Island Roots Eco Tours Caye Caulker is one of the many tour companies located on this beautiful island off the coast of Belize. I have used many of them over the years I’ve been visiting Caye Caulker, but Island Roots gave us the most personable experience I’ve ever enjoyed. We only had a group of four, which didn’t meet their minimum, so we paid extra to go out anyway. It was like we had our own private tour with Island Roots Eco Tours Caye Caulker and it was delightful. Pops and Sophie are funny, knowledgeable and hands-on people whose love of the Caribbean easily splashes over onto everyone they meet.
Feeding the Tarpon with Island Roots Eco Tours Caye Caulker
I’ve been taken to see the tarpon before, but this time was over-the-top superior. Instead of just looking over the side of the boat at the humongous game fish, we fed them. And by ‘feeding them,’ I don’t mean throwing some dried fish food over the side of the boat. We actually held a dead sardine in our hands, held them out and down, and these gigantic carnivores jumped a couple feet out of the water to take the bait. We did this several times and I can assure you, it caught our breath every time.
We also fed a few of the frigates hanging around overhead, and had we not just experienced the adrenaline rush of feeding the tarpon, that would have been pretty exciting as well. (But it was still fun.)
Snorkeling Portion of Our All-Day Tour with Island Roots Eco Tours Caye Caulker
We made two snorkeling stops on this tour, and admittedly, they were the same two spots you’ll visit on all of the other snorkeling tours offered on the island: Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark-Ray Alley. This was my fourth trip to both, so if I sound a little lacking in enthusiasm, that’s why. But for first timers to the area, these both are a must-see.
We spent 30 minutes or so in Hol Chan and Sophie led us to a beautiful wall. The coral before the drop off was filled with all kinds of wonderful sea creatures. On the way there we even stopped to view a beautiful moray eel. Sophie coaxed it out of its hidey-hole and let us each get a good long look at its magnificent aquatic ballet.
But the shining star of this snorkel for me was spotting a spotted eagle ray just hanging out in the deep a few yards from the wall. I’ve snorkeled in dozens of spots and this is only the second eagle ray I’ve ever seen while in the water.
Lunch on Board The Squall with Island Roots Eco Tours Caye Caulker
Lunch was provided on this all-day tour with Island Roots Eco Tours Caye Caulker. And like most of the other tour companies I’ve used, it consisted of chicken (in this case fried chicken wings), rice and beans and coleslaw, served in polystyrene takeout containers with plastic cutlery. As simple and ubiquitous as it was, however, we were all very hungry and it was delicious. As soon as our trash was safely stored our hosts began divvying out our fishing equipment: a reel of fishing line with a hook on the end.
Hand Line Fishing with Island Roots Eco Tours Caye Caulker
In case you’re not familiar with this type of fishing, hand line fishing is very common in the Caribbean. It appears you do not need an expensive rod and reel to catch lovely sized snapper for dinner. I had tried it a couple times from our dock here on Caye Caulker, but to no avail. However, Pops showed us the trick, after which we caught more than 20 gorgeous snappers.
I love fishing, and I can tell you without hesitation that pulling in those fish with a simple length of line and sardine for bait was exhilarating. And as usual, the one who caught the most was our friend from Virginia, Allison, who had never ever fished – not any type of fishing – before! It was great fun.
Lobster Hooking with Island Roots Eco Tours Caye Caulker
Here on Caye Caulker lobster season opens on June 15 each year. And before this tour, I thought 90 percent of lobsters were caught in traps. To my delight, they are not. (At least not here.) I am really bummed that I couldn’t participate in this activity, but you have to be able to free dive at least 10 feet or so, and my abundance of buoyance does not allow me to do that. I will however, describe the process, because at least I was able to snorkel and view it from a few feet above.
At the beginning of the season, Pops and Sophie go out into the sea in a clandestine manner. When they are sure they cannot be seen, they drop panels of corrugated tin into the water and then raise them up off the sea floor about six inches with cement blocks or boards. They then mark the exact location on their GPS and wait. Evidently lobsters like to shelter under the tin during the light of the day, and then come out to eat at night.
To retrieve these spiny lobsters (as opposed to the cold-water lobster of Maine), you use a hook. It is simply a sturdy rod with a hook somehow affixed to the end. Sophie would dive down, use her hook to tickle the lobsters out of their hiding place and then hook them in their abdomens. Once secured, she would surface, remove the lobster with her gloved hand (spiny lobsters are spiny, but do not have claws like Maine lobsters) and throw it into the boat. Then she would go back down for the next one. In addition to all the lobsters, she also brought up a couple of stone crabs. This was an awesome experience, even though I was just observing.
Dining on the Catch of the Day with Island Roots Eco Tours Caye Caulker
Now, if I haven’t yet convinced you of the above-and-beyondness of this tour just wait until you hear this. Once back on land our hosts hurried to unload and clean the boat. With those tasks completed, they cleaned the fish and prepared a wonderful seafood dinner for us all. Grilled lobster, steamed fish and potatoes all around. They will either prepare it for you ‘to go’ and take back to your quarters or you are invited to join them in a communal dinner on their rooftop overlooking the Caribbean Sea.