Belize Kite Squatching

One of the great things about having an island full of sport toys for 10 different sports is no matter what the weather, there’s always something to do. However, if it’s very windy for a long time, the limited options CAN get a bit old. You know the drill, you are stuck on the best island in Belize and you can’t snorkel the 700 patch reefs. Whine.

This is what happened on a recent trip in February where it was windy for days. So, what do you do on a moderately windy norther day for the more adventurous folks who are tired of snorkeling “The Outside”? (In high winds we snorkel the leeward side of the island so that you are in a wind shadow.) Plus it was COLD! (Sixty-five is frigid in Belize.)

So over early coffee in the dining room, we discussed the dilemma. Guests are bored, guides are bored too. Too many boys, so many toys!

Then, it hit us, time to play with SUPsquatch, our Big SUP 18′ long board which is designed to paddle with 4 – 8 people! The original idea was to paddle it out SUP-style, then ride the small rollers back in. This soon morphed into getting towed out to the Horseshoe patchreef, and use one of our kayak parasail kites to bring us back in under wind power. The logistics were discussed, as well as safety and paddler training. The captain was elected – Kyle. The boat driver was suckered in – Charlie. The rope master and anchor master was conned into the play – Carlos. The participants dressed for heavy weather (62-degree wind chill!) It worked! We towed out to the second horseshoe at Angelfish where there is a large, shallow sandy spot to anchor and set up (see our snorkel map to get an idea of the lay of the “land” http://www.slickrock.com/belizesnorkeling.html). They blew back almost as fast as Charlie drove back! But that wasn’t good enough, the hardy group had another, better idea. So Laura, the kitesurf instructor, was coerced out of her woolly stocking hat into water clothes as the power unit for the second run, with a 4-meter trainer kitesurf kite. NOW they were riding the bat… SUP!

The drag out was fine, it took a while to do a kite launch from the water, and they were off with a good wake. Jerry Wylie and Charlie were in the motor boat, Jerry was the paparazzi photographer. He got a lot of good pictures. They made it home in good time, not quite to where they intended, it seems that both Laura and Kyle thought they were steering, but in reality they were fighting each other. So much for crew communication. So, yet another NEW Slickrock sport was born: kite-squatching, course.

[All photos by Jerry Wylie, click on each thumbnail to see the full image.]

In looking back through some old pictures from our archives, Lucy came across some awesome shots of Glover’s Atoll taken by satellite, including some of the Yucatan peninsula from some different angles which highlight just how beautiful Belize’s barrier reef and atolls are from space. The spectacular color of the water inside the atolls are caused by the sand bottom of the shallow areas which are composed of bright white coral sand. The clear water then allows a deep penetration of sunlight which reflects back, much as sun does on snow.

One can also notice how the barrier reef and atolls are located in line with each other, which is due to their location on under-sea ridges that are parallel to the coast. Although these atolls are magnificent when you visit them, they are equally stunning when seen from space!

NGeoBookCoverIf you are looking for a guidebook to some of the world’s best travel spots, look no further than National Geographic‘s new coffee table book: World’s Best Travel Experiences – 400 Extraordinary Places (with recollections by Bill Bryson, Anna Quindlen, and more).

In the spirit of top-selling Journeys of a Lifetime series and National Geographic Traveler’s acclaimed Places of a Lifetime, this lavish, evocative travel gift book spans the globe to offer entrées to the world’s most transformative places, from Thailand’s Chiang Mai to Australia’s Uluru monolith to California’s Channel Islands.

If you’ve got friends who love to travel, this hard bound 8.5 x 12 inch book might make a great gift.

Oh, and umm…., yes, Long Caye on Glover’s Reef, Belize is in there too. We even got their “Best of the Best” badge. It feels good to be in such good company.

NGeoBookSRarticle

Anderson Cooper, in a report recently on 60 Minutes, visits with coral reef specialists at a remote coral reef off the coast of Cuba: The Gardens of the Queen. This reef is special in that, due to its remote location and the fact it has long been protected from over-fishing and other human/industrial depredations, it is one of the few reef systems in the world that is still thriving. In this regard, and because of it’s location in the Caribbean, it is remarkably similar to what is found at Glover’s Reef, also a world-class marine reserve.

The reef as described in the 60 Minutes episode could be about Glover’s Reef, where our island is located off the coast of Belize. View this episode to see what can be found at a healthy Caribbean coral reef.

Watch and enjoy the abundant, colorful marine life on Youtube:

Belize beach hutMany people inquire about combining our all-inclusive island package with a short stay at Caye Caulker on their own. This is easy, but you wouldn’t go from one directly to the other. In a nutshell, all roads in Belize lead to Belize City.

No one would travel from Glovers Reef to Caye Caulker, or visa versa unless you chartered a boat, and that would be expensive (my best guess: about $1200-1500 US). You would return to Belize City from one to catch transport to the other.

We have a private boat that goes between Belize City and our island 2x a week, and the price for this transfer is included in all of our island packages. Caye Caulker is well out of the way, and we would run out of gas if we wanted to ‘swing by’ Caye Caulker on the way. (Not to mention that all of the other guests not going to Caye Caulker would not appreciate the extra hour in the boat).

Because Caye Caulker is a big island with lots of hotels and other rental properties, they have regularly scheduled flights (http://www.tropicair.com/ or http://www.mayaregional.com/) and water taxis (http://www.gocayecaulker.com/members/ccwta.html) that are affordable (flight: $40 one way, water taxi: $10 one way).

So, for example if you wanted to do our 5-day Adventure Island at Glover’s Reef trip first, then go to Caye Caulker, here is how that would look in an itinerary:

Fri: fly into Belize City, take a taxi to the Biltmore and check in. Your guide will then meet you at the Biltmore at 5:30 pm. Dinner and overnight included in package.
Sat: After (included) breakfast, walk to our dock 1 block from hotel (luggage is driven). Get on boat no later than 8:30 am, probably more like 8 am. Out to island by about 11-11:30 am. Tour of island, lunch. After lunch sport activities start.
Sun: Island activities all day.
Mon: Island activities all day.
Tue: Island activities all day.
Wed: Island activities all morning. Lunch on island. Boat leaves after lunch and gets back to Belize City by about 3 pm. Take a cab to either the municipal airport or the water taxi terminal to catch next transport to Caye Caulker. It’s a 20 minute flight and 45 minute boat ride. (Last water taxi AND last flight from Belize City leaves at 5:30 pm.) Dinner and overnight at Caye Caulker. (One note: after the long boat ride from the island, you would probably rather fly.) Or you can overnight at the Biltmore again (not included in half week package) and take the water taxi or flight first thing in the morning.

One final thing, you might be thinking of Ambergris Caye instead of Caye Caulker. These two islands are near each other and both have flights and water taxis, so everything here pertains to Ambergris Caye as well.

Many people who contact us are confused about the difference between an atoll and an island. We own the island Long Caye, which is located at Glover’s Atoll, also called Glover’s Reef. We often hear “I want to visit your island, Glover’s Reef.” But this is incorrect. If you are also unclear as to just what an atoll is, I hope that this will help.

Coral polyp off the coast of belizeAtolls are made of coral. Coral is a tiny animal, usually about 1/4″ long, that lives in huge colonies. The individual coral animal is called a “polyp”. The coral polyp takes minerals out of the sea to make their house. When there are thousands of polyps doing this together, they create a huge, expanding, home. Although different species create different shapes, the coral structure often resembles a big rock with fantastic textures on the surface.

Brain coral off the coast of belizeCorals live in a symbiotic relationship with a plant, an algae called zooxanthellae (“zoh-zan-THELL-ee”). This is a win-win relationship where they each get something out of the deal. Because this plant is so important to the coral, coral thrive near the surface of the ocean, to be nearer to the sun. It’s the plant that needs the sunlight, not the coral animal.

Since corals create their rocky home from scratch, they need somewhere to start. Coral doesn’t float around in the sea, it has to attach somewhere. So any hard surface in a location that is conducive to coral growth will soon be covered with coral.

Many people think that atolls have to be associated with volcanic activity. This is because in the Pacific most of the rock structures that coral is attached to are volcanic in origin. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even a sunken ship is covered with coral. In the Caribbean, there are only 4 atolls: Banco Chinchorro, Turneffe Islands, Lighthouse Reef, and Glover’s Reef. All but the first are in Belizean waters. Banco Chinchorro is just north of the others in Mexican seas. To view a detailed Belize map that includes the location of all four atolls, visit our website.

The reason these atolls are where they are is due to several underwater ridgelines that formed when the super-continent Pangaea broke up, Pangaea existed about 250 million years ago.

Satellite view of Glovers Reef Atoll and Long Caye off the coast of BelizeWhen it broke into the proto-continents of today, it left several underwater, but shallow ridges just off the coast of present-day Belize and Mexico, a perfect place for coral to attach to. The Belize Barrier Reef formed on two of these ridges, and the atolls of Belize and Mexico formed on two of them also.

Originally actual islands formed where the four atolls are today. But as the continents drifted slowly apart, this region also sank slowly, allowing the coral that was attached to the edges of these islands to continue to grow to stay near the sunlight to benefit the zooxanthellae. So what remained after all the drifting and sinking finished were 4 rings of coral way out in the middle of the ocean.

Islands formed on top of these coral rings. Long Caye is one of them. There are 4 islands at Glover’s Reef, one at Banco Chinchorro, three at Lighthouse Reef, and numerous islands at Turneffe, which never did sink completely.

To read more about Belize atolls, visit our website.