Hello everybody! Welcome to Part 2 of my EF College Break Belize travel journal. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, just click here. During the first two days of my trip, I explored Belize City and climbed the temples at Lamanai. Now, we are heading to San Pedro for some fun in the sun!
Day 3: Arriving in San Pedro
After a good night’s sleep, we departed from the Radisson Hotel in Belize City. San Pedro is on the island Ambergris Caye, so we had to take a boat taxi to get there. This was probably the most uncomfortable transportation of our entire trip. I had gotten separated from my group, and was smooshed between two men who kept staring at me and rubbing against my legs for the entire 90 minute boat ride. I am not confrontational at all, so I put on sunglasses and headphones and just tried to ignore them. As lovely as the view out the window was, I was quite glad when the ride was over. When I disembarked, all thoughts of the boat ride fled from my mind because this place was so darn beautiful. Just look at these pictures I took at the docks:
The sun was shining, the water was clear, and my heart was happy. We all split up and took taxis to our hotel; for the next two days, we would be staying at the Caribbean Villas. My adrenaline was pumping during the taxi ride. There are only a handful of stop lights in the entire country, and we did not encounter any of those on our way there. At every turn, everybody in my cab gasped when we veered dangerously close to a pedestrian. That’s just a way of life there though, and we all arrived in one piece.
I have really lucked out during my last two EF trips. I have heard stories of people staying in uncomfortable hostels with 6-8 people in each room, but our hotel was really nice! And we were staying right on the beach! It’s funny, I have lived ten minutes from the beach for the last 5 years and rarely go. Yet, I am like an excited puppy when we stay on a beachside hotel. 😛 Although, I suppose everybody would be excited with a view like this!
If you went out on the docks, you could pay $10 for an all day pass for the hotel’s ocean water slide and water toys. A lot of people from our group spent the day on the pier, playing on the toys and slide and getting drinks from the bar. I was tempted to buy a pass, but instead opted to explore the city with one of my friends. It was sunny and breezy; the perfect day for a stroll around town. Thankfully, there was a conveniently placed map right by our hotel.
We spent a couple hours walking around town, dodging golf carts. Just a little heads up: that is pretty much the only way to get around the island, unless you plan on walking a lot. Our tour guide was able to negotiate a pretty sweet deal for those of us who wanted a golf cart: $50 for 24 hours! Most places charge you $50 for just a few hours, so this was pretty awesome. Anyways, one of the places we stopped at was this fruit stand. Inside were pineapple, mango, coconuts, and basically every tropical fruit you could think of. They even had durian, which I was not expecting to see outside of Asia.
Next, we stopped in a little crafts store which had all sorts of carved goods and a colorful selection of sugar skulls. I bought a little magnet shaped like a gecko, which I ended up losing a couple days later. 😦
After a little while, we met up with our group and walked further downtown for dinner. We ended up eating under the palm trees at a place called Fido’s. Our tour guide, Rick, said it is one of the best places to get some grub in San Pedro, and I definitely agree. I ordered a chicken and fish stew (I can’t remember what the dish was actually called), and it was super flavorful.
After dinner, I walked back home with one of my roommates. We ended up walking on the beach until we got to the hotel, because that was more simple than remembering what roads to turn on. It was dark out and the last thing we wanted to do was get lost in an unfamiliar city by ourselves. The beach walk was interesting; I was stepping on crabs every couple seconds, and there was one stretch where we had the choice of cutting through somebody’s fenced backyard or walking through a thick layer of seaweed and muck. We chose the seaweed. We made it back home after about a 30 minute walk, and collapsed in bed.
Day 4: Snorkeling the Hol Chan Reef
Today is the day!! The itinerary for this day is the main reason why I chose to go on the EFCB Belize trip.
- Glide past the colorful formations that Belize is known for as you snorkel the second largest barrier reef in the world
- See turtles, nurse sharks, sting rays, jacks, tarpon, and many other marine species
- Swim in the warm waters—the average ocean temperature is 82.9 degrees
- Enjoy the afternoon to continue snorkeling on your own
The Hol Chan reef may be smaller than the Great Barrier Reef, but it is much more vibrant and healthy. I was so pumped for this! I had never snorkeled prior to this trip, but I had always wanted to. And this was the experience of a lifetime.
At 8:00 a.m., there was a boat waiting for us on the pier by our hotel. They took us about 30 minutes out to the Hol Chan Reef, and gave us our instructions there. I was a little bit nervous during this part, because we found out we would be swimming through a partition in the reef that was 30 feet deep. I am not the strongest swimmer, so I was glad when they pulled out the life jackets. The strong swimmers wore their jackets attached to their wrists, but I secured mine around my waist. I wasn’t taking any chances! At first I was embarrassed, but then I realized that I would be able to put all of my focus towards soaking in the incredible sights, rather than focusing on my swimming. I used my knockoff waterproof Gopro to take this video:
It was so amazing seeing these huge coral structures up close and having dozens of fish around me at all times. It is like a completely different world under the sea. We snorkeled for about 45 minutes, but I wish we could have stayed out longer. I will definitely be coming back here someday.
On the way back to shore we stopped by Shark Ray Alley, which is exactly what it sounds like. The waters were absolutely teeming with nurse sharks! Thankfully, these sharks are harmless for the most part (as long as you don’t wiggle your fingers around too much).
After ogling at the sharks, we headed back to our hotel. I had a quick lunch of pesto penne with shrimp at the hotel bar. This was by far the best bar food I have ever had! Although, I’m a complete sucker for pesto, so I might be biased.
I had a little bit of time left before my next excursion, so I relaxed in the hammock by the water. And… this gorgeous dog helped keep me company!
At around 1:00, it was time for my second foray into the Belizean blue sea. I signed up for the optional “Snuba” excursion, which cost $80. This was not on the itinerary, so I am not sure if it is offered to every EF group. However, if you get the opportunity definitely sign up!! It is a little pricey, but worth it. Snuba is a mixture of snorkeling and scuba. There is an oxygen tank floating on a raft that you are attached to, so you can basically go as deep as you want. I loved this so much… even more than snorkeling! And, there was loads more marine life here. Sting rays glided less than a foot under my stomach, and at one point there were four sharks to my left! Here’s some video footage from snuba:
Isn’t that beautiful? The water is crystal clear, and abundant with fish and other creatures. Our guide told us that on most days, there is even a sea turtle that will swim right up to you! Unfortunately, he did not come out today. Even so, this excursion was well worth the money. And, it is so much easier than snorkeling! The only thing you have to worry about is keeping your head pressure equalized, which is super easy to do: you just plug your nose and blow!
After snuba, I was so beat from all that swimming that I took a nap at the hotel. I know, I know; how could I waste precious time in Belize by sleeping the day away? I was kind of kicking myself afterwards, but it is what it is. When I woke up, it was getting kind of late, so I went with a group of girls out to down to find some dinner. We didn’t want to walk too far, so we stopped at the first eatery we found: AJ’s Sports Bar. I didn’t really care for the food there, but the night did have a fun twist: karaoke! It was my first time singing karaoke, and I made a complete fool of myself… and now I’m going to make an even bigger fool of myself by putting it on the internet.
That’s it for today’s post! Next time, we will be packing up and heading to San Ignacio for some fun in the jungle. Don’t forget, if you would like a referral code for $100 off any EF trip, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, if you have any questions about the tour just comment below!