ON THE FIRST DAY OF OUR ISLAND Expeditions’ Paradise Islands Lodge-to-Lodge kayak trip near the
tiny Belize island of Tobacco Caye, our guide,
Omar, demonstrated how to roll a kayak. He
then asked each person in our group to attach
the kayak spray skirt, which prevents water from entering the boat,
and deliberately capsize in 3 feet of
water, in case such an event was to occur later.
In that moment, I wasn’t sure if I was cut out
for an adventure kayak trip — not to mention,
I’m somewhat claustrophobic and have poor
swimming skills. Still, when our turn came, my
husband and I attached the skirts and ;ipped the
tandem kayak. A;er a slight panic attack under
the water, I managed to safely detach the skirt
and swim to the surface. A few bruises were the
only evidence of the fact that I had been ;ailing
like a maniac underwater.
;ings got better a;er the wet exit drill.
We used the a;ernoon to test out our snorkel
equipment o; the point of Tobacco Caye. As the
island is about 3 acres in size, walking from one
end to the other takes only a few minutes. ;e
water was clear, allowing us to see many di;erent
species of colorful ;sh; a pair of eagle rays swam
right by us, ;apping their spotted pectoral ;ns.
Back at our hotel, Tobacco Caye
Paradise, I enjoyed a rainwater-fed
shower and then rewarded myself
with a short nap in the hammock on the deck.
;e rustic lodge is not your typical all-inclusive
Caribbean resort, but its o;-the-grid, overwater
cabanas are comfortable. ;e sound of the ocean
lapping on the shore lulled me to sleep.
As evening approached, we sat on the dock
and watched a small mongrel dog named Delilah
eye a pair of giant southern rays swimming
below her in the crystal-clear water. ;e rays
had been drawn in by a mollusk ;sherman who
was cleaning his catch beside the dock. Soon,
the sunset painted the whole scene with shades
of pink and orange, and we headed back to the
lodge for a delicious grilled ;sh dinner.
;e next day, we paddled to another section
of reef, anchored one kayak to the ocean ;oor
and tied the rest of the kayaks together —
something we would repeat many times during
the ;ve-day trip.
Our explorations centered on traversing
South Water Caye Marine Reserve, the largest
marine reserve in Belize at 117,870 acres. Fishing
restrictions and a variety of protective measures
have allowed marine life to ;ourish here. We
witnessed a kaleidoscope of color through our
snorkel masks: coral in shades of purple, red,
tan and orange, surrounded by ;sh. Our two
local guides knew the names of all the creatures
below and above the water, taking care to point
them out to us on guided excursions.
On day three, we loaded all our gear in the
hatches of the tandem kayak and made our way
to the larger island of South Water Caye. Since
the wind was blowing, we attached sails to the
kayaks to make the journey easier. ;e water
This five-day lodge-to-lodge kayaking trip presents an intimate
look at Belize’s South Water Caye Marine Reserve
by DEBBIE OLSEN
Guests can see the
reef during a sea