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Tobacco Caye

 

 

Forty minutes by boat, but seemingly a world away from mainland Belize, a string of small cayes stretches across the tranquil blue depths of the Caribbean. Located about 20 kilometers east of Dangriga, tiny Tobacco Caye is a Robinson Crusoe paradise with a relaxed island vibe where the pace of life slows to a leisurely crawl and visitors drift off to sleep each night to the soothing sounds of waves crashing over the nearby reef.

 

 

Just a stone’s throw from the longest barrier reef in the Americas, Tobacco Caye is a world-class diving and snorkeling spot. Trips to the nearby atolls (Belize has three of only four coral atolls in the Caribbean) are easily arranged, or you can explore the underwater world by simply swimming out from shore for a peek at colorful coral, tropical fish, giant manta rays, barracudas and even manatees. A tiny lagoon, formed in part by the ravaging wind and rain of Hurricane Mitch (1998), lies on the southern edge of the island offering calm water and is the perfect setting for swimming and snorkeling.

 

 

Getting to Tobacco Caye is part of the adventure and while boats leave daily from Dangriga, there are no regularly scheduled departures. (If the boats near the bridge appear unattended, simply pop into the friendly River Café and inquire about the next departure. A little patience is required as the boat skippers usually wait until they have a minimum of four passengers before heading out. If you have to wait, you’re best to just relax, grab a cold Belikin beer (“The Beer of Belize”) and a snack while you wait. Visitors can also inquire about boat transfers when making hotel reservations, as many hotel owners offer transportation to their guests for a fee.

 

 

The deserted isle experience begins with the enjoyable boat ride gliding over the clear bluish green waters; be prepared to leave civilization behind, except perhaps for the occasional lone fisherman. The isolated feeling really settles in as the boat slows to approach the five-acre island, ringed with sandy beaches, palm trees and a smattering of wooden waterfront cabañas.

 

 

Originally a trading post for passing ships to pick up tobacco and other supplies, the tiny island is today a popular spot for local fisherman who stop here for a cold drink and to recharge their cell phone batteries. Drop by Mark’s Bar and you’ll probably find them milling about before pushing off to sea once again. The official gathering spot on the island, everyone eventually makes their way to Mark’s to enjoy inexpensive drinks, Caribbean music and to mingle with the international mix of guests.

 

 

Simple and rustic, Tobacco Caye’s comfortable family-run accommodations add to the island’s charm and enhance the exotic island experience. All rooms are near the water, many offer postcard-perfect views and some come with hammocks swaying lazily above the reef.

 

 

There are no shops or tourist services (except Mark’s) so most hotels include delicious home-cooked meals in the price.

 

Tobacco Caye is not suited for those seeking a luxury resort experience, but is the perfect place if you want to slip away from civilization, and slide into the natural rhythms of island-time.



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