Budget Belize Island Hopping: Sailing the Barrier Reef with Raggamuffin Tours
Last week, Jamie and I set sail with Raggamuffin Tours. This was not your regular day sail. The adventure included 3 full days of fishing, snorkeling and island-hopping (Caye-hopping technically) along the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world.
It was awesome.
We were on a gorgeous catamaran with our own private chef, a captain, and 2 crew members. We were barefoot the entire time – in fact, our flip-flops were collected as we boarded the boat on day one. We overnighted on two tiny sandy cayes off the Belize coast – one night in an over-the-water hut waking to the sunrise and the SLAP of a pelican dive-bombing fish just feet from our window.
Did I recently come into a great fortune? Did I win the Belizean lottery? Nope. Raggamuffin Tours makes this experience affordable…so while you are not on this boat alone (we shared the large catamaran with a total of 18 fellow passenger: a couple from Toronto, one from Australia, one from Santa Claus, Indiana, a Dutch family of four and a mixed group of backpackers traveling through Mexico and Central America from all over the UK), Raggamuffin also makes this experience a once-in-a-lifetime unforgettable adventure.
We camped one night falling asleep under a full moon and stirring to the rumble of thunder and stunning gorgeous black morning skies.
I followed a manatee as she disappeared through a cut in the barrier reef. We watched fireworks over our private island in the Coco Plum Range (provided by a rich island neighbor who we were told hails from Dubai and holds EPIC parties). We ate like kings thanks to Chef Dre – 6 full meals and snacks a day including afternoon fresh ceviche with lobsters we had just caught.
Let me show you a bunch of my pictures of my sail from Caye Caulker to the cayes just off of Dangriga, Belize.
We headed over from San Pedro to Caye Caulker on the 7:30 am water taxi – to try on our snorkel gear, to pay for the trip and to grab breakfast.
Here’s the best map I can find of the cayes. We would be doing our “big sail” down from Caye Caulker to Rendezvous Caye for our first overnight. And then on to Tobacco Caye and Ragga Caye in the Coco Plum Range for our 2nd night. We spent day 3 sailing in close proximity – with a stop by Carrie Bow Caye, STUNNING Southwater Caye, and a manatee watch. All hugging the reef.
Each day we did 2 snorkel stops – not a boat in sight.
We stopped at Goff’s Caye off of Belize City.
And at the end of the day Rendezvous Caye – where we put up our tents (with a HEAVY assist from our crew Mark and Dane), readied our provided sleeping pads and sheets and lined the picnic tables for a HUGE dinner on the dock underneath the stars…
We woke up to darkening skies…and a huge breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes, fry jacks, yogurt, granola, and coffee.
The resident ospreys found their own eats.
The rain didn’t come down until we boarded the boat – just about 20 minutes. The rest of our trip was on again, off again sun. While that may seem disappointing it was not. Day 3 was a full day of constantly BLAZING sunshine. I’m not sure my skin – even slathered in 30SPF could have taken that for the whole trip!
Plus…how pretty is this?
More snorkeling and then an hour on Tobacco Caye – the “busiest” of all the cayes. A few Fishermen and their families live there – and there are two or three tiny hotels/resorts. A small bar and shop.
Conch shell sea walls built up over many years…
I sailed with Raggamuffin almost 6 years ago – on this very same boat – and you can see the shells back then in this picture.
They’ve built a little dock bar since.
And added lots of outside art around the island.
There was trolling fishing off the back (2 mackerel caught and prepared for dinner)…there were spearfishing lessons.
And then a crazy beautiful private Ragga Caye with a very comfortable bunkhouse.
Private cabanas you can rent. (You can see this peach one off to the side)
A huge dining area and hang out spot with internet…
I could EASILY spend a few weeks here with a few dozen books. And I’m going to leave it there…because me blabbing on and on about the details doesn’t describe how amazing this trip is…
Losing track of the mangroved cayes we passed. Waving to the odd lobster fishing boat and then the reef all to ourselves.
Ocean in every shade of blue, green and purple that you can imagine. And some colors that I didn’t know existed.
Belize is magic. And shocks me with her beauty all the time.
Now let’s get down to brass tacks.
Things to definitely bring on this trip:
- Sunblock, sunblock, sunblock – do not mess around with SPF 8s – this is the time for 50+
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Battery for Devices like Kindle and/or Phone (I like my Jackery battery – easy and compact)
- Clothes/Undergarments to change into at end of the day – while it might seem romantic living in a bikini for 3 days it is…not
- Baby Wipes/Cleansing Wipes
Things not critical but great to have:
- Small dry bag – to keep on deck easily clipped to something so it doesn’t fly away and to bring your camera/a cover-up to the tiny cayes that you can swim to (here’s a good budget small one)
- Solar Lamp (for camping – our tent was glowing. Only get if you will use for something else!)
- A compact quick-dry towel for shower use
Things we didn’t need:
- Bug Spray
- Your own snorkel gear – it’s all provided
- Underwater Camera – I’m going to stick to my guns and say that 1. unless you are a pro, it is not worth taking underwater photos – when are you ever going to look at a photo of coral when you get home? 2. as you fumble with your camera…or swim behind your Go-Pro more focused on it than the turtle/manatee/dolphin, you get in your own way + everyone else’s and miss the main attraction
And a quick note about personal space. You are on the boat during the day – from about 8 or 9am to 4 or 5pm with people. We had plenty of room – in fact, the boat has three different levels and the front hammock – to lounge, sit, move about, sun and read and nap. IF you need to be alone for most of the day, this is not the trip for you. I am an introvert to be sure and I could not do a week on a boat – but this 2 night, 3 day trip is perfect for me.
Was it a big “party boat”? Not really. The crew and the instructions we received before the sail made it quite clear that we should be mindful of our fellow guests. Rum punch was served in the afternoon – usually after all snorkeling was finished. We nicknamed our boat the “Ragga-mullet” after the infamous 80s/90s hair style. The trip tended to be party in the back, business (boat business like reading, napping, snoozing) in the front.
Book yourself a few days “off” (sailing is SOOO stressful!) when you get off the boat. We did. At the GORGEOUS Lodge of Jaguar Reef in Hopkins. But more about that in a few days.
For more information on our Raggamuffin Sail Boat tour – see the website. I HIGHLY recommend it.
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