Everyone who comes to our island marvels at how beautiful and idyllic the white sand beaches and palm trees appear, yet few people realize what a huge job it is to create these beach areas from the raw island land we start with. Bit by bit over the years we have cleared areas to create the wide expanses of clear beach area under the palms. Here are a two photos of an area we recently completed, note how thick the debris is on the ‘before’ picture!
by guest blogger Katherine Forbes
20 years ago, my sister Lisa and I travelled with Slickrock Adventures after learning about a sea kayaking adventure from a tiny ad in Outside Magazine. At that time Slickrock was a much smaller operation leasing Northeast Caye as their destination island. Lucy was our head guide, Elmo and John were her assistant guides, also our fishermen and cooks. Our small group of travelers (about 15) stayed in tents on the beach with a few guests in small cabanas. Days were spent kayaking and snorkeling while marveling at the amazing underwater coral and sea life.
It was such a unique experience that 20 years later we decided to come back with our families. With husbands and 7 children between us ages 10 to 16, we returned to Belize in April 2013.
What a wonderful surprise to see how much Slickrock has evolved over the years! Not only have the accommodations improved, but instead of just offering kayaking and snorkeling, Slickrock now provides a wide array of activities like surf kayaking, surfing, windsurfing, paddle boarding, kite boarding, scuba diving and fishing. No experience necessary, you can be a beginner and still enjoy everything! And if you want a break from water sports you can explore the island, looking for hermit and blue crabs, trying to catch lizards, playing with the bunny and even learning how to open coconuts. Perfect for everyone as there are so many fun activities to entertain all ages.
But what makes Slickrock really special is the “Eco-Friendly” resort they have created. In this day and age where everything is excess, it was wonderful to live with simpler means for a week. Composting toilets, a rainwater collection system used for all island drinking water and the use of only solar power is part of your unique experience. Saving the pristine tropical environment is a priority to Slickrock and a great lesson on how an eco-friendly resort works. Notably there is no cell, internet, social media, wifi, or TV on the island. Everyone is unplugged which is an unexpected pleasure! With all the activities to keep you busy during day and then evening volleyball, board games, hermit crab races and island educational lectures everyone had a fabulous time. No one missed their cell phone, laptop or TV – not one bit, even the kids! It was wonderful break from our digital world that has become such a constant in our lives.
If you are looking for a vacation on a beautiful tropical island with unlimited water sports, world-class snorkeling and scuba diving, delicious food while living “off the grid” then Slickrock Adventures is for you. A fabulous trip for families and perfect destination to get away from it all! We plan to go back again but not wait another 20 years!
The Slickrock water sports resort at Long Caye, Belize is an impressive example of appropriate technology in action! The island is 35 miles off shore, outside the barrier reef. People live simply here, but they have quite an array of comforts.
Each cabana has a solar-powered light. The cabanas are oriented toward the trade winds for natural cooling breezes — no AC here! — and no rumbling, smelly diesel generators to provide it.
The kitchen, the largest building at the resort, has it’s own 1000W solar array plus a 400W wind generator. Since the sea breezes occur most of the time, the wind generator produces quite a lot of power. A bank of golf cart batteries store the power, which runs the house lights, iPod player, a chest freezer, and 2 electric refrigeration units — all on 12V power. Cooking stoves and a couple of older refrigeration units run on butane. The low voltage appliances do a great job, while just sipping power — they are designed to be super-efficient, plus have 4” of foam insulation, which is essential in the tropics. There are additional solar and wind systems on the Caye, which run more buildings farther from the kitchen.
Shower water is pumped up to an elevated tank, and flows to the showers by gravity. A 200 foot coil of black poly pipe on the shower house roof heats up in the sun, and a small pump transfers the heated water to the shower tank.
The drinking water at Slickrock is rainwater, which is caught on the tin roofs of several buildings, and stored in large polyethelene tanks. This is the traditional source of drinking water in the cayes.
Between rain storms, the tank inlets are covered. When a big rain moves in, they let the rain clean off the roof for 10 to 15 minutes, until the water runs “sweet,” not salty. Then the inlet covers are removed and the tanks fill. Wash water for dishes and laundry comes from shallow wells, which are fairly good during the rainy season, but become more brackish during the dry season. The wells are about 3’ deep, and water is just a foot or so down.
When you have a water table this high, septic systems are not an option. In the old days, folks on the cayes used outhouses, which tend to be smelly with hydrogen sulfide and methane. Slickrock has a composting toilet system, which works well and quickly in the heat of the tropics. There is a big fiberglass tank under the toilet building, with large chutes coming up to the pottys. After you do your business, a cup of planer shavings are put down the chute, as a bulking agent. The tank has a vent fan, and air is pulled through the mass of compost, keeping the organic action aerobic. Aerobic bacteria make water vapor and carbon dioxide, so the process is not smelly, to the amazement of many guests.
At the end of the season, after a rest period, the compost is removed and used to fertilize coconut trees. The compost looks like good potting soil, and is not obnoxious or smelly. The process has allowed the new hybrid coconut trees to thrive and grow quickly. Compost toilets treat the organic waste more thoroughly then septic systems, destroying pathogens and even viruses well.
The resort is purposely rustic, and reminds many guests of their youthful summer camp experiences, with the addition of a chest cooler full of cold beers and sodas, largely made possible by renewable energy.
Melanie Mcfield is the Director of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative and wrote this stellar article for Destination Belize Magazine, which begins by talking about Glover’s Reef. In the photo below, the three atolls of Belize, clockwise from left, are Turneffe Islands, Lighthouse Reef, Glover’s Reef. Our private island, Long Caye, is located at Glover’s Reef.
Charles Darwin didn’t actually visit Belize’s reef, but after talking to other naturalists who had, he described it as “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies” in his 1842 book, Coral Reefs of the World. Among his many accomplishments, Darwin is credited with unlocking many of the mysteries of coral reef development, evolution and atoll formation. Atolls in the Pacific Ocean are believed to have formed when volcanic islands sank into the sea, leaving just a rim of growing coral near the surface. Atolls in the Western Caribbean are thought to have a different history. Many scientists believe these circular rims of coral are actually growing to keep pace with rising seas. Belize’s atolls are living, breathing coral reefecosystems—each with a unique history and a unique character.
Glovers Reef, Lighthouse Reef and Turneffe Reef are three of the four such coral structures in the Northwest Caribbean; the fourth is located near Banco Chinchorro in Mexico. The atolls rise deep from the seabed, beyond the more familiar continental shelf demarcated by the barrier reef. They are each constructed on foundations of Pleistocene limestone ridges that lie on submerged tectonic faults running in a Northeast direction.
Glovers Reef is the oldest (~7,500 yrs) with the best circular shape, a well developed coral rim and the deepest inner lagoon (18m deep) containing over eight hundred patch reefs scattered throughout. A few sandy cayes make up a land surface of only 0.2% of its total size of approximately one hundred and sixty square miles. Although it is ‘oceanic’ in character with clean clear waters, Glovers is occasionally affected by large river runoff events from the large Honduran rivers to the south. The entire atoll is a marine reserve and is one of the crown jewels comprising Belize’s World Heritage Site. The islands are all privately owned but Middle Caye was donated to the Wildlife Conservation Society and now serves as the headquarters of the reserve and an active marine research station. Glovers Reef has the largest remaining Nassau grouper spawning aggregation site… (read the full article here).
To learn more about the formation of Glover’s Reef Atoll, visit our website.