of Belize's agua. © Josh
Upon arrival we were immediately surrounded by a
village of pastellic hues. Every other building was painted a bold shade of
yellow, pink and orange. Just walking through town felt like a trip through a
technicolour candyland. The vibrant green palm trees and crisp azul skies added
the final touches to paradise.
Caulker's motto is "Go Slow" and the entire population of 800 locals abide by
that philosophy. There are no paved roads, no cars and no stress. Enormous
pelicans gracefully coasting overhead like living, breathing kites add to the
ambience. The only ones in any rush here are the tiny lizards that scurry past
us as we lazily swing in our hammock.
A soothing coastal breeze prevents the island from boiling under the intense
Central American sun. This is definitely the tropics, the sun here means
business...You better "Belize" it!!!
Photo. Belize motto.
© Josh Cutler.
There are no paved roads, no cars and no stress.
The main reason Marna and I came to Belize was to experience its enormous
coral reef, the second biggest on the planet. We hired a local guide, Carlos, to
take us to some of the reefs highlights. Carlos was an amazing individual...like
a cross between Jacque Cousteau and Crocodile Dundee... We couldn't have asked
for a better individual to show us the hidden secrets of the reef.
We gathered our gear and boarded our boat...the appropriately named
Photo. S.S. Gypsy.
© Josh Cutler.
Our first stop was the Hol Chan Marine Reserve...an immense underwater
biosphere. It was like a coral metropolis...thousands of organisms competing for
space in this densely packed interspecies conglomeration. Fiesty moray eels
slither among multicoloured sea anemonies, as fluorescent purple lobsters scurry
under a glob of brain coral the size of our boat! The food chain was definitely
on display for the patient snorkeller.
We moved further down the reef...coasting through the aqua marine
As the boat anchored, Carlos signalled us to jump in the water quickly...a
turtle!!! The loggerhead coasted along without a care in the world. It appeared
oblivious to Marna and I swimming inches from its upper shell. We had seen a
couple in Maui...but we never imagined we could get this close.
|Photo. Small boat.
Belize is a real tropical paradise for swimming, but look up for the
© Josh Cutler.
The next stop on Carlos's magical mystery tour was the
appropriately named "Shark Ray Alley". From the second we anchored, six foot
sharks swarmed around the vessel hoping for some "chum" scraps to dine on. I
have to admit, after seeing one of these beasts inches from the boat I was
filled with a sudden sense of fear. Here I am...going to jump in the open ocean
filled with dozens of these unpredictable wild animals. I could see the headline
now: "Backpacker Devoured by Hungry Swarm of
I'm glad I took the "plunge"...It turned out to be the highlight of our trip
so far. In the water Carlos literally embraced one of the sharks and tamed it
long enough for us to touch it. The two of them looked like old buddies. He
flipped the beast over on its back and calmed it enough to open its mouth and
show us the numerous rows of piercing teeth.
Further down the reef, spotted sting rays the size of a dining room table
coasted right below our feet. They glided through the aquatic landscape unphased
by our presence. These creatures are massive...I never realized just how big
they can get.
Just when we thought life couldn't get any better a pod of dolphins flipped
around our boat as they splashed and played. What an extraordinary finale to
this "unbelizeable" day.
The following day, Carlos agreed to take us to another
amazing destination...Swallow Caye...Here, nestled amongst the mazes of mangroves is a chance to see
a side of nature that few will ever experience. Our boat coasted through the
untouched scenery until we reached a quiet lagoon, totally surrounded by a
twisted mess of mangrove roots.
|Photo. Mangrove Island viewed from plane. © Josh Cutler.
We were told to make as little noise as possible... It was important to be
calm and quiet to attract the reclusive and very shy manatee. We waited and
waited.... Then suddenly, bursting out of the water was a gigantic figure, the
size of a cow! It wasn't alone... moments later two more manatees flipped around
the water's glassy surface, inches from our boat!
Our patience paid off...pretty soon they were popping up everywhere...
Unbelizable! For a nature lover seeing such a rare peaceful creature in its
natural habitat truly warms the soul.
|Photo. Bright storefronts on Caye Caulker. ©
|Photo. Traffic on Caye Caulker, Belize. ©
One thing our guide book failed to mention about Caye
Caulker was the sheer awesomeness of a Belize sunrise.
Photos. Sunrise in Belize. © Josh Cutler.
|Photo. Josh and Marna enjoying the afternoon
on St. George Caye, Belize.
Four mornings in a row I awoke with the local roosters to witness a glimpse
of G-d's paint pallette. Smeared shades of orange, yellow and pink graced the
horizon in perfect harmony. Colours looked like they were right out of heaven's
Photo. More sunrise. © Josh
As the sun pierced the clouds it
highlighted their every dimension.
The morning sky appeared like it was caught in a raging
wild fire. For a brief moment in time my eyes tasted a glimpse of the
Some people believe the Midwest is G-d's country... I believe Belize is
where He goes on vacation.....
Josh Cutler, 4 November 2004
Josh Cutler has been interested in travel
as far back as age 5. Growing up, he would spend countless hours reading and
rereading the world atlas. While most other children played with Star Wars
figures and Big Wheel Bikes, Josh's favourite toy was his globe. His country of origin is the USA (from the
Philadelphia area). He currently lives in Ventnor, New
travels led him to Mexico and
Central America. Then, at age 25 he quit his job and spent months exploring
Western Europe and North
Africa. It was a life altering experience to
live out of a back pack for such an extended period of time. As much as he
saw...his hunger for travel and exploration seemed to grow
Photo. Josh Cutler is an adventure
traveller, photograph and freelance journalist from the USA.
passion was travel writing. He has had several articles published by Lonely
Planet and Globe Trekker."My greatest joy is experiencing different
cultures, religions and lifestyles...then being able to convey my visions
through words and description to those back home."
Josh has visited
over twenty countries including Peru,
and most of Europe. For further information, assignments,
articles and photos, Josh Cutler could be contacted on e-mail:NYCutler@aol.com.