Sunday, March 28, 2010

Foraging on Vacation - Caye Caulker, Belize

Fresh caught Snapper, Sardines, Grouper and Foraged Plantain
Foraging on vacation can be an exciting endeavor, especially if you are near the ocean.  Recently 6 friends, including Michele and I traveled to Belize, specifically a small, isolated island called Caye Caulker.  If you ever decide to travel on a whim with no plans, Caye Caulker is your place.  We flew from San Francisco to Houston to Belize City, hopped on a ferry and arrived in Caye Caulker in about 6 hours.  To be honest the trip there was so smooth and so affordable, it enabled me to fantasize about owning a small home there.  In Belize, the primary language is English so that helped as well when traveling.  Caye Caulker is very small and doesn't have paved roads.  You can walk from one side to the other in 2 minutes.  When you arrive, men with golf carts are waiting to escort you to hotels.  We stayed at 2 amazing condos that each slept 6 for $150/ affordable.  They both had a pool, hot tub, air conditioning, fresh water, full kitchen, and fronted the ocean.  It was more luxury than we were used to.  Two can rent a small room for $20-$50 US a night as well.

One of our Hotels
On the plane we happened to be sitting next to a woman whose sister is married to the Prime Minister of Belize so we got the down low on all the best places to check out and the customs.  If you travel to Belize during the right time (summer) of the year, Mangoes are in season.  (Lobsters are in season then too) Apparently there are like 60 different varieties of Mangoes, some as small as an inch or two.

Conk Shells - Easy to find discarded on Island
While we were on Caye Caulker we did a lot of fishing and foraging.  We fly fished and dropped fishing lines from something called a fishing yo yo and caught Barracuda, bone fish and small perch from the piers. Barracuda is an absolutely delicious fish!  Later, Michele, our friend Ace and I went out on a small boat with a guide and a local woman and caught over 50 snapper and grouper fish.  For bait, we used a large drop net to catch hundreds of sardines.  The fish was so fresh and so delicious.  We cooked the Grouper fish topped with a caramelized coconut pineapple sauce in foraged banana leaves.

We also kept the super fresh Sardines we had leftover from bait.  The Sardines were gutted and scaled. We ate them mostly whole (minus head). They were so fresh and delicious with zero fishy taste.  Sooo different from canned sardines.

Later we foraged for coconuts, bananas and plantains.  We found many strange and beautiful plants and Mangoes that were not yet in season.  We also came upon a garden growing straight in sand that contained Tomatoes, Mint, Cilantro and a couple other plants.

Foraged Coconut
Bananas with Flower

Fishing (Cuban Style) Yo Yo

Tomatoes Growing in Sand
The snorkeling around the island is okay and amazing if you travel to the reef by boat.  Shark and Ray Alley is worth the trip!  I saw a Giant Grouper fish as big as a buffalo (okay, it looked that big underwater).  There is also a deep area there where you can see many feet down and see huge fish everywhere.

On Cauye Caulker the best snorkeling was at an area called the Split.  The split was created when a hurricane swept through the island and is dredged so boats can pass through.  It is very deep there and on calm days you can see straight to the bottom where huge rays, hundreds of fish, and nurse sharks swim through.  A local told us she was swimming there one day and a Manatee swam by, scaring her to death.

The Split
Michele and I had the best time swim fishing at the Split with a mask and snorkel and our fishing yo yo's (Hand Lines) with some squid attached.  Hundreds of fish went for our bait as we watched from above, even the rays!  When a ray came, we learned it's easy to lift the bait out of their way since they can't seem to turn quickly.  It was exciting when we caught a couple of fish.  To be honest, it was a bit dangerous but we kept an eye our for each other.  Please don't try it alone and if you are not a competent swimmer

Our Crew

On the other side of the island in a secret location, hundreds of huge Tarpon congregate waiting for the fisherman to come feed them leftover sardines.  It is truly a sight that would make fly fisher's mouth water. Fishing is prohibited at that spot in an attempt to protect these beautiful fish.  Finally, bring your own fishing gear if you want to fish with a fly rod or pole.  There was a fly shop / shack but it never opened the week we were there.  Fishing yo yo's, lines, sinkers and hooks are the only affordable gear that can be purchased on the island in the stores and at the one fishing shop.  Hope you get to visit Cauye Caulker soon.

Marta and Michele

1 comment:

  1. Wondering why there is no mention of clam digging , mussels,oyster foraging?