Our chosen hurricane hole for this year was 20 miles up the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. Not only is this a secure place to leave the boat, but is an amazing cruising ground in its own right. With highlights including the Seven Sisters Waterfall, a hot springs in the river, Izabal Lake, a hot springs waterfall, tubing through a canyon, pristine jungle right at waters edge, restaurants you dinghy right up to, and an active cruising community I could write an entire article just on cruising the Rio Dulce. Sufficient to say, plan on more than a week or two exploring this hurricane hole.
After getting the Guiding Light back into the water when the off-season ended in November we explored The Rio a bit more and then headed back to Belize for another six weeks. This time we used Placencia as a base to explore the southern part of the country.
Except for Placencia there is really only one other place that offers all around protection south of Twin Cays and that is Pelican Cays, which is a two mile long collection of mangrove cays and fringe reefs with a basin that is 70+ feet deep right up to the reef coming almost out of the water. It has a little bit of everything and we enjoyed coming here several different times. The best part is having dinner with Dustin, Kim, and Ulma at Hideaway Cay.
We found out both Laughing Bird Cay and the Queen’s Garden are two more places that require a local guide to visit, but it did not matter because there are plenty of other islands that are just as good. For example, Moho Cay is a deserted gem of an island, Hatchet Cay is a posh resort that offers moorings and great snorkeling, and Ranguana Cay is the type of place you have to pry yourself away from with its great beach, fantastic beach bar, and good snorkeling.
But the gem of the southern Belize area for me was the Sapodilla Cays, which is the southernmost group of islands on the barrier reef and it has everything you could want…except for other boats. The Tom Owens Cays have several excellent snorkeling opportunities including a 30-foot wall dive off East Tom Owens Cay and a large patch reef SW of West Tom Owens Cay. Frank’s Cay has excellent shallow snorkeling on the southern part of the entrance of the reef protecting the bay. Nicholas Cay has the best beach. Hunting Cay is the headquarters and source of any info you need. Lime Cay has another beach and good snorkeling around it. Ragged Cay is in open water and surrounded with reefs that can be snorkeled if the seas and weather are calm enough.
With our time in Belize drawing to an end we planned on visiting the two other atolls with Glover Atoll first. We used the southern entrance to gain access to the atoll and anchored right next to the posh Manta Resort. The next day we stopped at Middle Cay to check out the park headquarters and do the nature walk around the island before heading to the Northeast Cays where we snorkeled the wall of the atoll for a truly magical experience. During our time at Glover Atoll we snorkeled several of the 600 coral heads in the lagoon.
Our final stop was to be Lighthouse Atoll so we could visit the Great Blue Hole before heading over to the Bay Islands of Honduras, but this was not to be. Unfortunately I made a mistake and got to see one of those 600 coral heads the wrong way. You can read about how we handled that emergency tomorrow.
We enjoyed our time in Belize, but be forewarned that it is one of the more expensive cruising grounds I have visited and the officials do not make anything easy. If you chose to visit you will find the Cruising Guide to Belize and Mexico’s Caribbean Coast by Capt Freya Rauscher to be invaluable since the charts of the area are not great…at all.