La Isla Bonita, San Pedro, Belize
Last night I dreamt of San Pedro
Just like I’d never gone, I knew the song
A young girl with eyes like the desert
It all seems like yesterday, not far away
Tropical the island breeze
All of nature wild and free
This is where I long to be
La isla bonita
And when the samba played
The sun would set so high
Ring through my ears and sting my eyes
Your Spanish lullaby…
“La Isla Bonita” was written by Madonna, Patrick Leonard, and Bruce Gaitsch about San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize. And, also, my first stop on my childhood bucket list. December 2010, this also marked my first international trip alone. Yes Madonna,… tropical breezes and hot sunny days along with turquoise waters as valuable as the gem to paradise hunters such as myself. But the biggest draw to Belize is the barrier reef. The 2nd largest in the world. Home to some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world.
One of the more popular excursions on the island is the snorkeling tour in ‘shark ally’. Yes, SHARKS… stingrays, barracudas, and tuna darting in and out to feed in the oceans super market, the reef. Always cautious of their surroundings and quick to dart back into the deep. The clarity of the tropical ocean is amazing with 40 feet of visibility.
And, if your lucky, you’ll be greeted by a turtle, like one did as I jumped out the boat he was in the water to say
hello. And as quickly as I jumped in the water with anticipation, the turtle was gone. Did I startle him or was it the reef
sharks heading our way?
Let’s get this straight, I’m in no hurry to die. I only chose to swim with the reef sharks and stingrays because I knew the local fishermen had domesticated these fish. ‘Shark ally’ is the spot the fishermen use to clean their catch before heading into town. Dumping the scales and guts over the side of the boat for the sharks to eat. With the reef shark and stingrays timid nature and there, now, dependence on the fishermen, tourist flock here to swim among them.
I do have to admit, I did encounter one of the scariest moments of my life here in Belize. The Coral Gardens is an area where the ocean is filled with multiple species of hard and soft coral such as large elk horn coral, brown & purple sea fans, pencil coral, bright orange stag horn, and yellow tube sponge coral. They grow so large here you can hide behind them. During a snorkel trip here, I decided to swim in the opposite direction than the rest of the tourist as they were to noisy and just disturbed the water. After half an hour I see a large gray figure swimming through the gleaming sunlit water swimming in a perpendicular direction. I quickly come to a complete stop as I realize this is no ordinary fish. It’s a five foot shark, not any ordinary shark, a blue shark. One of the more aggressive sharks in the ocean. He must not have a taste for Filipino as the shark just kept swimming out of my field of vision. Needless to say, I swam as fast as I could back to the boat, sideways, keeping my eyes focused behind me in case the shark changed direction while my fins cut through the water. Sorry,… I didn’t get any pictures, I was to busy swimming for my life.
Blessed or lucky? I’ll take either one since I’m still here in one piece.
San Pedro is the largest of all the towns in the over 200 islands along off the coast of Belize. The town is
picturesque and surrounded by turquoise waters and home to over 10,000 people.
Low rise hotels, guest houses and boutique style resorts & condos, from modest to magnificent, are nestled along the coast and throughout the town. The larger resorts with all the amenities are further down the coast and the most popular way to get to town is by water taxi. Golf carts and bicycles are the common mode of transportation in town, or try walking since the town is only about a mile long. Restaurants and bars line the coast right along the sand. Finding a meal hear was just a few steps away. At night, I, along with the hundreds of tourists would walk along the sandy coast to find the right place for a meal. Créole and Spanish inspired cuisine is the name of the game here. English may be the official language in Belize but Créole is widely spoken in the islands and along the coast and Spanish in the interior of this small country.
My only one regret is not seeing the ‘chicken drop’ at the Spindrift hotel. Just a large party on the beach where you can buy a square, represented by a number, and if the chicken drops (poops) on your square you win the pot. I wanna go back just to be a part of the party.