Every once-in-awhile the island will be the host of what we will call “inclement” weather, somewhat beyond the type of weather that brings us excellent surf for kayak surfing…

surf kayaking in belize

… or just the right wind for windsurfing.

Windsurfing on Long Caye

And since, for Slickrock, the number one priority on the island is safety, water activities could be canceled.

If this happens, hopefully everyone has read the information provided, and brought something to entertain themselves. A good book will come in handy, if you haven’t brought one, there is a fairly good library in the kitchen area to peruse.

There are also a number of board games in the dining hall. If the idea of sedentary activities causes you to despair, or you can only take so much “sitting around”, don’t worry, be happy, your hosts will organize something!

You can play island croquet …

or volley ball …

Island volleyball in Belize

… or my favorite, a scavenger hunt.

Several years ago we found ourselves in this situation. Our trip manager announced that we could participate in an island scavenger hunt of sorts and the person with the most interesting find (as judged by all island inhabitants) will win a prize. The judging and award party would take place at the end of the week. Luckily we weren’t wind-bound for the entire week but this would give us time to do a thorough search and have something to do when (or if) we got tired of hammock surfing.

Glovers Reef hammock surfing

Like all islands and coastal areas worldwide, there is a fair amount of flotsam and jetsam to be found and the idea was to walk around the island looking closely in all the nooks and crannies for interesting items. I am an avid beachcomber and “treasure” hunter and spend not small amount of time looking down for things so this was right up my alley.

Belize beachcombing

My husband and I had already been around the island many times and he had noticed the unusual numbers of tooth brushes scattered around on the shorelines and in the mangrove roots, so he decided to do a “study”. Over the next few days we collected all the toothbrushes we could find. I believe we found 30 or so then he spent some time sorting them out into different categories (color, brand, etc.) and drew up a chart of sorts of statistics about them.

Island flotsam

The percentage of certain colors and specific brands, etc. and came to a “conclusion” about the Belizean’s brushing habits based on his study. Many people participated in the hunt and a few came up with very unique and interesting finds. My husband won the grand prize with his presentation (see it pays to keep looking down) It was all great fun, and gave people something different to do during down time. It also acted as a bit of a segue to talk about something that no one wants to talk about but everyone notices and that is the flotsam and jetsam found all around the island. Not all debris (and certainly not all toothbrushes) comes from Belize and keeping it off or away from the island is an impossible task.

In conclusion if you find yourself looking for something to do, you can; 1. Organize a scavenger hunt or 2. Grab yourself a bag and pick up some of the refuse. You never know what you might find, maybe even a Valentine message for your sweetie.

Found Valentine

[Sharon Columbus and her husband have joined us every single year since 2012. They are already scheduled for 2017. All photos are by Neil Columbus.]

SUP hydrofoil

Out on our Belize island we have a huge fleet of paddleboards. We have 6 downwind boards, and about 15 other SUPs out there, from boards for beginners to boards specifically for surfing. And that’s a big deal, as each board is driven down from Utah, and then taken by boat 70 miles to get to the island.

We always get the latest gear; we were the first to introduce sea kayaking to Belize back in the mid-80s, and that has continued all the way up to the most recent crazes: kitesurfing and Big SUPing. In addition to the gear for these sports, we have tons of other great gear: surfing, windsurfing, kayak fishing, surf kayaking, glass bottom kayaks, you name it.

There is a BRAND NEW sport that I imagine we are going to have to break down and get into, although it’s so new we will have to wait a bit and let the market catch up so that there are affordable, bomb-proof options to purchase, which could take a year. If you are a past guest and planning to come back, or someone who has always wanted to join us but hasn’t yet, check out this video for a view of Long Caye’s future:

And if you don’t know what a hydrofoil is (I hate to admit it, but I did not), here is an article that explains it:

island maintenance

Out at our island we often have to make repairs to our infrastructure using the tools and materials we have on hand. One of the most challenging maintenance jobs is keeping our docks in working order. Cully sent me these photos from earlier last month during our work pre-season. We lost a post on our surf dock which extends into rough water off the front of the island. We use a water pump to sink the posts, hooking up the discharge hose to a PVC pipe which reduces the flow and increases its pressure. After walking the new post out to position in the water and standing it up, we take the high pressure hose and place it at the base of the post. The water blasting put the end of the pipe removes the sand and rock under the post, which then sinks into the bottom. We commonly sink our posts 4′ into the bottom using this method. Then we had to jack up the dock, drill through the post, and bolt the dock back into position. After trimming off the post, our repair is completed. We replace or repair 4-5 dock posts per season this way.

Belize island projects

I spend every March and April in Belize on our island. I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years now, and of course I love the island, and the snorkeling and kayaking and all of the other sports, but really, the best part is our guests. For some reason we have the BEST people join us, and they make me laugh, and that’s such a great thing.

Last March Paul Jongerden and Brian Craig joined us from Delhi, Ontario. The week that they were there we had SO MUCH FUN. What a great group that was! After Paula got home, she wrote a poem, and emailed it to the office in Moab, who then got a printed copy sent out to me on the island. So a few weeks later, I got our staff together in the dining hall, and read them this poem that Paula had written about us. It’s hard to describe how good this made us feel. We work really hard, and when someone shows their appreciation like this, it makes it all worthwhile. So here’s the poem for all to see, and thank you Paula!!!!

(Please read to the rhythm of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”)

Twas’ the night before Long Caye,
Best Western’s new guests,
Had gathered round poolside,
At their leader’s request.

This fellow called M. J.
His smile – oh so big,
Asked all for an intro’
Before his next gig.

After breakfast together,
We all were so pumped,
To start an adventure,
On the boat we did jump.

We hung out the hatches
And caught the sea spray,
Saw dolphins and frigates,
Early on in the day.

Then off in the distance,
Where surf met the sky
Our island was nearing,
“Land – Ho! Was the cry.

With communal excitement
We spilled to the dock,
Met a lady named Lucy
To hear the first talk.

She showed us the kayaks
She gave us the scoop,
She told us the rules
About where we would poop.

With cabins assigned,
We had our first drink,
And lunch was delicious
Fish chowder, I think.

Staff intro’s that followed,
They seemed kind of shy,
An impression proved wrong
By the time of good-bye.

In very short order
To the water we went,
Breathing air from the surface
Many hours were spent.

The wildlife amazing
The colours intense,
Said M.J. the reasons –
‘Fish breeding; defense’.

The wealth of his knowledge
Relaxed was his pace,
We learned that this M.J.
– Not just a pretty face.

Luis too shared his know-how,
A hunter so keen,
Into Lion-fish marauders,
On his spear he would lean.

Beauties Jasmine and Alex,
‘Athletical’ sort,
Kite-surfing for most
– Was a spectator sport!

And Carlos – the sweetie,
Proven-Pirate – wide and far,
Made us laugh, made us echo
His enthusiastic ARRR!

Our taste buds delighted
Our bellies so full,
Aurora and Marcie,
Cooking Artists – no Bull!

Keeping things running smoothly,
Fixing stuff, filling holes,
Was Martin the dancer,
His behind-the-scene role.

Tho’ Neri we met,
Almost half the way through,
A great guy with experience,
We learned from him too.

Our watchman at night,
Awake by the moons,
Proved a fun-loving guy,
And great player of ‘Spoons’

Can-American team,
Winners true to the end,
Thanks to the speed,
Of our little hermit friend.

The friends that we met,
The fun that we had,
Leaving Long Caye for home,
Was a time that was sad.

But maybe some day,
If the stars are aligned,
We’ll meet on the corals,
And our friends we will find.

Lucy dear Lucy,
Thanks for sharing your dream,
This awesome adventure,
And your Fan-tastic Team!

(pardon any Canadian spelling – what can I say – eh?)

We recently heard from one of our wonderful past guests, Susan Saraf. Susan has visited us twice on our Belize island, but both times she joined us, it was ages ago (we hope she will come back someday soon). Susan just sent me a bunch of photos from early 2000, which was only about a year and half after Hurricane Mitch, which really rearranged everything on the island.

As a result of that hurricane we lost our dining hall and several of our cabanas, along with about 75 feet of our island on one side. But land doesn’t just disappear in a storm like that, this sand ended up around the corner, on the other side of the island, giving us a brand new beach. All it all, the island was much better for it; the hurricane turned out to be a good thing.

belize island improvements

But this new beach had zero trees on it, because before the storm, that area was water. Also, the hurricane (October of 1998) coincided with the arrival of the palm tree disease, Lethal Yellowing Disease, which hit Belize at about the same time the hurricane did. Subsequently, we had a tree crisis. This started us on a huge tree-planting and tree-treatment program which continues to this day.

So Susan’s photos are a joy to us, because it’s so much fun to see the results of all of this hard work. Here are two photo comparisons, before and after. We have so much shade now, it’s easy to stay out of the sun the whole time except when you are actually in the water. We have planted about 400 trees (resistant to the disease), and we treat about 500 other trees. We now know more about palm trees than we ever dreamed there was to know when we started in this business in 1977!

belize island trees

Belize osprey nest
Female osprey in her nest during the full moon rise in November

We set up an osprey nest box last season right in front of the kitchen, and this season the resident pair of ospreys have moved in. They have been busy building a big nest and mating, and soon the female will be sitting on her eggs, usually two per season. We have watched this pair of ospreys raise their young every season for many years, so it will be especially interesting to watch every phase of bringing up their chicks from such a close range.

On May 2 of this year, I was just finishing up my 7th week in Belize. We had this fabulous group at the time, a group of franchisees and home office staff for the company Maidpro, a professional maid service business model provided by the founders Mark Kushinsky and Richard Sparacio. Mark and Richard got into the housecleaning franchise industry in college when they were looking for someone to clean their dorm room…. and the rest is history, as they say.

After dinner, most of the group was in the dining hall playing spoons, a very raucous game. All during the after-dinner talk there had been flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, something we rarely see in Belize. When I walked outside to go to bed I became captivated by the lightning storm taking place all along the entire coast of Belize, because from way out at Glover’s Reef, we have a view of the entire coastline. About every 2 or 3 seconds a giant bolt of lightning shattered the sky, sometimes way up by Belize City, and sometimes it was way south by Punta Gorda. I stood there on our beach and watched it for a while and then ended up with other members of the staff at a picnic table over by the dining hall, continuing to watch the storm.

I hate to admit it, but not once did it occur to me to go shut my windows to my cabana, tell anyone else to do so, nor did I go tie down any paddleboards or bring in seat cushions like we usually do so they won’t blow away in high winds. It was a spectacle miles and miles away, and it didn’t seem like it would affect us at all. After about 30 or 45 minutes of this great light and sound show, suddenly there was a clap much, much closer. “Ooooh, that’s closer!” we all said, and then, the blast of air hit us, just like that.

I have never, ever felt anything like that wind. We later speculated it was probably 75 miles/hour, which is Category 1 hurricane speed. We actually saw 54 on our anemometer, but it had been under-reading for weeks and weeks, and I had noted we needed a new one. The next day Belize radio reported winds of hurricane force.

We ran into the dining hall, and the rain followed us into the hall. Our thatch roofs are water proof, but not, we found out, when the water is being shot at the roof as if out of a firehose. There were about 25 of us in the dining hall, and we were all getting wet. It was pitch black outside. We couldn’t see much, but a bolt of lightning would illuminate the outside for split seconds, and while standing by the back door, we would get glimpses of strange stuff, like kayaks on the volleyball court, and 6 cases of empty beer bottles strewn and broken all over the back steps of the kitchen.

Belize kayak palapa before the storm
Belize kayak palapa after the storm

We all huddled in there for about an hour, and finally it was safe to go outside. There we found an entirely different landscape. Trees were down, the kayak palapa was down (!), the luggage palapa fell, the BarBQ grill and 15 gallon tank was blown about 30 feet!!! The palapa on the end of the dive shop dock was blown off the dock and over the dive shop and it came to rest on one of their other buildings, about 200 feet from where it started. There were coconut leaves and coconuts all over the place, along with windsurf sails, paddleboards, kayaks, lifejackets, and seat cushions all over the caye. It was a MESS.

And oddly enough, the 5 people who had gone to bed early didn’t even know it was stormy. They were on the lee side of the island, and it was calm over there. Crazy.

The next morning we were VERY, VERY glad we had an island-full of professional maids! Although we offered a snorkeling activity, they all refused to go and wanted to help us clean up instead. Between the 25 of them and the 8 of us, we had the island completely cleaned up in 3 hours! The palapas won’t be put back up until the beginning of next season, but the place was spic and span in no time. Thank you Maidpro!

For me, it was a once in a lifetime experience. I have never been in hurricane force winds before. It was fantastic. No one was hurt, and we got to see Mother Nature at her best. What a night!

(Click on each image below for a better view.)

Thunderstorm damage at Glover's Reef

Palm trees down on Long Caye

Paddleboards and kayaks were blown all over

Some of the paddleboards were damaged

Lots of sport gear blown about

Maidpro group and Slickrock staff

I am here in Belize and have been for almost two weeks. I came off of the island a couple of days ago and am going back out today with our new arrivals. By the time you read this, we will have been sailing, paddling, and snorkeling for days.

What a great week last week was, we did everything. Paddleboard surfed, kitesurfed, snorkeled, fished and kayaked; we even had a really big storm and the windsurfers were ecstatic.

(Click on any picture below to see the full image.)

Long Caye, Belize, dining hall

Our dining hall is the largest building on our private Belize island, Long Caye at Glover’s Reef. The center of island life, it is complete with solar-powered lights, propane stove and refrigerators (cold beer and soda!), and our ever-growing library and game selection. It is a huge space with fantastic views of the lagoon and a neighboring island. There is no dress code, and you don’t have to wipe your feet. (The floor is coral sand.)

We spend hours in the dining hall; all meals are served here buffet-style. Nightly talks on the coral reef, fish identification, tropical weather, pirates of the Caribbean, and other topics also take place here. At night we play games and listen to Reggae music before retiring to our cabanas.

When you sign up for a Belize trip with us, it’s an all-inclusive package. There are no restaurants on the island, so the food is included. There is no bar on the island, so beer is included. We don’t want the hassle of selling individual guided activities or sport lessons, so all the sport gear and daily guided activities are part of the package. You also get a Slickrock t-shirt!

I just redesigned the shirts; we are pleased with the results!

slickrock t-shirt