Over the Christmas holidays we headed back to the states and spent a few weeks with our family. This was a great way to recharge before setting out on the next phase of our trip.
It is hard to believe that our 14 months of travel is already half way complete. In 2019 we head south, making our way down the Americas before moving on to Australasia.
Here’s what our bags look like packed up and ready to go. The kids each have their own backpack (with mostly notebooks, toys, favorite stuffed animal) and each of us parents carries a large backpack (mostly clothes) and a smaller backpack. The rolling duffel bag contains the kids clothes.
Our first stop on our southward journey is two weeks in Belize, split between the island of Ambergris Caye and the inland jungle near San Ignacio.
We flew into Belize City from New Orleans (via Houston) and cleared customs and immigration in about 20 minutes. We then had another flight from Belize City to San Pedro on Tropic Air.
Map made using Travellerspoint.
We had originally booked a Tropic Air flight departing a couple of hours after our arrival at BZE but the Tropic Air staff helpfully got us onto the next departing flight.
Taking a flight on a small propeller plane was a new experience for the kids and they enjoyed the novelty of it while looking out at the scenery below during our 15 minute flight to San Pedro.
After landing in San Pedro our AirBnb host collected us in his golf cart (the primary mode of transportation on the island) and took us to our apartment for the week.
The next morning the kids couldn’t wait to get into the rooftop pool.
Island Road Trip
We rented our own golf cart so that we could explore the island. Golf carts are everywhere, especially in the central part of town, where there are frequent traffic jams. The fumes and noise from all of the carts kind of detract from the island vibe but it is easy to find more peaceful spots further out of town.
Except in the central part of San Pedro the roads are unpaved. Fortunately when we visited they were mostly dry.
Our destination was “Secret Beach,” a not-so-secret patch of sand on the western side of the island where there are several waterside bars and restaurants.
The kids enjoyed trying out the many different flavors of Fanta available on the island, although here our youngest went with the classic orange variety.
Sailing and Snorkeling
The coral reefs off the coast of Belize have been designated a World Heritage site and are the second largest on the planet (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia).
We were eager go snorkeling to see some of the wildlife so we booked a tour that took us to four different snorkeling sites.
Our sailing ship for the day was called “La Gaviota” (the Seagull).
During our snorkeling stops we saw sea turtles, nurse sharks, rays, and countless types of corals and colorful fish.
In between snorkeling stops the crew cooked us a delicious Belizean lunch of stew chicken, rice and beans, and plantains.
The kids enjoyed the snorkeling so much that we booked a half day excursion a couple of days later. This time we were on a smaller boat (but at least we had it to ourselves).
A stingray. Every time I see one I can’t help feeling sad about Steve Irwin (RIP).
Crab Races at Crazy Canuks
In the evenings some of the local bars and restaurants have entertainment to draw in visitors. The “Chicken Drop” game runs on Thursday evenings and involves betting on which square within a 100 square grid that a chicken will poop on. Another is the Hermit Crab races.
Each of the kids picked (and named) a hermit crab for the race. The entry fee was $5BZD. A portion of the pot went to scholarships for local students and the rest was paid out to race winners.
Our youngest nearly won the first heat of the race with his crab named “Crab Noir” but sadly he was just edged out. There were additional races later in the night but we were advised by the announcer that he’d be using a heavy dose of explicit language later on. So, we packed it in for the night.
Goodbye San Pedro
After a fun and relaxing week on the island it was time to head back to the mainland. On our return journey we took the more cost effective (but longer) option of a water taxi, which carried us to the mainland in about 90 minutes.
The official language of Belize is English (stemming from its days as an English colony) and the currency is the Belize dollar (two BZD equals one USD). Both USD and BZD are accepted everywhere and ATMs dispense Belize Dollars.
San Pedro is not exactly a value destination; eating and drinking at a restaurant geared towards tourists costs about what one would pay at touristy places in the USA (entrees typically $10-$20, beers $3-$5, tropical cocktails $8-$15). Imported groceries (e.g. breakfast cereal) cost double what they do back home (and be sure to check expiration dates!).
That said, there are values to be had if one eats like a local. In the mornings ladies set up taco stands with delicious chicken breakfast tacos at the cost of three for one Belize dollar. Nondescript food stands sell traditional meals at very reasonable prices, like a big plate of rice and beans with stewed chicken and potato salad for under 5 USD.
Our week on the island was a great way to ease back into our travel sabbatical and the kids got a great lesson in marine biology. While San Pedro is definitely on island time, sometimes it felt more hectic than we wanted it to. Next time we’ll probably try one of the less developed islands like Caye Caulker.
Next time, we travel into the Belize jungle to explore natural wonders and remnants of Mayan civilization.