From a humble community of ten families to a vibrant community of some 20 thousand –
Ambergris Caye is the largest of the 200-plus cayes (islands) along the Belize coast. It is only half a mile from the Great Barrier Reef, and runs for 26 miles due north until it almost connects with X’calak, Mexico. The island is a top destination for scuba divers and snorkels who adventure favorite spots like: Mexico Rocks, Hol Chan, Shark Ray Alley and the world famous Blue Hole only a stone throw away.
The Island of Ambergris Caye was a favorite hiding place of English pirates as they raided the Spanish ships during the 17th century. Old cannons and cannon iron balls found on the reef is evidence of this. Mestizos who fled the Spanish/Maya war in Yucatan, Mexico settled the island and survived by engaging in logwood cutting, chicle extraction, coconut harvesting, fishing and now tourism. In 174 years the island has grown from a humble community of ten families (you do the math) to a vibrant community of some 20 thousand inhabitants. The original settlement of San Pedro extended from the cemetery to the R.C School, and today expands the entire Island into thirteen subdivisions. They are: the town core, San Pedrito, San Marcos, San Pablo, D.F.C, Escalante, Mosquito Coast, Boca Del Rio, San Juan, San Mateo, Ambergris Bay, North Ambergris Caye and South Ambergris Caye. The first ten subdivisions are for residential and small businesses and the remaining three areas boast elaborate development in hotels, restaurants, diving operations, condos and time sharing apartments.
All areas on Ambergris Caye stretch along the twenty-six mile long white sandy beaches. This sand is produced when fishes like triggerfish and parrotfish crush the coral that forms the reef into sand that washes up onto the island; thus these fishes are precious to our Island. San Pedranos invite visitors to dive the reef and take pictures of these fish but never take them out of the water.
Visitors are attracted to the island by the thousands. They are all lured to experience the adventures of the beaches, the reef, the deep blue ocean beyond the reef, the nightlife and its friendly inhabitants. Hundreds of the visitors choose to live on the island attracted by the friendliness of the San Pedranos and the exotic culture of melting pot of ethnic groups. Many become investors lured by the great potential of participating in the tourism economy and the government’s wide open arms to foreign investment.
Without a doubt, the most popular attraction with tourists and most likely what any tour guide will recommend is Hol Chan Marine Park and Shark Ray Alley where visitors can enjoy a magnificent snorkeling experience taking photographs of coral formations and marine life diversity including nurse sharks and manta rays, groupers and barracuda and sometimes manatees. It is also the site where amateurs can take scuba diving lessons.
Have your first experience of a Maya site, the Marco Gonzalez Maya ruins and if you are impressed and want more, then you plan for a visit to the mainland to visit Altun Ha, Lamanai, Caracol or Xunantunich.
But wait! There is more! You can book a local guide to go fishing, especially fly fishing for bonefish or permit. You can rent a golf cart and go Island hopping especially along the beaches which are lined with restaurants and bars.