Visit Caye Caulker, Belize
Caye Caulker is a small limestone coral island off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea measuring about 5 miles (8.0 km) (north to south) by less than 1 mile (1.6 km) (east to west). The town on the island is known by the name Caye Caulker Village.
Caye Caulker is located approximately 20 miles (32 km) north-northeast of Belize City, and is accessible by high-speed water taxi or small plane. In recent years the island has become a popular destination for backpackers and other tourists. There are over 30 tiny hotels and a number of restaurants and shops.The island is basically a sand bar over a limestone shelf. An underwater cave named Giant Cave is found below the Caye in the limestone. In front of the village, a shallow lagoon, between 6 inches (150 mm) and 14 feet (4.3 m) deep, meets the Belize Barrier Reef to the east. In front of the village, the reef is known as a dry reef with the reef exposed at the surface, while further north the reef is a deep reef and lies under 2 to 8 feet (0.61 to 2.44 m) of water. This area is popular with windsurfers.
A narrow waterway known as the Split divides the island in two. Some people state that the Split was created by Hurricane Hattie in 1961 which devastated Belize City, however that is a myth. Villagers who actually hand dredged it maintains that it is largely a man-made feature. The Village Council Chairman at the time, Ramon Reyes, recounts that he and others dredged the waterway by hand after Hurricane Hattie opened a passage a few inches deep. This made a practical water way between the west and east sides of the island, intended at first for dugout canoes. The increased flow of tidal water has naturally dredged the opening to 20 feet (6.1 m) deep until larger boats can now easily pass. The natural erosion continues to this day and threatens the soft sand banks of the waterway.Settlement.
Caye Caulker is thought to have been inhabited for hundreds of years, however, the recent population levels didn't start until the Caste War of Yucatan in 1847, when many mestizos of mixed Maya and Spanish descent fled the massacres taking place across the Yucatán.
The area of the village was granted to Luciano Reyes by Queen Victoria around 1870. Lots were sold to six or seven families, most of which still have descendants on the island today. The influence of these families is still very apparent.
The location of the main settlement on the island is thought to have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. The bay at the back of the village provides shelter for boats while the reef at the front provides good protection from large waves. Also, the coral sand near the village provides good anchorage compared to the soft mud found elsewhere on the island.
Caye Caulker is the Caribbean without pretentious hotels and snobbish holiday makers. Put a bunch of hippies, laid-back hostels, and clear sea – that’s Caye Caulker. There are no roads, no pollution, no loud noises. Just soft winds, light music, and the endless sea. For those who want to get to know the island inside out, here are 10 ways to do so.
1. Snorkeling with Sharks
You heard me. You get to literally swim around schools of nurse sharks and large stingrays at the famed Shark-Ray Alley. Don’t worry, they don’t bite.Visibility in the water is as clear as it can get and snorkeling conditions are close to perfect. Snorkeling trips that take you out here also bring you to nearby Hol-Chan marine reserve. Marine life is proliferating here – we even got to swim beside a manatee. A surreal experience as the giant slowly glides past you.
Shark Ray Alley
2. Wish Willy’s BBQ Seafood
BBQ Seafood on Belize is like paella in Spain – the best thing ever. Wish Willy’s on Caye Caulker definitely stands out as the cheapest, tastiest and most characteristic. Talking about personality, Wish Willy’s tops everyone else; the friendly owner welcomes everyone like an old friend. Try the seafood buffet, with lobster, fish, meat included for 35 Belizean Dollar.
Grilled lobster at Wish Willy's
The crowd - backpackers
3. Diving the Blue Hole
This submarine cave is legendary. If you’re a diver, you’re not leaving without diving the Great Blue Hole. The circular Blue Hole is over 330m in diameter and 120m deep. From the air, the round patch of dark blue waters surrounded by shallow turquoise sea looks unbelievable. It was formed when the roof of a limestone cave system collapsed during the ice age. A natural phenomenon as it is, submerging as deep as 45m amongst stalactites is wild. Warning – not for beginners.
4. Chilling at the Split
The Belizeans’ cheery attitude show turned the result of a disaster into something beautiful. The Split was formed in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie hit, splitting Caye Caulker in two. At the northern end of Front Street, it’s a popular place to chill, snorkel and hang out. The shallow waters are clear, refreshing and full of marine life.
Chilling at the Split
5. Grooving to Reggae
Knock back a Belikin (local beer) or two at I&I Reggae Bar on the southern end of the caye. There’s nothing like this hippie haven – swings hanging from the ceiling, hammocks on the rooftop, oh and a perfect spot to catch the sunset. Ask around, and all the locals will point you in this direction. It’s got good vibes baby!
6. Sunset Sailing
Sailing off into the wind, with rum punch and shrimp ceviche in hand and a Rastafarian captain – the sunset sails are a great way to get under Belize’s skin. Instead of bus-ing it, 4-day sailboat trips are also an excellent alternative to get from Caye Caulker to other parts of Belize. Ragga Muffin Tours arrange overnight sailboat trips to Placencia. What’s on the itinerary? Fishing, chilling, island-hopping and fresh seafood every day.
Alternatively, day trips on the sailboats can also be organized, with snorkeling at Shark Ray Alley included.
7. Trying Street Tacos
Oh, street food's always topped on my list of getting to know a country. Tacos stands are set up across the marine terminal where the main pier is at. These are usually really cheap, 3 tacos for 2 Belizean dollars. At San Pedro, a bigger town on Ambergris Caye, the town’s plaza is lined with tons of tacos stands, in true Mexican style.
8. Kayaking to the Northern Mangrove Reserve
The northern end of Caye Caulker is uninhabited, occupied by dense mangrove swamps. Kayaking to the mangrove reserve makes for a fun excursion, especially in the mornings when birdlife is rich. Tsunami Adventures arrange kayaking trips for B$15 first hour and B$10 for subsequent hours.
9. Riding A Golf Cart
While there aren’t any golf courses on Caye Caulker, you’ll see golf carts all over the island. These carts are the islanders’ main mode of transport – there are no cars or scooters on Caye Caulker; just picture how clean the air is without any pollution.
10. Mingle with the Locals
Belizeans are one of the friendliest buncha people around – they ain’t called the Caribbean for nothing. They love making jokes, chatting anyone up on the streets and just having a good time. We had dinner with our boat man, he told us stories about Caye Caulker and how it was like growing up here. Like they say, the best way to know a country is through its people.