Kayaking is among the many activities to try with Island Expeditions. // © 2014 Island Expeditions
When we arrived on the small Belizean island of Southwest Caye, our guide Bernaldo delivered an important piece of safety advice to our tiny tour group.
“Don’t sit under a coconut tree,” he warned us. “This is your vacation, and you need to be safe.”
A slight snicker almost escaped from my mouth — before I realized that he was serious. But when one of your biggest safety concerns is the occasional falling coconut, you can feel pretty positive about your destination and the days ahead.
Belize is one of the most ecologically diverse places on the planet. We spent the first two days of the Glover’s Reef and River of Caves tour, led by Island Expeditions, exploring the rainforest nearby Belize City. After an overnight stay in cabin-style accommodations, we set out by bus for a half-day guided river tubing and caving tour.
At a lush rainforest area, we each selected an inner tube, a life jacket and a hard hat with a headlamp before setting out on a hike. When we stopped for a short rest, Bernaldo pulled a rust-colored stone from the river. He then used the stone to paint everyone’s faces in the ancient Mayan style, which would purportedly bring good luck in the caves.
Eventually, we climbed onboard our tubes and rode them down the river and into a limestone cave system filled with rock formations, including stalactites and stalagmites. With nothing but our headlamps to illuminate our path, a sense of eeriness descended upon us. No wonder we needed that good luck, I thought. Still, the wonder of our surroundings dwarfed all fear as we floated and trailed our way through the caves.
After a hearty lunch at a local restaurant, we visited the Belize Zoo to get a first-hand look at its jaguar rescue program and personally meet some of the felines. The next day, we traveled cross-country by van before journeying one hour by boat to the tiny island of Southwest Caye on Glover’s Reef Atoll.
One of the richest marine habitats in the Caribbean Sea, Glover’s Reef is considered by many to be one of the world’s best snorkelling and diving areas. Using the tiny island as a base camp, we spent the next six days exploring as much of the reef as possible.
Each day began with a sunrise yoga class under the shade of coconut palms and concluded with dinner in the main dining lodge. The hours in between were filled with guided snorkel tours, scuba trips, kayaking expeditions, stand-up paddleboarding and fishing.
Accommodations while on Southwest Caye consisted of large beachfront tents luxuriously equipped with furniture and even a working shower and toilet. There was no Internet and no cell phone service though, as well as only a few hours of generator-produced electricity each evening.
However, living off the grid has its advantages. When the seven-day tour came to an end, I felt more relaxed and rejuvenated than I ever have following a resort stay of the same time length. And thanks to Bernaldo’s island safety speech, not one traveler fell victim to a falling coconut.