We only planned on a short trip in Belize, straight onto the Island of Caye Caulker off the Caribbean coast. Belize is notoriously expensive for backpackers but the island couldn't be missed!
The first thing we noticed when we crossed the border was that the bank notes had pictures of the Queen's head on them! This would be due to the history with Britain and the commonwealth but we didn't realise before arriving. The locals also speak English with an interesting Caribbean accent so a change to the Latin American Spanish. The locals also speak a dialect called Creole, originally used by workers so that the land owners couldn't understand them it is still in use today.
The islands are a short stop from the mainland and are nestled along around 180 miles of reef. These are second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef and make for amazing marine life! The sea was amazing colours all around the islands both off shore and when you're out on a boat!
We had four nights on the island and it would be the last time we saw some friends we met and travelled with the last few weeks so a few evenings out in the local town and also activities during the days were planned. The weather was absolutely boiling so although we did spend some time chilling by the sea and mooching around the island, shade was desperately needed! The island was also split during hurricane Hati which makes an interesting spot to chill around the channel that now runs through the two sides.
One day we went on a snorkelling trip to the oldest section of reef, protected back in the 1980's and over the course of the trip we stopped at 4 sites, each was really good! We saw loads of fish, big barracuda, sea turtles and giant sting rays but the main thing we snorkelled with was nurse sharks! Many of them around 6+ foot in length they were huge and we snorkelled in schools of 15+ sharks at one point! They might be harmless to humans but still impressive to see and swim with, amazing animals. We also snorkelled an interesting wreck. Crazy that even a few miles off the main island some of the water is less than 10 foot deep because of the shallow reef.
The island is interesting to say the least, the local (older) population is only around 600 or so, the newer locals still make up less than 2000. There are many Rastafarian's on the island, many of which are literally on another planet most of the time! The bars play a lot of chilled reggae music and island life has a much slower pace than the main land!
The island's tourist boom has also led to many changes. The local guy who took us on the boat trip said his property was valued at $60,000 ten years ago and $680,000 now! However even with all the changes the island still keeps an 'island life' charm!
The island is also famous for the Blue Hole, an amazing sink hole in the Caribbean Sea. However this was slightly above the price range for this trip, for a fly over or dive, so saved for next time!
With time running out before we needed to catch our flight to Cuba we would head straight to Mexico after Belize. The first night bus in ages and the final stop in our mainland Central America stint!