While Caye Caulker is well known for its laid back and slow pace, it is full of active water sports and activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and many more.
During my visit to Caye Caulker, one of the activities that caught my attention the most was kayaking. But not just any kayaking, it was kayaking with Ocean Academy.
Since Caye Caulker is a small island with a small population, it didn’t have the means to provide for a public high school – so all kids had to either drop out or go to San Pedro to continue their education.
Education in Belize is not free, and for some families, this is an expense outside their limited budget.
But in September 2008, Ocean Academy –a non-profit community high school– opened its doors to provide a high school education to local residents.
While the school is much more affordable than going to San Pedro, students still need to pay for their education, either with paid tuition or with tuition credits like community service. And, here’s where kayaking comes in…
As a way to earn tuition credit and gain valuable job training, many of the 60 students of Ocean Academy volunteer to guide visitors around Caye Caulker; either by foot, bicycle, or kayak.
A pair of Ocean Academy high school students introduce visitors to island life including its history, community, plants, animals, and sea creatures.
Just as the school’s motto is “Preserving our Heritage, Creating our Future,” the students share their unique perspective of how they value the roots and the careful development of their precious island.
I personally don’t consider this to be another tourist activity, as it is mostly a way to interact with the kids in the local community, see Caye Caulker through their own knowledge and experience, and at the same time, help and encourage them to continue their studies with the small donation given for their time.
I did the kayaking trip with a group of six kids from the school, and we kayaked the northeastern shores of Caye Caulker, the split, and the western shores where there are a few underwater caves and where sometimes the manatees can be spotted.
What made this kayaking experience much better than just renting a kayak is the fact that I had the kids showing me everything around the island, and all their tricks and secrets. I had Mercedes as the leader, a bright young girl looking to become a marine biologist.
As she paddled with me on the same kayak, she fed me all the information she knew about the island, sea, and current events – in addition to sharing her passion for sea life.
The other kids, spread in two extra kayaks, did also their part by looking for stuff to show me – like the freaky six-legged star, different fish types, and the underwater cave entrance.
One of the moments that impressed me the most was when Kyle told me from a distance, “if we go to that specific spot we might find a sea horse”. We paddled our way there, and indeed, there was a sea horse!! This was the first time I had seen a seahorse in the open ocean, and it was beautiful!
These kids know these waters like the back of their hand.
By the end of the trip, we stopped to feed the Tarpon Fish. Usually you put the bait on the water surface and the Tarpon will jump and suck it right out of your hand, but in my case, they were all lazy so they only ate the bait when it went deep in the water (which I’m glad because I didn’t want a fish sucking my hand!).
I believe this is a different way to get to enjoy the island while creating a positive impact.
The cost of a “Meet the Island With a Student” is a donation of $30 BZD per person to Ocean Academy (not including the bicycle or kayak which can be rented at a variety of places on the island).
Arrangements can be made through Ocean Academy’s website contact form or through the Sea Dreams Hotel (the local sponsor of Ocean Academy’s “Meet the Island With a Student” Visitors Program) by emailing reservations (at) seadreamshotel (dot) com.
The students are available when school is not in session (weekends, holidays, and summer).
I highly recommend doing this while in Caye Caulker, but if you’re not able to schedule a “Meet the Island With a Student” session during your time in the island, you can always donate to the school to help with students’ tuition.
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Wow, don’t think I’ve ever even seen a sea-horse. Apart from on TV.
Yeah, that was pretty much my reaction before seeing it in person! haha
What a great idea. My boys are planning a trip to Costa Rica in the spring, but I’m trying to persuade them to consider Belize instead…maybe this will help!
If you get them to go to Belize, make sure they go to Caye Caulker. I can almost guarantee they will love it! 😀
Wow, this is AMAZING!!! Love love love it.
I had such a great kayaking experience with the kids. I love it too!
Sounds like a great experience, and a great way to use your tourist dollars to give back to the locals! What a neat idea!
I agree. It is a win win experience. We as travelers get a great local perspective from the kids and our money goes to their education. Who can beat that? 🙂
Kayaking is really fun and it is one of my hobbies. I hope that me and my friends will find some time for that next spring. I am looking forward to feeling that great emotion again!
Hi Elizabeth –
Hope you get to kayak soon and enjoy it!
Am loving reading all about your adventures in Belize. We are currently living on Ambergris Caye and have yet to explore beyond it. Thanks for all the resources!
Thanks Sabina! Oh, I’ll be in San Pedro for New Years, so we could meet there! BTW, got your email, will respond in a few… 🙂
Thank you for this information. We are thinking of taking our kids (age 12 and 16) to kayak
In Belize this summer. We have done a lot of sea kayaking in Canada and Greenland. We were in San Pedro area last year and loved it. This sounds like a great option to have other kids along! Is their summer the same as ours ie July and August? Is the weather okay at that time of year?
You’re welcome, Linda!
If you’re taking your kids to kayak in Belize this summer then I truly recommend kayaking with Ocean Academy at Caye Caulker. It will be great for them to interact with the students that are around the same age and they will show them their island through their own perspective, which is really fun! Belize is basically a two season country, so “summer” weather is found pretty much year round. You can kayak now, during winter, and it will be as pleasant as kayaking during July. July and August are hot months, and a bit wet since they are in the rainy season, but they are still good to spend the day at the beach and kayak around.
Let me know if you have other questions!
Thank you for your quick reply, Norbert. Do you know if there are any tour outfitters in Caye Caulker, where you can rent equipment to do a self guided kayaking trip for a few days? Is it possible/safe to kayak south from there to some of the other cayes?
I know there are many tour companies and shops along the main street of Caye Caulker whee you can walk in and rent kayaks/equipment. Among some of them I believe are SeaDreams Hotel, Raggamuffin Tours, and Tsunami Adventures… You would have to ask about the rental for a few days as I’m not sure if they do it, as most people rent for a couple hours. I know though, that some people (locals mostly) do caye hopping on kayak. You can kayak to Caye Chapel, which is relatively close to Caye Caulker, to the south, and south of Caye Chapel is Long Caye.
I recommend you contact any of the businesses I mentioned above (or any other that you might know) and ask them if they allow multi-day rentals and if it can be self guided.
This place is like the haven for all the kayak lover and also the traveler. Caye Caulker is a beautiful place, To read your article I am inspired by traveling here. I am also a travel lover but I have a weakness in fishing and kayaking. Thanks for sharing this and making me excited.