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Belize Reef Islands (and WHS #170)

One of the gorgeous days while in Hopkins, we went on an “island hopping” expedition to visit several cayes that are strung along the Belize Barrier Reef. Some of these tiny islands are nothing but greenery atop sandy banks, while others are built up with resorts and even have small permanent populations.

Our first stop was at the Thatch Caye resort which seemingly occupies the entirety of a long narrow island.
Thatch Caye, Belize
Thatch Caye, Belize
Thatch Caye, Belize
The place was awfully quiet on the morning of our visit, we encountered barely a dozen guests and staff on the entire island.

The resort website implies that this is a private island, but apparently, there is no issue with bringing stray island hoppers to it. Furthermore, we were encouraged to take full advantage of the swimming lagoon…
Thatch Caye, Belize
Thatch Caye, Belize
… and the volleyball court.
Thatch Caye, Belize
Thatch Caye, Belize
Yes, I know, it is very much unlike me to include pictures of the family members in these narratives. This will be a rare exception.

I can attest that this weather station worked exactly as advertised during our visit. The coconut was still and dry. The weather was calm and sunny (although you will see the changing skies in the pictures below).
Thatch Caye, Belize
This sign is probably resort-speak for “the wi-fi signal does not reach beyond this point”.
Thatch Caye, Belize
Here is our boat and one of the crew members who chaperoned us all day.
Thatch Caye, Belize
You can see the coastline faintly in the distance, about 11 miles away.

After leaving Thatch Caye, we went to the bird island.
Bird Island, Belize
Those red “fruits” seen on the trees are the gular sacs of male frigate birds, inflated to attract females. The latter, in true avian fashion, are significantly less colorful and actually look like a completely different species. Here are a few close-ups of the densely populated speck of vegetation.
Bird Island, Belize
Bird Island, Belize
Bird Island, Belize
The next stop was Tobacco Caye, a postcard-sized island with postcard-quality vibrance.
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Most of the buildings on Tobacco Caye are guest lodges and resorts. Interestingly, the disparity in the levels of the upkeep can be seen here as well, at what almost certainly are the residences of the local staff, clustered in the inner part of the island.
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
In case you might find yourself lost on an island a bit over 200 meters long and 100 meters wide, here is a handy signpost directing you to key points of interest.
Tobacco Caye, Belize
We took a stroll around the island, but spent most of our time lingering on its main pier and in this strategically positioned bar.
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
This composition of wood debris looks like some disturbing marine beast.
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Clearly not a mermaid.

The last visited island was South Water Caye, bigger and a tad bit busier.
South Water Caye, Belize
South Water Caye, Belize
South Water Caye, Belize
Here, we primarily relaxed on the beach.
South Water Caye, Belize
South Water Caye, Belize
South Water Caye, Belize
The destinations marked here include some of the places that we visited while in Belize: San Ignacio, Xunantunich, Cockscomb.
South Water Caye, Belize
I stubbed my toe on this piece of dead coral lying in the sand and couldn’t pass taking a picture of it. Looks like a person sticking out their posterior while presenting an offering, no?
South Water Caye, Belize
Belize Barrier Reef is the second-largest coral reef in the world, recognized as an exceptional natural World Heritage site. All of these small islands more or less lie within the inscribed boundaries, while South Water Caye anchors the preserve of the same name that is one of the defined WH components. Upon leaving the beach at South Water Caye, we floated atop the reef and went snorkeling. Underwater photography is decidedly not my thing. I only have the above “exterior” photos of the WH site, as well as this view towards the Carrie Bow Caye Field Station, one of the scientific outposts on the reef.
Carrie Bow Caye, Belize

On our way back to Hopkins, we kicked about the idea of a future stay in one of those remote caye resorts. Could be a great way to decompress for a few days for those valuing tranquility above entertainment and accessibility. Failing that, a day hopping around Belize’s reef islands is a highly recommended adventure.