There are a seemingly endless number of water-related activities available when visiting Caye Caulker, Belize. However, there are few activities that provide the conflicting mixture of tranquility, exercise and excitement during a single outing as a kayaking trip around the island in the Caribbean Sea. As with any outdoor activity, you should use common sense and remember there are some inherent dangers to watch out for in these beautiful and alive waters while kayaking Caye Caulker.
Where to RENT a Kayak on Caye Caulker
There are several places on the island where you can rent a kayak for a reasonable hourly rate. But be sure to ask questions and know their late return policy. Some places will charge you for an additional hour even if you’re just a few minutes late returning. I opted to purchase a used kayak from a local expat. Since we were staying for an extended period of three months, I preferred the convenience of my own craft without the worry of accumulated rental fees, return times and late penalties. This also allowed me to become proficient with a specific kayak and its handling in heavy currents and choppy waters. In addition to the kayak, I decided to buy a quality adult life jacket. There are normally a lot of boats out on the water in the area but I found myself alone several times while kayaking Caye Caulker. Better safe than sorry is a wise adage.
Where to Kayak on Caye Caulker
The majority of my outings were along the leeward (western) side of the island. The water on this side is essentially smooth and the currents are mild. On leisurely outings, I took the time to peruse abandoned and broken piers, beach front vacation homes, as well as the older, but no less colorful, wooden shacks and cabanas of the locals. I also investigated narrow inlets where you can touch mangrove branches on both sides of the boat simultaneously. The root systems are home to many species of fish. Cormorants, pelicans and a variety of colorful tropical birds use the limbs and leaves for protection of their nesting communities. Unfortunately, I quickly learned these spots were also favorites of millions of hungry mosquitoes. Insect repellent is another must have while kayaking Caye Caulker.
What You Might See While Kayaking Caye Caulker
On one outing, I followed a six-foot nurse shark for several minutes, trying unsuccessfully to get close enough for a memorable photo. On another occasion, I observed a large crocodile gliding around a small mangrove island. I struck off swimming near mangroves as a practice after that. A favorite photo stop was one of the many fish and lobster cleaning stations built out in the open water. These covered wooden platforms are used by the local fishermen as a location to clean their catches without having to discard the unwanted remains on shore. Several varieties of brightly colored fish, along with the ever present gulls, pelicans and cormorants, take advantage of the shade provided and make the stations their afternoon hangout.
A Challenging Kayak Near Caye Caulker
My most challenging trip was a ten mile jaunt around the southern tip of the Caye and out to the reefs in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The route took me to the Caribbean (eastern) side of the island where the water is much choppier and there are some rather severe rip tides. After more than two hours of hard paddling, I finally reached the Reserve with a well-deserved sense of pride. The return effort battling the currents was a lot tougher and a little unnerving. After nearly 90 minutes and only meager progress, I swallowed my newly acquired pride and gave into to the tide, landing on the eastern side of the island. It made for a lot of sweat and amused stares as I dragged the kayak back home through the town’s dirt roads.
Plan Your Kayaking Caye Caulker Adventure with Safety in Mind
- Talk to the locals for the best kayaking routes, degree of difficulty and estimated time length for each.
- Choose a route and make sure friends and family are aware of the route, your departure time and planned return time.
- Ensure you have a tethered paddle. I witnessed several folks having to be towed in by powered boats after losing hold of their paddle.
- Swallow your machismo and wear a life jacket.
- Bring plenty of fresh water.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses.
- Wear lots of sunscreen and insect repellent.
- Take a waterproof or underwater camera.
- Don’t over estimate your abilities and/or underestimate the degree of difficulty of your route.
- Relax and have fun!