In Central America off the eastern coast of Belize is a small island floating freely in the Caribbean Sea. Here is where I enjoyed my first trip to the Caribbean last year. Americans in the central and eastern parts of the U.S. tend to vacation in the Caribbean, while those of us on the west coast frequent Mexico or Hawaii for tropical adventures. So the Caribbean was new to me.
Our vacation in Belize was primarily planned for a birding trip with a group, but prior to meeting up with the group we spent a few independent days on this spirited and sparkly island. Only 25 miles long and a mere one mile wide, the island is surrounded by white sand beaches. You can read more about the island here (but skip the part about the meaning of the word “ambergris”).
A pleasant convenience to this small island were the golf carts, the main mode of transport. You could go anywhere in a rental cart, dressed in casual swimwear and flip-flops.
But I am a birder and don’t live that way. We like to load up with pounds and pounds of optical equipment, dress in long-sleeved shirts so we can stay out in the sun until we nearly faint, and wear hiking shoes so we can trudge through the mangrove swamps.
And although I did do the swimwear thing and enjoyed a great day of snorkeling and beach walking, my favorite day was the day we explored the island on that crazy golf cart.
We watched mating iguanas, delighted in the frigate bird often cruising overhead, tip-toed through someone’s back yard in pursuit of an Olive-throated Parakeet, and escaped from some irate dogs as our golf cart flew across cobble-stoned roads.
The food was fantastic–rice, beans, fresh-caught fish, plantains–with a Caribbean and Mayan flair.
When it was time to return the rental cart, a local woman made a map in the sand for me, directing me to the island’s only gas station. We found it in some back canal area, where a kindly man suggested I not turn my back on the canal in case of alligators.
Although I very much enjoy being with a guide and seeing far more birds in a day than I would on my own, I treasure days without a guide too. Free-flying days give me big smiles and great memories.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander