Joy and at 8 months old, they are still only a few inches long. Near the end of every breeding season, the conservationists at the project venture down the river banks looking for the holes where female iguanas lay their eggs. From there, they carefully dig up the eggs and bring them to the enclosure to be incubated. This protects the eggs from poachers and gives the baby iguanas the best chance of survival away from predators. The Belizean jungle is full of iguana predators- and iguanas are a highly sought out prey item at every stage of their development. The hatching process can take up to 5 months and iguanas don’t reach full maturity until age 5.

Thanks to our guide Zhawn for all of the fun facts!