Panama layover. Caye Caulker! Sailing the Meso American Reef.

Panama City, Oct 30, 2018
An extended stopover in Panama city gave us an afternoon to explore the old city of Casco Viejo. A lot of it was under construction. We got totally lost but did manage to see a lot of the back streets and old building fronts. Several times we found ourselves heading into a “dangerous area” but were warned by locals not to go further. Interesting.  The Magnolia Inn was the perfect accommodation for us.
Who wants to use that bathroom?
Beautiful old building in Casco Viejo

Leaving again was a challenge as the boarding pass on my phone wouldn’t work so I had to check in. There the fellow insisted I needed proof of yellow fever immunization to enter Belize. No, I don’t. Not for just a stopover where I didn’t leave the city. Sue and Anita were already through security as their phone boarding passes worked fine. I got a little anxious when there ended up being 3 of them looking up whether I needed the vaccine. Crap! What was I going to do if they wouldn’t let me leave?! Finally they agreed I didn’t need it and, after several more questions and instructions, printed the boarding pass I’d already been issued. Sheesh!

Upon arrival in Belize, we met Barb who’d already arranged a taxi with an amusing driver who pointed out some landmarks and said he is “too blessed to be stressed”

We purchased tickets for the ferry, left our bags with the nice man who SAID he’d put them on the boat (haha) and went down the street to the bar he recommended for a beer while waiting. None of us likes being parted from our luggage (we’re carry on only travelers!). Upon arrival on Caye Caulker we waited, crossing our fingers that our bags would come off. Sure enough, they did and the fellows loaded them on a cart and dragged it down to the end of the jetty. Once on solid ground we loaded up the backpacks and headed down the sand road to find our hostel, being greeted all along the way by friendly people, not all of whom were trying to sell us something.

The Go Slow hostel was basic but clean and comfortable and perfect for us. Anita and I made final arrangements with Raggamuffin and Sue and Barb searched Trip Advisor for dinner recommendations. Around the block Chef Juan was grilling lobsters. YUM! That and the key lime pie were perfect and the price….Wow. $12.50 USD for lobster dinner?!

Our after dinner walk showed me just how much the place had grown in the 10 years since I’d been here last. There are now more than 3 streets, a lot more than 2 general stores, an assortment of accommodations and SO many restaurants and tourist places! It’s still got the relaxed, friendly vibe though.

Caye Caulker front street

Caye Caulker, front street toward the split

Wednesday, October 31
I filtered a bunch of water to save purchasing plastic water bottles. I highly recommend the sawyer mini water filter. It works great and you can drink the water anywhere.   In Canada you can purchase the sawyer filter on Amazon.
Breakfast was at Amor Y Cafe which is still owned by the Dutch lady I met there 10 years ago who got me started eating yogurt, fruit and granola for breakfast. She makes her own yogurt and granola. It’s not cheap but is SO worth it.
Anita and I swam across the Split. I tested the current about half way and it wasn’t bad so we continued. On the other side we met a man who pointed in the direction we should snorkel. Soon we noticed an increase in the current so headed back. That was a tough swim! Oops. After that we stuck close to the jetty where most of the fish were anyway.
Lunch was at a place recommended by some of the locals called Aunties where I enjoyed a chicken leg with rice and beans.
The afternoon was spent walking and exploring. We went all the way down the south island past the airfield and all the fancier hotels and resorts. They’re all quite a hike from town and the beaches are piled with debris that really stinks. So not worth it!
We got caught in the rain a few times but it’s hot so not a big deal. We found the conch wall and later even the sea-horse ranch. The sea horses were hiding so we’ll have to go back.
The pouring rain made more exploring uninviting so we spent a couple of hours lounging, doing internet stuff and reading until it finally let up enough to venture out for dinner. Trick or treaters were out in full force. Some on bikes, some being driven by parents in golf carts but most were walking.
Dinner at the Happy Lobster was a really good chicken quasadilla.

Conch wall on the Southern side of Caye Caulker

Sea horse ranch

November 1
Despite the rainy forecast, the sun was hot and bright today. I took off early to check out the seahorse ranch and was rewarded by seeing one bobbing around, feasting on moss.
I came back to get the others and we went to the viewing dock to watch the tarpon then hit up Errolyn’s for stuffed fry jacks. They were REALLY good and very filling.
We worked that off and lost 10 lbs in sweat on a walk to see the rest of the island, then spent the rest of the day at the Split, swimming, snorkeling and relaxing.
Lunch was a smoothie before our meeting with Raggamuffin to confirm our trip and get the details on the 3 day sailing trip.
Our barbecued lobster later at Dee  and D’s was wonderful, as was the service by Brent and Brent. .The location on the lee side of the island is perfect and we watched the sunset while eating at a picnic table on the beach. Nice!

November 2

We’d sorted out the baggage situation and dropped off the stuff we’re not going to use for the next three days at the boat, then went across the street for breakfast. The yogurt, fruit and granola was good and we got a lot of fruit but more expensive as Amor Y Cafe

There were 14 other passengers besides we four, plus 4 crew that sailed off to explore the Meso American Reef (second largest in the world) for the next 3 days. Someone spotted a turtle. We all enjoyed the dolpins swimming alongside the boat. After 2 snorkel stops we arrived at Rendevous Caye where we set up tents, had an amazing dinner and crashed for the night.

Lobster fishermen

Sting ray

jelly fish

Raggamuffin Sailing, Goff’s Caye

Rendevous caye

Osprey

Early morning snorkeling from Rendezvous Caye

I was up with the sun so packed up my stuff and was in the water shortly after 6 am, snorkeling. After breakfast and another quick snorkel we sailed off again. Folks took turns supervising the fishing rods off the back of the boat. The crew also went spear hunting as we snorkeled so we enjoyed a variety of fish for dinner both nights.

Our accommodations at Ragga Caye exceeded expectations. They said we had a bunk house which I figured meant we’d all sleep together in one big room. Nope. There were 3 rooms with 4 beds each. Two ladies upgraded to a cabana and another couple opted to pitch a tent. There’s even a shower using rainwater collected over time. Luxury!

The fellows again prepared an amazing dinner of barracuda and jackfish caught while sailing and again, we crashed early. Lots of fresh air and early mornings means early bed time!

Raggamuffin Sailing

Trumpet fish

I chased these little guys a lot as I think they’re gorgeous. The spots are luminescent!

Sting ray

Barracuda!!

Barracuda for dinner

parrot fish

Barb caught a jack fish! Yummy dinner tonight

Yellow sting ray. Apparently poisonous

Raggamuffin Sailing

Sunday, November 4
It would have been a great night’s sleep if it weren’t for a barking dog. Even on a tiny island….dog. I went to the bathroom at day light and it lunged at me. It’s a big german shepherd so scared the crap out of me! I probably screamed loud enough to wake the dead.  Oops.  Sorry to those who weren’t awakened by the dog :/

Our first stop was a manatee sanctuary. Some saw one but I wasn’t so lucky. Next was a snorkeling stop near an exclusive caye that was beautiful but it being a windy day, was really rough.

Back on Ragga Caye we enjoyed our last amazing meal courtesy of chef Linton and his helpers, Dane and Marvin.  The Raggamuffin team are a lot of fun and I highly recommend the 3 day sailing trip with them.

A man named Furman came with a shuttle boat to pick us all up and take us to Stann Creek, Dangriga. There we negotiated a shuttle to Hopkins where we checked into the Funky Dodo. Everyone is incredibly friendly and helpful!

Ragga Caye

Ragga Caye Bunkhouse

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2 thoughts on “Panama layover. Caye Caulker! Sailing the Meso American Reef.

  1. Pingback: Belize! A couple days in Hopkins and the Cockscomb Basin Sanctuary | Where in the world is Grandma?

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