A Travellerspoint blog

"Cos its Hotta Anda de Water" - a post by Dennis

Snorkel and Diving in Caye Caulker

sunny 30 °C

When visiting Caye Caulker most tourists take one of the many snorkeling adventures around the island. The Caye calls you to explore the turquoise water, the coral, the fish, the depths. The reef is not far offshore creating a shallow, protected area for snorkeling and incredible habitat for fish and coral.


The family splurged and took a full day snorkeling trip with a smaller Belizian company. Most of the snorkeling tours on Caye Caulker and the neighboring San Pedro visit Shark Ray Alley, Hol Chan Channel, Caye Caulker north channel and a variety of other places. At each one we'd jump in, snorkel around and explore the diversity found below. Belize is well known for the marine life in the area and it did not disappoint.


We all enjoyed our trip with many exotic fish, nurse sharks, green turtles, barracuda, large rays and more. It was a blast snorkeling with the boys. They are so comfortable in the water. Zack even dove down and traveled through an underwater cave to pop out on the other side. I tried but could not equalize and decided to not force it.

Zack loved it so much he decided to go scuba diving the next day.


Posted by fishonyukon 14:06 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

Going Slow in Caye Caulker, Belize - A Post by Dennis

Fry Jacks, Coral and Characters

sunny 28 °C

After sweating it out in the humid rainforest of Guatemala, we welcomed the thought of the breezy islands of Belize. An early departure from inland Flores had us to the border in no time. We passed into Belize and forgot how nice it was to be able to speak English again. Hand gestures, facial expressions and broken words only got us so far in Guatemala. I was looking forward to making connections in my first language.

Our small bus shuttle pushed through to busy Belize City by bus and jumped on a ferry for the beautiful limestone coral island of Caye Caulker. Located in the Caribbean Sea 20 miles offshore, it is a small island approximately 8 km long and 1.6 km wide. There are few vehicles so most transportation is on foot, bicycle or golf cart. It is a cute, authentic island that has thus far resisted the large resorts and has a great community feel.


A kitchen was a priority to do some home cooking and try and save a few bucks (Belize is way more expensive than Guatemala or most countries in Central America) so we decided to stay in an AirBnB. Even with a kitchen sometimes you can't pass up the local cuisine and have discovered "fry jacks". Fried bread stuffed with any combination of eggs, beans, chicken, ham, cheese for about $2 Canadian. You just can't beat that.


We decided to spend 11 days on this small island to really get a feel for island life. Most people come the island for only a few days to a week but we decided to hang out. Their motto on the island is "go slow" so we've been trying our best to live up to it. The kids and I seem to be settling in well and are good at doing nothing at any one of local hangouts. Hillarie on the other hand is going a little bit crazy. We have different travel styles and this is putting her to the test. Traveling for six months we have decided to stay in fewer places longer in order to settle in, develop routines, and not burn out. I have to remind Hillarie of this occasionally.


We've been here four days already and our days generally involve getting a bit of online school work done (I am working a bit as well) in the morning, heading out for lunch and hanging at the beach to get some sun and then back in the evening. We tend to go to the "split" or Koko beach where they have drinks, crystal clear water and white sand. We round out that time with bike riding, planning meals, cooking, drinking beer and cocktails, playing card games, reading or playing basketball. Pretty simple stuff. There are a ton of fish here with a healthy fishing culture so I am enjoying being in that environment again. I am trying not to obsess about fishing myself right now as it is a switch that is hard to turn off. I'll save that for my flats guided fly-fishing in Mexico in a couple of weeks.

We've seen pictures and heard stories of all the snow in Yukon this past week so I'll keep my complaining to a minimum. Wow, is it ever hot and the sun is strong! If we ever take one of those genetic tests done that tells you where your ancestors come from, I'll gladly pass mine up to figure out how Hillarie got her dark olive skin. She's got the genetics to tan without effort or concern and come up delitefully dark. Max the handsome devil is blessed with the same skin tone. Unfortunately, Zack and I were given the short end of the stick and our relatively fair complexion has meant taking care not too burn too bad. We've been close to bad burns but our base is slowly getting set.


Caye Caulker is known for its snorkeling, fishing and diving. We've purchased a couple of cheap snorkels and masks to putter around from shore but the real sea life is beyond island on the coral reefs. We are excited to be going out on a boat tomorrow to snorkel all day at four different sites. The weather looks good, water is clear, and we should see some amazing marine creatures.

Posted by fishonyukon 19:42 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

Magical Tikal - a post by Hillarie

A sunrise in the jungle

Our Tikal experience was magical. We decided to do the sunrise tour of Tikal which meant we had to set our alarms for 3:30 a.m. in the morning so that we could make it to the top of Temple IV by sunrise at 5:30 a.m.

Tikal is one of the most important archaeological complexes left by the Maya civilization and is located in northern Guatemala. The site was inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. and contains superb temples and palaces. Tikal was also made famous in “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” when Luke, Hans Solo and crew land the Millennium Falcon on Yavin 4, a jungly, rainforesty moon.

Zack is seen here re-enacting the scene.


Our adventure started with a 1/2 hour trek through the jungle with our guide, Abel. By 4:30 a.m., we are sitting on the top of Temple IV in the pitch dark. As we are sitting there staring into the blackness of the night, the sounds of the jungle come alive. Soon we are being "serenaded" by the screams of howler monkeys which is actually quite unsettling. Soon the faint light of the morning appears and we are sitting above the trees surrounded by mist and temples.

After a quick catnap back at the Jungle Lodge, we returned to the site for another 3 hours of touring and goofing around.


Tikal is an incredibly authentic and beautiful site which indeed earns its UNESCO World Heritage Site status and featured role in Star Wars!


Posted by fishonyukon 16:23 Comments (0)

Leaving Guatemala for Beginners - A post by Hillarie

Now the real work begins

Antigua was just so lovely. The boys and I decided to do a volcano hike while Dennis took a "rest day".


Our last 3 nights in Antigua were spent in a beautiful villa. We enjoyed coffee on our private terrace overlooking 3 volcanoes, watched the Olympics on satellite t.v., slept in a king sized bed with a down duvet, and listened to the lovely trickle of the fountain in our courtyard ....

Fast forward and we have just finished 13 hours in a minivan (did I mention they didn't let us have a pee break for 6 1/2 hours) and then we are herded onto the back of a pickup truck for the last hour of our journey to Semuc Champey. It was pitch black and Max kept saying "I don't know what is going on", "where are we going", "I don't really understand ....".

Semuc Champey is in the heart of rural Guatemala. It is basically in the middle of nowhere. Semuc Champey means "river flows under land". It is beautiful. And it is remote. We stayed in a small jungle lodge where the generator only ran a few hours a day. And there are still places where there is no internet! Visitors to Semuc usually enjoy a tour which includes a visit to the pools, a cave tour, and tubing down the river. Given that all of these "attractions" include a water element, I decided to pass and let Dennis and the boys go without me. Upon their return, Max exclaimed "Mom, it was so good that you didn't go", "it was crazy", "you would have been so freaked out".


The highlight of the tour was the caves. Dennis said it was one of the most exciting experiences of his life. "You could not believe how low the safety standards were in the cave", "that would never have been allowed in Canada" was what Dennis told me after he got back. I guess I am glad that I didn't go. The cave tour was about an hour and a half long, involved candles, gushing water, squeezing in and out of holes, bats, and perilous ascents and descents. The boys scaled a wall and jumped into the tiniest hole with a very small margin of error. If I was there, there is no way I would have let them do this! The tour ended with a relaxing float down the river.


The next day we went through the exhausting tourist hustle. We were herded like cattle into random minivans hoping we would end up in our next destination, Flores. Another exhausting 13 hours with 8 Gravol between the 4 of us. We ended up making it to our destination and needed a full 24 hours to recuperate.


Thank goodness for good coffee and a great view.


Tomorrow is our long awaited visit to the Mayan ruins of Tikal!

Posted by fishonyukon 17:33 Comments (1)

Reflections on the Fishing Culture - A post by Dennis

It all comes back to fish

sunny 20 °C

As most of you know, Hillarie loves textiles. Guatemala brings so much joy to her given there are textiles around every corner. The textiles and culture around the fabrics, patterns, and colours is so rich that it is almost overwhelming. We spent half a spanish lesson speaking with our young Mayan teacher, Esther, about the significance of the fabric and what the women and men were wearing. Traditionally dressed herself, she shared with us in great detail what everything meant from the neckline to the end of her skirt. For example, the orange and red meant sunrise and sunset, the triangles on the edges of shirts meant the volcanoes. The black and white signified the colours of the eyes. It was so interesting and I appreciated this insight into culture.


What textiles are to Hillarie, fish and water are to me. I enjoy being in beautiful inland colonial cities like Antigua, but I crave the space and energy of the water. Lake Atitlan is a big inland lake surrounded by numerous volcanoes and communities. We spent our time in San Pedro but were also able to visit via boat or on foot another half dozen communities. I love places that have a fishing culture and a connection to water. The boat taxis ferrying people around, the Mayan women washing their clothes in the lake, the families swimming and playing. We were able to see a few ingenious young boys that used discarded 2L coke bottles tethered together as floaties as a way to dog paddle around the lake.

Then of course there are the fishermen. They use small handmade wooden canoes. Large enough for one person, a net a bucket and some fishing line. They would head out, not too far from shore and either set nets to pick up later with bouys or "hand line" right there for fish. San Pedro is ideal in that there are coffee shops right on the water to watch these men do their thing for hours on end. They could expertly navigate their canoe with one hand and set the net with the other.


Watching them "hand line" fish was like watching a weaver expertly work a loom. They do it automatically with muscle memory and know when every little tap by a small fish hooked up. They would pull in a small fish every minute or two (mainly little crappie, bluegill and a type of tilapia), place them in a bucket and keep on fishing. Around San Juan they seemed to have special fishing areas marked with buoys within which up to a dozen of them would sit and fish. I was not sure if this was for regulatory purposes in order to manage the fishery in some way or for their safety with larger boats zooming around. One could see these fish show up at the market for sale, undoubtedly to be fried as a special meal for a family.

I spoke with our house mother in San Pedro, Anita and she say they hardly eat the fish from the lake. She also said that the larger fish were mushy and not good to eat while the little ones when fried were delicious. It made me think about our western bias towards catching and eating larger fish. Especially on the west coast where we have salmon, halibut and even freshwater fish like Lake Trout that get very large. We tend to prefer to catch larger fish as a means of minimizing effort, maximizing protein and building up our egos. In Yukon, we don't focus as much on the tasty little whitefish, grayling, or the smaller stocked rainbow trout or kokannee. This is in part a cultural bias in the west, where larger is generally better, when the more sustainable choice would be the smaller fish. Angler tend to target the hardiest and more robust fish within a population which tends to skew the genetics, size and age structure of a fishery. You may notice this back home in your waters where you have observed that the fish "used to bigger". With some species like Pike that are not doing as well in a lake or area, we don't notice the population decline as much but we notice the size goes down. Don't even get me started on salmon, where the large Chinook on some runs like the Yukon River, have been high-graded for decades effectively removing the bigger 8 year olds, now the 7 years olds and on and on. I digress.


I tried to get out on the lake with a local fisherman and had it lined up, however the water blew up that day and it was unsafe to go out. They do a great job with promoting a simple fishing excursion in a traditional canoe that gets out for 2 hours just to give you a sense of the local fishing culture. We could do more of this in Canada as well. There is such a rich fishing culture in our indigenous communities that would be of great interest to tourists. I think this opportunity exists, should a First Nation wish to develop this small economic opportunity. (Note: I totally recognize the cultural appropriation issues and the need for it to be grass-roots, community driven and under control of the First Nation. I have spent the last 20 years of my life working in this area so happy to have this discussion offline). I digress again.

As you can imagine it is all not roses and rainbows. With all the users - pollution, sewage, detergents, within the lake there are significant environmental issues at play. It is not for me to judge or criticize with my western bias when people need to meet their basic needs that live along this lake. I have heard repeatedly that things are much better than they used to be. There is some awareness and environmental education and there is basic infrastructure along the lake to treat the water and sewage. They have lived along this lake for generations and have depended on it to water their crops and feed their families. It is in their best interest to protect it.

Lake Atitlan is stunning with a distinct Mayan textile culture. The fishing culture is alive and thriving as well. Next time you see a local fisherman think about the culture of fishing in that area, the connection to the land and animals, and how important it is to ensure they have healthy fish and water to keep on doing it.

We are back inland in Antigua at the moment but will be making our way slowly to the Caribbean Sea. I am looking forward to more fishing culture off the coast of Belize and the Yucatan. Stay tuned for more nerdy fish and fishing posts!

Posted by fishonyukon 07:21 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

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