Caye Caulker

Three things you should do as quickly as possible once you move to San Pedro

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Watching the sun rise over Lake Bacalar on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. They say every morning the colors are different because of the unique reflective qualities of the pristine lake waters.

The three best things you can do once you move to Ambergris Caye in Belize involve getting off the island. One means getting out of the country. None of them includes the Blue Hole or the “Chicken Drop.”

This sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

I mean, here you are, newly landed on one of the great expat destinations in the world, and this guy who is moving away shortly is telling you to get off the island for your own sake.

Hang in there. I in no way intend to burn Ambergris Caye, a place I love above all others on this planet. Follow my steps through these three adventures and I promise you’ll return to Ambergris Caye with a deepened love for the island and a profound appreciation for the beauty that surrounds it. The real estate won’t expand, but your world will grow bigger.

Welcome to San Pedro, now go and explore the rest of Belize

Read the rest of this entry »


Two dozen questions on living in Belize — and not one is answered just ‘yes’ or ‘no’

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Old-fashioned manpower is pulling fiber optic cable through the streets of San Pedro, Belize, during a very hot summer day recently.


The e-mail said, we have a few questions about living an expat life that we would like you to answer. And it shouldn’t take more than five minutes . . . that’s when I knew the e-mail was from an editor. No writing should take anyone more than five minutes to complete, according to every editor for which I’ve ever worked. That’s how editors think. That’s their job.

So, three hours later, this is what I came up with.

I’ve said it before, I like these questionnaires. They are lazy work for the person who sends them out, but they can prove enlightening for the person who must reach down inside and come up with some answers — about 24 of them in this case.

So, here’s the deal. I’ve been living on a tropical island for nearly four years now. It is probably about time I ask myself “Why?” Will I be here for the rest of my life? Am I slowly going insane from all the rampant beauty that surrounds me? Where can I find a cheap meal? Am I getting enough exercise? Am I drinking too much local rum? Does anyone out there know or care where I am? Hello? Hello? Knock, knock . . Read the rest of this entry »

You can skip the story and go for the moral: Wear sunscreen and use your noodle

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A visual aid for my little story. The yellow and green things in this picture are called “noodles,” for obvious reasons. They are not the only kind of noodles, apparently. Always ask when someone asks you to fetch noodles.

This is an absolutely nothing story and if you want to move on with your life, that’s OK by me.

It is just that I need to put it down on paper to see if it all really happened the way I think it did.

It started on Sunday with a pool party down the road, next to Coco Loco’s Beach Bar. The party was actually a continuation of a birthday party from the day before which included a glorious day aboard the No Rush catamaran with snorkeling and good food, plenty of rum punch, great friendship and a brilliant sun over head.

I’m pretty sure it was the last one that did me in. Rookie mistake, going the whole day without sunscreen. My face looked like a two-tone bowling ball: Pale white where the bandana sat and an awful shade of burgundy from my forehead south. (Right now it looks like a badly peeling bowling ball … .) Read the rest of this entry »

The diversion factory called Truck Stop has come up with a corker

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Amy Knox of Wild Mango’s bites into her finisher medal at last Saturday’s “Amazing Race: San Pedro Edition.”

If you can imagine this, lots of people who live on tropical islands complain about the lack of diversion in their lives.

You hear things like:

“There are only so many spectacular sunsets that I’m going to sit through.” and “Sunrises? Do you really think I’m going to get up that early?”

“Oh look. Another flock of gloriously pink and retro roseate spoonbills feeding in the marsh. Which reminds me, what are we doing for lunch?” Read the rest of this entry »

This is Belize: Last sunrise of 2016, first sunset of 2017 and stuff in between — some fake, some real

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Last sunrise of 2016 on Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Last sunrise of 2016 on Ambergris Caye, Belize.

The last sunrise on Ambergris Caye for 2016 was a real beauty. A diaphanous gold, like spun cotton candy, filled the air out to the reef as an early morning sun shower cleansed us, washed away this most unusual year.

Happy New Year to you all! May your every dream find its path to fulfillment in 2017.

Thanks to the recent addition of Moppit to the household, sunrises are becoming a daily thing. In pre-Moppit days, I would awaken at a civilized hour and think, “Wow. That must have been a nice sunrise. Maybe tomorrow.” Read the rest of this entry »

San Pedro town ‘fathers’ deliver stern lectures to fire victims before disbursing relief funds

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Einer Salazar lectures fire victims on the importance of keeping their mouths shut before dispensing fire relief funds. Ouch.
Eiden Salazar lectures fire victims on the importance of keeping their mouths shut before dispensing fire relief funds. Ouch.

Yesterday morning I answered the San Pedro Food Bank’s call for volunteers to help sort donated clothing for distribution to Hurricane Earl victims.

By the time I got to the Lion’s Den in San Pedro, shortly after 9 a.m., the sorting process was well under way.

This is a pretty experienced group. Only a bit more than a month ago, 88 San Pedranos, businesses and property owners were left homeless by a downtown fire and the local Red Cross, Lions Club and Food Bank seemed to click together in bringing relief to fire victims. Including clothing distribution.

Now they were doing it all over again.

Fortunately, the overwhelming response to the fire left the local service groups with plenty of boxes and bags of clothing donations that never got sorted and distributed — and frankly didn’t need to. They were ready and waiting for Hurricane Earl’s victims. Which is why the Food Bank was urging only donations of non-perishable food and bedding this time. (Still needed, by the way.)

The Food Bank’s Brittney O’Daniel is spearheading an effort to raise $20,000 for lumber, zinc (roofing), nails etc. to rebuild homes of 49 families in San Mateo “half-destroyed” by Hurricane Earl. Read about it here.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, as we sorted out clothing for hurricane victims — and the many fire victims who are still trying to recover — a second gathering was taking place in the Lion’s Den.

The funds raised for the Middle Street fire victims were about to be distributed by the Red Cross, Lions Club, National Emergency Management Organization and San Pedro officials.

But not without some drama. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Earl: No. 1, Not all disasters are alike

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Grand Caribe Resort on Sunday morning, Aug. 6, 2016.
A photographer stops to capture the sunrise and battered but still stately dock at Grand Caribe Resort on Sunday morning, Aug. 6, 2016.

When almost an entire block on Middle Street in San Pedro went up in flames in June — leaving 66 people homeless and a number of businesses crippled or wiped out — the whole world responded with unconditional generosity.

Certainly the whole of Ambergris Caye did.

Scores of volunteers stepped in to help clear away debris. They didn’t ask which rubble belonged to homes and which to businesses. The amount of clothing and food donated could be calculated in tonnage and by the size of the hearts of the people on Ambergris Caye.

The San Pedro Food Bank is looking for volunteers to help

sort and distribute clothing to Hurricane Earl victims!

Report to the Lions Den, downtown San Pedro,

at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

Barges and planes brought in even more aid from the mainland.

A significant amount of cash was raised in numerous and imaginative ways. Nobody designated their dollars to go to specific people or businesses.

People just gave — time, money, food, clothing, shelter.

Hurricane Earl is different.

Or it seems that way. Read the rest of this entry »

Heredia’s take on the damage from Hurricane Earl . . . and more (updated)

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Before and after shots of San Pedro’s waterfront from Bryce Jon Peterson, manager of the newly named Island Tackle Bar & Grill. That’s the former Tackle Box, in the foreground of the picture. Island Tackle’s grand opening was delayed by Hurricane Earl and now must be delayed again for repairs.

* * * * *      * * * * *      * * * * *

As many as 400 San Pedro residents sought refuge in the town’s three shelters during the Category 1 hurricane Earl, Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Jr. told Channel 7 News Belize.
The minister, who also serves as San Pedro’s NEMO chairman, added that there were “about 6 homes that were totally destroyed and another 3 or 4 that were extensively damaged.”

Heredia told Channel 7 that the “obvious” damage was seaside where  “practically 90% of the piers are either gone or extensively damaged. The dive shops, likewise, I would believe that it’s only two or three that are standing, but not in a very good shape also. Beach erosion was terrible over here.”

7News also reports that some northern resorts, including Costa Blue, X’tan Ha and Saphire Beach have closed temporarily for repairs.


Ministry of Agriculture puts Earl losses at $100 million

Earl’s toll on Belize’s economy is over $100 million, Jose Alpuche, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, told Amandala today.

“What we have right now indicates $100 million worth of damage, because when we factor in the main affected subsectors – bananas, corn, and vegetables—corn, as I had said, was in the region of $49 million worth of losses, bananas will probably be within the region of about $40 million, and the rest takes us over $100 million in damages,” Alpuche said.

Read more here.

Tropic Air offers 50% off domestic fares through August 14

Tropic Air has responded to the aftermath of Hurricane Earl by cutting airfares in half because ” it was important to us that we make sure people can get where they need to go quickly in order to rebuild,” said John Greif III, president of the regional airline.

The offer will last through Aug. 14 and includes flights to all Belize destinations, except Belize International Airport.

“The task of rebuilding has already started in earnest, and we are eager to support this effort,” according to a Tropic Air press statement.

“We needed to do our part,”  added Greif.

The discount can be applied to travel booked online at using promotional code: D50AUG. Tickets can also be booked at any of Tropic Air terminal or through the reservations department at 226-2012/2626 or

Tropic Air travels within Belize to Belize City Municipal, San Ignacio, Belmopan, Corozal, Caye Caulker, Dangriga, Placencia, Punta Gorda and San Pedro.

At last, a view of damages from up north

San Pedro Scoop Blogger Rebecca Coutant has posted a report and pictures of Hurricane Earl’s damage, starting at X’tan Ha Resort and traveling to points south.

As we feared, the damage up north mirrors what we have experienced in San Pedro.

“X’tan Ha Resort, her dock, dive shop, bar and beach took a beating,” reports Rebecca. Additionally, where possible, she has added “before” photos of some of the damaged docks, palapas and resort properties.

As a bonus, Rebecca was able to photograph the swollen rivers on the mainland when she flew home from San Ignacio. She had been evacuated from the Chiquibil Forest Natural Reserve ahead of the hurricane, but was forced to sit out the storm in San Ignacio.

Don’t miss her latest post, The Power of the Surge, here.

Turtleman's House. Photo courtesy of Rosemary Ingram Smith.
Turtleman’s House. Photo courtesy of Rosemary Ingram Smith.

An Ambergris Caye classic lost to the storm: Turtleman’s House

Rosemary Ingram Smith reports that on North Ambergris Caye, the Turtleman’s House — an over-the-water cabin that was the subject of many paintings and photographs over the decades — was lost to Hurricane Earl.

“Having a structure over the water in a hurricane area means that you have to accept the loss when it occurs,” she notes.

For the post on the Turtleman’s House and more background, see Rosemary’s Facebook post here.



After Earl: Trying to recall what was where, and is no more

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Navigating the beach to the San Pedro Express Water Taxi dock is still treacherous. No matter. The water taxi dock is too badly damaged touse. They have moved operations down to Municipal Pier by Central Park.
Navigating the beach to the San Pedro Express Water Taxi dock is still treacherous. No matter. The water taxi dock is too badly damaged touse. They have moved operations down to Municipal Pier by Central Park.

Earl left a mess along the seacoast of Ambergris Caye.

You probably already know that.

Mercifully it seemed uninterested in the rest of this long and narrow island.

But the coast…. It moved down the coast at 75-plus miles an hour and shaved off nearly every pier, like a razor carving bristles off a man’s jaw. Read the rest of this entry »

After Earl: This was the Palapa Bar

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Our friend Ben Popik took this drone shot of the Palapa Bar, or what remains of it in the Boca del Rio section of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Our friend Ben Popik took this drone shot of the Palapa Bar, or what remains of it in the Boca del Rio section of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Ben Popik, owner of the popular Truck Stop and Island Films, took a number of drone shots on Thursday of what remains of the once-thriving San Pedro coast line. You can see more of his images here.

This coast was, until, Wednesday night, jammed with piers and boats and businesses. Not a single dock, commercial or private, on the 24-miles island escaped Hurricane Earl unscathed.

Photos from various numerous island sources and residents: