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Should you pick Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker

Whether to visit Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker is a question that every travellers who goes to Belize faces. Both lie in the Caribbean Sea just a few miles from each other and the mainland of Belize, but they are a world apart from each other in many ways. It’s a tricky one as both have their merits, and it really comes down to personal taste, and perhaps budget. Some people will defend the smaller Caye Caulker for its laid back atmosphere, while others will push for the nightlife and things to do on Ambergris Caye. Here’s everything you need to know to make the right decision for you.

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is the smallest of the two, at just 5 miles long and 1 mile wide, though in parts just100 metres wide or so. When you arrive on the island, you have a couple of choices for getting to your hotel – walk or golf buggy taxis. No vehicles are allowed on the island. During the high season, there are around 40 little hotels and guest houses, as well as a couple of dozen restaurants and bars, which close fairly early. It’s got a laid back atmosphere, with tiny little beaches flanked by shallow and calm aquamarine waters. Though it’s 5 miles long, much of the island is inaccessible due to dense mangroves. The island buildings are colourful wooden Caribbean shacks. Days can be spent on the little spits on beach, swimming or snorkelling in the ocean, paddle boarding or sea kayaking, or eating in the local restaurants. Towards the top of main island, there is ‘the split’, a break in the island caused by a hurricane in the 70’s. There are only 1,500 or so permanent residents on the island, though this swells with tourists during the high season.

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is much larger, with a population 10 times the size of Caye Caulker. It stretches for 25 miles and is up to a mile wide. The main town of San Pedro is much bigger than its Caye Caulker counterpart with hundreds of hotels and guest houses on offer. There are also countless bars and restaurants offering everything from Belizean to Italian cuisine. Ambergris Caye doesn’t have any cars either, but unlike Caye Caulker, the distances can be far, so it’s worth hiring a golf buggy to get around. Ambergris Caye is much more built up with large concrete buildings. The clubs and bars teem with tourists that spill out onto the beach and offer live music and cold drinks.

Both cayes offer access to the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, so this shouldn’t sway your decision. In conclusion, if you are looking for a quiet holiday in a more charming location, and don’t mind the lack of beaches or the limited variety of restaurants and bars, Caye Caulker is your island. If more choice for restaurants and nightlife is important, and you don’t mind the quicker pace, later nights, and noise, then stay on Ambergris Caye.

To visit either Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye, or any other part of Belize, call or travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

6 magnificent marine creatures you can see off Belize

The Belizean Cayes are a snorkeler and divers’ dream destination. The country is home to the second largest coral reef in the world, beaten only by Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The waters are inhabited by far too many marine species to name in a list (over 600 different fish species and 40 different types of coral), but here are the highlights.

Manatees

Arguably the highlight of any visitor to the Cayes is seeing a manatee, the gentle giants of the sea. These intriguing looking creatures are large, reaching over 3 metres in length. Though they spend their whole life under the sea, they come to the surface every half an hour or so to breathe. They are herbivores and live entirely off aquatic plants. Manatees live in small groups and tend to give birth to a single calf.

Dolphins

No introduction is needed for the world’s most playful marine mammal. If you take a boat out to the snorkeling or diving site, they tend to follow and jump in the wake of the boat. Once in the water, dolphins are equally inquisitive and tend to circle and nudge. Who wouldn’t want to see a pod of these magnificent creatures.

Nurse sharks

Snorkelling with nurse sharks is often the highlight. Though it sounds daunting for many, jumping into shallow waters with sharks is adrenaline-inducing. Fear not, these nurse sharks are harmless and have no teeth. Almost all full day snorkeling tours visit Shark Alley where it’s possible to get into the water with dozens of these sharks.

Spotted eagle rays

The most graceful marine creature in the waters. Spotted eagle rays glide elegantly feeding on mollusks, shrimp, small fish, octopus and crustaceans. They are superb swimmers and have the ability to jump out of the water up to several metres when needed. The biggest can grow up to a 3 metre wingspan and 5 metres in length.

Whale sharks

Though most of the marine creatures are there all year round, whale sharks migrate during the spring. They visit the reef called Gladden Gladden Split off Placencia, an area which is used by dozens of Caribbean fish to release eggs. Snorkeling with whale sharks is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. These harmless giants of the sea will happily allow swimmers to get close without reacting. April and May are the best months to see whale sharks in Belize.

Sea turtles

There are three main species of turtle in Belize – hawksbill, green and loggerhead turtles. Of the three, the hawksbill is the only one protected. Unfortunately, the others are hunted for their eggs and for their shells during the right season. One of the best places to see the huge loggerhead turtles is a the conch graveyard in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Here, enormous resident loggerheads wait for the fishermen’s’ conch and happily swim just feet away from eager swimmers.

To see the marine life in Belize for yourself, call one of our Belize experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or take a look at our suggested tours here.

10 things you should eat in Belize

Flickr: regan76

Flickr: regan76

Belizean cuisine has not quite made it (yet!) onto the international food scene. This is surprising. Belizean food is a fusion of Caribbean, Spanish, Mexican, African, and native Mayan. Along the coast and on the islands, be sure to steer towards the catch of the day. In land, mouth-watering chicken and beef stews thick with dark spices are common in most restaurants. Here’s 10 dishes you simply can’t leave Belize without trying.

Salbutes

Flickr: Krista

Flickr: Krista

A seriously popular street food, these tasty little morsels are made with fried tortillas packed with cabbage, tomatoes, avocados and chicken. Depending on how spicy you like your food, try topping with plenty of Marie Sharp’s pepper sauce (you’ll see it on every table in the country).

Grilled lobster

Flickr: A Cromwell

Flickr: A Cromwell

The importance of lobster to Belize’s economy cannot be overstated. In season, spiny lobsters (a smaller cousin to the Atlantic lobster found off Canada and the US), are in abundance. Along the shores of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, lobsters can be seen grilling on drum barbecues and are seriously good value. Grab a cold beer, stick your feet in the sand and tuck into a lobster covered in lemon garlic butter. Bliss. For the last ten years, the San Pedro Lobster Festival on Ambergris Caye kicks off lobster season and has been voted Belize’s best festival.

Boil ups

Flickr: Bernt Rostad

Flickr: Bernt Rostad

Boil ups are exactly what they say they are. Everything the cook has in from vegetables, fish, eggs and more are thrown into boiling chicken stock and served with bread dumplings. Simple, but really, really good.

Cochinita pibil

Flickr: Noonch

Flickr: Noonch

This ancient dish hasn’t changed much since the Mayans created it over a thousand years ago. Found on restaurant menus throughout the country, it’s made from marinated, slow-cooked pork and served with corn tortillas.

Fry jacks

Thiese puffed-up dough balls resemble something like a doughnut, albeit they are usually served as a savoury accompaniment to eggs and refried beans in the morning. Be sure to look out for stands selling stuffed fried jacks. These pockets of crispy good stuff are filled with everything from chicken, cheese, ham, eggs and beans, and at around US$2 make for a good value and filling breakfast.

Conch fritters

Flickr: Steve Grant

Flickr: Steve Grant

Another coastal favourite. Conch is roughly chopped and mixed with flour, pepper, onion, garlic, Habanero peppers. It’s then formed into little patties and fried until golden brown. Best eaten with Belize’s famous hot sauce.

Ceviche

Flickr: regan76

Flickr: regan76

Ceviche may be from Peru, but the Belizeans have taken it as their own. It also differs from its Peruvian counterpart. Almost like a chunky salsa – tomatoes, onions, sliced cucumber, coriander, lime juice and habanero peppers are mixed with par-boiled conch, shrimp, octopus or white fish, cooled and served with nachos. Though it can be found inland, it’s obviously best eaten near the sea on a sunny afternoon.

Johnny cakes

Flickr: stevemonty

Flickr: stevemonty

Johnny cakes are a stable of Belizean cuisine. These small savoury baked bread cakes made from flour and coconut milk are cut in half and filled with beans, eggs and cheese for breakfast. For a more filling lunch, try adding some chicken or beef. Though they are best eaten right out of the oven, they do last for several days giving them their other name, ‘Journey Cakes’.

Grilled fish

Flickr: Narisa

Flickr: Narisa

Belizeans know how to cook fish. It would be impossible to name every grilled fish eaten in Belize. Some to look out for include barracuda, snapper, grouper and lion fish. Depending on size, it’s usually served whole and accompanied by coleslaw, veg and rice and beans. On Caye Caulker, try Maggies, a tiny home restaurant near the northern Split.

Chimole

Chimole is also known as ‘Black Dinner’ due to its dark appearance. It’s a common homemade chicken stew made using spices and some black achiote paste.  It’s usually served with tortillas and boiled eggs.

Meat pies

Wiki: Alpha

Wiki: Alpha

Meat pies are a throwback to when Belize was a British colony. Light flaky pastry is filled with minced beef and gravy. Most top it with some of Belize’s famous hot sauce. They’re perfectly sized for mid-meal snack and can often be found on the carts of mobile street vendors.

Tamales

Flickr: ohocheese

Flickr: ohocheese

Tamales differ somewhat from their Mexican counterparts. Here, plantain leaves are used instead of traditional corn husks. Recipes vary depending on what part of the country you’re in, but are often served with cull, a thick gravy made from chicken stock. Mostly found inland, though they are occasionally found on the islands.

Want to try Belize food for real? Get in touch with our Belize travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans or see our example tours here.

What To Eat For Breakfast In Each Latin American Country

Breakfast in Latin America varies immensely between countries and also regions. You’re not going to, for example, find the same breakfast in the Andes to that which you will find on the coast, even in the same country. Below is just an example of some of the best things you can start you day on in each country.

Argentina – Medialunas

MedialunasFlickr/David

Argentinians, like many parts of Europe, prefer something small and sweet for breakfast. Medialunas are much like croissants, buttery crescent-shaped pastries that are perfect when smothered in rich dulce de leche and served with milky coffee.

Chile – Tostada con manjar

Manjar - ChileFlickr/Germán Poo-Caamaño

In Chile, the humble breakfast is simple fare. Typically Chileans will have tostadas covered with jam or caramel manjar.

Brazil – Bolo de Laranjá and tropical fruits

Fruit and cake - brazilFlickr/Turismo Bahia

Brazilians have a wide variety of breakfast foods. Delicious exotic fruits are always on offer but it may surprise you to know that cake is often eaten in the morning. An orange cake called Bolo de Laranjá is delicious and one of the most common.

Bolivia – Salteñas

saltenasFlickr/Rodrigo Galindez

Salteñas are basically smaller versions of their Argentine cousin, the empanada. Delicious baked pastries filled with a beef, pork or chicken and sometimes vegetables like peas. Vendors start selling these tasty morsels at 7am and they can quickly sell out.

Peru – Ceviche

CevicheFlickr/Ron Dollete

The classic Peruvian dish of ceviche is popular on the coast. A variety of raw fish marinated in lime and other citrus juices, chilli and onions and served with corn-on-the-cob and sweet potato.

Ecuador – Tigrillo

Tigrillo - ecuadorFlickr/Rinaldo Wurglitsch

A hearty mix of mashed green plantain, scrambled eggs and cheese, sometimes served with avocado and lime wedges.

Colombia – Changua

ChanguaFlickr/manuela y Daniel

Changua is a typical breakfast dish of the Colombian Andes and particularly good in Bogota. This simple soup of milk, spring onions, coriander, bread and poached eggs is an excellent way to start the day.

Uruguay – Bizcochos

Bizcochos Uruguay

Bizcochos is a term used for pastries in Spanish, and in Uruguay this usually means the croissant-like pastries that are very popular for breakfast. Similarly to Argentina these are accompanied by sweet milky coffee.

Panama – Tortilla Con Bistec

panama_tortillasWikipedia/Jdvillalobos

Panamanian cuisine is a reflection of its position between two continents and its diverse population. It draws influence from many of the countries that surround it. Typically breakfast includes corn tortillas with beef and onions.

Costa Rica – Gallo Pinto

Gallo PintoFlickr/regan76

Gallo pinto is the most commonly eaten breakfast in Costa Rica. A simply but delicious dish of rice and beans cooked in chicken stock and served with toast and eggs.

Guatemala – Desayuno Chapín

desayuno chapínFlickr/Phil

Desayuno Chapín (Chapín being the nickname for Guatemala) is a scrumptious hearty medley of scrambled eggs, refried beans, chirmol (tomato sauce), fried plantains, cheese and bread served with plenty of coffee.

Mexico – Huevos Rancheros

huevos rancherosFlickr/Kevin

This is typical of rural Mexico, usually served in the mid-morning. Fried eggs laid on corn tortillas are topped with plenty of extras including refried beans, avocado, chili sauce, rice and more.

Belize – Fry Jack

fry jacksFlickr/Larnie Fox

Fry Jacks are a stable of Belizean breakfasts.  These deep fried crispy dough pieces are often served with eggs, beans or jam and honey.

We have launched our new brochure. Get it hot off the press

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We are pleased to announce the publication of new brochure. This beautiful 96 page full colour booklet is packed full of our favourite hotels, country information, tours and maps to give you itchy feet and help with the planning of your next adventure in Latin America. To order you free copy, please get in touch.

A foodie guide to Belize

flickr/mariskar

flickr/mariskar

Belizean cuisine is a fusion food – a mix of Mexican, African, Caribbean, Spanish and of course Mayan. If in doubt, always steer towards seafood. Delicious catches of fish, prawns and lobster are freely available and extremely good value. Rice and peas are a staple for Belizeans and served with almost every meal. The dish differs from it Caribbean origins with the use of red instead of black beans. Note the subtle name difference, if you order ‘beans and rice’ you will be greeted with a plate the ingredients cooked and served separately. Another favourite among Belizeans are stews in various forms. Typical chicken, beef and fish stews packed with dark spices are commonly served in local restaurants. Black Gumbo or chimole is delicious and can also be found in most local eateries.

On most tables you will find Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce, made from habanera peppers, onions and carrots which is dolloped onto almost everything eaten and peeps up even the blandest of dishes. Breakfast varies from region to region. Typical Belizeans eat eggs along with refried beans served up on tortillas. Jonnycakes (a dry baked biscuit) and fry jacks (a deep fried batter dusted with sugar) are also commonly eaten in the morning. For a snack try conch fritters, delicious deep fried conch and batter balls. Belizeans also have their own take on empanadas – small meat filled pastries.  Much of the meat served in dishes is wild and fairly adventurous to the western palettes. Gibnut (a large rodent), iguanas, sea turtles, wild boar and armadillo are not uncommon. Please note wild game hunting is having an impact on the country’s environment so be careful what and where you eat.

Fruit in Belize is particularly abundant. Delicious ripe papayas, melons, bananas and mangos can be found almost everywhere. Vegetables however are a little harder to come by. Simple grated cabbage or potatoes are the only vegetables that typically adorn the side of a main dish. Wash everything down with fresh juices made from limes, oranges, mangoes and pineapple or try one of the many varieties of excellent Belizean beer. Guinness fans will be pleased to know that the stout is produced here and is readily available.

To start your foodie journey to Belize please see our holiday ideas.

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