Thursday, February 21, 2008

Belize-Slickrock Adventures

February 3-10. One of the highlights of our travels so far was spending a week with fun people on a 13 acre island and playing at water sports in the turquoise water.

We couldn't have been a more congenial group. We all started at the Best Western Biltmore in Belize City with a group meeting with a guide and then dinner. The next morning was breakfast and a 2 1/2 hour trip to Long Caye in Glover's Reef. (The Biltmore is a really nice hotel. The courtyard and pool are beautifully landscaped. We liked it so much that we decided to stay here for the 2 days following our island trip.)

Slickrock is headquartered in Moab, Utah and is a very well-organized sports adventure "camp". (They also offer half island trips and half land adventure trips.) The guides were great, the equipment was great, and the setting was heavenly. The cabanas were rustic, we used compost toilets, and solar heated outside showers (very cool) and the island used wind and sun power. The cost seemed a little high but you got a lot for your money. It was well worth the price! The guides even guided us in snorkeling, helping us locate cool fish and enormous lobsters. And we loved sleeping with our screen-less windows open listening to the surf breaking 10 yards from the cabana!

Belize's reef is the second longest in the world. (Longest is Australia's Barrier Reef.)

Staff: Joelle, originally from Montreal and now from Victoria, B.C., was our head guide. She was assisted by Eduardo and Jose, both from Belize. They were super. Besides being very competent and patient they were also very personable. The guides even gave us very interesting short talks on geography, coral, fish, and Mayan history. There were 2 Belizean women who cooked all the meals.

Sports: Sea kayaking, surf kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing, and scuba (for a reasonable fee). I had the most fun windsurfing. It was the best windsurfing week of my life!! And the diving for Sandy was awesome! (For safety, we had to wear helmets for windsurfing! Not a big deal.)

They gave us instruction and then let us do our thing. But they always offered guided activities. There are so many patch reefs nearby that we could swim or kayak to a different one twice a day if we wanted to. Other activities included a guided nature walk, low tide exploring and beach volleyball. Here I am with Rosemary after we kayaked 3 miles each way to a neighboring island to explore the marine research center and snorkel. I found by the end of the week kayaking a distance was much easier.

Some underwater things we saw besides coral were a barracuda, nurse shark (both harmless), octopus, and a hawksbill turtle. There also were numerous beautiful fish (we identified 35 varieties) and huge lobsters (since no one can fish in this preserve). (The last 3 pictures are thanks to Julie who had an awesome camera.)

At one end of the island was an osprey nest on a tall frame that had been constructed for their nest. They had two babies which were fun to spot. Usually, though, when we got too near, the mother would start squawking and the baby would duck down. Notice the sneaker at the bottom of the nest. (Thanks to Jennifer for the great picture.)

Other common things on the island were iguanas that lived in the rocks and scores of hermit crabs. We even witnessed the changing of shells. About 30 crabs ganged up on a bigger crab, got it out of its shell and killed it. Then one of them took over his shell and all of the oher crabs moved up to a larger shell!

On our low tide walk we found lots of brittle stars under the rocks.

Here's the dining room (with a sandy floor) where we had all of our delicious meals! They were so good I took home a few of the recipes. We especially loved the Lime cookies, Creole Shrimp and Key Lime Pie.

The people on our week were so much fun to be with. We all got along great. Their friendship really added to our enjoyment of the week.

Here are some scenes from gorgeous Long Caye and us showing how much we loved our week.

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