Mexico: Me and my manatee


The reef that runs parallel for this small Central American country might just be our planet’s greatest aquatic playground. It’s the second biggest barrier reef worldwide. But although the Great Barrier Reef wins bigger, Belize has a great deal more crammed right smaller space. In Queensland you can see more colourful coral along with a greater selection of smaller fish but here the massive guns come practically guaranteed. On our six-hour jaunt, we swim with sharks, barracudas, eels, turtles and stingrays, leaving the enormous brain coral, bright blue tang fish and huge marauding shoals as mere sideshows.

The manatee’s property is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, on the islands of Caye Caulker, off Belize City. The crew of the boat, the Ragga King, spot him and drop anchor. Twenty of people pull on snorkelling masks and fins before plunging in to the Caribbean in pursuit. He’s a giant one – 2.5metres long and weighing at the very least 600kilograms. Apparently, he’ll eat 10percent of his own bodyweight each day.

He excels as a blubbery beacon from the brilliantly clear water. All of us jostle for position. He could leave us for dust at any minute if he chose – indeed, after A quarter-hour approximately he decides to speed off.

But before that, I have my magic moment. The manatee decelerates and sets out to turn. He finally ends up face-to-face beside me, inches clear of my nose, then flaps his front flipper. It’s almost as if he’s waving goodbye.

The Ragga King is in the laid-back command of Captain Miguel. It may not be his real name but he thinks it appears cooler so he’s being dedicated to it. “Miguel” isn’t from Belize – he arrived from Nicaragua inside the 1990s and thought to make Caye Caulker his home.

The same is true of Ali, the tour guide-cook-sail hauler. Originally from Canada, she decided Caye Caulker had the approach to life she was after. It’s actually a familiar story surrounding the island. Sailing tour companies might be run by Brits, hotels and bars by Americans and shops by Chinese and Indians.

Most probably didn’t mean to stay long but Belize will be the variety of place that sucks individuals. Anything beyond shorts and thongs is overdressed and it’s really turning into the independent traveller’s hang-out associated with preference in the region.

Caye Caulker may be a small island – or rather two, while it was split with a hurricane in 1961. It’s really a 45-minute ferry ride from Belize City. Everything here obeys island time; visitors can feel things slowing to the crawl once they step on the jetty.

The main street has brightly coloured restaurants, bars and clapboard hotels. Each one has a unique happy hour but, again, situations are flexible. The Bamboo Bar on which passes like a beachfront says that happy hour lasts “until many people are happy”. Given that usually it takes about 25 minutes to rustle on the half-price cocktails, this might be an excellent.

Nearby shacks be open-air restaurants, where seafood is cooked on oil-drum barbecues. Shuffle along up on the island (no-one walks; shuffling may be the only acceptable style of transportation) so you achieve Lazy Lizard. It will be the style of place that actually sums up kauai.

Most with the bar’s tables are usually in the stream – they are their own individual sheltered swimming area and guests wade over to the picnic tables which includes a beer at your fingertips. Guests stay until well following sun sets as well as the tide is here in, covering nearly the top of the table.

The boardwalk surrounding the pool would be the closest kauai grows to a sunbaking beach.

The big hotel chains aren’t prone to pick the land here if their guests can’t lounge around to the sand for hours on end, hence the area remains to your locals, the almost locals (which have arrive from globally) and independent, budget travellers. Bonds are formed within the water as people discuss snorkelling trips, sink a handful of rum and cokes – and select to keep for some more days …

The writer was really a guest of Gecko’s Adventures.


Getting there

Caye Caulker is often a short ferry ride from Belize City. Return flights to Belize City via New york or Miami, flying with American Airlines, cost from $US2979 ($4495).

Phone Flight Centre, 131 600.

Gecko’s Adventures, see or phone 1300 854 500, carries a 10-day Central American Trails tour of Cancun, Mexico, Antigua and Guatemala, which stops at Caye Caulker for a few nights. The tour costs $895 and also a $US200 local payment.

Staying there

Rock up and pick that which you just like the look of, or try De Real Macaw, a character-packed guesthouse on Front Street where air-conditioned rooms cost from $US30 an evening. See


The one-day sailing and snorkelling excursion to your Hol Chan Marine Reserve costs about $68. See

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