When I decided to make the Wilderness journey Bucket list trips blog, the very first trip I thought of was Belize I have been dreaming of going there for many years and the original thought of this first trip was to go alone but after careful thought I invited my niece Sarah and her husband Freddie. After all Sarah was there when I decided to start Wilderness Journey guiding and outfitting, and when that part of my life came to an end she was the first person I told. Then I told her I was keeping the website and changing it to a Bucket list blog. The day I stopped by their house to invite them to Belize I told her how much I appreciated her and that she earned this trip and tossed an unmarked file on the table in front of them, when they opened it I could see the expression on both their faces. In the file was a rough itinerary and two round trip tickets to Belize, I told her I was going for 3 weeks and She and Freddie would be going the first 6 days, the only thing I asked of her was to make the resort arrangements and I had a couple of suggestions. I wanted to be near San Pedro on Ambergris Caye but outside of town away from the party animals. Along with them a long time friend Lora would be joining me for the duration of the entire trip.
It is impossible to write everything that we experienced in Belize in one newsletter so I will break it into three different newsletters broken into the three different weeks we were there.
Week one: San Pedro, Snorkeling, fishing and one helluva great time
Sarah made arrangements at a great resort X’tan Ha 8 miles outside of town it is a great place, everyone from Miss Penny who ran the place to Travis who ran the desk and even the groundskeepers were all kind, gracious and accommodating. This was a 5 star resort that at first I thought this is not my style after all I’ve been guiding in the wilderness for 8 years. But that first morning when I woke up before dawn and had my first cup of coffee on the veranda on our beachfront room I knew this trip was going to be everything I thought it was going to be. I could literally see the famous Belize Barrier reef the second largest reef in the world 185 miles of meandering coral and sea-life. The famous Mexico Rocks was within eyesight and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve where the famous Shark/Ray alley resides was withing a 20 minute boat ride. If you’re into Water sports like fishing, snorkeling, diving, sailing, paddle boarding or kayaking this is the place to be.
This is what the San Pedro Town website has to say about San Pedro:
San Pedro Town is the major settlement on the island. San Pedro’s populace has grown to 10,000 plus year-round inhabitants, with many newcomers from the mainland and from abroad as well. The original “San Pedranos” (from the 1800’s til the 1970’s or so) are Mestizo, and and speak both Spanish and English. The island has the largest concentration of visitor accommodations in Belize and its hotels, fishing and diving facilities are some of the best in the country.
The town is a picture postcard setting beside the clear turquoise sea. Coconut palms sway and rustle in the gentle cooling trade winds. Low rise hotels, guest houses and boutique style resorts & condos, from modest to magnificent, are nestled along the coast and throughout the town.
If you want a comfortable, shorts-and-sandals seaside vacation, at a moderate price, just a bit off the beaten path but not too far, where the seafood is fresh and beer is cold, where the water won’t make you sick, an island with most of the modern convienences without the plastic tackiness, with great diving, excellent snorkeling, beautiful water and beautiful white sand beaches, where local folks are mostly friendly and hablan English (though they may speak Spanish at home), with dependably beautiful weather most of the time, then I guarantee you’ll enjoy Ambergris Caye.
Yes, tourism is the number one industry in what was once a fishing village. Now, fishing is still most excellent, but tourism has far surpassed it as a contributor to the local economy. This is not, however, the edgy tourism of Cancun, with millions of package tourists hitting the beach. No building is higher than a tall coco palm, or three stories.
This is a genuine description of San Pedro in the 21 days I spent in Belize, San Pedro and Hopkins are the two towns that I fell in love with, San Pedro is a little larger and more touristy than Hopkins but it has a lot to offer and quite of a few unforgettable memories were experienced here.
Lora’s 6 foot shark
Most of the fishing here is reef fishing and November is not the best month for fishing February, March and April are the top months for fishing. However, we were still able to catch snapper, grunts, grouper, porgies plus Lora caught a 5 to 6 foot nurse shark that put up quite a battle. All the fishing trips in Belize start the same way, they’re smaller boats, this particular boat was a 20 footer with two 50 horse engines they’ll usually pick you up where you stay then head out to catch bait-fish which is always sardines using a casting net. With this type of fishing the guides expect to catch fish as soon as it hits the bottom and if we didn’t they would move within minutes once you are on a hot spot we would get one bite after another. Just keep what you want to cook for one meal and give the rest to the first mate and captain. By the way it was delicious. You can expect to pay $350.00 for a half day of fishing regardless if there is just one or up to four people.
Sarah with a porgie
I have snorkeled in Mexico and in the fresh waters in Michigan but I was not prepared for the beauty and excitement of snorkeling in Belize. I had done my research and had read that Belize is one of the best places to snorkel and dive in the world but it was much more than I could’ve ever expected. I was never really interested in scuba diving but now that this trip is over, I will be getting my PADI certification for next years bucket list trip to the Galapagos islands (where anyone that reads our newsletters is welcome to join)
So our first snorkel outing was like jumping into the fire, it was a trip to the famous Shark/Ray Alley Where Sarah, Freddie and I swam with a dozen sharks, sting rays, multiple species of sea turtles, green eels and many other fish that I couldn’t even start to name. When we approached the area everyone on the boat was excited and then the first mate tossed over the anchor and within seconds the water was literally boiling with a dozen sharks including one that was at least 9 foot long. I have no idea what came over me instead of being scared I couldn’t wait to jump in and once everyone got out of my way, I with my go pro camera were over the side and there were sharks and other fish all around us, it was definitely one of the greatest experiences I ever had. The guides were great, one is always in the water and the other mans the boat. The guide grabbed a 5 foot shark turned her over and it was as if she was in a trance, everyone could pet it and he also did the same with a 3 foot sting ray. we saw green sea turtles and a large loggerhead turtle that was eating a lobster until a sting ray came along and stole it. I got some great footage of the entire outing and while we were looking at the footage back at the resort I didn’t realize we could hear the crunching of the loggerhead eating the lobster. The guide had a plastic Pepsi bottle filled with cut-bait fish and he knew where all the marine life was, he would swim down look into the coral come back to the surface and say watch this, he then swam back down and placed a small piece of fish in a empty conch shell place it about 3 feet in front of the hole and slowly a 5 foot green eel came slithering out and took the bait. It wasn’t long before all of us felt so comfortable that we were swimming up to sharks and sting rays on our own and touching them.
“NEW” Video Shark Ray Alley
San Pedro is the place we ended our trip after our 21 day travel across this Central American country and it also will forever have a place in my heart. I have already decided to stop there on my way back from the Galapagos islands next year. Its mostly Mayans that reside here, everyone speaks English. The people of Belize are the friendliest and kindest people I’ve ever met. Everyone says good morning or hello and while shopping and eating at the many place’s throughout town I must of had 3 or 4 people everyday yell at me in their accent…Slow down man…relax. I have always been the kind of person that is on the go and honestly it took me about a week to start to absorb the Belizean way of life. I think we all can learn from them. The kids wear school uniforms, everyone knows each other and they all respect each other and the guest that visit their country. The food is great try the Ceviche. The trip was greatly enhanced with my travel companions Lora and especially my Niece Sarah and her husband Freddie who had proven to be very…very adventurous people.
Our last meal together before Sarah and Freddie head back to the real world
San Pedro travel tips
1- When landing in Belize city take a puddle jumper flight to San Pedro its only $89.00 per person if you go through Tropic Air , its only a 15 minute flight as opposed to the taxi to the marina, then a two hour water taxi to the island, then a taxi to your resort. This is also the airline we used to cross the country.
2 – The currency exchange rate is simple two Belize dollars equals one U.S dollar.
3 – In most cases you can barter for just about anything.
4 – Any resort can be reached by a water taxi and they have a regular schedule Coastal Express is the main water taxi service.
5 – We stayed at a few place’s throughout Belize and two were exceptional on San Pedro I suggest X’tan Ha This is a TOP NOTCH resort and they are so kind and accommodating its unreal. They have an exceptional staff and will make you feel right at home.
6- X’tan Ha has tour service right on their dock named No worries tours with reasonable rates and their snorkel service is great.
7 – If snorkeling is your thing I suggest bringing your own mask, snorkel and fins. Some mask’s just don’t fit well and there are better snorkels available at stores in the states, also I like longer fins because you can swim deeper with ease (I know I will be buying my own gear)
Belize week two: The next newsletter will include stories and photos about fishing, snorkeling, zip lining on a 2.5 mile zip line with 8 platforms, stories and video of dolphins swimming right next to our boat. Along with stories about Placencia and Hopkins.
Our next Bucket list trip will be a 6 day dogsledding trip along the Minnesota Canadian border.
We have 3 people going Jason Lafferty, Jim McKeon and I. Jim let me know that his wife Carol is interested in going if we can get another adventurous woman to join the group. So come on folks! Anyone out there ever dream of running their own team of dogs across virgin snow in the middle of the wilderness…Then give us a call. Life is short make the most of it!
Customized Northwoods Passage
- 6 days dog sledding
- 5 nights winter camping
- First and last night in a comfortable lodge
- Premier style (you drive your own team for the entire trip)
- Explore over 100 miles of the Boundary Waters wilderness by dog team
- Our longest trip, and most physically demanding one
Our arrival date is February 27th: settle in enjoy the festivities of the wolftrack classic dog-sled race.We will watch the start of the Wolftrack classic Dog-Sled race on the morning of the 28th then immediately head into the woods with our gear, guides and enthusiasm. Peter was kind enough to customize this trip for us. We will be going through areas that I have been through many…many times and many of my past clients and friends are familiar with. Of course when traveling in the wilderness you should always be flexible that is why all itinerary’s can change but this is the rough version.
We will see 3 waterfalls, Native pictographs and some of the most incredible vistas ever created.
28th 1/2 day get into the woods.
29th Travel to Crooked Lake. (Ramsey Island)
1st Full day on Crooked.(Ramsey Island) Pike fishing
2nd Travel towards Basswood.
3rd Day Lake Trout fishing on Basswood? Note we cannot fish northern on basswood in March.
4th Travel out to landing.