What’s the Difference Between an Island and a Caye?

On November 14, 2013 in Culture

Remember yourself as a young child in primary school drawing a flat piece of brown land that protruded gradually in the center like a baseball mound with a coconut tree right in the middle.  It was surrounded with blue water that had black squiggly lines scattered everywhere to signify soft waves.  In the water you drew a triangle –as a semblance of a shark fin- and somewhere much closer to that brown piece of gradually-protruding-land, you drew a stick figure of a neck and a head breaking through the water with its arms sticking out.  To top it off, you drew a conversation bubble over the stick figure screaming, “HELLLLP!”

Adult Drawing

Adult Drawing

Okay, okay, so you may never have drawn the bubble, the stick figure, or the triangle.  And you never knew it then, nor probably even know it now, but that piece of brown land was not actually an island.  It was a . . . caye!  It’s pronounced as “key,” and depending on which part of the world you’re in, it’s sometimes spelled “key,” as in the Florida Keys, or “cay,” such as the cays you find in the Bahamas.  And well, let’s face it, Greenland is an island.  Australia is an island, an island with an area of 7.6 million sq km (4.7 million sq miles), far from the idyllic paradise portrait you drew as children.  But “size” is not so much what distinguishes between island and caye, but more so formation, makeup and elevation.

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Volcanic Islands

An island is any form of land mass that’s completely surrounded by water.  The two main types of islands are either formed by volcanic action, or are part of a continental plate floating on top of the Earth’s mantle.  Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines are examples of volcanically–formed islands.  Greenland and Australia are both continental islands.  Cayes, however, are sandy, low-elevation islands that form on top of coral reefs.  According to our ever so reliable Wiki scholars, cayes are formed when different “ocean currents transport loose sediment across the surface of a reef.”  The accumulated sediment that forms the caye is made up of plant and animal skeletal remains that are swept from surrounding reef ecosystems.  Soil and vegetation appear over time with the help of guano bird manure which helps fertilize the sediment.  This helps explain how coconut trees can grow and thrive on a caye and then eventually appear in your childhood drawings.  Cayes are fragile and incredibly vulnerable to weather, so much that residents typically build sea walls to protect their caye from serious erosion.   In more vegetated cayes, you will find that red mangroves exist and act as natrual sea walls.  So If you’ve ever wondered why, or have been disappointed that a tropical location like Caye Caulker doesn’t have a stretched beach, think again, you’re on caye.  So next time you see a portrait of a paradise island, ask yourselves, it this an island, or a caye?

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Goff’s Caye

Forman's Caye

Forman’s Caye


HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAGGAMUFFIN!!

On November 07, 2013 in News

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If there was indeed a day that Raggamuffin Tours was born it would have to be the date of birth of it’s owner and originator Captain Jimmy Jones – 7th November 1973.  So today you could say, and indeed Facebook would agree, is Raggamuffin’s birthday!!

So today we are patting each other on the back and wishing ourselves blessings for another year of health, love and productivity!!  What will we be doing … well that would be telling but needless to say we will be definitely celebrating with Jimmy and indeed for Lee Shane (as it was his birthday yesterday).  So if you are in the vicinity or are a short plane ride away, come on down and we will have a Belikin and a slice of cake to celebrate!!!

 


What Raggamuffin’s do in October!

On November 04, 2013 in News

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Ashamedly we close for the month of October – rest, recuperation and renovation for staff, office and boats!  Some of us have taken journeys – Adela, Ellis, Ramsay and Jahlee visited the US and Kevin the US and Japan and the rest of us enjoyed family time at home!

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It’s a time for us to re-charge our batteries and change the pace so that we can really appreciate what we have.  We have found our month off or our slow season being hugely beneficial to the staff that really took advantage of it and it giving everybody that welcome holiday and break that we all look forward to.

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For those of us who remained in Belize for October do not feel sad, for we have enjoyed ourselves too – we have spent countless occasions on Raggamuffin’s newest toy, our Ragga Empress.  Whilst the office is open she will be in constant use and for us who were not able to move off the island she was an exciting source of relaxation, entertainment and family bonding.  We may not have moved too far but we too have taken full advantage of what we love about our island and pushed it to the max – we too are feeling refreshed and ready to go!!

And to our wonderful sailboats, well they too have been pampered and rested – Ragga Queen, Ragga King and even Ragga Prince have all been up on dry dock getting major repairs and renovations – they now look brand spanking new.  Ragga Prince still has yet to be finished – she will be coming back to the island in December but we already have Queen and King ready and back to work and these babies look better than ever!!

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We have to commend and thank those Raggamuffin’s who worked tirelessly on getting these boats in such fine shape – Charles, Sherwin, Big and Lee Shane, even Dane and Jerry put in their work – these are the men that do not enjoy sitting around and doing nothing and that next year will hopefully be flying around the world with their colleagues!!!

All in all, an October like no other as we commence into our new season stronger and better than ever. So .. back to life, back to reality and back to what we do best – making people exceedingly happy!!!


“Earth Wind and Fire,” Belize, and the 21st of September

On September 22, 2013 in Belize

You would think you were at a wedding reception dancing the night away to an Earth, Wind and Fire cover band every time you hear their top-of-the-charts tune about the 21st of September.  Released in 1978, the track builds up and unleashes a thrilling happiness that comes from pure freedom.  ~The groove is right and night is alllllright~  It was the month of September when composer and lyricist banded together.  One had influenced the other, but both had been on a roll with spiritual inspiration when they produced the song that would remain a legacy.  And while few theories circulate about the significance of the 21st of September, the truth is, it just sounded phonetically right.  “Do you remember the 21st night of September?  Love was changing the minds of pretenders, while chasing the clouds away.  Our hearts were singing, in the key that our souls were singing…as we danced in the night away.”  This song is undoubtedly the ultimate feel-good song.

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As we celebrated the 32nd anniversary of Belizean independence yesterday, we all enjoyed the accoutrements of Independence Day -the colorful parade, the fireworks, the parties, the reason to gather.  We had taught our school children the vital history of September 21st and mark it as the day to raise our flag and celebrate.  What we often feel but understate, no matter where in the world, is the sheer feel-good sentiment of being independent and being free, the exact feeling you get from relishing in your favorite feel-good song!  Tracing the roots of Belize Independence, we find that it was 20-year buildup of drawn out negotiations over a land dispute with Guatemala.  A previous treaty awarded Belize more land under specific conditions which Guatemala claimed were never met.  Great Britain had long acknowledged Belize’s anticipation for self-governance since 1961 when Belize sought the world stage for recognition and support.  During that same period, Colonialism had already come to a wane, but Guatemala’s border dispute with Belize prolonged its independence as it required Great Britain’s protection against Guatemala’s threat of force.  After 20 years of negotiations and lobbying within the United Nations, Belize became an independent nation.  Unlike The Earth, Wind and Fire, the 21st of September is a day of particular significance which trickles down from history as the day to celebrate independence and reflect on some of the pure things are simply universal.  The right to be free.  The right to be independent.  The right to self-govern.  The right to party.

Happy Independence Day Belize!  We had a great day!

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September Brings . . .

On September 09, 2013 in Belize, Caye Caulker

Seasons cycle, and September begins.  Among many things, September brings a window portal into the local scene.

September brings the classic feel of Caye Caulker, the feel of a quaint fishing village captured in a 1960s shot with a filmy grain photo filter that emits the relaxation and serenity of an undiscovered tropical paradise.  The sun and the moon dictate the only concept of time; nothing is gained nor lost in a few minutes of time, so don’t rush.  Throw yourself into a timeless bliss.  September brings the true essence of our motto, “Go Slow,” that invites a spirit of renewal.  Travelers, backpackers, and vacationers –all those who visit need no agenda.  Come and just be.  The sea is yours.  Camouflage yourself against the mosaic strips of aqua and blue.  It’s a time when the island truly feels as though it were your own, the time of year when visitors are caught into devotion and fall into the temptation of making Caye Caulker a permanent place of retreat.

For residents, September brings a slight pause in the hustle of daily business, but brings in the bustle of a new school year.  As parents align fresh uniforms for their children and tighten their children’s schedules, children in turn enjoy a brand new set of school supplies, and brag about their next grade level.  It’s a time when parents, all too much, seem as if it were they themselves returning to school as they gear their children back towards a studious mindset.

post banners2For the Northern Hemisphere, summer is over, but for our tropical zone, the warmth continues.  And while September brings a picturesque, slower pace, the party continues.  September brings holidays, and days off -reasons to gather and stay festive with celebrations to honor the country’s two most important national holidays:  The Battle of St. George’s Caye, and Independence Day.  Here on Caye Caulker, proud business owners raise the Belizean flag and dress their storefronts with blue and red streamers, while others drape blue and red fiesta flags through and across Caye Caulker’s Front Street.  Throughout the country, Belizeans commemorate the two events with back to back cultural festivities which can last up to three weeks, kicking off as early as September 1st with speeches, contests, and performances, then onto September 10th to commemorate The Battle of St. George’s Caye, often with a traditional regatta, and continuing on until September 21st with a Carnival to celebrate the day Belize received its independence from Great Britain.   On Caye Caulker, residents will be enjoying mini parades along Front Street, a fair, and ceremonies at the Palapa Beach.  Visitors, frequent or new, will connect with the quaint feel September brings.

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Flying High on Caye Caulker!!

On August 10, 2013 in News

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For over 6 months now Caye Caulker and our surrounding waters have been aware of Belize’s first ultra light plane as on calm afternoons we cannot but help notice it buzzing around our island, seemingly just above our heads!!  The plane is amphibious ie can move on water and in the air (oh very James Bond I hear you cry) and indeed it has become quite a spectacle for us locals.

The plane’s owner and Captain is Walter Martin, a resident here in Caye Caulker, who moved here with his wife Christine (both of Bavarian decent) from Canada.  Walter, a self proclaimed Bush Man, found his small heaven here in Caye Caulker where the warmth of the sun and the simplicity of life can be combined in one sweet spot – Caye Caulker.  Walter has been flying for over 7 years has been through loop holes in order to obtain the correct licenses/ insurances in order to make his flying here very much above board, at this stage is merely enjoying his hobby/ passion at a ‘Go Slow’ pace.

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Walter had extended the invitation to join him on one of his ‘runs’ sometime ago but sheer terror ensured that I neatly avoided the question.  It was when our own Ragga Empress set off sailing down the reef and Walter stumbled upon her and her sheer beauty from the air brought the question up again, this time to take pictures of our newest addition.

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So yesterday morning, at Ragga Empress left her Caye Caulker dock and the weather conditions were perfect I was strapped in, headphones on and de-robed of anything that could ‘fly off’ me and off we went.  Please understand,as the engine roared my heart missed a beat, adrenaline was pumping and I was so excited I almost peed my pants!!!!  What if I fell out of the aircraft, what if the engine failed – all of this went running through my head!

Once in the air, all my fears dispelled as the wind whipped through my hair and the beauty of the the island and the ocean lay in front of me.   I was immediately taken back with what is very much familiar surroundings ie my home, my island, looking totally different.  It is truly fascinating to see how roads interlock, seeing friends houses and the shape of their properties clearly and without obstruction from other buildings.  It is wonderful to see our ocean filled with so many stingrays, eagle rays, manatees and dolphins – we have one huge aquarium on our doorstep and surprisingly you can see it so much clearer from the air!!

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It was indeed a spiritual experience, where one could meditate as you watch the world beneath you.  It is so very humbling to look at the world this way as you feel so very small as you look at a vast expanse of territory.  Walter commented ‘I don’t do drugs or even drink much alcohol, this is my drug, this is where I come to escape’ – and I totally understood what he meant and I share his enthusiasm – I just now need to learn to fly a plane!!???!!!

In my few hours that I was gone I am happy to say that I have a collection of wonderful photos as a keep sake – I would like to share a number of them with you so that you can start to imagine what an amazing experience my ultra light flight was.  Thank you Walter – anytime you need a wing man/ woman – I will be there!!!!

 

 


Ready to be ‘Empress’ed??!!

On July 26, 2013 in News

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It is no doubt a dawn of a new day for us here at Raggamuffin!  Our pet project that we have been working hard on (and on a number of occasions ‘playing hard’ on) completed her transformation yesterday and today takes her maiden voyage for her first Caye Caulker to Placencia – 2 night/ 3 day tours!

Let me introduce to you Ragga Empress – she is a 38ft catamaran that has spent the last four months in renovation in order to up-grade Raggamuffin’s service!!  Empress actually came to work here in Belize some 13 years ago with the luxury catamaran charter company TMM.  Brand spanking new at the time and only months after she first starting working, Hurricane Keith hit Belize and forced her and and a handful of TMM’s boats over the reef.  Empress was salvaged and taken into the loving care of Will Peoples, a long standing resident of Caye Caulker who took it on board to renovate Empress back to working condition.  After many years of his hard labor, Will decided that Empress was just too big for him and his wife Jane and they were sadly forced to put her up for sale.

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This is where Raggamuffin came in – understanding that we want to continually upgrade our service, James and Charlie Jones stepped in (of course with the help of Atlantic Bank!!) to make her part of our Ragga Fleet.  And four months later, with at least 2 months of it spent in the Rio Dulce in Guatemala for refurbishment and rigging, she is looking (once again) as though she is fresh of the factory floor.

Ragga Empress will take on board Ragga Queen’s duties in the overnight Caye Caulker to Placencia, picking up the Tuesday and Friday trips.  Empress offers slightly more room for sun bathers and indeed more shade, plus the advantage of two bathrooms with 2 showers for additional passenger comfort.

Although she is most likely, just like her predecessor, to undertake all Tuesday and Friday trips, it must be stressed that is is not guaranteed as there will be the instances that maintenance will be required and therefore our wonderful Ragga Queen will take her place.

 


Commemorating our Fishermen – 18th Annual Lobster Festival!

On June 15, 2013 in News

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Friday June 28 – Sunday 30 June 2013

Caye Caulker’s biggest annual event, Lobster Fest is just two weeks away! We are anticipating another exciting weekend celebration commencing with the Miss Lobster Fest Pageant Friday evening at 7pm and ending with the beach party on Sunday, June 30. As the official lobster season opens today, June 15, fishermen will set their lobster traps and get ready to reel in the bountiful catch and so we mustn’t forget why we celebrate: “to commemorate all the fishermen who have made Caye Caulker what it is today.” Caye Caulker began as a fishing village, with lobster as its main catch. Today fishermen observe conservation policies which regulate their catch. The length of the lobster’s tail must weigh over four ounces or the cape length/carapace must exceed three inches. The lobster season ends in mid-February, 2014.

As we kick off the new lobster season during next week’s Lobster Fest, we can expect an array of lobster dishes, fourteen food booths, a live band, local DJs and eight other booths including The Fisheries Department, Wildlife Conservation, and the Belize Shark Project. Contests including the “biggest-lobster” contest and perhaps another “greasy pole climb” contest will also highlight the weekend. This highly sought out annual event is a celebration for the entire family –the young and the young at heart and we encourage those who miss the island to visit next week, or to simply visit our Facebook page for a mini play-by-play of Lobster Fest 2013. Let the celebration begin!


Hurricane season is here!!

On June 05, 2013 in News

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Yes we are indeed right smack bang at the beginning of this 2013 Hurricane Season!!  This title to this period of the year fills most tourists with terror to travel to our parts and therefore every other customers questions relate to weather!!  Obviously for those persons who have saved their hard earned cash for the past year on a holiday in the Caribbean, sunshine is a must and we understand that.  But this ‘hurricane season’ period often deters customers from traveling to Belize at this time of the year and this, due to many years of experience, I feel is harsh!!

When you do your research as to the seasonality of Belize we are actually ‘sub tropical’ climate, tempered by trade winds.  Our dry season has been calculated to be from February to May would be for those who require 100% guarantee of sunshine, to be the perfect time to be in Belize – however, dry weather is indicative of high winds which makes snorkeling and scuba diving tricky, never mind that picture perfect hairdo!!!

For those of us who live on this tropical island year round, we would have to agree that at anytime of the year we can receive a ‘rainy patch’.  These periods are merely a few days – they are generally a respite from the the sunshine, an opportunity to cool off and perhaps even enjoy your ‘skin blanket’ at night!!  Rain, even if forecast otherwise, never lasts for more than three days in a row (and these instances are really narrowed down to perhaps two or three times a year - There is probably no scientific fact to prove this, but in our experience it is always the case).  Days remain largely sunny, rainfall more often occurs during the night time period than the day and occasionally the morning or evening.  PERFECT FOR TOURISM THROUGHOUT THE YEAR!!

As in the rest of the world with our ever changing climates, these isolated periods of rainy days can be experienced at any time of the year – for example I have very much witnessed a rainy February (thought to be a dry month).  Although the meteorological department suggests patterns of rainfall, there is no way of determining in advance of whether one month or another would be a better one to travel in as each and every one has their dry and wet periods.

And what about ‘hurricane season’, said to be June to November??  This indeed is enough to ring the alarm bells of any tourist traveling to Belize however it still remains, in my opinion, the safest and best time of year for undertaking your tours here to Belize.  Tropical systems are given a huge amount of respect in these parts due to local experience.  For days before an advancing system locals will be aware of its presence and the island shuts down – safety is paramount and therefore no threat to tourists.  This and the fact that the last hurricane we had was back 13 years ago (thanks Keith) and before that 50 years ago (thanks Hattie) it is not a regular occurrence in our parts!!

The so called high season is from November to April is the so called high traffic period for tourism here in Belize and most of these months will have a number of ‘cold fronts’ pass right through them.  For those persons who want to be outside to enjoy the views, these cold fronts (high winds and rain, and obviously cold) make Caye Caulker look little like the Caribbean!  Whereas the rainfall received in the months of June to September is the type of rain that has no chill in the air and that you want to dance in whilst fully clothed knowing the sunshine will be back shortly!

In summary – do not be discouraged by the words ‘hurricane season’ – if there were daily, weekly or even monthly hurricanes we would not be living so contentedly on an island that is at sea level!  Rainfall does occur throughout this period but it is short lived and warm and sunshine is our prevailing element, which is why we can confirm that we live in Paradise!

 

 


PhotoS of the month – May

On June 03, 2013 in News

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Once again we re-fresh our Facebook profiles  with a photo from one of our customers – this month we have been sent a collection of photos from the amazing Rene Schoneberg from Germany.  All of his album has been so good (not to mention a truly fantastic video that he created) that it has been difficult to select just two of the many that he took on our fabulous overnight adventure.

The above photos are the ones selected, and these has been selected for its suitability for the small profile icon but there are a number that are worthy of a larger stage and here are just a few for you!!

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Thanks Rene and we hope you and Sabine return soon!!