Expat Life On Caye Caulker, Belize

Life On A Sand Dab In The Caribbean Sea

“Outside my window, it’s turquoise as far as the eye can see,” writes Belize Correspondent Mary Bartnikowski. “Living here on the second largest reef in the world, on the islet of Caye Caulker, Belize, the beautiful Caribbean is literally on my doorstep and all around.

“I’ve been in residence here for two months, and already I feel part of the community. People are friendly and show it. I wave or say hi to almost everyone I pass when I am out walking or riding my bike (you don’t need anything else for transportation here). If you want company, all you have to do is open your mouth and start talking. Someone will listen and engage you. Whether you’re a single or a couple, it doesn’t matter. You will find friends.

“The sunsets are devastatingly gorgeous. I wouldn’t miss one. I watch the sunrise, too, as I do my yoga each morning on the beach. But it’s not only the sights of Caye Caulker that attracted me. It’s the sounds, too. When I first heard the birdsong that is all over this island, I knew I’d found a special place.

“There isn’t all that much to do on Caye Caulker, and that’s why we like it. It’s quiet. There are no nightclubs or shopping malls. We have streets made of sand, and it’s safe to walk barefoot, because everywhere is clean.

“How do we fill our days? We drop a line from any dock and catch fish using a string and spool. You don’t need a fishing pole.

“We wander the beaches. I do yoga. Go kite surfing.

“We snorkel, sail, and swim in the clear sparkling water. It is the cleanest ocean water I have ever seen, and I have traveled all over the world, to 27 countries on 4 continents. We dive. We are close to the Blue Hole. People come from all over the globe to dive the Blue Hole.

“And I work, but it’s more like play than work. I was a professional photographer with my own business in California for 20 years. The last six years I’ve been traveling internationally, living in communities for three to six months at a time, teaching photography and yoga and shooting photos. And I’ve just finished writing my third book.

“Here on Caye Caulker, I’m renting a small bungalow for US$450 a month, including electricity, gas, and cable TV. But I haven’t turned the television on once. In the evenings, I visit with my friends.

“You could rent for slightly less if you wanted–a house starting at US$400 a month, for example. Or you could spend much more for a large modern place on the ocean with several bedrooms. These rent for exorbitant rates to the tourists, but, for the locals, anyone staying six months or longer, the rate comes way down.

“I looked at two basic-style houses on the ocean renting for US$600 and US$700 a month. These weren’t modern, but that doesn’t bother me. I like seaside living. Everything is steps from the ocean here, but these houses, especially, had killer views of the Caribbean Sea from the terrace and from every window. And, though, again, I wouldn’t describe these places as “modern,” they did come with wifi.

“This place is not for everyone. You have to love nature and not mind waiting for the barge to bring your green vegetables once a week. Prices for many things are the same as in the United States. Things like olive oil, peanut butter, and honey, for example, cost as much as they would back in the States. It’s an island. Everything must be shipped in.

“But we do have fresh-squeezed orange, grapefruit, watermelon, and cantaloupe juice for US$2.50 a quart. You can eat out at the best restaurant in town for US$4 to US$20.

“I love to cook, so I wait for that weekly barge and am excited to get fresh leafy greens.

“Electricity is costly if you run an air conditioner full-time. It can be upwards of US$200 per month for a small house. Try to get your electricity included in your rent if you can. I don’t have air conditioning, but, as I am on the water, there is a gentle breeze into my bungalow all day long. Sometimes I augment it with a fan.

“If you want nightlife, San Pedro, the town on much more developed Ambergris Caye, is just a half-hour away on a safe, clean, large boat. The ride is US$10 one way, US$17 round trip.

“I make the trip over sometimes, but I’m always glad to return to Caye Caulker. It’s much quieter here. Over on Ambergris Caye, these days, you have paved roads, even sidewalks, and actual traffic. It’s a question of the kind of lifestyle you’re looking for.

“I enjoy going over to Ambergris now and then for a glimpse of the real world, but I’m always eager to get back to this blissful place. For me, this is heaven.”

Kathleen Peddicord