The Road Less Travelled: A Walk Into Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, Ambergris Caye

San Pedro can feel like a very small town at times.  And if you live in (or around town) it’s often easy to forget that Ambergris Caye is actually 25 miles long and the town?  It’s really just a small fraction of that.  The caye actually extends all the way up to Mexico (and is only separated from the Yucatan Peninsula by a narrow canal dug by the Mayans hundreds and hundreds of years ago).

At the northern end of the island is Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, a 11,000+ acre region protected in 1996 by the government of Belize and later named a UNESCO world heritage site due to its unique characteristics.  The area is incredibly bio-diverse ranging from salt marshes to “beach forests” and an area where the barrier reef actually touches the shore.   Bacalar Chico also contains the largest lagoon on our island, Laguna de Cantena.  It’s an important sea turtle nesting ground.  And all six types of cats in Belize have been spotted here (including jaguars and pumas).    All in all a very cool and remote place.  I’m glad it is being protected.
 
This map is a bit crap but you get the point.  (Town is all the way at the bottom where it says “San Pedro” and Bacalar Chico starts near the top in the Basil Jones area – about 13 miles north of town – and encompasses the whole top of the island.  The pink line represents the reef.)  
We took a walk on the ocean side at the very beginning of the reserve.  Just by the welcome sign (show above) is Sueno del Mar.  The ride up here by boat is maybe 30-40 minutes from town.
Sueno is an interesting/odd blend of posh residences…
 and well meaning but slightly “off” amenities.
 
An interesting gym.
A smurf themed bar.  Nothing about smurfs say “let’s drink” to me.  Or maybe everything about smurfs says have a stiff drink.  I need to think about this one…
I’m guessing they are still a work in progress.
 
It is a 5 minute walk along the beach past a few very small houses like this one…
And while you can walk on the beach most of the way, you veer off onto this very pretty path lined with some kind of flower…

You just round the bend and come upon the beach you’ve been picturing when you dream of Belize.  Tranquility Bay and the Tackle Box Bar/Restaurant have one choice piece of property.  But more about this spot later…

Just a few hundred feet farther north is the Turtleman’s House, a truly one of a kind place to stay when visiting Ambergris Caye.  Perhaps for all of you that have been fantasizing about being in Gilligan’s Island, Blue Lagoon (who needs Shades of Grey?) or Castaway…
Or daydreaming about taking your kids (who are currently glued to their PlayStations or cell phones) for a once in a lifetime experience checking out huge sea turtles with a marine biologist…
 
The main house is just across the (beautiful) beach.
One thing that struck me about my walk farther up was the number of houses.  It is by no means crowded…really just a handful of homes and a few for sale signs.  But I thought this was a reserve?  


I was told that there were quite a few land owners before the land was put aside and, though there are a few restrictions, building a home is perfectly fine.  Development gets sparser to no existent as you head north…
 
More about my walk a little way up the Bacalar Chico area tomorrow.  Who knew that you could take a vacation and find a totally different world?  Without even leaving Ambergris Caye.
This is definitely not a sign you see close to town.
 

  • HScott

    Hey SPS,
    Our party will be three adults which may be too much for Turtleman’s House. Is Tranquility Bay, or any other property, close enough to Turtleman’s House that we could conveniently split the group between the two properties?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00827216725546465735 Me

    Tranquility Bay is a couple hundred feet south…maybe a 1-2 minute walk from Turtleman’s. You could EASILY split between the two. This stretch of beach is gorgeous.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08562277461086338385 Ruthie

    What boat did you take up there?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00827216725546465735 Me

    Tranquility Bay provided the ride!

  • HScott

    Really glad to read these posts. I have emailed Greg at Turtleman’s House and have booked it for a few nights next year. I can’t tell you how much we’re looking forward to it.

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