01. Introduction: San Diego to Belize on American Airlines and Maya Island Air
02. American Airlines economy class San Diego to Dallas
03. American Airlines economy class Dallas to West Palm Beach
04. American Airlines economy class Miami to Belize City
05. Maya Island Air Belize City to Dangriga
06. One week on a private island off the coast of Belize
07. Maya Island Air Dangriga to Belize City
08. American Airlines economy class Belize City to Dallas
09. American Airlines economy class Dallas to San Diego
Although I consider myself to be well travelled, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much of an adventurous traveller. I’ve always been the type of person who prefers a nice hotel versus camping out in the wild, so the thought of roughing it on a private island with limited running water and electricity for an entire week made me a bit apprehensive. Of course it sounded interesting, but I’m not going to lie when I say that I had a few reservations about this whole thing. My sister (who had already done this once before) insisted it was the best vacation she ever had, and knowing how she enjoys the comforts of home convinced me that maybe…just possibly…this could be fun.
We booked this vacation through Blue Water Rentals, a husband and wife team who built a mini-resort on their own private island off the coast of Belize. Basically, this was an all-inclusive package set up to make things as easy for us as possible. They planned everything (right down to booking our flights), cooked for us, and provided everything we needed to have a fun and relaxing time. All we had to do was decide what we wanted to do each day. Whether it was scuba diving, going for an excursion on the mainland, or simply sitting under a palm tree and doing nothing, they handled it all. It was totally stress-free.
Day 1: Arrival in Belize
The reality of what we were about to do sunk in hard upon arrival in Dangriga. It was there that we were met by our hosts in a pickup truck with a trailered boat right outside the terminal, and from there we went straight to the docks to put the boat in the water to make the 45 minute boat ride to the island. It took about 45 minutes to get the boat in the water and loaded with all our luggage, and we set off to the east into a strong headwind and choppy seas.
It was the craziest (but most fun) boat ride of my life. The ocean was heavy this day, and the spray from the wind and waves was intense. All of us were completely soaked by the time we arrived at the island (with sore rear ends from bouncing around so much in the boat), and it was an incredibly awesome introduction to what was sure to be a great week ahead.
It had been a rather stressful day up until this point, but seeing that little island for the first time suddenly brought everything to a standstill with the sounds of “margaritaville” playing in my head. “This is going to be nice” was the first thing that came out of my mouth while stepping off that boat.
After taking the time to get situated in our cabanas, we all met for happy hour at the head of the island. An incredible fish taco dinner followed shortly thereafter, and we sat around until the sun had completely fallen below the horizon before calling it a night. With very limited electricity on the island, there wasn’t much to do after the sun went down. Even though it was so early, it wasn’t difficult to fall asleep with the sound of crashing waves literally right outside my windows.
Day 2: Taking things slow and easy
Sleeping in wasn’t going to happen due to going to bed so early the night before, but I was up and ready to get going by 7:30 am. Is there any better way to wake up than to roll out of bed and walk less than 10 steps to your own private dock overlooking the ocean? I think not. I hung out here for about 45 minutes or so, just watching the schools of fish swim around my feet before joining the rest of my family for breakfast.
From there, I think I had what was the most relaxing day I had experienced in a long time. We all took a walk out to a nearby sandbar, came back to sit and do nothing for several hours, and then enjoyed a nice lunch before heading out in the boat to do a little fishing in the afternoon.
Dinner was served at sunset, and we were all in bed by 8:30pm. I could get used to this lifestyle!
Day 3: This is the life
Today was pretty much a carbon copy of the day prior, except for some snorkeling in the morning after breakfast, and a boat tour of some surrounding islands in the afternoon. The boat tour was really fun (and my butt was very sore from sitting on the hard fiberglass in the pounding waves), and we got to see that there is actually quite a bit of development in many of the surrounding islands.
Everyone was back in their cabanas by 7pm, and even after a shower I felt like there was sand everywhere. In my shorts, in my hair…everywhere. Welcome to the island life!
Day 4: Sand. Sand everywhere.
The morning routine was getting very well established by now, and I was starting to find that it was really nice starting each day with a clear mind and the feeling that I had nothing to do all day but relax. It isn’t like this at home, so I was savoring every second of it.
My sister and I sat on the large deck of her cabana for the morning while everyone else went scuba diving or fishing. I even sketched for a bit – which is something I haven’t done in years, so it was a great feeling to get back to my roots and do something I loved to do so much long ago.
I went snorkeling again after lunch, then returned to the island for nice afternoon nap in the hammock. Does life get any better than this? I certainly think not. The only problem was that the sand was becoming an issue – it was impossible to keep all that sand out of my cabana, and there was a layer of sand on everything. Even my bed. But hey, it was just a minor inconvenience and there wasn’t anything I could do about it so I just it let it be.
We all stayed up a bit later this evening, sitting and talking under the full moon which blanketed the entire island in amazing light.
Day 5: Trip to the mainland
Our hosts were kind enough to book a trip to the mainland to see the Mayan ruins on the Belize / Guatemala border, and this was probably the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most. It only ended up being me, my brother in law, and my two nephews who wanted to go, but that was probably for the best as it’s always easier to travel in smaller groups.
The day started with a 7:30am boat ride to Dangriga on the mainland, where we met up with our hired tour guide for the day. Things didn’t get off to a good start however, as he had a lot of difficulty getting his van started. We all gave each other nervous looks as it finally fired to life, but quickly put it out of our minds as we headed off onto the open road.
We had only been on the road for an hour and a half when the van finally gave up for good. We broke down right in front of the Hersey cocoa farm, which is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. Cell phone service was spotty, and our tour guide had a lot of difficulty trying to call for help.
His best suggestion at this point to hop on one of the local busses that pass by on a regular basis on this road, which would take us to a national park featuring large cave networks. Going all the way to the Mayan ruins today wasn’t going to happen, so this was a decent compromise. The only problem was that the only way to explore the caves was to get wet (floating on tubes), and I wasn’t dressed for getting wet today. I even had my good DSLR camera with me – so getting wet was a concern.
We eventually hitched a ride on one of the local busses, while our tour guide was left behind to deal with getting his van repaired. We all planned to meet up later once his van was fixed, and he would then take us back to Dangriga so we could catch a boat back to the island.
The place we went to was called Saint Herman’s Blue Hole National Park, and it was there were we met another tour guide who took us through some of the most interesting underground cave networks I have ever explored. We spent the next several hours floating around in tubes in the caves, and it was there that I experienced darkness like I have never experienced in my life. Several times during the tour, our guide told us to turn off our headlamps and stay quiet – just to experience what the caves are like in their natural state. It was amazing – and a bit nerve racking as well. Anyone who feels even the slightest bit of claustrophobia would not like that experience at all.
Lunch was waiting for us when we emerged from the caves, but there was still no sign of our original tour guide. His wife had stayed with us the entire time, and she assured us that he would be coming to retrieve us soon.
Several hours passed before the decision was made that we should get on a local bus to take us back to Dangriga. Apparently our guide couldn’t get his van fixed in time, but he did come back to meet us so that he could help us get where we needed to go. He flagged down a bus, and we all hopped on. He only rode as far as where his van was still parked (he now had the parts to fix it), but the rest of us continued on all the way to Dangriga.
That bus ride was amazing, and it was an excellent window to how daily life is here in Belize. There were so many interesting and friendly people that got on and off that bus along the way, and it was probably the most memorable part of the trip for me. I was actually pretty bummed to arrive in Dangriga!
The confusion and waiting didn’t end there, however. We were told to wait at a local hotel for our tour guide (the one with the broken van), and he would then take us to the docks along the Seetee River to catch our boat back to the island.
We ended up waiting for several hours, with no sign of our tour guide. The sun had gone down by this point, so it meant we were going to have to cross the water back to the island in darkness – which is never a safe thing in a tiny boat without lights.
Finally, we were told that our tour guide wasn’t coming and that a taxi had been called to take us to the docks. What an adventure that was! The taxi driver showed up in an extended cab Ford pickup truck with reggae blasting from the speakers and empty liquor bottles rolling around on the floorboards. We all gave each other a nervous look again before climbing inside, and just hoped for the best. It was completely dark, and we had no idea where we were going, so we just crossed our fingers and hoped this was going to work out in the end.
I had no idea that the Seetee river was so far from Dangriga – I was thinking that it was going to be a 5 minute taxi ride at the most. But after 15 minutes of driving along desolate back roads and picking up strangers along the way (who jumped into the bed of the truck), we were starting to get nervous. Where the heck was this guy taking us?? I really had no clue, and all I could think about was being robbed and left for dead out in the middle of nowhere.
Finally, my fears were eased when our island hosts called the taxi driver during the drive. Ok then – maybe things weren’t so bad after all! The driver admitted he was lost and had no idea where the docks were, but we found them after 20 minutes of driving along countless back roads deep in the woods.
It was so good to see our hosts waiting for us at the docks ready to take us back to the island! It had been one heck of an eventful day, and there was noting more I was looking forward to than getting in that boat and making that 45 minute ride back to the island. Speaking of which, ended up being very cool. Just us in a small boat miles from shore, no lights, with only the full moon to guide us home. Amazing!
Day 6: Back to the simple life
The excitement of the day prior really took it out of me, and I ended up sleeping in until about 7:45. And I could have slept longer if it weren’t for the annoying bugs buzzing around my head. I was tired!
We all enjoyed breakfast at a slow and leisurely pace, and after that I spent the morning sketching mangrove trees while everyone else went scuba diving and / or fishing. Even though I wasn’t really happy with the way my sketches turned out, it was a good feeling to be sitting there doing nothing but drawing.
After lunch we hopped in the boat for a quick trek to a local sandbar, which is one of the most interesting things I’ve ever seen. We were so far out in the middle of the ocean, land barely visible in the distance, and we were standing in ankle-deep water. Weird. But very cool.
Our hosts had arranged “date night” for the couples (mom and dad and my sister and her husband), which consisted of lobster dinner served in their cabanas. That left my nephews and I to goof off on our own elsewhere on the island. We played games and told jokes, and I was really thinking that we were going to get rained on for the first time on this trip. Storm clouds were building to the east, the winds were howling, and there was even a rainbow off in the distance. I thought for sure we were going to get rained on, but luckily it blew over with nothing more than a sprinkle.
Day 7: The final day
I’m not going to lie – even though it was a really fun week of relaxation and adventure, I was ready to go home. The feeling of sand covering every part of me, my cabana, and all my belongings was becoming difficult to deal with, and I was craving a really good cleansing shower and clean clothes. That seemed like such a luxury to me at this point!
Anyway, I slept in a bit later than normal this morning and found breakfast being served just as I was strolling out of my cabana. And even though I knew that I had to pack today, I didn’t quite feel like it during the morning hours so I held off until after lunch. But really – I’m a lightweight traveler and I never bring much with me anyway so it took me all of about 15 minutes to pack my bag for the trip home. I then spent the rest of the afternoon helping clean up the island and getting everything ready for storage as there would be nobody here for the next several months.
Dinner was a special event this evening. Our hosts prepared a large meal for us and the two local men they had hired for the week to help out with things, and it was a really enjoyable evening with the group. We took a lot of group photos at sunset that evening, and it was really nice having everyone there to help put a cap on a really great week.
The next morning, we were all on a boat at 6am headed for the mainland to catch our flight out of Dangriga.