When we were packing for our trip to St. George's Caye Resort a thought occurred to me: I should bring my paddleboard. It is an inflatable SUP so it wouldn't be that difficult to pack my clothes around the gear and get on the plane. My very sensible wife convinced me that the resort had boards available and that I would be able to get on the water at anytime. She also reminded that we were headed to the private, quite reserve of St. George's Caye to relax! So off we went sans board. I was cautiously optimistic that boards would be at the ready.
As we flew over the continent and we reached the east coast, the bright blue Belizean waters revealed themselves. I have see the water in Mexico, I have seen the water in Hawaii and I have seen the water in Bali but I have never seen water this colour before. It is vibrant. A real treat for my travelling eyes. As I peered out that airplane window all I could think about was, "When do I get to paddle?!". One of our hosts explained to us that there is a shelf along most of the Caribbean coast line. It is wide and an average of about 5' to 12' deep. Sounds perfect!
We were escorted from the airport to a boat waiting for us at a nearby dock. Getting to St. George's Caye Resort is a short boat shuttle from Belize City. It is only 7 miles making the trip quick. Arriving at the island we were greeted with smiling faces, a colourful refreshment and...there they were, all tucked away in a seaside rack – the paddleboards! My smile was ear to ear and my wife gave me that 'I am happy for you' and 'see, I told you there was nothing to worry about' look!
That evening it was all I could do not to jump on a board and go explore but we were being treated to the weekly Saturday evening beach bonfire and dinner. Wow, what a way to start an island vacation. We got to know some of the staff, introduced ourselves to the other guests and got acquainted with our new home for the next week. John, my business partner and fellow paddle addict, and I discussed our game plan for the next morning. We had some exploring to do.
The next morning after fresh coffee and a hearty island breakfast, we were ready. We checked out the selection of boards, sized up paddles and off we went. St. George's Caye is a small island. I think has a circumference of about 2.5kms (about a mile). There is a windward side and a leeward side. We chose to start on the leeward side. It is more sheltered and adorned with mangroves. The water is very peaceful and never very deep.
One of the first things we discovered was a manatee habitat. Who knew?! Right off the docks of the resort live a family of sea cows. We were hopeful to see one but know that sea life can be elusive. Not for us it seems! We saw a little splash from our standing view point so we went to investigate. Paddleboards are the perfect vessel for experiencing sea life. They are quite and your view point is much higher that a kayak or boat. As we got closer to the manatee we notice there were two – an infant and an adult. How cool! They saw us, swam right under the board and then swam away to mind their own business. We carried on through the mangroves back to the resort to report on our sightings.
That evening we were given a show by the Belize sky. Our first vibrant sunset was about to happen. The first thought in our minds – let's go get boards! Our we went towards the every changing array of colours as the sun sank down below the horizon. The waters calmed right down and we enjoyed the peace and serenity that the glowing hour bestowed upon us. It was at this moment we were falling in love with this little slice of paradise.
After seeing our love for being on the water, other guests and staff encouraged us to take advantage of a sailboat ride out to the sandbar. Oliver rigged up the sails and took us on the short journey just off the end of the Caye. It was spectacular. We played and snorkelled in three to five feet of warm, clear water. Our senses over flowed. As we sailed back John and I both knew we were paddling back out the next day. Everyone thought we were crazy. That is was too far. Being from Canada and paddling in the North Pacific made us feel comfortable with the distance. We decided to approach the sandbar from the leeward side of the island. We thought we would avoid any wind or major currents that way. Once off the tip of the island we realized just how close we were and it had only been about 20 minutes of paddling. We were about to head straight out to the sandbar and meet the sailboat when all of the sudden John spotted something...
A single splash off the bows of our boards turned out to be a few splashes. One, two and then three dolphins popped up and started to get curious about us. I was elated. Seeing a dolphin in the wild was definitely a bucket list activity. My wife absolutely loves dolphins and although I knew she would be overjoyed that we saw some, she would want to come explore as well.
All of the sudden two more dolphins joined us. We paddled with this pod of five amazing and curious creatures for close to an hour. They would feed, play, swim and come by us once in a while to check us out. We paddle gently and took photos until our camera ran out of batteries! John and I saw some friends anchor the sailboat and we decided we would try to paddle corral the dolphins over to them. Like we thought we were some sort or paddle dolphin ranchers! Just when we though the dolphins were going along with our plan, they took a turn and went off in the other direction. But wow, what an incredible experience. Paddleboarding with dolphins.
The buzz about paddleboarding was growing around the guests at the resort. Many guests who had never tried it before saw what we were experiencing wanted in. It was really cool to see people new to the sport give it a try and get the same feelings we were getting. That brought us a lot of joy to share this lifestyle we enjoy so much with new friends.
That evening the sunset show was back on and the ladies joined us. The colours were slightly different but just as magical. We were out there until dark and loved being on the water with our loves. It is calm, connected and creates a different sort of bond when you do things like this together. We still reflect back on our time paddling together in the warm Belize sun. Watching for rays and dolphins and just talking about life. It is moment in our lives we will always look back on and cherish. What made it even better was sharing the time with two very special friends.
On about day four of our stay at St. George's Caye Resort we gained a reputation and the crazy Canadian paddleboarders. We took on the moniker with pride and lived up to the expectations. John and I were determined to discover more sea life, paddle around the island and go back to the sandbar again. In our travels we saw countless stingrays, manta rays, manatees, barracuda, tarpon, a nurse shark and even a crocodile! Now don't freak out, the croc was quite a ways from the resort and he took of like a shot as soon as he saw us (hence no picture...you'll just have to take my word for it!). I can tell you, experiencing St. George's Caye by paddleboard was incredible and life altering. I recommend it to anyone to try. You don't have to have any paddle experience whatsoever. You can even kneel on the board to get started. Just do it and go experience your island vacation from a different perspective. You'll never know what you'll discover unless you leave the shore!