Stuff that Washes Up on the Beaches of Ambergris Caye

Take a walk up the beach on Ambergris Caye and you are bound to find a few things.  A tiny shell, a piece of drift wood, a plastic bottle or…maybe a cool looking piece of coral.

Depending on how far north you walk – and how close to the reef you are – the coral can be EVERYWHERE.  Here’s a photo from a walk up at Robles Point – about 15 miles north Ambergris Caye.

But sometimes – in my 11+ years of living near the beach – I’ve found some even more interesting things.

They included – baby sea turtles…

This guy actually crawled about 20 feet up a concrete sidewalk in the wrong direction (found about 2 miles south of San Pedro)

…odd jellyfish that look like deflated lavender balloon…

or dead sea creatures.  One I posted – and then was asked to bag and place in my freezer for later autopsy.  (Found 7 miles south)

An angular rough shark.  Headless.

One time I was even there when a boat of refugees from Cuba washed up in the middle of town.  I kid you not.

But here are some of the more regular visitors on your shores.

Pumice – You can almost always find a scrap or two of this floating rock – but there are certain times when it is all over the beach.  Since pumice is a volcanic rock – and there are no volcanoes in Belize – where is it coming from?

The short answer is…a volcano.  And since it floats, it could be coming from anywhere around the world – probably volcanoes deep below the sea.  But here is a picture of the volcanic islands/active volcanoes of the Caribbean…

Here’s a heart shaped one (use your imagination) I found a while back.

Sea beans

Also called drift seeds.  These are my new sea-obsession.  They are seeds from around the world that can float short or long distances.  The most famous is the coconut.  Here is a website devoted to all things seabean.

This fall was a particularly good time for sea beans on North Ambergris Caye.  I have bowls and bowls of them now.

Sea grass/turtle grass/algae

Plant life is what originally got me started on this blog post.  Strange clumps of rubbery…stuff washed up all over “our” beach last week.

The water was quite rough – churned up – and I couldn’t figure out what the stuff was.  Definitely layers of sand and…muck.

It wasn’t until a few days later, as the water cleared, that I saw it was a thick layer of the seabed – breaking up and washing to shore.  Amazing how thick and rubbery it was.

The most frequent plant life is turtle grass – the seaweed that naturally lines much of our seabed.

You can see it here at low low tide way up north.

But there have been some cooler types of algae.  Like the time of beach was covered with these WEIRD algae balls.

Bubble algae or sailors’ eyeballs.  One of the largest single cell organisms in the world!


I get asked all the time – “is there good shelling on Ambergris Caye”?   My answer, in general, is no.  I’m not sure if it is the tides or the coral reef just off-shore but if you are thinking of places like Sanibal Island, Florida, we just don’t have the shells.  (Here are the top 10 shelling beaches from 2007)

But you will find TINY shell…in fact, in spots, if you look closely, the sand is ALL tiny shells.  Here are some I found in the Tres Cocos area.

And some I found on a sand bar on the West Side of the island.

You’ll find conch shells that have been discarded by fishermen.  And just this past week, we had an influx of these scallop like shells.

Or you might find something still using her shell.


An infestation on our shores!  The blight of the Caribbean.  This algae has always existed.  In fact, there is a HUGE mat of it swirling naturally in the Atlantic and cited by Columbus’ crew in the 15th century.  A 700 miles wide gyre of seaweed – that is used as a deep sea nursery for all types of sealife.  From turtles to sea horses…the Sargasso Sea is super interesting to me.

Interesting but best admired from afar.

But as the ocean is warming and we (humans) are dumping fertilizers and more into the ocean – the “sea” has started to shift and break.  And this algae has been washing up in HUGE quantities all over Caribbean shores…and even farther.

We had a huge influx in 2015 – from February to about November – and now.  2018, the beaches, on and off (but mostly ON) have been covered with the stuff.

Beaches all over are trying to figure out a solution – from booms along the Yucatan starting with Cancun to giant pieces of machinery.

Food or fertilizer?  Burying or burning…many are scrambling for a solution.


Everyone has heard and seen that our oceans are becoming a huge receptacle for our trash.  Like all other things it ebbs and flows.  We can see very little for weeks and months – and then get a tide of trash.  Does it come from cruise ships?  Some…I’m sure.  Rivers in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico?  Yup.  There too.

(the below pics are my glamorized trash pics)

Someone found this bottle before I did.

Once in a while, you’ll find something cool.  Like an old buoy or a bottle.  I’m working on my collection.

But mostly it’s just icky trash.

Square Grouper

You did NOT hear this from me – because I have no first hand knowledge about this – at all.  But rumors abound.

Shhhhh…square grouper = a plastic wrapped package of illegal drugs.

Beachcombing in Belize from Shells to Seabeans to Seagrass and More

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