Traveling Cleverly Since 2001

on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | 2 comments
After our long morning of travel, we were excited to see Matachica Resort. I'd poured over where to stay for this trip, and was very excited about our choice. Matachica is a small resort comprised of about twenty casitas, eight of which are directly on the beach. We were lucky enough to book one of these. We stayed in a Deluxe Beachfront Casita called Strawberry (all the casitas have fruit names like Mango, Lime, Papaya, etc).


As we settled in, I realized it was hot. Like, really, really hot. Our first day was sultry, to put it mildly, with nary a breeze in the air. We proceeded to take our overheated selves to the main palapa for lunch and to book some excursions for the week. After a lunch of chicken quesadilla and caesar salad at Mambo restaurant, we booked a snorkel excursion to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley for the following afternoon.

The rest of our day was of little note. I recall a cocktail and a nap and dinner in there somewhere. We slept the whole night through (yay for no kids!) and woke up early for our first full day.

After enjoying Matachica's complimentary continental breakfast (cereal, fresh fruit, yogurt and egg), we laid around and read. We much appreciated the breeze that was blowing consistently off the ocean.

I'm sure it hasn't escaped notice that the sea seems to be filled with seagrass near the shore. It is. That's how Ambergris Caye is. The reef is very close to the shore (you can see the breakers from the sand) and the sea inside the reef is filled with life. There are designated swimming areas off the docks, but Ambergris Caye is NOT for people who need a beach you can wade into.

We had scheduled a snorkel trip for the afternoon. Snorkeling is abundant off Ambergris Caye, though generally not accessible by swimming from shore. You have to take a boat or kayak to various spots along the reef. We wanted to snorkel the popular Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which has 24/7 protection from marine patrol. You have to go with a guide (as it is protected) and you receive all kinds of warnings about not harrassing the wildlife, etc. This location was about a 30 minute boat ride from Matachica. We had hoped for a private charter, but we couldn't make it worthwhile, cost-wise. So, we opted to go with a trip that left from our resort.

This trip had two stops: Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley. Our boat got to Hol Chan about 45 minutes before a big rush of boats showed up. Our group had only eight people, but it was too crowded for my liking. I frankly would have loved a private snorkel at Hol Chan, but it is costly. We saw a few things I haven't seen before, like a green turtle and a moray eel (a very large one). Though I've seen many, many stingrays, the spotted eagle ray has always eluded me. Not any longer! It was a great hour long snorkel, and the channel was very calm on the day we went. Belize has recently had some tourist deaths at Hol Chan, as I understand the current can get strong at times. It was like a big pool the day we went.

Our next stop was Shark Ray Alley, where I finally got some footage. Behold, the nurse shark feeding frenzy!

We were able to get in with these guys and swim around for a while. Though the largest nurse sharks I've ever swam with, these guys weren't scary. No teeth, so they are just big fish. It sure looks impressive from the boat, though.

After our snorkel, we had a nice boat ride back. We went into town that evening and ate at Elvi's Kitchen. Belize is not known for it's fine cuisine, but we had a great meal of stewed chicken and battered coconut/ginger shrimp at Elvi's. Definitely the best meal with had while on AC.
on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 | 0 comments
It's unlikely anyone is waiting impatiently for the next installment of my trip report. But... if you are, it is coming soon. I've been knocked down with a nasty virus and bronchitis.
on Friday, July 6, 2012 | 0 comments

I've been interested in visiting Belize for a number of years now. Back in 2008, when we visited Costa Rica, I vacillated between the two countries. In the end, the wildlife won out, so Costa Rica it was. But, I always knew a trip to Belize was on the horizon.

This trip was to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (yay us!). I spent about a month researching where to go, and once I'd decided on Belize, another few weeks deciding where to stay. In the end, I chose to visit perhaps the most well-known part of Belize, an island a short plane ride from the mainland called Ambergris Caye.

Ambergris Caye (AC) is known as a diver's destination. However, it's also immensely popular with honeymooners, couples and people who are adventure-minded in general. I honestly wanted to spend a few nights on the mainland and just a couple on AC, but the mainland jungle lodges are not known for their use of air-conditioning, and my husband is known for his love of air-conditioning. Apparently, sweating in near 100 degree heat and humidity is NOT romantic.

Anyway, after debating Victoria House versus Matachica (the two resorts that were frontrunners), I chose Matachica. In the end, I liked the way it looked better. It was colorful, bohemian, and had a thatched roof. I like a thatched roof. Also, it was further from town, which was appealing because I have two kids pulling at me, plus a full-time career as a lawyer. I'm tired of people.

In the end, I made the right choice. Victoria House is known as the "class" of Ambergris Caye. In that case, I do believe that Matachica brings the sexy. I mean, is this a sexy place or what?

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Since everyone likes a good travel story (not really, but I'm going to tell you mine), let me just say I almost screwed the whole trip by mis-timing our arrival at the airport. Not sure quite what happened, but we checked in with 30 minutes until takeoff. We made it after sprinting through security and begging people to let us push ahead. We then ran to the train, took the train almost to the end (damn gate assignment) and then ran TO THE END OF THE TERMINAL. Literally, I think our flight was as far from the check-in desk as it could be. Mr. Nomad was furious at me. Like, "what the hell were you thinking" mad. It was a great way to start an anniversary trip. Ah, marriage.

Anyhow, we had a multi-step trip. A flight to Houston, then a flight to Belize City, then a puddle jump on Tropic Air to AC. I was really unsure about the Tropic Air flight. I've been on a few small flights, but this was the smallest. A 12-passenger, single engine cessna. I normally avoid single engine aircraft, as I believe redundancy is better. I fortified myself with a rum punch from Jet's bar at the BZE airport. Our flight was called shortly after I received my rum punch, so I downed it in under 3 minutes. I should've just taken a shot.

This video shows my reaction upon takeoff. Basically, that hand wave and terse smile is saying "well, we're committed now." It's possible I made the same hand gesture on my wedding day (kidding!).

The flight was actually quite pleasant, and, thanks to my alcohol-induced chatter with fellow passengers, we were landing before I knew it. It was fun.

Upon arrival, we were met at the airport by our cell phone rental representative (highly recommended service, as calling using AT&T's international plan was cost-prohibitive) and a representative from Matachica. We took a short ride on a golf cart to Fido's bar and restaurant to wait for our water taxi to the resort. Planes, smaller planes, golf carts and boats: we were almost there, and it was just noon, Belize time!

This is Fido's dock in downtown San Pedro. This is the dock our resort shuttle used.

My first Belikin of the trip!

The beach in front of Fido's. More to come soon!
on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 | 0 comments
As soon as I can catch my breath, I'll begin our trip report for Belize. We had a great (albeit short) trip and got a lot of relaxation in. We also snorkeled with sharks, ziplined and went cave tubing. It was a really fun trip and I can't wait to share my pictures and video!