It takes a village to raise a child.

On June 01, 2013 in Belize, Caye Caulker

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With heartfelt pride and solidarity, we highlight the social initiatives and large strides Belizean NGO, Special Envoy has implemented and continues to implement with its mission of “advancing the welfare and well-being of Belizean Children.”  Today the  Belizean community joins together in raising funds towards the Inspiration Center, a facility benefitting disadvantaged and differently abled children in need of physical, speech, occupational, or mental therapy, rehabilitation, as well as education.  With children comprising nearly 50% of the Belizean population, it becomes imperative to ensure that children have access and mobility towards a quality of life.  Special Envoy encourages all sectors of society to pitch in and indeed, it takes a village to raise a child.

Today, the second annual telethon will take place with donation booths set up in different communities throughout the country.  Here on Caye Caulker, the donation booth will be located at Jan’s Place on Front Street.  Last year, the telethon raised $500,000 USD which went to constructing the building.  This year, the telethon hopes to target another $500,000 USD to cover costs of the facility’s equipment.  We are inspired by the action and effort that carries the hope of our children in need, and we are blessed to experience the community spirit that embodies the Belizean community.

If you wish to learn more about the Inspiration Center and Special Envoy, or participate by donation, please view complete information from this link:  Inspiration Center – Second Annual Telethon.


Sharks – friend or foe?

On May 29, 2013 in News

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PART I -

Sunlight feeds the plankton.  Plankton feed sardines.  It’s a classic notion of nature of which we’re all aware:  the big fish eats the small fish; and as it happens, sharks sit atop the complex food chain.  Thanks to the 1975 Spielberg film, Jaws, we fully understand that sharks are mean, predatory and fatal to innocent fish and mammals, especially humans.  But what doesn’t always come into popular consciousness is this:  scientists have found sharks to be efficient eaters, choosing prey that is sick, old, or slower among its population.  Scientists recognize this as an overall benefit as it helps eliminate the spread of disease among fish populations and in essence maintains a healthy gene pool.  By eating certain prey, sharks also help protect smaller fish down the food chain from being completely wiped out by their predators.  In another case, sharks help protect certain habitats.  When certain marine animals overstay their welcome in ocean grass beds, they damage the local habitat by preventing other animals from accessing vital nutrition from the grass.  When sharks are present, however, those overstaying animals flee.  It’s a complex interwoven, underwater ecosystem that we as community members, business owners, local fishermen, tourists and adventure seekers should strive to appreciate and respect.  Despite its predatory role, sharks provide balance to ocean life.  Without sharks, the ecosystem would collapse.

Caye Caulker, we have a problem.

Recent local news reported the ongoing concern as sharks continue to fall prey to local fishing activities –whether fished for its meat as food or for its fins as a relatively lucrative export to Asia (where shark fins are a delicacy).  Various shark preservation organizations, such as locally based Belize Shark Project not only provide scientific research on sharks and their ecological importance they also report the monetary impact sharks have on the local economy through its tourism industry.  In 2012, shark-related tourism generated $3.7 million USD.  While the numbers alone should reveal why sharks are worth more alive than dead, it is meanwhile just as critical to offer equal consideration to local fishermen who depend on “the day’s catch.”  What sort of alternative income can they generate if their fishing activities, in general, are being displaced?  And while it has become widespread knowledge that shark meat contains a high level of mercury, the information regarding the danger of its consumption is not swiftly adopted by communities which consider its meat or fins as a normal part of their diet.  Another local notion may also contend that fishing for shark meat dates back to centuries and is just as woven into their cultural practice.  Certainly, there remains a thin line between economic development and cultural preservation.  It’s a sensitive ground.  Lastly, in response to the news, a local proponent had raised issue on the dollar figures relating to shark-tourism:  how much of these multi-million dollars actually filter down to the local regulatory agencies and create direct impacts?  While it’s easier to identify what needs to be done, executing the necessary steps to end shark fishing is a different story.

As a community, we value and deeply respect the health of our ecosystem.  As tourists, we marvel at nature and enjoy the access -not only to sharks, but to all life forms surrounding the reef.  As leaders and participants of the tourism industry, we strive to be responsible.  Through tourism and fact sharing, we can educate and inform visitors and locals alike, and take steps towards keeping our sharks at bay.

 


Caye Boy – Barefoot Adventures of an Island Child

On May 13, 2013 in Caye Caulker, Culture

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We are all aware, living on our tiny little island paradise, that we are all blessed!!!  Our simple lifestyle is different from that of those in the larger world and its simplicity is part of its enormous beauty!  This has been proved by a totally charming book that has been written by our resident yoga guru Jessica Retseck Wigh.

Jessica, originally from Indiana, lives on the island with her husband Brad and their two young sons.  She appreciates the carefree lifestyle of the children born and raised her on the Caye and has decided to write a book to illustrate this and we LOVE IT!!  

For more information on the book and how to purchase click here.

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For us at Raggamuffin, we cannot help but see the uncanny resemblance to our very own Malik Jones, son of the owners Jimmy and Charlie – do you see it too??

 


Photo of the month

On May 01, 2013 in News, Photo of the Month

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This month we want to say thank you to our beautiful ‘Ragga Queen’ – she has tirelessly and effortlessly traveled up and down Belize’s reef gifting the perfect adventure for all those that ride her.  She for many years has been our largest boat, our most comfortable ride as she was brought on to take us to the ‘next level’.

As of the end of May she will come 2nd in line to Ragga Empress, our new catamaran which will once again give our overnight customers the comfort and class that they very much deserve but in the fanfare we may forget our Queen! Fear not, Queen will not be put up to pasture but may spend more time around Caye Caulker, undertaking the Hol Chan day snorkeling tour!!

So for now, we will extend our heartfelt thanks to this classy boat that has traveled more of Belize’s inner reef than any other in this country, by making her our Facebook profile!!


Anything can be done underwater!!

On April 25, 2013 in Video

With the ocean beside us and indeed all around us here in Caye Caulker the local boys become adventurous as to what activities they can undertake both above and underneath the water – this video shows exactly how creative a Sunday afternoon can be with a group of boys attempting and indeed succeeding at biking underwater – well done boys!!


RIP Chocolate – you will forever be in our hearts!!

On April 13, 2013 in Caye Caulker, News

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Yesterday, after what started out to be one of the greatest days in Caye Caulker history, ended with the loss of our dear friend Lionel ‘Chocolate’ Heredia!  He died peacefully in his house on the island with his wife Annie at 83 years old – his passing away leaving us all deeply saddened!!

For as long as I have known Chocolate has been Raggamuffin’s neighbor and friend, a mentor and a true support right from the beginning! His continued efforts towards protecting everything that inhabits our Belizean ocean were deservedly recognized with awards by all with any form of investment in her.  He will be most recognized for his work to protect the Belizean manatee and indeed Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary – his work creating a legacy for generations to come.

For us at Raggamuffin we will miss our neighbor and friend as we look out of our office – no longer will we see him scuttle past the office to go and purchase his afternoon’s sweet bun – he was part of our family and our daily lives and we are now forced to adjust to life without him – RIP dear friend, you will forever be in our hearts!!


Land rush in Caye Caulker!!!!

On April 12, 2013 in Caye Caulker, News

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In all my years being here I cannot think of one that will be so pivotal for Caye Caulker’s future.  Today the Hon Manuel Heredia (along with our local Caye Caulker Village Council) will give away 150 lots of land to the good honest people of Caye Caulker – all of them located on the North side of Caye Caulker!!

It’s times like this that make you proud of nominating the good people into office in our Village Council as it looks like the very difficult process of selecting the lucky 150 new land owners has been done objectively, honestly and to the benefit of our community!  It is the youth of our village that will today have their lives changed for the better – those who have not had the benefit of been given land before, persons who have lived here for more than 15 years or so and those not likely to sell it for mere profit!!!

From here on in – the backbone of our village the future of our island paradise will have the opportunity not only to build and make a home on their new gift of land but and almost as important, the title now can be held as collateral for loans to create or even improve a business.   This changes everything – this is a blessing for our community and one it very much deserves!!

Today is a day I will not forget – a day which I gained renewed faith in the official bodies that govern us, a day which I feel that Caye Caulker’s youth have been a much needed gift to help them prosper – thank you for all concerned, today is indeed a good day!!


Caye Caulker’s cave is possibly the largest in the world!!!

On March 14, 2013 in Exploring Caye Caulker

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Caye Caulker could possibly be sitting on the LARGEST MARINE CAVE IN THE WORLD!!!  It’s a big statement but something that the well regarded National Geographic will take their time to explore in 2014, along with the elite in the dive world, lead by James Petersen or ‘Chip’ from Belize Dive Service and his team of researchers!!

Although many of us have been unwittingly sitting on this cave for most of our lives, the recent developments for the cave will prove monumental for the Caye – the increase in visibility on the dive map as experts and tourists alike will flock to see this unique natural beauty.  Not forgetting the impact this will have on the earth science world (biologists, hydrologists, archaeologists etc) as this cave acts as a time capsule preserving life forms and conditions of a more ancient earth.  And finally giving Caye Caulker global recognition for a truly magnificent natural marine creation as unparalleled as say Niagra Falls or the Grand Canyon!!

The story so far is this … the cave was first explored back in 1981 when the first owners of Belize Dive Services Paul Heinerth (to this day an International cave diving pioneer and author of many books on the subject) and Chuck Hattel dug into the cave.  Frank Bountain took over the shop shortly after and amounted over 500 dives in the cave itself – thus becoming the person who has dove the cave most to this date.   These pioneers amassed significant initial information that included basic mapping and even documented research.

Frank left Belize Dive Services in 1995 and from then there was no active diving undertaken in the cave until November 2012 when Chip Petersen and Bill Oestreich ‘Bert’ – both recognized Cave Dive Instructors entered the cave once more.  Chip and Dani Petersen bought Belize Dive Services back in 2009 and have already been contributing to the longevity of our marine environment by funding the Belize Shark Project.  Chip’s real dream in purchasing BDS was to follow the footsteps of his predecessors and access the cave system to allow Belize to realize the potentials of this natural beauty so when his mentor, Bert, turned up on Caye Caulker he seized the opportunity.

So to date, Chip, Bill and Marty O’Farell from San Pedro (all qualified and heavily experienced Cave Divers) have been re-tracing steps.  Chip has been given approvals and in particular the Permit by the Department of Archeology and the Environment the for surveying, mapping and scientific research in the caves of Belize.  Together they have been making accurate surveys through computer technology and thus far verifying and giving greater accuracy to the original data.

In the years and months to come the cave will attract the elite in the dive world to come and see for themselves this natural treasure of Belize (and indeed Caye Caulker!!).   From a commercial perspective, Chip together with the Village Council Chairman Alberto Villenueva, has pushed for the area between and including Tarpon View and the caves as a mini reserve – co-managed by the Village Council and the Dept of Archaeology.   Their aim is that a significant proportion of the profit of the reserve lies firmly in the hands of Caye Caulker and not, like the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve or even the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, monies are used elsewhere by the Government!!  This means that the money goes back into the community that it serves ie Caye Caulker!!

Chip is anxious that Belizeans get involved in the cave but stresses the dangers for those diving the cave.  All divers must go through a 15 day course to learn the specifics and skills of Cave Diving before accessing the cave.  Safety concerns are essential for those without the capacity to use the specialized equipment and techniques.  Experienced divers are the most frequent divers to lose their life in cave diving – this was illustrated by 2 lives being lost in this same cave back in 80′s – this is a situation which Chip very much wishes to avoid!!

For this reason the Belize Cave Diving Society has been established to promote safe and responsible cave diving in Belize.  Rules for guiding will be based on established methods used worldwide and a Cave Management Protocol created for all cave divers.  For more information please look on Facebook for updates on information as and when they have it!

This news of our hidden gem underneath Caye Caulker is indeed welcome news to all that care for her and indeed Belize – that which we know already and the possibilities are enormous and truthfully beyond what we can imagine at this point.  It is causing a great deal of excitement for those connected with it and we applaud all those who have actively taken their part in making this dream become a reality!!


Fabulous February!

On February 23, 2013 in Photographs

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As February draws to close we have to express a small sigh of relief as to the gorgeous weather conditions we have had and the bustling energy of the island!  I wish every month was like February!!

Caye Caulker truly glows at the moment as businesses are enjoying the income the high season is generating and as they each individually put it back into their businesses!  A number of businesses have set up brand new front street locations giving the tourist on this island a greater (and more colorful) selection and choice for their time on the island – Black Durgeon Dive Shop is now located right beside Happy Lobster and the additional space now gives them greater visibility for what was already a fantastic product but also greater room to assit their customers.

Barefoot Fisherman has brought its operation from the back to the front street beside the split – right next to the Jetski rentals.  These guys are one of the few Operators which focus on the very popular activity of fishing and therefore they are sure to take off!

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And last but not least … one of my favorites, Scoop Dis has located her delicious ice cream and pastry shop to a opposite the Sandbox.  This cleverly acquired land has given her greater space for her customers to enjoy her delights and given her well deserved more visibility as she was situated in a rather congested part of town!

A round of applause to all of those on Caye Caulker who are stepping up to the plate and raising the standards of businesses here on Caye Caulker – together we will grow and prosper as individuals, but benefiting the greater good of our island paradise – Caye Caulker!!


We are ALL winners really!!

On February 13, 2013 in Photographs

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The annual Raggamuffin Awards were held on Monday night.  The idea behind this evening is for Management to thank the staff for their hard work over the year and to recognize six of the crew members for outstanding performance.

Raggamuffin is now a very large and very well oiled machine and I believe from the bottom of my heart that each and every single employee has a small but SIGNIFICANT part in her success.  Without consistency of excellence throughout the team, Raggamuffin’s reputation would not be what it is today.

The evening commenced with cocktails and conch ceviche, followed by a Belizean favorite being turkey and ham with rice and beans and potato salad (not forgetting delicious cranberry, onion sauce and gravy!!).   The focal point of the evening were the Awards which were presented by owners Jimmy and Charlie Jones.

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Three of the six awards were  secretly nominated by the staff and each winner received a trophy, either a champagne or Black Label and a cash prize.  This year’s best Newcomer was won by Vito  - his easy going and professional nature loved by both passengers and the rest of the crew.  The Sales lady of the year was hotly contested (in fact most of the crew really could not decide on which of the wonderful Edith, Adela and Madai as they are all so loved!) – but in the end our tireless Manager Edith won the vote and very surprised she collected her award.  Raggamuffin’s crew personality of the year again had a number of favorites there or there abouts – but the final winner was Chilo – who even gave us a ‘belly dance’ when he received his award!!!

The last three awards were in fact voted by the general public – we tallied the number of times each crew member were mentioned on TripAdvisor over the past year and thus we created our statistics.  The side man of the year was our one and only sweet Li Shane – his infectious smile and his humble character always be one that everybody loves.   And for the second of the year was Dane – only arriving at Raggamuffin a year ago Dane has fitted in like a glove within the crew and the office – and yet it does appear he is also a favorite of the public.  And to top our Awards was TripAdvisor’s personality of the year who was Kevin – outstanding at his job, passionate about the environment and just one of the nicest people you will ever meet in Belize – Kevin definitely deserves his Award and we are immensely proud of all his achievements!!

Once the awards were complete, we all made a toast with champagne to Raggamuffin (as we do love ourselves!!) – we have been blessed with much good fortune over the years and we hope many years still to come!