A view of Tobacco Caye
Writing about my travels is one of my favorite topics to cover on A Life In The Day of Andrea as I always include the photos I shoot whilst abroad. I must admit, I have not been very inspired lately in the realm of photography, and I knew that another trip with family to Belize would solve it. For ten days in August, I visited Belize with my parents, making it my eighth trip to the motherland. I brought my computer, but for the first time ever, I did not turn it on, and really took my time in the country as a serious vacation.
We had not made any concrete plans, but knew we would stay in Belize City for a bit of time, and venture south to Dangriga, where my mother’s cousin Sherry and her husband Warren live. For me, the spontaneous trips are some of the best. Whilst in Dangriga, enjoying nature and sipping on the freshest of coconut water, we were able to set up a day trip to Tobacco Caye with family friends; one who chartered a boat (as that is the only way to get there), and one who owned a property on the caye. My parents and I had never been to the caye, so for me, it was something new and exciting for us all to experience together.
Broken dock at Tobacco Caye
Belize as a nation was hit pretty badly by Hurricane Earl in early August, and its path was seen throughout the city and towns, with a plethora of debris, damaged docks, and structural damage to houses and buildings. Despite this, the people remained resilient, carrying on daily life and working through the destruction. At Tobacco Caye, Earl was present, mainly in the damaged docks, but aside from this, it was quite peaceful. Unlike larger caye destinations like Ambergris Caye where San Pedro is, and Caye Caulker, Tobacco Caye is tiny; stretching approximately three acres in the protected waters of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve which is a part of the Belize Barrier Reef.
We took the approximately 10 mile boat trip from Dangriga to Tobacco Caye in a group of eight family members and friends. As it was a day trip, we brought all of our provisions to make a proper Belizean breakfast, juices and coffee included, as well as lunch. A standard Belizean breakfast consists of fried jacks (a fried bread similar to bake in Trinidad) with a side of guava jelly, refried beans, scrambled eggs, juice and coffee.
Making fried jacks
My mother’s cousin Oswald is quite the cook, and prepared the dough for our fried jacks prior to the trip so we could just roll it out, and fry. My mother prepared the refried beans, and I made the scrambled eggs. Being in the kitchen made me really happy as it reminded me of my great grand aunt, a matriarch of our family who passed away when I was in high school. She lived in Placencia, which is also in the Stann Creek District, where Dangriga is.
Fresh caught lobster
Food is a constant, and just after breakfast one of the locals came by with some lobster he had caught. The photo above is of my cousin Sherry holding one of the catch. We had already brought our lunch of fried chicken prepared by my mother, and potato salad prepared by me, but when you are sold fresh lobster, you don’t say no! We got a few to save for a barbecue on another day.
Coconut, as you may already know, is a staple in the Belizean diet. Do you ever wonder how people get every last piece of the jelly out of the shell? Look above. I don’t know what this contraption is called, but it allows you to grind out every last bit of the coconut in the shell, so you can later soak to make coconut milk, or grate for desserts.
After the food escapades, my mother, Sherry, and I decided to take a walk to the other end of the caye to take a swim. The spot we chose was right off the dock at the Reef’s End Lodge, just feet away from the Belize Barrier Reef. In all my trips to Belize, I have never seen waters so crystal clear, and beautifully blue. As we were near the reef, we had to swim with water shoes as to not cut or scrape our feet. We were not near a living side of the reef, but the waters were perfect nonetheless, with varying current as you swam deeper into the blue.
Here I am fake posing for a photo in the water. I could have stayed in and swam in circles for eternity, truly. I felt so calm, so happy, so free, so without stress! It was in this moment that I realized how grateful I am to have such a wonderful family that allows me to discover a bit more of Belize each time I visit.
Immediately after getting out of the water (unwillingly), we had a little visitor in the form of a stingray. Stingrays and skates are native to Belize, and generally don’t bother you, unless, you are a terrible person. I would guess this ray was about three feet long. I don’t think it scared me much, but I was definitely happy to be out of the water before I saw it.
After returning from our swim, I walked around a little bit to find a nice quiet place to sit, relax, and take in the beautiful sound of the waves crashing against the reef. Just a few feet away from our property I found this single lounge chair, perched perfectly by the water. With camera in tow, I sat for about an hour, taking in the sights and sounds, snapping away at the natural beauty which enveloped me. Conch shells were magnanimous and I was so tempted to sneak one back with me, but my conscience set in. Why would I want to ruin something so naturally beautiful?
Although just a day, I truly found peace at Tobacco Caye. It is everything you would imagine from an island getaway, and then some.
*All photos by Andrea K. Castillo