“There we go, this was it…” I don’t want to die yet and I start praying to avoid a panic attack but I cannot longer fight my tears. “I am scared!!”, I scream to the captain who is maneuvering a small-open-75-horsepower-engine boat loaded with food, water and drinks for a week, heavy backpacks wrapped in garbage bags, and 9 people in total heading to a remote atoll, 70 kilometers off the Belizean coast. Given the conditions, it means the trip to the bounty island will take us about three hours from our departure dock in Sittee River, a remote cluster of houses in the jungle along the like-named river, South of Dangriga and Hopkins.
Pin it for later!
After letting behind a few cayes or islands that protected us a little bit, we are on the open ocean. Soon, I can’t see any land anymore. Dark clouds caught up with us. Cold rain is pouring on our shivering bodies. The poncho I put over my raincoat is a joke, as it is tearing in the wind. Worse than the rain, I get even more soaked with every wave, which so forcefully smashes into me, that I have a hard time remaining seated. I can barely keep my eyes open as the salt stings. My sinuses get a thorough rinse, and I spit out the warm salty seawater after every wave that hits me, almost grasping for air. It cannot get any worse than this.
Three horrifying hours later, I am literally thanking God! We have just made it to the coconut island far away from civilization. We are soaking wet, shivering cold, and rushing to unload the boat, as we need to get settled before dark. The sun is already setting. We will we be spending one week here in pretty basic conditions: no electricity but only a few hours a day at the main hut, no cell phone signal, no Internet, no running water, nor flushing toilets. Just loads of palm trees and coconuts, our wooden thatched cabin built on the water and accessible by a wooden deck, world’s second largest reef, and the marine reserve of Glover’s Reef Atoll just a plunge away!
After a quick orientation tour in case we would get lost on this tiny 5-hectare island, we settle in our cabin and get warmer as we dry. We cook our first meal in our kitchen, i.e. on a stove connected to a propane tank, barely lit by an oil lamp. The sheets are humid and sticky but do the job as we fall asleep to the sounds of waves, rain and wind, howling through the cracks of our naturally ventilated cabin on stilts here in the middle of the Caribbean.
Waking up, we take in the beauty: the storm seems to be a distant memory as the sun rises on the calm waters of the atoll and colors the sky orange. Having basic but nonetheless delicious seawater-and-flour pancakes for breakfast on our deck surrounding the cabin, we observe stingrays, barracudas, and an occasional shark swimming by in crystal-clear waters. This is paradise!
With the discovery of the coconut grinding station, these pancakes will soon be improved to be baked with a mix of coconut water and seawater for the salt, while graded coconut will complement the flour to add heartiness and crunchiness. Coconuts become an important part of our diet. We soon find out what it takes to open them, and at which maturing stage we should, based on what we want from them: water, milk, oil, shreds, soft, or crunchy meat.
The island is a snorkeling paradise: diving from our deck, a new world opens up with rays, barracudas, conches, and nurse sharks distracting us while we swim for about 15 minutes to some fantastic patches of corals, belonging to the Belize Barrier Reef, a 300-kilometer-long (190 miles) section of the 900-kilometer-long (560 miles) Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System – running continuously from Cancún in Yucatán down to Honduras. Many species of colorful fish swim among the various coral pinnacles.
It is an idyllic spot to marvel at the underwater world, whether you are a certified diver, or just enjoy snorkeling. Right by the cabins, the visibility and depth of the reef is such that snorkeling is wonderful. Divers can explore many areas along the 80-kilometer of sheer coral drop-offs surrounding the island during a drift dive. With depths ranging from 9 to 13 meters (25 to 40 feet) on the northeastern side of the atoll, to anywhere from 20 meters (60 feet) down to 2,000 meters (6,000 feet) – the neighboring Cayman Trough is after all the deepest point in the Caribbean Sea all the way down to 7,686 meters (25,217 feet) – there is plenty to explore whatever your level is. It is also a heaven to get introduced to scuba diving, and obtain your open water certificate after 4 intense days of learning in the most beautiful classroom you could imagine! The reward can also be a dive into the famous Belizean Blue Hole.
Enjoying it fully to the last moments, as we snorkel back to our cabin at sunset on the last day, we are greeted by a rare 1.5-meter-wide spotted eagle ray graciously evolving through the water. Flapping its fins slowly like if it is flying, it waves us goodbye as it passes us and fades away in the blue of the Caribbean Sea. It is a magical moment and the perfect ending after this unique experience that lasted for a week, living like Robinson’s on the Glover’s Reef Atoll.
Text: Marcella van Alphen
Photographs: Claire Lessiau
- We were unlucky as the catamaran that is used to charter passengers to the Glover’s Atoll Resort was being repaired when we visited. The arrival is usually a lot smoother, and a lot more comfortable, and definitely note life-threatening!
- Glover’s Atoll Resort provides a truly unique experience in paradise-like but basic conditions. If you want to experience solitude and remoteness in an unspoiled environment, and like it a bit rough around the edges, it is your spot!
- We strongly recommend you to book a cabin over the water as the sea breeze keeps the mosquitos away. The beach cabins and the camping grounds will provide an itchier experience…
- A complete dive-shop is onsite with PADI instructors and scuba diving or snorkeling gear for rent, as well as kayaks.
- Belize is a true diver’s paradise. Curious to know what else there is? Explore the top 9 diving sites of Belize.
- Other cayes in Belize provide luxurious hotels or party-like atmosphere, like Caye Caulker or Ambergis Caye.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!
Like it? Pin it!
For more in Belize, click on one of the images below to be directed to another illuminating article!
For more diving adventures, click on one of the images below: