A Family Affair: Sea Kayaking Belize

Plenty of room for you and your brood: Belize's English Caye  (courtesy, Belize Tourism Bureau)

The annual family vacation will likely cast together different ages, personalities, and interests in a fraught search for that one destination to suit all tastes. You'll need to find a place that combines activities to engage the energetic, beauty to appease the scenery addict, history to appeal to the curious, and enough relaxation to truly live up to the moniker of a vacation. Fortunately, for those facing this daunting gauntlet, the little, unassuming country of Belize awaits the vacationing family-at-large.
Guardian of the world's second-largest coral reef, Belize's azure east-coast waters lend themselves perfectly to family paddling trips. You can either kayak caye to caye (over 200 of them speckle this 180-mile-long coral paradise) and camp as you go, or you can make base camp in Glover's Reef Marine Reserve, perhaps a more amenable option for young families, and let your daily schedule unfold from there. The Reserve, a World Heritage site since 1996, is a necklace of coral that encircles almost 100 square miles and is Belize's most remote and unspoiled chain of islands. With 700 coral patches and six islands, its shallow, translucent Caribbean waters provide an ideal learning ground for novice paddlers and snorkelers. The atoll was named after John Glover, a 17th-century buccaneer who used the islands as a staging post for raids against passing Spanish galleons.
Long Caye and Southwest Caye in Glover's Reef are two good base camps, also offering land-based distractions such as bird watching, hiking, fishing, and hammock-lounging. The reef's mangrove and palm-lined islands are home to some of the world's most interesting birds, including the laughing gull, brown pelican, red-footed booby, and the Americas' largest flying bird, the five-foot-tall jabiru stork.
Outfitters are on hand to help you get the most out of the area, offering everything from instruction and guided trips, to information on local ecology and Maya culture. Once you and your family have found your sea legs, paddle to Half Moon, Northern Two, and Long Cayes for some snorkeling or diving. The sudden steep drop-off in the sea floor guarantees exotic views of bright corals, sponges, turtles, and fish. Of course, you should follow up any hard day in the sea-saddle with some of fresh local fare; barracuda, tarpon, grouper, an array of tropical fruit, and fresh-baked breads are sure to satisfy even the most picky-eaters amongst your brood.

Published: 3 Jan 2003 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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