Ambergris Caye Belize: A Mermaid’s Paradise

Ambergris Caye #travel #belize #mermaid

Flying over Ambergris Caye #belize #travel

The trip was pretty unBelizable. Okay, now that we’ve gotten that joke out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Ambergris Caye is the most majestic mermaid-haven I have ever visited. From riding co-pilot on the flight from Belize City, to my departure with new puppy in tow, I was smitten with Ambergris Caye.

Ambergris Caye || #travel #explore #belize

But let’s back it up a little.

What was I even doing in Belize?

A few months ago, a dear friend and grad program classmate and I had agreed if I could afford to join her on her global exchange, I definitely would. Last month, she decided last minute to change her global experience (basically a short international internship) from northwest India to Belize. Besides being a boss-ass bitch in general, Shell adores animals and runs her own non-profit for their benefit. As a vet tech, she would be working with Saga Humane Society in Ambergris Caye, the only humane society on the island. Taking care of dogs and kittens? I gladly offered my services. The deciding factor was the flights, which were less than $350 from San Diego. It would’ve been foolish to pass up the opportunity.

Things have been a little quiet on the blog, but there’s good reason! Y’all might know I’m pretty invested in education reform and passionate about chillren. I’ve been working on developing a non-profit that will allow caring individuals to support eager learners across the world. After visiting two schools in Ghana, which I briefly discuss here, I raised money to purchase school supplies and books to be delivered to them.Personally seeing the school and all the hard work that the teachers have put in warmed my heart like no other. Half of the money went as a scholarship girl who had recently lost her mother and couldn’t afford school.  With Belize being so last minute, instead of raising money, I quickly ran to Target to stock up on supplies for a school (Holy Cross Belize) that keeps a running needs list online.

Dropping off supplies #travel #impact

The school has been resourceful by establishing relationships that lead to things like a Dell computer lab, but that doesn’t fix all the issues. Education is far from free in the majority of the world, and schools are strapped for cash. They do not want to turn students away, so they have to cut corners elsewhere like snacks or even teachers. A big issue for donors is tax exemption, which cannot be done with most international donations. By having a U.S. Based nonprofit, gifts are eligible for tax exemption.

This is non-profit portion of my master’s programs final project—a mere portion. Which is why I’ve been so quiet on the web. Forgive my absence over the next few weeks, I swear to make it up to y’all.

Besides doing what I love most, traveling and promoting education, I took some time to get PADI certified! Having done Discovery scuba a few times and promising myself for years, I decided it was a necessity for the Belize trip. Thanks to the flexibility of the program, I chose the e-Learning option. Instead of sitting in a physical location for a few hours a week, e-Learning allows you to complete all the modules at your own pace online. After you display content knowledge, your instructor will bring you into a pool for two full days to practice skills in full gear. This is the perfect time to address any concerns or questions, like which brand the instructor prefers. To complete certification, your instructor will take you on four open water dives, reaching at least 30 feet deep. I had the luck of training in La Jolla, CA with leopard sharks and halibut, but my instructor requested I not take my GoPro during training. Getting scuba certified is the perfect way to upgrade your travel adventure, especially if you prefer warm places like I do. Not ready to take the plunge? Start with Discover Scuba through PADI on your next trip.

But let’s get back to the travels…

Where is Ambergris Caye?

Belize as a whole has plentiful types of terrain, from beach to mountains to farmlands. On the northern district, a few miles south of Mexico, lays Ambergris Caye. Besides the gorgeous beaches and pleasant people, Ambergris Caye is an underwater wonderland. The world’s second largest reef is located a short boat’s ride away, with rainbow parrotfish, stingrays, dolphins, and everything else you can imagine. Including black tip reef sharks, like this big boy that circled us while scuba diving. Thrilling.   I was scared shitless, but that’s another story for another time…

Swimming with sharks in #belize #travel

The main town, San Pedro, is surprisingly well-stocked. There’s stores for pet grooming, books, salons, and a host of restaurants. I was absolutely smitten with colorful architecture! Plenty of buildings, especially downtown, were a mix of tangerine, coral pink, and deep blue. Like this adorable pink hotel lined with conch shells!

Hotel in San Pedro Belize #travel

Give me the details…

Maybe you’ve heard of the Great Blue Hole? You now, the massive underwater sinkhole that ends about 400 feet into the earth. It’s absolutely insane, and I had the chance to scuba dive in it! There’s also Shark Ray Alley for snorkling and free diving. Besides being a natural treasure, Belize is super easy to deal with.

Swimming in Hol Chan #explore #travel

Belize is the only country in Central America with English as the national language. This makes doing business and making plans a breeze. However, the majority of Belizeans speak Spanish in the home and personal affairs. If you know even a phrase or two, I highly recommend trying to communicate in the Belizean language of choice. Creole is also spoken, but Spanish might be a little easier to pick up with a translator.

Additionally, U.S. currency is accepted pretty much everywhere. There is a fixed rate of 2:1 for U.S. to Belizean dollar, which is pretty much the easiest conversion rate I’ve ever had to do!

True to a mermaid’s paradise, Ambergris Caye had amazing food. We’re talking fresh conch ceviche with limeade. Lobster caught 30 feet away from the restaurant. The most appetizing vegetarian refried beans and juicy chicken burrito for $2.50. Full fruit smoothies. These delectable shrimp tostadas for $3 USD. We were in heaven.

Food in #belize #travel

Getting Around The Island

Ambergris Caye is very thin and only gets about a mile wide. From the northernmost point to the very southernmost tip is 25 miles. The main roads are paved, including all of downtown San Pedro. However, if there’s a good chance you might be staying in an Airbnb, I have to mention the side roads get gnarly. The majority of streets are sign-less with numerous rocky potholes. Walking, taxi, golf cart, and biking are all viable options. Personally, bikes were a little rough for me. The golf carts are gassed up with off-roading wheels, and account for about 95% of all vehicles you see on the road. Instead of using blinkers, drivers are expected to use hand signals to help out the other drivers. The only issue with the golf carts were the illusive speed bumps. Every few hundred feet, sometimes less, sometimes more, there are unmarked bumps or dips in the road. After nearly breaking our necks a few times, we learned to pay very close attention to how fast we were going. Cabbies and policemen were driving the only true automobiles I saw.

The Weather…

…is extremely similar to the southern U.S., toasty, moist, with a bit of afternoon rain showers. Ambergris Caye has a wet (June-December) and a dry season (February-May). Tourists tend to flock to the island during the dry season, but we had a superb time even with the rain. I would not recommend taking a very short trip (less than three days) during the wet season. Give yourself enough time to have all the nautical adventures you came for. We can’t really blame a snorkeling tour for canceling when it’s pouring out. Sandals, yoga pants, and a t-shirt are perfectly appropriate attire.

Another option is purchasing an adorable sun hat! I snagged this one for about $20 USD. Sun hats are also great on travel days because it effortlessly jazzes up any outfit. Seriously got a dozen compliments including from the passport control people.

Boating in Ambergris Caye #belize #travel

The Bad Stuff

Mosquitos. Our room was located on the ground floor, receiving no sea breeze. This allowed the mosquitos to post up outside of our room, patiently waiting to sneak in and harass us. Armed with coils, a mosquito net, and heavy-duty bug spray, we survived. Shell had gotten eaten up the night before I had arrived, but luckily she hadn’t contracted any illnesses.

Sun poisoning. As a Florida girl, I totally understand the power of the sun. It’s not to be f****d with. We reapplied sunscreen constantly on the boat and any time after getting out of the water. This allowed me to come home with a lovely tan instead of pealing burns.

Liquor prices. For being away from the mainland, Ambergris Caye is affordable, and pretty well stocked. The exception is liquor. Highly recommend grabbing what you need duty-free from the airport in Belize City.

Stay tuned for new posts on swimming with sharks, visiting a local chocolate factory, and bringing home the best souvenir ever. I’ll give you a hint on the last one– it has fur 🙂

 

A Mermaid's Paradise  || Ambergris Caye, Belize || Everything you need to know! #tips #travel #explore #mermaid

Chasing Waterfalls: Unreal Helicopter Ride Over Na Pali Coast, Hawaii (+Video!)

Flying high over the Na Pali Coast in Hawaii! +Videos || #travel #wanderlust #hawaii #napali #traveltips

Hawaii is more than coconuts and pineapples, surfers and hula girls. Although these are aspects are all pretty lovely,  and tasty, these luscious islands have so much more to show and preserve. The area has a longstanding tradition of living off of the land through fishing and hunting wild hogs. People respect mother nature and rejoice in her gifts nearly every day. The ocean is a perfect example, filled with little heads bobbing up and down, getting smaller and smaller out to the endless sea.

I had been to Hawaii in 2012 and absolutely fell in love. The speed limits were 35, macadamia nut pancakes were everywhere, and the people were lovely. Heaven on earth is Kauai, and more specifically, the Na Pali Coast. Maybe you’ve seen, and lusted over, scenery in Lilo and Stitch? Oh yeah, that’s what the movie was designed after.

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

The headphones are multipurpose- first and foremost, for aesthetic pleasure. We look pretty badass decked out in our ‘copter gear, yeah? Realistically, we had them on because the helicopter gets QUITE loud. Notice the little headset as well? Press a button and the rest of the crew can hear your, “Ooos” and “Aaahs.”

img_5050

The rain started to trickle, then proceeded to come down in rapid ping-ping-pings. Generally, weather issues tend to rattle my senses in flight, but it was so gorgeous I didn’t even care.Okay, maybe I was a little nervous. The massive waterfalls between ethereal clouds was a prime distraction though.

img_5057

Any guesses on how large that waterfall is?

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Canyon in Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

The canyon was a magnificent pumpkin orange with flecks of brass, that went on for miles. Allegedly, Mark Twain called it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” but it truly is stunning enough in it’s own terms. Could you imagine having a little home tucked away in these crevices? With all the canyons and waterfalls I almost forgot what we had came for- the Na Pali Coast.

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Canyon in Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

Y’all remember the Care Bears? Every time I fly through clouds, my heart is filled with mixed feelings. On one hand, I feel bad for cutting through the homes of such lovely little imaginary creatures. The other part of me can’t believe how fun it is! There’s something thrilling about not really being able to see where you’re going.

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Canyon in Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

The ridges in the cliffs were so striking!

img_5093-1

Emerald green leading into turquoise blue. We could see thousands of trees scattered throughout the island, but the best part was the moment we saw the big ole blue ocean.

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Canyon in Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

There was one thought that kept rolling through my mind. Our planet is so beautiful and we (okay, fine, I) have to take better care of it. Hate to admit that out of all the consciously proactive behaviors to have, environmentalism is not my strong point. The state I live in now, California, makes very easy while out in about, but honestly my home life is lacking.

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

The flight continued further down the Na Pali coast, and we could see people on boats and cars driving below. Crazy to think how isolated of a place Hawaii is. The flight was over 6 hours from San Diego. The closest country to the west is Japan and even that’s at least a nine hour flight. The helicopter wouldn’t even be able to transport us that far!

Chasing Waterfalls: Helicopter Ride Canyon in Na Pali Coast #travel #explore #hawaii

Even crazier to me, Hawaii has only been a state of the U.S. since 1959. Even visiting briefly, you can see that Hawaii doesn’t really adhere to the culture of the mainland. People pluck fruit on the side of the road for breakfast, fish for lunch, and hunt pesky hogs for dinner. Unfortunately, there has been an influx of recent transplants to the area who attempt to illegally block off public beach access. In plenty of countries, it is illegal to block beach/ocean access for food and navigation reasons. Our cab driver, who we spent quite some time with, was stressing how difficult it was becoming to continue their traditional lifestyle of living off the land. To them, it’s disrespectful to mother nature to ignore her gifts.

img_5119

After the helicopter ride, my brothers and I went met up our buddy/taxi driver who had invited us out earlier and given us a bomb breakfast spot, called Tip Top. Definitely make a stop and order their macadamia nut pancakes- the tastiest I’ve had thus far!

img_5104

Hawaii is one of those places where almost everyone is named XYZ, and our buddy Jon, was not there when we arrived. My family is great, but they go pretty hard. By day 8, I had sworn off hard liquor. But, y’all know I’m weak so long story short, after a dozen or so shots, losing a pool game, and some tears, my night got turned around.

The bar began to close down, kicking the ten or so patrons out into the pouring rain. Plot twist- I like rain when it’s warm outside. It’s like a spa treatment from mother nature. Additionally, we picked up a friend along the way. The best kind of friend. The friend that has a…

PUPPY!

Needless to say, I was a happy girl.

But back to the Na Pali Coast…

Traveling to beautiful places, natural or man-made, always makes me appreciate what I never noticed prior to leaving. Na Pali Coast is a must visit for ANYONE. You know what they say, you only conserve what you love, and you only love what you know.

Have you ever visit Kauai? Did you love Lilo & Stitch?

Laughing to Keep From Crying: Kakum National Park in Ghana

Visiting Kakum National Park #travel #explore #africa

 

Okay, I’m being slightly hyperbolic here. I was totally fine swinging 100 feet up in the air. Not to mention, we were slipping all over the place thanks to the rain that had been steadily drizzling for a few hours. I peaked down to the distant land below and gulped. Kakum National Park was a first-time thrill for me. The bridge starts swaying. I clutched my go-pro arm and attempted to twist my head just enough to see the group behind me.  But there was no turning back… How did I get myself into this predicament?

 

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

We arrived at Kakum National Park by hopping on a tro-tro in Accra, and driving a little under two hours to Cape Coast! Then, we hopped on another tro-tro and headed straight for Kakum National Park. The streets were lined with goats of all sizes, as we quickly turned from semi-paved roads to full on swerving-left-and-right-and-more-left to avoid the massive potholes in the roads. Nevermind, our driver chuckled, and picked the speed up to 100 km/hr. As the person sitting next to the massive open window, I had to laugh to keep from thinking of popping out of the window and rolling down the hills. But don’t worry. I’m typing you today, so clearly, I’ve survived.

We came screeching along with a couple other dozen, maybe fifty people trickled up the entrance. Be warned, foreigners have a little bigger of a fee. Personally, I think that’s how it should be in every country- your right to your own national parks. But I did overhear other visitors complaining, so you’ve been forewarned. The park itself cost a mere 2 cedis to enter, but what you want is the canopy walk! It’s only an additional 50 cedis (little over 10 USD) for an exhilarating adventure.

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

Most of us hadn’t eaten all day, other than some amazing road-side plantains, and by the time we arrived it was nearing 3:00 in the afternoon. At the same time, it was starting to drizzle. Probably not safe to do the canopy walk while it’s wet and on an empty stomach. Simply unsafe, to me. *Rubs empty belly* Just to our luck, there was a perfect little open-air restaurant INSIDE of the national park. And they sold CLUB BEER. I sat my happy little ass down and order my favorite Ghanian dish- Goat Lite Soup and rice. Disclaimer- do not order the pizza! All my pals tried to get pizza and it was quite similar to the elementary public school plastic excuse for dining. Save yourself and order something local!

If you can manage, you should try to get there early to avoid the last minute rush. To make it easier, I let the pushers push up ahead, and our group hung out by the back. That way, we didn’t have to feel rushed. Once you get going, you can’t really turn back. This proved to be a little intense for some people, children and grown-ass men included. There were tears. Prayers. Cries and whimpers.

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

But it was absolutely beautiful!

The air was refreshing, the trees were a million shades of emerald and green. Birds fluttered about, singing to each other. Did you know there are over 250 species of bird in Kakum? I didn’t either until I visited. Honestly, the rain made it a little more surreal. The canopy was just long enough to enjoy it, without feeling like you need to do it again.

 

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

 

After the canopy, you can walk through the park and explore the different species. Most animals will be hiding by noon, so get in early if you want to see any elephants!

There is even an option to SPEND THE NIGHT on the canopy walk! Bring a mosquito net and proper shoes though, you have to be there early for this option.

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

Overall, Kakum National Park was a great day trip and I highly recommend it. Nothing is better than fresh air and friends! Have you ever heard of the park or been on a canopy walk?

Flying Doors Off Over an Active Volcano in Hawaii

As an American who loves to travel, I sometimes forget that plenty of the most gorgeous places on earth are located in my home country. Perfect example? Hawaii. If there was a heaven on earth, I would argue until death that it is located in Hawaii. You can walk down the street, pluck a mango for lunch, swim around all afternoon, and walk home for nap as the early evening rain rolls in.


 And have you seen the clouds straight chillin’ on the mountains?

 

But the best way to see Hawaii? By helicopter!

 

We take off, the frigid wind whipping my hair all over my poor cousin. We managed to get it in a bun of sorts, just in time to hear our captain go, “Oh my god.” Now, normally this isn’t something I’d enjoy hearing from someone who in charge of my life a couple hundred feet above ground. But when it’s followed by “you’re in for a treat today” I knew we had made the right decision. A field of throbbing black, smoldering lava surrounded the volcano, giving us the chance to see the destructive power. A few desperate trees clung to life, with a steady water supply keeping them alive. Most of the trees, however, were sizzled to a crisp.

Doors Off Helicopter Ride over #Hawaii || #wanderlust

 

After circling around the damage, we went to the source of the lava. A mesmerizing, glittery substance trickled for miles. Without the doors, we could lean out a feel the heat. Not sure if Stephen (I believe that was the pilot’s name) approves of that, but at the time he didn’t seem to notice.

 

Flying doors off over an active volcano in #hawaii #explore

 

But the craziest part was definitely the ring of fire. I could best describe it as the opening to the center of earth, with an ocean of glowing orange lava. To see the earth bubbling up like that was pretty insane. Not only were the colors mesmerizing, but the lava was slowly running like a tired stream.

Flying over an active volcano in #hawaii #explore

When they warn you about it getting a little chilly up there, believe them. I may look like I’m enjoying myself, but I was downright shaking when I was out of the sun’s warmth. Luckily, they had a black windbreaker for me to attract as much warmth as physically possible. Highly suggest jeans, boots, and at least two sweaters.


No loose objects allowed. This includes phones, cameras, bags, scarfs, and anything else that could pose a threat. Better safe than sorry, right? Get a camera strap or create a makeshift one with a hair tie, like I had to do.

 The last thing my brother said to me before we went our separate ways was something about the GoPro. I am slightly notorious for taking the minimal amount of pictures necessary to prove I was in a place. In many cases, no photos are taken at all. So I was slightly determined to do society a favor and get some badass pics. Unfortunately, fate wanted to see me panic a little bit. Within fifteen minutes of our ride, right after we clear the clouds and are at the mercy of a million winds, my GoPro malfunctions. I try to click camera. No go. Try the video. Nothing. It wouldn’t even just turn off and back on. So, with an overstretched hair tie for a wrist band, I took the camera out of it’s skeleton, popped the battery out, and prayed it would turn back on.


Which it did.