Exploring the Cayes of Belize on a stand-up paddleboard
By STEVEN THRENDYLE
“Is that where we’re heading?” I gesture, carefully, toward a blurry mirage of mangrove trees hovering in the tropical heat, somewhere on the horizon. I am, after all, balancing rather gingerly on a stand-up paddleboard.
“That’s South Water Caye, one of Belize’s national marine parks,” nods my guide Norman Hann. He reckons that it’s about eight nautical miles away. (It’s actually five and a half.)
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“Looks like it’s somewhere off the curve of the Earth,” I mutter, a remark that gets a hearty laugh from fellow paddler Jenny Poppitt, one of our group of 10, who along with three Island Expeditions guides will propel ourselves slowly, yet purposefully, over azure Caribbean waters toward the island in the sky.
If the idea of a dozen or so middle-aged paddlers several nautical miles offshore in the Caribbean Sea sounds vaguely dangerous, rest assured that it’s not. The Cayes (pronounced “keys”) of Belize are protected by the second-largest barrier reef in the world; one that effectively depowers waves and tidal currents. This reef gives the waters off Belize luminescent blues and greens that, along with stunning clarity, make it one of the richest marine environments in the world.