The Belize Zoo is a delight to visit. It is a small zoo, about 125 different animals, but it is well worth your time. The animals are well cared for, and the staff of the zoo are supremely helpful. They were eager to talk about the animals in their care, even to the point of bringing around snacks to coax some of the more reclusive ones out into view.
You also have the option of visiting some of the animals up-close. Feeding the tapir, high-fiving a jaguar, etc. It gives you a really personal view of the animals, a glimpse of their size and personality, and is about US$5-10 per visit (beyond the cost of the admission). The entire zoo is a treasure, a great way to spend the day in Belize and see wildlife you otherwise might miss.
Directions: From Caye Caulker, you need the taxi to Belize City, then either a taxi or bus down the highway towards Belmopan. Stop at mile-marker 29 on the Western Highway, look for the , just off the road to the north of the highway. The zoo is about an hour’s drive from the main cruise-ship terminal at the and about an hour driving from the international airport following through Belize City and onto the western highway.
Fees: US$15.00 for adults and US$5.00 for children, non-Belizeans.
Hours: 8:30am - 5:00 pm
The P.A.W Sanctuary is tucked away on the back street of Caye Caulker, and is a great place to swing by if you are looking to do some good while on vacation. The sanctuary houses abused and neglected cats from the island, as well as a few (very friendly!) rescue dogs. The owner, Madi, runs the entire operation by herself, so while she may be too busy to give an official tour, she is so friendly that I'm sure she would not hesitate to let you poke around and see the animals. Because she takes care of so many cats, Madi sometimes struggles to provide basic supplies for all of her animals, so she is always looking for donations of cat food or litter. She also provides apartment and hostel-style housing for guests, and 100% of the proceeds go directly to the shelter... a cheap beach vacation that benefits local animals.
On our second day in Caye Caulker, we took an early morning walk to the end of the "split" to see the beautiful blue colors of the ocean and happened upon a colorful and quirky looking Rastafarian boat. It had an upper deck palm leafed overhead for sun coverage and benches for sitting and viewing. Blues, green, yellow and reds were painted on just about everything. We talked to the Captain and he stated that the tour be departing at 11:00am. It was only about 9:30 when we inquired and that the fee would be $25.00US and included fresh fruits, drinks and the tour. We agreed, went back to the hotel, came back at 10:45am and waited. Apparently they were waiting for ice and some fresh fruits to arrive from another boat. We did not leave the dock until 12:45pm! We had nothing else planned for the day and took this in stride since their motto is "Go slow".
For the money, this was the best boat tour in Caye Caulker. We swam with the manta rays, visited the Coral gardens, searching for lobsters and visit the seahorse park. Our rest stop included fresh fruits consisting of papaya, coconut, pineapple, watermelon and water. An unexpected treat, we watched Rastah cook. We were all in amazement as he cut vegetables, stewed beans and rice from the inside of his small cabin with a makeshift stove and sauteed his signature dish with spices all to the gentle slow rocking of the ocean. Lunch was served in a bowl and it was a hearty meal. Wonderfully stewed with a hint of coconut. Our Captain was a gourmet chef!! It was time to go back, the sun was setting, amber colors of the sky were bidding us goodbye as we longingly remember our day.
During our exploration walk around Caye Caulker, we ended up on Back Street and passed through the area where many of the resident locals live, mostly in small stilt houses similar to this one. The West side of the island is not as well developed as the Eastern (reef) side and, in fact, sand is trucked from here around to the other side to keep the tourists happy! While wandering in this area I began to hear a loud noise and soon found the local power station, with three Caterpillar diesel-generators roaring away. It was just a small little power station keeping the lights on, but it reminded me of the many ones like it I had dealt with while working for the Papua New Guinea Electricity Commission 25 years ago!
The first thing we did on the morning of our first full day on Caulker was to take a leisurely walk along the sandy beach road (Front Street) as we headed south in the general direction of the airport. It was not long before we came to the island's cemetery, with all the concrete burial emplacements and headstones located above ground, like almost everywhere else we later saw in Belize. I can see the reason why out here on the island, with nowhere to dig down without hitting water. As we strolled over for a closer look at some of the headstones and the stories they might have to tell, we almost walked straight over this completely immobile 2-foot long iguana! He just seemed like another of the sunbleached decorations at first, but I guess he was just warming himself up after a cool night! We left him in peace and continued onward.
Near the end of our morning walk, we were returning from the airport area along the lower end of Back Street when we came across this derelict old Land Rover. The sight of it reminded me of the first time I had ever ridden in one of these tough old beasts, as it lugged 10 of us and our gear into Zambia's remote Lusenga National Park way back in 1973 (I've had a soft spot for them ever since). This one was covered with a strange mixture of religious and rastafarian graffiti covering a variety of subjects, and we later saw similar etchings elsewhere on Caulker on the walls of half-finished housing projects. That was the thing about Caye Caulker, it was all low-key but you never knew what interesting sight might pop up next!
You will find a lot to look at when you walk around this Island, beautiful views, buildings, birds, houses and happy people, remember to bring some water. In some of the Islands area you will not find anything to buy. It is possible to rent a Golfchart and drive around but its not necessary if you not are disabled. Remember not to pick up seashells etc... The customs wont appreciate it
For Caye Caulker, Coco Plum is "off the beaten path." Check out my review of this restaurant in that section. But, it was so cool that I had to mention it again. A lot of people didn't venture out to this site 'cause it was "too far." Even the owner admits it's in "back-a-bush" but that's just the way he likes it. Find it... and you'll discover a beautiful garden with orchids and almond trees. It's just a really cool place.
Caye Caulker can be reached by taking a water taxi from Belize City port. It's about a 45 minute trip but once on the caye it's as if one has gone back in time. Life is so slow that it almost comes to a standstill. There are numerous accomodations, bars, restaurants each different from the other. I recommend the II bar which plays reggae music and is built in a tree complete with swing bridge. There are great trips for diving, snorkelling and swimming with the manta rays are always exciting and is done along the second largest barrier reef in the world. It is the perfect place if you want to get away from it all.
The only Caye Caulker bakery serves up fresh homemade breads early in the morning. My favorite was the cheese stuffed bread. You have to be an early riser to pick that up in the morning because by the afternoon, those are pretty much gone! The breads are great for taking along on those snorkeling trips. It was our favorite place to go.
taxi (golfcart) driver at the Caye Caulker airport. His name is Mario and very invaluable as to what you would like to do around the island. He recommended a place for us to stay as well as a fishing guide. Our fisherman Espolito was very knowledgeable as to where the fish were biting that day. He took us beyond Caye Chappel to a spot that was clear blue as any ocean water could be along the reef and we layed our lines out and not even 10 minutes had passed, we were catching yellow, red and blacktail snapper as well as a few groupers! My son was very excited about his catches of the day and that's all that mattered to me was the enthusiasum that he had. Espolito supplied all the fishing poles, fresh bait of sardines that he had caught the day before and some water for us. We spent the whole day fishing and trolling for barracuda but didn't catch any of those that day!!
Once in Caye Caulker one should visit or stay at the Ignacio's resort hotel. The experience is local, unique and telling.
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