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

Belize paddleboard surfing

Everyone knows how popular paddleboarding has become in recent years, and out on Long Caye at Glover’s Reef we enjoy a perfect set-up for all types of paddleboarding. In addition to a great selection of beginner boards perfect for learning the basics in the calm waters of the lagoon, we have a fleet of four cruiser boards which we use to tour to the other islands of the atoll.

The real excitement comes from learning how to surf on a paddleboard. Our wave is great for beginners to advanced paddleboarders, and this year we have added a 10’ Mana Board by Naish which is specifically designed for its ease in the surf. Your first rides would be on a longer board, but you’ll be surprised how fast you’ll soon be ripping on the bigger waves, like the paddleboarder in this picture, shot from our surf dock!

Photo by Vladimir Brezina

I get this question a lot and I have a standard answer: at the end of the week you will probably fall to the sand and grab me around the ankles and beg to stay. This is the best island you have EVER seen. NO TIME is enough time on Long Caye. Ask Steever Price, who is joining us this season for his 14th trip! Rich Lawson hasn’t missed a winter on the island since his first trip in April of 2006!

Belize sports

There is no end of cool stuff to do. Sure we have guided tours to go sea kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, kitesurfing, windsurfing, kayak surfing, sport fishing, kayak fishing, paddleboarding, and board surfing (not to mention hammock surfing.) But there’s more. Here’s an incomplete list of island activities we pull out of our hats when looking to for other stuff to do:

-Paddling to the other islands in the atoll (from 2.5 miles to 6 miles away)
-Birdwatching with Mario (in April when birds are migrating north we often see 40 different species in a week!)
-Snorkeling to ‘the Wall’ dive site just 100 yards off the island shore
-Paddling north along the reef to snorkel from the kayaks (or just to see the north part of the reef)
-Kiteboard training
-Paddling to the ‘new island’ forming 4 miles north of NE Caye
-Snorkel (swim) all the way to Middle Caye
-Kayak slalom races
-King of the I-Dock (conquering our inflatable dock)
-Night snorkeling
-Free diving
-All About Coconuts, by MJ
-Snorkeling around the island
-Hermit crab races
-Advanced kayak instruction to cover rolling and other kinds of rescues
-Island croquet
-Downwind kayak float while snorkeling, then paddle back
-Advanced scuba diving lessons
-Snorkeling outside the reef in much deeper water north of NE Caye if it’s calm
-Moonlight paddling
-Reef low tide walks
-Reading from the library; we have over 100 titles about Belize and the surrounding area
-Coconut Olympics
-Star gazing
-Costume parties
-Paddling to patch reefs to snorkel from the kayaks

So will you get bored on our Belize sports center? Not a chance.

Years ago I wanted to find a place like our place; an island outdoor center with snorkeling right from shore, all the sport toys, great guides, and located somewhere in the world where the water is warm and clear. In short, I wanted a busman’s holiday; I wanted to take an adventure vacation full of adventure activities where I wasn’t in charge. I wanted someone to guide me for a change.

That’s when I found out just how special our place is. Guess what: I couldn’t find it. I spent at least 20 hours online looking along the entire 3000 mile long Great Barrier Reef in Australia searching for an island like ours, and it didn’t exist.

We really lucked out when we got Long Caye. We first started in Belize in 1986 paddling sea kayaks from island to island, with all our gear in our boats, camping out on Laughing Bird Caye, the Silk Cayes, Pumpkin Caye, and Ranguana Caye. These are beautiful, tiny islands, and back in those days it was magical. But as time moved on they got crowded as others copied the itinerary we pioneered. We looked for another location to base out of, and found Glover’s Reef.

Northeast Caye, Glover's Reef
Our gear on Northeast Caye, Glover\’s Reef, in 1991

When we first went out there, we rented Northeast Caye. But still we only had sea kayaking and snorkeling to offer. After the first year we brought down one windsurf board and sail. But that was it. It took moving over to Long Caye, with its’ private surf spot to discover that what we really wanted to do was operate a sports center. Slowly over the years we have added new sports and now our spots array includes sea kayaking, snorkeling, diving, kitesurfing, windsurfing, kayak surfing, sport fishing, kayak fishing, paddleboarding, and surfing. We even throw in hammock surfing to recover from all of the activities!

If you are looking for a sport vacation, learn to ask the revealing questions. What kind of kayaks do they have? Do they also have life jackets, spray skirts, helmets (if kayak surfing)… do they provide instruction? What are the resumes of the instructors? Are you really going to learn to paddle, or are they just going to give you a recreational boat with a lousy paddle and no lifejacket and push you out to sea and you are on your own?

On our week long island packages you can learn to kayak, learn to surf, learn to windsurf, and catch the most bonefish of your life! Visit our island sport activities page to see a list of our gear. Or call us up if you have questions!