Belize doesn’t seem to be part of Central America anymore, it’s much more a Caribbean country. People speak English and Kriol (and Spanish, and Garífuna, and a whole lot of other languages), rice is flavored with coconut (in my opinion that should be the normal way to cook rice), the houses look different, and once you get to the Cayes, it’s clear that you’ve left Central America.
We desperately needed some beach time after the Mirador hike, so we went straight from Flores to Caye Caulker – the most perfect place to relax. Caye Caulker surpassed our expectations: The water is really turquoise, there are mangrove islands, all kinds of fish, sharks (friendly ones), sea turtles, colorful houses, white sand, nice people… what more do you need? Special brownies, my friend?
Off the shores of Belize is the world’s second biggest barrier reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. I wanted to go snorkeling for a long time now and this was obviously the place to do it. We went on a snorkeling tour with Jacob and Alwin from the Spearfishing Shack (you can also spearfish if you like but we preferred to stay on the boat sunbathing while the others tried to catch some dinner. Tried.), and it was a lot of fun.
Jacob knows exactly where to see the most amazing fish and turtles. It was the first time Hossam and I went snorkeling, and we were amazed by how much life there is in the reef. The underwater world is fascinating and you easily lose track of time just staring at all those different kinds of fish and corals and watching sea turtles. You even don’t notice that your backside gets completely sunburnt. No matter how much sun block you put on.
After three wonderful days of snorkeling and sitting on the balcony of our seafront hotel (we were lucky!) enjoying the breeze, we went back towards the Guatemalan border.
From the town of San Ignacio we went on a tour to Actun Tunichil Muknal, or short, ATM Cave. In this cave, Maya artifacts such as ceramics used for ceremonial purposes, have been found, as well as skeletal remains of sacrifice victims.
Most of the artifacts and bones are completely calcified to the cave floor and therefore almost impossible to remove without damaging them. Some bones, however, have been badly damaged by cameras tourists dropped by accident (cameras are just too heavy for some people) and therefore it’s now strictly prohibited to take cameras into the cave, even GoPros.
From the cave entrance to the main chamber where the artifacts are, it’s about 800 meters upstream through a cold river (which feels even colder on the way back); swimming, walking, climbing, and squeezing through narrow openings. Climbing up some rocks you get to the huge chamber. It’s immense and very impressive. But with those pots and pieces of ceramics and skeletal remains of people lying all around the cave… that’s really awesome! It even makes you forget how cold you actually feel.
In a small, hidden chamber lies the so-called “Crystal Maiden”, the skeleton of a young boy that has been sacrificed there about 1300 years ago. Except for a small circle on his skull that has never been covered by water, the skeleton is completely calcified which gives it a sparkling appearance – hence the name.
Our third and last stop in Belize was Corozal, a sleepy little town close to the Mexican border. There we did nothing more than relax, enjoy the view over the bay from our balcony, eat good food, and… change our travel plans.