Twenty-seven of us took flight from Baltimore Washington International Airport to explore the beautiful nation of Belize. The thought of a one-way charter along the second longest barrier reef in the world had captured our attention and we were not disappointed. Having chartered three 43-foot catamarans from Tortola Marine Management (TMM), who also helped arrange our group flight, we planned a two night stay on land before boarding and a two night stay ashore after sailing to fully explore this gem of the Caribbean.
Our Belize 43 catamarans slept ten persons in six cabins, allowing us to put nine of us on each boat and still have room for a local cook provided by TMM. What an excellent choice this turned out to be since we often ate as well on board as in some of the fine restaurants that we encountered during our stay.
Our two days in San Pedro before sailing offered a variety of options for exploring Belize. Some took a dive boat to the barrier reef, while others chose to hire a guide for Bone fishing, and yet others traveled up the Belize River on an all day nature adventure that included some Mayan ruins. Shopping in the quaint town of San Pedro took up the rest of our time there.
We choose TMM for this trip because of their two bases in San Pedro and Placencia. This allowed us to move from north to south along the reef without having to retrace our steps. What we learned was that with so many options and so many cayes to explore, focusing on just the northern or southern areas would have been just as rewarding, although not as complete a picture of Belize (I do believe I would favor the southern cayes.).
Provision well before leaving San Pedro since not much is offered along the way south to Placencia. If you forget some things, stopping at Caye Chaulker just eight miles south of San Pedro will give you the best chance at eating out or finding provisions. After that, it is mostly you and nature and the local fisherman, who happily sell you the catch of the day. Having our cooks on board made this even better.
Our island stops were excellent, whether day stops or overnight anchorages. One anchorage was home to two manatees, and Albert, a local fisherman, was happy to point out where they were located. Chasing after the manatee in our dinghy and seeing the brilliant starfish in abundance near the shorelines made this a favorite stop.
Rendezvous Caye, if you time it when the cruise ships are not taking over the place, is as picturesque a spot as you will find. Our three boats had this island pretty much to ourselves and some of our crew took the time to rescue a pelican that had tangled itself in a fishing line. Laid back and restful just doesn’t describe how serene a place this can be.
Tobacco Caye and South Water Caye provide a bit of the local commercial life without being at all overwhelming. Sitting on the deck of a resort on South Water and sipping a local Caribbean drink made the trip extra special for some on our boat.
And at the end of our sail, we discovered Placencia, with local fisherman repairing their spear guns and nets. Walking down one of the narrowest streets I have ever seen, one could examine the folk art of the locals, stop in a studio or shop and then proceed to the beautiful beach, which stretched for some 16 miles. Restaurants here were excellent and our accommodations delightful. Spending two nights here after our seven nights on the water allowed us the chance to unwind in a relaxed atmosphere before flying back home.
All in all, Belize and the wonderful nature scenes will be a memory that will not soon fade. The catamarans never felt crowded, even with ten on board, and the pace never seemed rushed, which is why we love the Caribbean. Belize deserves another visit.