On November 30th, my wife and I left rainy Vancouver to visit Belize for the first time. Belize is a tiny country in Central America with a population of about 320,000. It is 290km long and 110km wide, you can literally drive around the whole country in one day if you wanted to. English is the official language which makes getting around very easy.
Due to our last minute booking we had to take four flights (Vancouver -> San Francisco -> Houston -> Belize City -> Dangriga) and a boat ride to reach our final destination, Coco Plum Island Resort. The last flight is on a small plane which lands on a tiny runway in Dangriga, just part of the adventure I suppose.
Coco Plum is on a small 16 acre private island about 15 minutes by boat from Dangriga. There are only 10 or so cabanas on the island, so it is very quiet and far removed from large resorts elsewhere in Belize. As soon as you arrive on the island, the staff make sure you are well taken care of. Bags are taken to your room, and the bartender makes you a tropical welcome drink. In our case, mosquito bites :)
The bar is a central hub of activity for staff and guests. Special thanks to Leo for being such a nice guy and a great bartender. Erwin, Bella, Sam, Crispin, and Byron also deserve special mention for making our stay fantastic. The roof of the bar is covered in t-shirts from former guests, each with its own message.
After check-in, we went to our cabana and were surprised how big they were. More than enough space for two people. Everything is very clean, well maintained and comfortable.
The ocean literally steps from the door.
The resort is beautiful, tranquil, and a great place to relax. Here are some shots from around the resort. The island in the photo below is another resort, Thatch Caye.
The long dock is one of the great features. During the day a place to relax. At night the lights attract rays, sharks (small ones, don’t worry), and squid. It’s also a good place to snorkel, we saw a lot of interesting creatures and I even found a huge live conch.
A large hermit crab.
Another type of crab which seemed to be unhappy about my presence.
Even an urchin which did a good job of hanging onto my hand.
The water is typical Caribbean: blue green, warm, and clear. Katie and I spent a lot of time snorkeling around the area. We also ventured out on most of the snorkel trips from the island to the local barrier reef. Belize has some of the best snorkeling I have encountered anywhere in the world and I have been to a lot of great locations. The reefs are still in great shape and there is a huge variety of coral, fish, and invertebrates. Spotted Eagle Rays are common.
A lobster trying to hide in the coral. The lobster here don’t have big claws.
This puffer fish was also trying to keep a low profile, but I spotted him.
There are also a lot of birds in the area, including pelicans.
We had a few nice sunsets while we were there, though not quite as good as we had in Thailand and Hawaii.
On some days, there are several inland tours you can participate in. We chose to visit the Belize Zoo, which is small but well laid out and quite natural. Animals have large pens with plenty of room for cover. Considering that this is a third world country, the animals were well kept. Unfortunately, when we were there it was raining and a lot of the animals were not visible. We didn’t get to see a jaguar, which is one of the big draws. It also made getting good photos harder, but here are a few from our visit.
On the say to the zoo, we also stopped at a gift shop that had captive Coatimundi. Similar to a racoon, they are very cute and curious animals. Unfortunately, they have to live in this small cage.
Being far removed from a large city there isn’t much light pollution and on a clear night there are a lot of stars visible. Though I have almost no experience with star photography I decided to give it a shot. Here you can see the mangroves lit up from a small amount of light on the island.
I also tried to ‘light paint’ some of the mangroves with a flashlight in a few of the shots.
One of the cabana at night.
While the snorkeling was great, I also enjoy scuba diving and went out with divemaster Steve for two dives (thanks to Byron for setting it up!). As expected, it was amazing. The reefs are teeming with life.
Here Steve swims with a green sea turtle. This guy didn’t seem spooked and just swam around with us for a while before moving on.
Pterois Lionfish are not native to the Caribbean, and are quite damaging to local species. They don’t have the same predators here that they do in their native waters, and their numbers are rising. They are strikingly beautiful fish (though poisonous so don’t get too close), but they should be removed from these waters when possible.
The variety of coral is just fantastic.
Some great camouflage.
Mangrove trees at sunrise. Shot straight into the sun, then converted to a sepia tone. I just liked the composition.
The dock at twilight, a few stars visible in the sky. In the evenings, the hut is converted to romantic dinner spot for two. I like the contrast of the warm red light in the hut with the cool blue and green tones of the surroundings.
We left a lot unseen in Belize, it will warrant a return trip some day.
A couple of people have asked what type of camera I used. I have a bit of info about some of my gear here, but specifically for these images I used:
- Nikon D800 DSLR camera
- Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 lens (the wide angle zoom)
- Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens (the normal zoom)
- Really Right Stuff TVC-33 tripod and BH-55 ball head
For the underwater photos, I use:
- Canon PowerShot SD870 IS Digital ELPH
- Canon WP-DC17 Underwater housing
The Canon camera and housing is a relatively inexpensive way to get decent underwater photos. The housing is good to 40m of depth and suitable for recreational diving. The major drawback is that I can’t shoot in raw and adjust white balance in post processing. White balance adjustments are needed much more for underwater shots then for photos on the surface. Unfortunately, I can only do so much with a jpg file.