by guest blogger Katherine Forbes

Northeast Caye
Sisters Katherine and Lisa with Slickrock guides Elmo and John on Northeast Caye during their first visit to Glover’s Reef

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.

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Katherine, Lisa and their families during the girls’ second visit to Glover’s Reef this April
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Sisters on Long Caye

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!

Belize kayak kite sailling Glovers ReefWith the spring winds kicking up the dust here in our US homebase town of Moab, Utah, it seems appropriate to mention that one of Slickrock’s many island activities is sea kayak kite-sailing trips, where we employ special kites made to tow kayaks.

When the wind is from the right direction, we often get out the kayak kites and hook them up for a down-wind run to Middle Caye. The kites still allow the kayaker to steer the boat with a rudder, although that is limited to about 45 degrees off from straight down wind. It is a challenging and exciting way to travel in a sea kayak, as one has to manage the kite, be able to steer, and reel it in when the next island is reached. But the thrill of moving under wind power in a kayak is a different experience that is always fun!

We often sail to Middle Caye when we have 15 mph winds or more (but not over 20 or it’s too hard to paddle back up!) Click on images below to see full picture.

When we first started running sea kayaking tours in Belize we were kind of inventing things as we went. There wasn’t anyone else doing it and there were no examples to follow.

Our first trips launched from a sandy beach just past the end of the sidewalk in the little town of Placencia. Our guests would camp there the first night and then the next morning we would set out in our sea kayaks loaded with gear that we used for camping on a variety of island beaches several miles offshore on Laughing Bird, Water, Silk, Pumpkin and Ranguna Cayes.

What was then the cutting edge of Caribbean sea kayaking tours in Central America has now become a very popular itinerary operated by a number of different outfitters. And in the intervening years, we discovered Glover’s Reef and developed our eco resort out on Long Caye. But we still remember fondly our roots in old Placencia, so it was a pleasure to recently receive an email from Patrice Kelly, who used to live in Placencia back in the day.  Patrice and her partner, Tom Giblin, developed a small resort called Serenity Resort along with the only airstrip on the peninsula as they had the only backhoe in the area. She has some stories to tell! Here are a few excerpts from her email recalling the early days in Placencia:

So you remember Placencia in the “early days”…that would be mid to late 80’s. We built cisterns for water and brought generators for our electricity.

Rum Point had the only phone. We brought a giant satellite dish and had the only TV at the time. We also brought a cement mixer, which men from Seine Bight had never seen before and didn’t want to use as they thought it was spooked by evil spirits. Dennis was our cook and Florita (both from Seine Bight) was our main housekeeper. Max (Mayan) was our Main Man. We loved him like a son although he probably never knew.

We built 12 cabanas with barrel tile roofs, each with a kitchenette and shower, hot water heater in back of each. Two were doubles to accommodate large groups/families. We also built a main dining room, meeting rooms, a manager’s apartment and a gift shop. We even had a drive-thru entrance. Yes all buildings were blue. That was some sort of a trade deal Tom worked out with someone. We also volunteered paint and labor to paint school house the same blue as it was in rough need of paint and some new trim.

At Serenity Tom installed a sprinkler system and sod to keep dust at a minimum. He also dredged and filled (my oh my lots of government paper work and money paid out along the way…you know… the “blue eyed” price to do business in Belize) across the road as we owned that property also. We built the “Bamboo Room” and some good sized docking slips. This was in addition to building the landing strip. As I mentioned no backhoe in sight so I bought him one for his birthday! We were crazy in love with each other and nothing seemed impossible!

Patrice eventually moved to Florida and Tom remained in Central America following his dream and passed away years later. But her memories of their days together building their resort in Belize are still fresh and alive. Thanks, Patrice, for sharing this with us. — Lucy

The fact that we have so many different water sports out on Adventure Island means that no matter what the weather in Belize is like on a given day, there are always some of the sports that are perfectly suited for those conditions.

 If the winds are blowing but the surf isn’t up, the conditions are ideal for windsurfing and kiteboarding. If the surf is up but the wind is calm, it’s ideal for surfing, kayak surfing, and stand-up paddleboard surfing. If both the wind and surf are down, those are perfect conditions for sea kayaking, snorkeling and diving.

This is a game we invented on our private island 35 miles off the coast of Belize. Players try to knock their opponent(s) into the 80 degree water by moving and stopping. But no physical contact is allowed. Last one on the iMat wins! This video was shot by Slickrock guest, Susan Beverage, and shows Slickrock guide, Matt Szymanwicz taking on another Slickrock guide, Neri Chi and an unidentified guest. Matt prevails.