Once a hippie hangout and backpacker's haven, this laid back budget
destination is not as inexpensive as was a few years ago. It does,
however, remain, the easiest island to visit from Belize City as boats
depart every morning from the Shell Station near the Swing Bridge. The
boat trip costs $15 each way and with the new airstrip most flights
en route for San Pedro will stop on request.
St. George's Caye
This small caye, 9 miles North-East of Belize City, is steeped in
history and was once the home of buccaneers and pirates. Between
1650 and 1784 it was the first capital of the British settlement.
The island's greatest moment of glory came on 10th September 1798
at the Battle of St. George's Caye.
On this day the Baymen of Belize prepared to defend their tiny
against a Spanish invasion of 32 ships carrying 2,000 troops and 500
seamen. The Baymen's modest fleet consisted of one sloop -
HMS Merlin - with approximately 117 sailors and
troops on board, two sloops with 25 men each and seven
gun flats with 16 men each. The decisive battle was going to take place
in the waters around St. George's Caye.
At the sound of the first
gunfire about 200 colonial troops and Baymen, who had been left to
guard the mainland, could not be restrained from going to the aid of the
smacks, dories, pitpans and anything else that could float set
off with whatever arms could be mustered.
Incredibly, on that memorable
day - heavily outnumbered and against all the odds - the Baymen achieved a
decisive victory. Black men and white men fought courageously side by side,
miraculously without the loss of a single life! The Spanish were not quite
so fortunate and many of the dead are buried on nearby Caye Chappel. This
was the last attempt made by the Spanish to oust the British from Belize.
The Turneffe Islands
The Turneffe Islands, located about 25 miles South-East of
Ambergris Caye and 15 miles due East of Belize City form the largest of
Belize's three atolls and covers an area of some 205 square miles.
There was a flourishing natural sponge fishery at the turn of the century but disease
and competition from synthetic sponges brought this to an end
in the late 1930s. This
maze of mangrove-lined channels and tiny uninhabited cayes were once the
haunt of pirates who brought captured females here from Bacalar, just over
the Mexican border. Offshore, at
both the northern and southern end of the atoll, beautiful reefs and dramatic
walls offer incredible diving with great visibility.
Lighthouse Reef is a part of the atoll's oval reef structure and home to a
nesting colony of endangered, rare red-footed boobies. Lighthouse Reef
provides scenic underwater topology and offers excellent, varied diving.
A fascinating phenomenon at Lighthouse Reef is the "Blue Hole". A
mammoth-size cave, once dry as evidenced by stalactites, has been
submerged since the Ice Age. A portion of its ceiling collapsed at some
time, forming a blue hole more than 400 feet deep and nearly 1,000 feet