Castaway into Belize’s Atolls & Cayes …..
Escape for a day, a week or even longer and retreat into a tropical multi-caye paradise, first made home by the infamous Blackbeard (Edward Teach), and experience why you’d want to conquer its precious beauty. As legend and history states, it was on a caye hidden here with the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, that the notorious King of Pirates would spend his winters idling away the hours. He made this his paradise outpost, where he’d harass passing sailing ships that entered to and from the Bay of Honduras, which indents the coastlines of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. Fact is, many pirates favored this Bay of Honduras, back then known as the Bay Colony, making it their home-port for several reasons – they could hang out in the waters just outside of Belize’s coral reef (the Turneffe Atoll) making it easy for them to raid Spanish ships carrying gold and silver back to the King of Spain. The pirates would then flee in their much smaller vessels through various openings along the reef and into the protected waters of Belize and hide where the deeper Spanish ships couldn’t follow. Inside the reef they found all these perfect little off-shore tiny islands which made for perfect hidden outposts, allowing them to wait out bad weather, work on their boats, hunt for meat, fish the rich waters of the Atoll, drink themselves silly and party under the stars. Some of the other pirates who have made the who’s-who list of having laid claim to making this area their “paradise outpost”, ranges from Edward Lowe, Captain Charles Johnson, Bartholomew Sharp, and Captain Henry Morgan himself.
Possessing some of the finest stretches of white sand in Belize and 180-degree sea-views from anywhere on the the tiny island of South Water Caye, slumber in the luxury cabanas and dozens of hammocks swaying from coconut palms at Pelican Resort. Sit atop the Belize Barrier Reef while falling asleep under the starry skies on lost Tobacco Caye. Explore all 18-kilometers of Laughingbird Caye, one of the most photogenic islands in all of the Caribbean which has made it on the World Heritage Site list for its national park and mini-atoll status. Focus your lens on the most photographed island in all of Belize, on Silk Caye, whose crystalline waters are filled with stingrays, barracudas and lobsters. Lounge in a little-known paradise-getaway on St. George’s Caye and kayak this national landmark. Sample the best of island-infused cuisine such as freshly-caught lobster grilled to perfection and drink rum-infused libations while listening to the hypnotic island drum-beats. Stroll the laid-back white-sandy streets where only bicycles roam and catch the “go-slow” vibe of Caye Caulker. Dock yourself at Hatchet Caye and dwell in charming oceanfront cabana-living. But perhaps one of the most coveted Belizean islets is the world-renowned Blackbird Caye, for it is exactly here that the real jewel of the Caribbean can be found, and one that may pirates have certainly coveted…The Meoamerican Reef System. Situated in these pristine waters is an unspoiled under-water natural beauty of idyllic proportions, known as the Turneffe Atoll, which stretches more than 620-miles. This small group of marine-reserve islands has the second longest coral reef in the world. Within the Atoll, you will encounter a mesmerizing seascape that consists of an intricate network of highly productive sandy flats, creeks, lagoons, over 200 mangrove islands and charming cayes with savanna-forests. Along the shallow seagrass habitat that encompasses the 40-miles long x 10-miles wide area, there’s a wide array of 500 species of fish, lobster, conch, stony corals, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins, seabirds and other wildlife. Offering some of the highest biodiversity in all of the Caribbean, Turneffe Atoll offers a well-developed reef encircle the entire island chain making it the prefect location for divers, snorkelers, fishermen and kayakers. Situated on the windward side of Blackbird Caye, sits Blackbird Caye Resort, nestled within 4,000-acres of remote jungle and lush palm trees. The resort overlooks an iridescent turquoise lagoon, protected by the Atoll’s dramatic reef and rim walls which can be reached 100-feet off-shore from the property’s beach. For the snorkeling and diving enthusiasts, it’s hard to beat the staggering beauty of the Blue Hole for spectacularly diversity. Half Moon Caye, another favorite small island within the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, is a strong second must-dive bucket list location. There are few places in the region where you can spot eels and where the reef is packed tight with groupers, toadfish, razorfish, yellowtail snapper, spotted eagle rays and mantas. And if that’s not enough, dive deeper within “The Aquarium”, a breathtaking dive site of crystal-clear waters with visibility up to 80-ft, located within the same Atoll system. Dubbed a living-aquarium because it’s bursting with rich and colorful aquatic life and massive schools of Master Snappers, Creole Wrasse, Queen Angelfish, Banded Butterflyfish and Honeycomb Trunkfish. You will be awestruck with all the natural “loot” that can be found within these precious waters – just follow dive-hunters’ myths and lore to discover ancient Aztec gold buried deep within a sunken ship and encounter with the gentle whale sharks.
Whether you seek to dive into this legendary water-world of Belize’s Atolls, or cast a reel fishing its sandy-bottom flats for bonefish, permit and tarpon, this premier paradise beckons you. So grab your raft, your kayak or your wooden sailing ship and venture out into these distant cayes and atolls, frolic in endless days of merry-making, sway in a hammock under the Milky Way, or bunker down on a deserted-island with a few bottles of rum or local beer and ride out the storms. I’m certain once you encounter with this mesmerizing aquatic world, you’ll surface and emerge a true swashbuckler, one who is happily lost in a perfect paradise outpost fit for any wanna-be pirate.