Staying at a cat sanctuary in Caye Caulker, Belize for Lobster Fest

Leaving Mexico for the second time, this time heading south to Belize with Emma and Marsha. Everyone on the Gringo Trail follows the path down to Caye Caulker, an island known for it’s great snorkling spots, dive sites, Jamaican influences and wildlife. This was the first time also that I’d visited a country in Central America whose first language is English (or rather a creole “yes-maan” version of English) which was a nice change after 2 or so months of being in Mexico and Cuba.

I’d emailed Yuma’s House – a hostel that was top-rated on TripAdvisor – asking for a room however I got an email back when we were close to the Mexican/Belize border that they were fully booked so I scrambled and booked us in a place called “Pause Hostel” which had good-to-average reviews.

When we arrived, I realised that this was the cat sanctuary hostel that I had been told about – there was around 80 stray cats that were being looked after by volunteers here in around 4 different cat houses dotted around the hostel.

When we walked in, the girls immediately turned their noses up at the place. “It smells of cat piss” Marsha said – she was right, but I was happy with everything else – they had an amazing dock to chill on, hammocks, a tiny beach with loads of wildlife in the water (including a massive sting ray that visited us after every sunset), kayaks that were free to use whenever you felt like a paddle, and more. The place was a little quiet though with not that many other travellers about at the time so we decided to check the local party hostel close-by called “Dirty McNastys”. That place looked like your standard hostel with not much going on to note of so we headed back to Pause Hostel and settled in. Predictably,  the girls ended up falling for the place and affectionately called it “The Pussy Hostel” whenever anyone asked where we were staying.

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Pause Hostel (aka “The Pussy Hostel”) in Caye Caulker, Belize [Download image for VR]

We arrived on the weekend and were told that the following weekend there was a big event happening on the island called “Lobster Fest” where natives from mainland Belize and a number of other tourists come down and have a 3-day long festival with music, food and of course lobsters being cooked on the grill everywhere. It was an easy decision to decide to stay for the week and wait for the festival to begin.

The first night on Caye Caulker was typical of a night that I couldn’t have experienced anywhere without having travelled to foreign lands. It started at a nightclub called I-and-I, your typical bar/club playing pretty terrible commercial music (heading to the rasta-influenced Caye Caulker, I was hoping for some reggae/dub). Instead of heading home however, we were invited by a local to take his boat to the afterparty (a good taxi ride away) so we decided to head with him. Thus began a surreal night of rum-fuelled boat trips around the island until the sunrise. See my Snapchat story of this night here.

We’d heard that the snorkling on Caye Caulker was pretty good and seeing as I planning to learn to dive on the island of Utila in Hondurus (known for being one of the best and cheapest places to dive in the world), a snorkling tour was always on the cards for us. The girls randomly met a local at the Lazy Lizard bar (an awesome spot to catch sunsets) who arranged the most unofficial of tours for us on his boat with a number of other people (at half the price of most other “official” tours).

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On the boat of our rather unofficial snorkling tour [Download image for VR]

Predictably, the tour started a full hour late, by which point it had started pelting down with rain. The tour began regardless, and soon we were out of the storm and at shark ray alley, a spot in the ocean that I couldn’t believe. Here was a place where the water was shallow enough for you (or at least me :P) to stand on the sea floor, and was completely SWARMING with sting rays, nurse sharks and massive snappers. All the fish gather around the boat whenever they hear the motor go off as they recognise that they are about to be fed, so we jumped in and got to swim with more fish than I’ve seen in most aquariums. There were so many in fact, I was worried about jumping in without landing on one of them.

Rum punch was shared around the boat (along with a couple of joints) and we all took turns to fish with a line and some bait. After the storm returned, we were told it was best to head back to the shore so we missed a couple of other snorkling spots on the trip but I had already seen more then I’d expected by a mile in a single snorkelling spot. The tour ended with the captain of the boat inviting us to his home in the ghetto of Caye Caulker and cook our catch for each of us. We finished the night with a dance and drinks at the sports bar in the middle of the island. See my Snapchat story of this night here.

As we had only visited one snorkelling spot on the first tour, I decided to try a more official tour and try my hand at being on a sailboat for the first time. Raggamuffin Tours offered a sailboat tour for more expensive then most others but you get to chill on a proper sailboat as opposed to a speedboat where you’re whisked from spot to spot so I felt it was worth a shot. Annoyingly, I didn’t see much more then that first boat trip I did (although did spot a sea turtle in the wild for the first time) but the sailboat experience itself was so good that it felt worth it. It also ended with us having ceviche on the dock watching the sun dip on the horizon. 

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On the Raggamuffin sailboat snorkling tour [Download image for VR]

There were more power cuts on this island then anywhere I’d visited before. On one occasion we were sitting in the lounge area of our hostel when all the lights suddenly went very bright for a brief second or so. We heard what sounded like a firework bang go off and then the power suddenly went down. It turned out that one of the power boxes nearby had caught fire and blew up (no one was hurt) and we were without power for around a day. This isn’t usually a huge issue aside from the fact that it was hot as hell in our dorm (even when the fans worked) and the water for some reason had also stopped working.

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On the dock at Pause Hostel where we spent much of our days/nights [Download image for VR]

This happened around 3 times in the week or so we were on Caye Caulker, including one night during the Lobster Festival when all the electricity on the entire island shut off and we were in complete darkness for 30 seconds or so before people started getting their phone torches out and the food stalls took out their temporary lighting. For a brief 20 minutes or so, the place seemed to turn into a booze-filled war zone, with drunken locals shouting and close to starting fights with one another, and the stores putting up their metal bars and closing off their stores so seemingly not get looted. 

There was a beautiful moment I’ll never forget during that brief time however, and that was when I briefly glanced up and noticed the night sky. As we were on an island away far enough from any mainland, and there was currently no lighting on the entire island, the sky was awash with more stars then I’ve ever seen. I kept my gaze at the heavens in awe until the lights returned and noticed how many almost immediately disappeared. It was a moment that reminded me of one of my ambitions on this trip to see our Milky Way galaxy with my own eyes. I’m still in hope that this will happen.

After Lobster Fest was over, we packed up once again to cross another border into Guatemala and onto Flores with our new travel buddies Jack and Leong who I’d end up travelling with for the next month or so.

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Sitting on the dock at Pause Hostel with our new travel buddies [Download image for VR]

Other random memories from my time in Caye Caulker

  • Standing in the middle of one point of the island and being able to see both shores on either side of me
  • The masses of crabs that came out at night on the island, including our pet one that lived under our dorm
  • Meeting Steve the German and chilling with him on two separate nights during two blackouts and reminiscing about the glory days of nu metal and rock
  • Eating lobster at Terry’s Grill, who has just one rule, and that’s to be yourself
  • Causing a dorm evacuation due to an unintended release of toxic fumes…
  • Marsha and her island boy
  • Megan and her total affection for all the cats she looked after
  • Meeting Leong and Jack for the first time (who we later travelled through Guatemala with)
Post Author
Rish

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  1. posted by
    First stop in Guatemala: Flores & the epic Mayan ruins of Tikal – 360Backpacking
    Dec 4, 2016 Reply

    […] the two dutchies Emma and Marsha, as well as Jack and Leong who we’d met on the island of Caye Caulker, Belize at our previous stop. The first destination was a small town called Flores – a pretty but […]

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