When you have an island in Belize, you watch hurricanes, believe me. Hurricane season has started for this year, but it’s been mild so far [KNOCK ON WOOD].
I just found some old images, and found one pre-Hurricane Mitch (1998) when our hammock palapa used to be out by our surf dock. Trying to find an image that matches is difficult, but I found 2 views from inside our old dining hall and from inside our current dining hall.
Usually, the only time a tropical island in Belize makes the news is when a hurricane hits (a rare event) but last week, when Discovery Channel’s new series, Alone In The Wild, featured TV celeb Jason Gardiner stranded alone on a Belize island for 5 days, it became a news story. Apparently, a highlight of his experience was finally catching and eating a fish after failing to do so for five days. Happily, you will experience no such deprivations on Adventure Island as our kitchen features a down-home, made-from-scratch cuisine that our guests rave about.
We just created a new webpage with a month-by-month description of the weather conditions in Belize. Storms, wind, dry and rainy season, and hurricane season are all discussed.
It’s good to know the weather as the season progresses, because it helps to choose your vacation date based on which sports you are interested in. Windsurfers and kitesurfers should look at January-February, snorkelers and divers should consider March-April, and surfers should focus on December-January.
We are closed mid-May through mid November because of weather. Visit our new Belize weather page to see why.
Hurricane threats are a fact of life in the Caribbean, and Belize is no exception. Every summer we grow increasingly worried as late summer and fall approach, for hurricane season lasts from On average, a major hurricane with widespread destruction hits Belize every 30 years. Belize City has been destroyed several times in the last century alone. Hurricane Hattie lead the government to move the capitol inland, creating Belmopan. This Category 5 hurricane hit Belize on Halloween in 1961. The hurricane that impacted us the most in the past 26 years was Mitch, which greatly affected our island at Glover’s Reef, although it did not make a direct hit to the country at all. Mitch killed 11,000 people in the surrounding region and wrecked the entire coast of Belize with the large surf it sent roaring into the coast. We lost our Dining Hall and 3 of our cabanas. Oddly enough, although our kayaks were found all over the island after the nine-day storm, we only lost one.
Out on Long Caye at Glover’s Reef, we are particularly vulnerable to storms, although violent storms are responsible for the formation of the island to begin with. The island is nothing more than a pile of rubble thrown up by big storms in the protecting lee of the atoll’s ring reef. However, archeological evidence (Mayan artifacts) indicate that even though the island experiences big storm events on a regular basis, the land itself has not been swept away for thousands of years. When big storms hit, the wind may strip the palms of their leaf, but the trees and other vegetation survive and quickly grow back. The waves that break on the reef do wash across the island, and may re-arrange sections of the shoreline, but on our lee shore much sand is re-deposited and the island actually grows in size.
At right and above are images of Hurricane Ivan, which hit the tip of Cuba in 2004, but sent waves 500 miles to wash over our shore and knock down one of our docks.
Our biggest threat to hurricanes is with our infrastructure. The waves that do wash across the island tend to undercut the foundations of our cabins on the shoreline, which then fall over. We have lost seven buildings over the years to this erosional force, but we build them with this eventuality in mind, with a simple and rustic style, so that replacing them is not a problem. We have had many ‘wave’ events from passing storms (we had two last summer), and we are set up to bear the damage with little setback to our maintenance plan. Yet every year we do have quite a large repair and clean-up project to undertake to get the island back in shape. It is not all fun and games maintaining an island paradise so far out to sea, exposed to the fickle and violent Caribbean weather!
Here are some more comparisons of before and after Tropical Storm Matthew. First, the incredible disappearing sand bar! Next, a good example of typical hurricane beach cleanup. and finally, our surf dock and what can happen to it in a storm. This is nothing… this is our 3rd surf dock, the other 2 were completely wiped out in past storms.
We have had 2 hurricane scares this hurricane season, and both have left us fairly unscathed, much to our relief. When you own an island resort in the Caribbean, you don’t look forward to hurricane season. Each July we start to get nervous, and don’t feel completely relaxed until November 1, when I proclaim hurricane season officially “over”. Only 4 more days to go!
Tropical storm Matthew passed very near our island on September 25, with sustained winds of 40 miles an hour. The most profound change was to the small sand bar just off our caye. Past guests will remember this sand bar because we conduct snorkel orientation just off this small bit of land. Well, this sand bar is no more! Damage during that storm also included damage to our surf dock, damage to the foundation on 2 cabanas which need to be re-cemented, and sand moved around and lots of seaweed washed up on the beach.
Hurricane Richard passed on a similar track, within 50 miles of our island, on October 24. This Category 1 storm had sustained winds of 75 mph. We were very surprised to learn that the damage from this storm was not as bad as the damage Matthew caused. In one instance we actually gained beach by cabana #6 that has been gone since 1998!
Our kayak beach by the sea kayak palapa lost a lot of sand with Matthew, as the storm surge washed away a lot of the beach, exposing roots. Richard put the sand back! (see photos.)
I will be posting other before/after shots over the next few days.
We just talked to Kendra from Long Caye, the owner of the dive shop on our island. She and her husband Jim just arrived on the caye, returning after they evacuated on Saturday. They brought our construction crew out and our groundskeeper, Apolitico, as well. She reports that she is amazed at how good everything looks. She estimates that the wind blew about 60 mph, with winds coming from the West, which is super good news for us because we are on the east end of the island! She said that there looks like there was very little storm surge (this is what we were worried about), and that in fact instead of losing land, they gained more, because the storm piled up more coral rocks on their east side. A few trees are down, but none of their buildings or roofs are damaged. They will contact us again later after they have had time to walk around our property. HOORAY! A giant relief.
Hurricane Richard hit central Belize yesterday afternoon as a Category 1 storm, making landfall about 20 miles south of Belize City with 90 mph winds. The strongest winds were confined to a 30 mile radius from the storm’s center, so very few areas sustained damage according to preliminary reports.
We are happy to report that everyone we know in Belize is fine. Our island base at Glover’s Reef was evacuated on Saturday, and since the storm passed 40-50 miles north of there we know from past storm experience that the island probably did not receive much in the way of wind damage, but a storm surge and high surf probably eroded a little more of the east side of the island and damaged our docks. Our friends at the dive shop will be going back out today and we’ll know more details soon.
In contrast, on October 28, 1998, Hurricane Mitch arrived near the Bay Islands of Honduras and ultimately eroded at least 50 feet of our shore. This Category 5 storm sat and churned over Guanaja for 4 days, sending huge waves our way. Although it never hit Belize, the force of this large, sustained surf (2 full days) did great damage to the islands at Glover’s Reef. We were able to clean up and open on time that season by hiring 30 men who worked at a frenetic pace for 5 weeks!
We will be posting updates as we receive them, stay tuned!