Spiegel Online Covers Lower Dover (in German)

For the fall equinox at Caracol in Belize, we had a German filmmaker stop by Lower Dover’s Maya site and talk with the family about life, December 2012, Belize, and the future…

Hope to write a blog about whats been going on lately. I promise I will post some pics of anything crazy if it happens. Good luck and be safe.

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Caye Caulker – Belize Vacation

When most Belize travelers tell their friends where they are about to vacation, the first question is often, “Wait, where is Belize again?”. This is followed by the ever popular, “Oh, that’s an island right? I saw it while watching this season’s Bachelor”.

This guy is likely a bachelor

Truth is, Belize does have an amazing series of islands, and guests would be doing themselves a disservice by not visiting them. The Belize Barrier Reef runs the entire length of the country (over 190 miles). It extends past the borders of Belize into Mexico and Honduras, forming one of the largest barrier reefs in the world. In fact, there are over 450 islands (called cayes) that make up the reef system in Belize.

Caye Caulker Belize Vacation

No Caye is the same, and each stand out for both good and bad reasons. Ambergris Caye with the “bustling” tourist town of San Pedro is a bit crowded and hectic compared to the easy breezy feel of the rest of the country. Although San Pedro is the spot to get luxury treatment, it often comes at a steep price.

Sand Streets of Caye Caulker Belize

Comparatively, San Pedro’s sister to the south, Caye Caulker, captures the essence of Belize to it’s fullest. The motto of Caye Caulker is “Go slow”, and if  Belize tourists don’t understand that by the time they leave the country, well maybe they didn’t experience real Belize the right way!

"Go Slow" is the motto on Caye Caulker

At Lower Dover Jungle Lodge, we recommend the Caye Caulker beach and snorkel combination as the perfect compliment to our jungle lodge for an adventure packed week long Belize vacation. Hotel prices range from about $100USD and down just like Lower Dover. Plus the overall, laid back vibe, is comparable in both spots. You can still find great accommodations, but it’s often for a fraction of the price compared to San Pedro. You can also find some CHEAP accommodations on Caye Caulker.

Ignacio's Beach Cabana's on Caye Caulker in Belize

One of the most affordable places on Caye Caulker is the family run, Ignacio’s, found near the airport on the south side of the island. It is by no means a fancy spot, and rustic would be a generous description for some people. The most important part is that it costs $7.50USD a night for a double room right on the ocean! Double points for having to walk through a cemetery to get there!

Cemetary Road Caye Caulker on the way to Ignacio's

Great Beach Views on Caye Caulker

Now my bed did collapse while I was sleeping there last time, but I almost half expected that. In the end, it did not faze me in the slightest, IT’S A BUDGET ACCOMMODATION! Plus, they were happy to fix it right away when I told them about the predicament. With the money saved on accommodation, we gladly reinvested back into the local economy with some cold Belikin beers. It would have taken a lot more than my bed missing a leg to keep me from sleeping most nights.

Barrier Reef Sports Bar - Caye Caulker, Belize

One of the best places to get a cold beer on Caye Caulker is the Barrier Reef Sports Bar. It’s also the best place, maybe in the entire country, to watch a televised sporting event. With multiple flat screen televisions, a dart board, and sports memorabilia all over the wall, this place definitely will remind you of a sports bar back home. The only difference is the Barrier Reef Sports Bar opens up to the ocean!

Caye Caulker Water Taxi Stand near Barrier Reef Sports Bar

View of the Sports Bar from the Water Taxi Stand

The bar is located a little north of the water taxi stands on the main drag. FYI, they also do a fun trivia night Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with nice discounts on bar tabs to the winners. Our team, John the Baptist (a nick name earned on our friend’s Belize trip), had it wrapped up until the final bonus round when we took an epic dive while risking it all. Good thing for us the beers are also cheap!

Fresh Seafood BBQ Galore on Caye Caulker

BBQ Lobster is the best!!!!

Look for Jolly Roger when you want to eat on Caye Caulker

With the money we still were saving by choosing Caye Caulker over San Pedro, we decided to get some fresh seafood dinner. After sampling many of the places to eat on Caye Caulker, we have decided that Jolly Roger’s is the absolute best for value, taste, and portions!  Jolly Roger is a pretty large dude, so you know he has sampled every possible combination of seasonings to ensure the best quality food you could imagine. Fresh, whole lobster dinners, with rice, garlic bread, and chips is only $10USD! He barbecues the lobsters, cut in half, on the spot. It is a must for anyone staying on Caye Caulker. The same meal would probably run $35 plus dollars in San Pedro, and there is no telling it’s quality.

Jolly Roger's is the best place to go for BBQ

Whole Lobster Dinner for only $10USD!!! Beat that Red Lobster!

Finally, no trip to Caye Caulker would be complete without snorkeling the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Hol Chan is located half way between San Pedro and Caye Caulker, and it’s area is protected from fishing by park rangers to ensure seeing more fish than you could possibly imagine!

Look for the Black Hawk Tour sign opposite of Jolly Roger's BBQ

Black Hawk can also sail you from Caye Caulker to Placencia

The best Hol Chan tour, for the overall experience and value, is operated by Black Hawk Tours, located right across from Jolly Roger’s BBQ place. The tour company gets its name from the small sail boat, the Black Hawk, which carries the guests to three different snorkeling locations on the trip. “Big Steve” is the captain and a pretty engaging guy. He mans the boat while his cousin guides the snorkel trip.

The Black Hawk sailboat

Big Steve of Black Hawk Hol Chan Tour fame

The first stop is a location where it is occasionally possible to spot and swim with live manatees! Occasional, because I have seen them only once in 3 trips. The one time was really magical though. Swimming only 10 feet away from a manatee is a life experience that is unforgettable. It is also possible to spot a sea turtle or two if you don’t see manatees.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve Sea Turtle

Swimming with Sea Turtles in Belize

Luckily for manatees, the sharks hang out at the next dive spot. Dubbed, Shark Ray Alley, because of the extensive sting rays and nurse sharks that congregate in the location, it is here that you can actually touch the sharks as they swim by. The guide will even coax a stingray from the bottom of the ocean in order to feel their sandpaper like skin. Watch out so you don’t get Irwined!

Sailing on the Sea Hawk in Belize on the way to Hol Chan Marine Reserve

The last spot on the Black Hawk sailboat and snorkel trip is the reef channel, where most of the fish are seen. It’s not uncommon to see huge groupers, barracuda, and massive schools of yellow-tailed snappers. The reef goes from five feet and drops rapidly to a depth of 40+ feet. Massive Brain coral and tiny reef fish are everywhere. Extra care needs to be made not to touch the coral, because they die when disturbed. It is still possible to dive and get close enough to snap some photos with an underwater camera if you have one!

Yellow-Tail Snapper at Hol Chan while snorkeling in Belize

On the way back, enjoy the sunset on the sailboat as you munch on freshly caught conch ceviche. Just make sure to save enough room for the rum punch! You might also consider not drinking and eating 3 whole lobster dinners instead. That’s what we did. If you plan it right, there will be enough time to catch an outdoor movie at Paradiso, the new beach theater. Lucky for us, they were playing Apocalypto, getting us primed for the December 21, 2012 party in Belize. Hopefully it turns out better for us than those Mayan dudes in the movie!

Caye Caulker Sunset

Caye Caulker Sunset 10 minutes later

New beachside movie theater on Caye Caulker

There is only one bank & atm machine on the island. Power outages have been known to happen, so make sure you carry at least enough cash to pay for a days worth of fun when you get there.

The only ATM machine on Caye Caulker is at Atlantic Bank

On a side note, its only $5USD to rent a bike for the day from most hotels. This is a great way to see the island and beats walking back and forth all day in the sun. We suggest you try it out and see every corner of the island if you have a day to burn.

Caye Caulker Bike Rental

Some photos from this story are from friend and photographer Caroline Dixey’s site The Youth Chronicles. More of her photos of Caye Caulker and Lower Dover Jungle Lodge can be viewed here.

Contest: Name the Sheep at Lower Dover Belize Jungle Lodge

One of our first stories was about our failings as sheep farmers in the jungle.

It seems as if lady luck has finally joined our side here at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge and the sheep are taking nicely to their new pen. The baby ewe is almost fully grown now, although it still does not have a name. Perhaps some help naming her from our followers?

We also picked up 3 new sheep, one being a young ram that is also nameless. In fact, all our sheep have no names except B.B. the oldest ewe. From my limited experience living on a farm, it is much harder to eat animals that you name, and being more vegetarian in 2012 was one of our resolutions. Therefore, Lower Dover Jungle Lodge is having an official naming contest for our four new sheep in hopes of them surviving to see the party on December 21, 2012 in Belize.

•    2 First prize winners: 1 for ram’s name, 1 for ewe’s name
•    Second prize: most original name
•    Third prize: female name
•    Runner-up: best remaining name

the Baby, two females, and the ram.

Each first prize winner will receive 3 free nights stay at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge in the Aqua, Red, or Newlywed Suite for winner and a guest anytime before November 1, 2012 space permitting. They will also get their pictures taken as “God parents” with the sheep during their stay in Belize. Food, drink, and tours not included.

Second prize winner will get the brand new Lower Dover Field Station & Jungle Lodge 2012 T-shirt with a map of the on site Maya ruins recently identified as “Lower Dover” printed on the back.

Third prize gets a case of Belikin beer or a bottle of Belize rum on us upon checking in for their stay in Western Belize’s best hotel to experience real Belize living, in the jungle, surrounded by wildlife.

Runner up gets the piece of mind knowing he or she helped save a sheep’s life by doing their one kind deed of the day and posting a comment on our blog!

In order to win…

  • Entries must be received no later than February 21, either by posting a comment with 1 Male or Female name to either our Facebook fan page or our blog below.
  • Only one name per sex can be posted to the blog or the Facebook page. One of each can be posted at both locations for the maximum amount of entries (2).
  • To qualify, all winners must either be a Facebook fan, or follow our blog at the time of the drawing, through the period of travel, bonus points for those who do both.

I'm a ram, but some people think I'm a goat, even though I'm marked like a cow!

We will post the winners of the contest on our blog February 22. Happy naming and commenting, good luck! Feel free to share this contest with your friends! And thanks for the help!

Rubber Trees in Belize: Making the Mayan Ball Game possible since 1600 BC.

Rubber Tree at Lower Dover

In 1770, the Rubber tree was first observed in England by Joseph Priestley, he noticed that a piece of the material was extremely good for rubbing off pencil marks on paper, hence the name rubber.

Over 200 years later, nearly 20 million tons of rubber is produced worldwide, of which around 40% is natural. Because most rubber produced is synthetic (made from petroleum), the price of natural rubber varies based on the global price of crude oil.

Rubber Tree at Lower Dover

Asia is now the main source of natural rubber, accounting for over 90% of the yearly output. The three largest producing countries, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia account for nearly 3/4ths of the harvest. The Rubber tree has been introduced from native species in South America, and grows well in Asia due to a lack of predation. Only wild growing trees are harvested in Belize successfully. Rubber plantations have not prospered in Central and South America due to a fungus that shows up on Rubber leaves.

Rubber Tree Leaf at Lower Dover

The first recorded use of rubber was by the Olmecs, who centuries later passed on the knowledge of natural latex from the Hevea tree in 1600 BC to the ancient Maya. They boiled the harvested latex and combined the product with Morning Glory flower juice to make a ball for a sport.

Morning Glory Flower at Lower Dover Belize

In fact, the word “Olmec” also refers to the rubber balls used for their ancient ball game. Early modern explorers applied the name “Olmec” to the rediscovered ruins and art from this area before it was understood that these had been already abandoned more than a thousand years before the time of the people the Aztecs knew as the Olmec. Rubber ball games have great antiquity throughout the Americas, and the recent discovery of several rubber balls at the Olmec site of El Manati, near San Lorenzo, confirms that the game was played by the Olmec.

Maya Ball Court at Xunantunich in Belize

Today, many Mayan ball-courts can be viewed throughout Belize, including one at Lower Dover Field Station and Jungle Lodge.  The most notable Maya ball game structure can be seen at the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico. The Maya ball game has been examined extensively due to its apparent significance in Mayan culture and society, as well as the ritual sacrifice that was believed to take place coinciding with important dates in the Maya calendar.  It is believed that the winners of the game were sacrificed!

Rubber Tree at Lower Dover

Rubber Tree Latex

The Rubber trees seen in this post can be viewed on the Medicinal Plant Trail at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge, where it will be possible to touch the natural latex rubber extract along with learning about many other Maya plants on the jungle hike.

Sources:

http://www.maya12-21-2012.com/2012olmec.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castilla_elastica
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Para_rubber_tree