Belize: Home of Caving Expeditions

Location of Belize in Central America
Location of Belize in Central America

 

Theme: Central American Adventure Tour  Country: Belize Languages: Belizean Creole, English, & Spanish  Unit of Currency: Belize  dollar   Locations: Belize City, Belmopan, Caye Caulker, & San Ignacio Year: 2013   Bucket list: Visiting Central America for the first time; Exploring wet and dry caving expeditions

Video: Snorkeling with Green Sea Turtles

 

Go Slow; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013
Go Slow; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013

 

DO:  CATCH WATER TAXIS TO THE NEARBY ISLANDS FROM BELIZE CITY

Belize City:
  • Catching San Pedro express water taxi to Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker Water Taxi; Belize City, Belize; 2013
Caye Caulker Water Taxi; Belize City, Belize; 2013

 

New Mate on Ferry; Belize; 2013
New Mate on Ferry; Belize; 2013

 

  • Meeting Major Tom for zip lining adrenaline activity
  • Watching hurricane hit Belize City and blocking all pathways to the ferry services

DO:  SNORKEL WITH GREEN SEA TURTLES

Caye Caulker:
Adrenaline Activities:
  • Snorkeling in Hol Chan Reef Marine Reserve, Shark & Ray Alley, and Ambergis Caye
Snorkeling Group Shot; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013
Snorkeling Group Shot; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013

 

  • Swimming with green sea turtles, nurse sharks, sting rays, and manatees
  • Being part of a rescue team when a nearby boat sunk – passengers were scattered in the water (in the end, everyone was okay)
Boat Capsized; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013
Boat Capsized; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013

 

  • Fishing for yellowtail snapper, lane snapper, & strawberry grouper (released juveniles)
  • Trolling for greater barracuda
Fishing for Greater Barracuda; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013
Fishing for Greater Barracuda; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013

 

  • Golf carting around the island

 

Sentimental Souvenirs:
  • Purchasing local wooden carvings for wedding presents (Skerponator’s and Matt’s wedding in the states)

 

Restaurants & Pubs:
  • Eating best Belizean food at Bambooze Beach Bar & Grill – chicken tostados for lunch & lobster with mango sauce for dinner
Abroad Doctor Mates and I; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013
Abroad Doctor Mates and I; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013

 

  • Indulging in seafood ceviche at Happy Lobster and drinking Lighthouse Lager
Lighthouse Lager; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013
Lighthouse Lager; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013

 

  • Drinking the local’s favorite beer of Belize  – Belikin (Beer of Belize)
Belikin, the Beer of Belize; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013
Belikin, the Beer of Belize; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013

 

  • Roof top drinking at a reggae pub

 

Favorite Activities:
  • BBQing on the island – tried greater barracuda for the first time
  • Feeling like a local – a lot of honey moon couples, and few solo travelers; the locals made me feel like I belonged there

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013

 

DO: GO CAVE TUBING IN THE BELIZE JUNGLE

Cayo District:
  • Cave tubing with torches on head
Cave Tubing Belize; Belize; 2013
Cave Tubing Belize; Belize; 2013

 

  • Jungle trekking through Belize’s terrain
  • Jumping off 3m cliff into a small deep opening (between several rocks)
  • Zip lining through jungle (wet ride due to heavy rainstorm)

 

Caye Caulker Highlights:

As my week came to an end, I sat there and reflected on my time in Caye Caulker and within the Caribbean Islands off the coast of Belize.

These were the  best highlights:

1) Being introduced to this beautiful country – I will be honest, I did not know much about the surrounding islands off of the mainland of Belize City. I was definitely pleasantly surprised of how amazing and kind the people are here. When speaking with the locals and hearing their Creole language, I can not help to smile and think of how lucky I was to be here at that very moment.

Nighttime on the Island; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013
Nighttime on the Island; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013

 

2) Snorkeling with Belize’s most magnificent creatures – green sea turtles, manatees, nurse sharks, white-spotted eagle rays, and greater barracudas. I have never had the opportunity to be as close as I was during my snorkeling trip. On top of this, I learned more about the coral reef species that inhabit this coastal area.

3) Cave tubing & Zip lining – As I was putting together my Central America Adventure Tour, it was evident that a wet adventure would be on the itinerary! Though I was utterly soaked for 12.5 hours from 0630 to 1900, I had a blast! I would not suggest zip lining in the rain, as a dad in my group smashed his knee off the tree (this is how he stopped!); luckily he was okay, but quite sore! As far as the cave tubing, it was brilliant to hear about these mysterious caves embedded in the jungle of Belize. A 3 meter cliff jump ended a great day on the water! 

ATM Caving Tour; San Ignacio, Belize; 2013
ATM Caving Tour; San Ignacio, Belize; 2013

 

4) Meeting fun and intelligent travelers – It is always nice to meet other fellow travelers, especially those who are really cool to hang out with and love to travel as much I do. My doctor friends were a prime example of the sweet people that I met on the island – A special thanks to NicolaDawnMarkEmma, George, and Jenna! I hope to see you in Honduras! Also, a kick-ass brother and sister team that made my snorkeling day – A shout out to Craig and Cailan!

5) Feeling like a local – After fishing for the day and educating myself on the fish that call Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and San Pedro home, I attempted to snag one of the largest barracudas that I have set eyes on! As I was close to reeling a 10lb one in, it got the best of me and I was physically exhausted struggling to bring it onboard. I will have my revenge next time!  Either way, I caught some yellowtail snapper and lane snapper to make up for my loss! A BBQ was created in honour of catching barracudas on our fishing trip! It was the first time on the island when I felt that I blended in and felt “like a local!” The barracuda was delicious, and was the first time that I had it! Most importantly, thank you to Tsunami Adventures and all the crew, especially Heather & Briony for making my time on the island unforgettable! 

Despite the hurricane weather, cancellation of Blue Hole snorkel/dive trip & Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) archeology caving tour, being “stuck” on the mainland for a night, sniffling uncontrollably, sunburnt aloe vera smelling skin and lips, mosquito bites that trail up and down my arms, legs, stomach, back, and face, one thing is certain – I will come back in non-hurricane weather and soak up the sun on this lovely island again! 

Farewell Belize – I will miss you and your ridiculous weather! 

Hurricane Weather; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013
Hurricane Weather; Caye Caulker, Belize; 2013

 

 

The Crystal Cave Expedition:

As I am sitting here documenting my current Central America Adventure Tour, I am trying to not get blood on my new Macbook air! My last caving experience was nothing like I had imagined – as soon as we hiked 20 minutes (normally takes 45 minutes, but was slowly jogging through the jungle due to the ridiculous amounts of mosquitoes hovering from above & attacking every angle of me!), I have found the ultimate adventure that I have been seeking ALL of my life!

Ancient Mayan Remains in Crystal Cave; Belmopan, Belize; 2013
Ancient Mayan Remains in Crystal Cave; Belmopan, Belize; 2013

 

Throughout the course of 4 hours, I found myself propelling 200ft into a cave, jumping from formations to the next, leaping on rocks to get across the puddles of water that formed in the caves depths, plummeting and praying that my feet landed in the right spot for me to continue this adventure, rope climbing so that I was able to pull myself up and not fall directly 100ft into the bottom of the rock formations, trekking miles further into darkness, crawling on my legs and stomach to fit into tight holes beaming from the crystallization of the cave’s minerals, and free climbing (while using the formations to grab onto and pull myself up the thick clay paths)!

Blue Hole National Park; Cayo District, Belize; 2013
Blue Hole National Park; Cayo District, Belize; 2013

 

Most importantly, I ventured 1500ft into one of Central America’s deepest and most “active” caves in Belize!

Bitten, cut, scraped, bruised, and physically exhausted is the result of trekking to one of the most adventurous cave expeditions in Belize! You may ask was it worth it?!?

Of course, it was!! 

Personal Accomplishment Defeating Crystal Cave; Belmopan, Belize; 2013
Personal Accomplishment Defeating Crystal Cave; Belmopan, Belize; 2013

Welcome to Africa: Yellow Fever Shot Required

Location of Gabon in Africa
Location of Gabon in Africa

 

Theme: Welcome to Africa  Country: Gabon  Languages: French  Unit of Currency: CFA Franc  Locations: Libreville & Port Gentil Year: 2010    Bucket list: Visiting Africa for the first time

 

Kelsey Hall and I Selfie; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Kelsey Hall and I Selfie; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

DO: LEARN FRENCH BEFORE COMING TO THE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT OF LIBREVILLE

Libreville:
  • Entering a new world of a French speaking colony, where no one speaks English
  • Running into a massive lit Christmas tree blocking my gate to catch a domestic flight to Port Gentil

 

DO: EXPERIENCE THE SMALL COASTAL CITY

Port Gentil:
  • Meeting friendly locals, who have now become life-long mates
Beach Mates at International Festival; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Beach Mates at International Festival; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

  • Getting your hands on local currency
Central African CFA franc; Gabon; 2010
Central African CFA franc; Gabon; 2010

 

  • Educating others about the culture
Gabon President Portrait; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Gabon President Portrait; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

Map of African Tribes; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Map of African Tribes; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

Toilettes Creative Sign; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Toilettes Creative Sign; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

Local Painting; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Local Painting; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

  • Visiting the street venders
Street Venders; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Street Venders; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

  • Witnessing the beauty of nature
Shells on the Beach; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Shells on the Beach; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

Gabon's Flower; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Gabon’s Flower; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

  • Checking out my first pub, sports bar, disco tech, and restaurant all-in-1 building
Local Beer of Regab; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Local Beer of Regab; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

  • Hanging out until 0600 when the only beach club in town closes
Hotel Entrance; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Hotel Entrance; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

  • Watching a sunrise on the rocky beach

 

 

African Nightmare:

One of the most terrifying experiences was getting interrogated by the Gabon government (i.e. Port Gentil’s security clearance). When Kelsey and I arrived in Libreville, Gabon we were met by an Oil & Gas agent of Total who helped us check our baggage and lead us to our gate.  I had to walk a few minutes around a gigantic Christmas tree in the middle of the walkway where we had to stand in the cue with a lot of people.

We took a puddle jumper and flew to Port Gentil, Gabon. As soon as I arrived at the airport I was stopped by an African security guard because my yellow fever certificate was not within the 10 days of arriving in their country (it was 6 days).

I was already approved with my Gabon visa, had successfully been stamped into the country in Gabon, so this should have not been a major issue. A very polite man smiling quickly turned his grin into a frownless expression glaring down at me. When he decided to grab my arm and quickly guided me through a dark lit alley way, I knew that this would be easy to get out of. My colleagues and good mate, Kels was stunned and did not know where I had gone.

As we approached a mosquito infested building, I was told to throw my luggage on the small bench outside his office. He let go of my arm so that I could put my bags down. Shortly after getting my bearings and observing where I was, he took my arm again and placed me into a small white chair in the corner of his office. Mosquitoes had begun to fill up the room and start biting me left and right. In the mist of all this, I was demanded to pay 300 euros to get my passport back. Meanwhile, the security guard decided to flip through my passport and pretend to write down sections of my passport into a yellow post it note that was on his desk.

A heavier set woman approached the room, and they both started speaking French very fast (too quick for me to understand). I was asked to provide another ID of myself, but with my lack of passport in my hand I refrained. Next thing I hear the agent outside yelling my name, so I answered him back and told him where I was. As soon as I get out the message, the woman shut the door. Fortunately, the agent heard me and tugged open the door. He stood there for a few minutes explaining that I am with him and working for Total.

This method did not seem to be going well, as they both sat there with their arms crossed and an expressionless look on their faces. The agent grew weary of attempting to be nice to get my passport back in my possession, so he reached around the desk and snatched it and the post it note out of the security guard’s hands. The agent glanced at me, and the next thing I knew we were sprinting down a dark alley with security guards screaming French obscenities behind us!

Finally, I found myself back at the airport, and a bus was waiting for me! I jumped in, and the agent proceeded to follow. The bus driver gunned it, and off we went! I looked back to see a very furious man and woman chasing the bus. Luckily for us, we did not have any stop lights on the way to the hotel! The positive outcome was that I did not get malaria and I safely made it to my hotel with my colleagues and Kels!

Kelsey and I Selfie; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010
Kelsey and I Selfie; Port Gentil, Gabon; 2010

 

Bahamas: The World’s Clearest Waters

Location of The Bahamas in the Caribbean
Location of The Bahamas in the Caribbean

 

Theme: Island Hopping in the Caribbean  Country: The Bahamas  Languages: English  Unit of Currency: Bahamian dollar  Locations: Eleuthera Island, Harbour Island, Nassau, Paradise Island, & San Salvador Island Years: 2005 (only San Salvador Island and Nassau) & 2011   Bucket list: Cliff jumping off Eleuthera Island’s coast

 

Ride A Horse on the Beach; Nassau, Bahamas; 2011
Ride A Horse on the Beach; Nassau, Bahamas; 2011

 

DO:  HIRE A JEEP AND VENTURE AROUND THE ISLAND

Eleuthera Island:
  • Walking and hitchhiking to Gregory town and checking out the historical little town before hiring a Jeep for the day
Island Signs; Gregory Town, Eleuthera Island; 2011
Island Signs; Gregory Town, Eleuthera Island; 2011

 

  • Hiring a Jeep and driving to the Southernmost lighthouse on the island
Various Destinations and I; Gregory Town, Eleuthera Island; 2011
Various Destinations and I; Gregory Town, Eleuthera Island; 2011

 

  • Caving Hatchet Bay Caves, witnessing the ocean trailing in the cave, and exploring sections of the cave known as Birthday Cake, Lord of the Rings, Bat, etc. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Climbing into the Light; Hatchet Bay Caves, Eleuthera Island; 2011
Climbing into the Light; Hatchet Bay Caves, Eleuthera Island; 2011

 

Inside the Cave; Hatchet Bay Caves, Eleuthera Island; 2011
Inside the Cave; Hatchet Bay Caves, Eleuthera Island; 2011

 

Prepping for the Caving Expedition; Hatchet Bay Caves, Eleuthera Island; 2011
Prepping for the Caving Expedition; Hatchet Bay Caves, Eleuthera Island; 2011

 

  • Visiting UNESCO World Heritage Site Queen’s Bath
Entrance of Cave within Queen's Bath; Eleuthera Island; 2011
Entrance of Cave within Queen’s Bath; Eleuthera Island; 2011

 

Tour Guide, Tom, Soaking in Queen's Bath; Eleuthera Island; 2011
Tour Guide, Tom, Soaking in Queen’s Bath; Eleuthera Island; 2011

 

Queen's Bath; Eleuthera Island; 2011
Queen’s Bath; Eleuthera Island; 2011

 

Deeper into the Cave within Queen's Bath; Eleuthera Island; 2011
Deeper into the Cave within Queen’s Bath; Eleuthera Island; 2011

 

  • Cliff jumping in between rocks
  • Snorkeling for lion fish
  • Swimming with green sea turtles
  • Cruising the Caribbean Sea during a sunset cruise
  • Surfing at Surfer’s Paradise
Surfer's Paradise Cool Sign; Eleuthera Island; 2011
Surfer’s Paradise Cool Sign; Eleuthera Island; 2011

 

DO:  SPEND YOUR BIRTHDAY WITH YOUR TOES IN PINK SAND

Harbour Island:
  • Pub hopping with Golf carts around the island
  • Sinking toes into pink sand during sunset
Celebrating my 28th Birthday in Pink Sand; Harbour Island, Bahamas; 2011
Celebrating my 28th Birthday in Pink Sand; Harbour Island, Bahamas; 2011

 

  • Drinking tequila and rum with locals
My Bahamian Tour Guide; Harbour Island, Bahamas; 2011
My Bahamian Tour Guide; Harbour Island, Bahamas; 2011

 

  • Taxing to Eleuthera Island on small boat

 

 

DO: PARTAKE IN THE FESTIVITIES AT SENOR FROGS

Nassau:
  • Exploring Junkadoo Beach
Lighthouse Tranquility; Nassau, Bahamas; 2011
Lighthouse Tranquility; Nassau, Bahamas; 2011

 

  • Grilling fish fry and conch fritters with the locals
  • Partaking in the Senor Frogs tradition with cruise ship members

 

 

DO: VISIT “THE DIG” AQUARIUM

Paradise Island:
  • Gambling in Johnny Depp’s favorite casino, Atlantis
  • Visiting “The Dig” aquarium – learn about the mysterious depths of the ocean
One of the Vibrantly Colored Fish at the Aquarium; Paradise Island, Bahamas; 2011
One of the Vibrantly Colored Fish at the Aquarium; Paradise Island, Bahamas; 2011

 

Children with Starfish; Paradise Island, Bahamas; 2011
Children with Starfish; Paradise Island, Bahamas; 2011

 

DO: DIVE IN THE WORLD’S RICHEST CORAL REEFS

San Salvador Island:
  • Teaching local children how to snorkel and scuba dive
  • Diving in the world’s richest coral reefs
Scuba Diving at Sunset; San Salvador, Bahamas; 2005
Scuba Diving at Sunset; San Salvador, Bahamas; 2005

 

Diving with Reef Fish; San Salvador, Bahamas; 2005
Diving with Reef Fish; San Salvador, Bahamas; 2005

 

  • Witnessing a hammerhead shark face to face
  • Exploring the island and sitting on pristine beaches
  • Hanging out with the locals drinking Kalik

 

Travel Hiccups:

The Jeep Cherokee that I had rented was not in the best condition, but since it was a Jeep I thought I would attempt to reach the southernmost lighthouse on the Eleuthera island. Once I reached the beach, I noticed that the signs to the lighthouse were non-existent. I stopped before I started driving in sand, and asked a family of tourists where the lighthouse is. To my surprise, they pointed in the direction of a sand path and a few trees growing on the outskirts of the path. I took their advice and drove through the soft sand. Then my worst nightmare happened, I got stuck! My back left tire was 2 inches deep into the tan light sand and I was left trying to dig myself out of this hole. After realizing that this was hopeless, my passenger Tatjana (a 50 something year old carefree soul longing to find her purpose in life), and myself walked 5 miles down the road to the closest sign of civilization.

A few hours had passed since the incident, and we met a few locals that were willing to help us out, for a small fee.  A boy and 2 male adults gathered us in a truck and took us to where the Jeep was buried in the sand. The boy’s father attached his winch to the back of the Jeep and slowly began pulling us out of the sand and back on to the dirt path. A few smiles were exchanged and a good amount of dollars for their hard work. It was a very eventful day, to say the least. I was thankful that we were able to get back on the road when we did. The night grew darker, and though I still wanted to photograph the southernmost lighthouse on the island, Tatjana and I made our way back to Gregory town to return the Jeep. To this day, I still want to see this beautiful lighthouse, and this time I assure you I will not get stuck!

Bahamians Save the Day; Eleuthera Island, Bahamas; 2011
Bahamians Save the Day; Eleuthera Island, Bahamas; 2011