The Rio Dulce in Guatemala

Posted By: Geoff & Iza Prower on Sep 19th 2015

Dreaming On anchored in the Rio Dulce
Dreaming On anchored in the Rio Dulce

This is our second trip up the Rio Dulce and it hasn’t lost its magic. A two day trip down from Belize to Livingston at the mouth of the Rio Dulce to clear in to Guatemala. We then headed into the river and once between the 300’ high jungled cliffs, we dropped anchor. An amazing place to be. No roads to villages and towns up the river and into the fresh water lakes so all personal transport is by river. Fast, locally built launches passing us by during the evening “Rush Hour!” Quite a contrast to the local fisherman balancing in dug out canoes while casting their nets. Great bird life. At night, total silence.

As we headed up river in the morning, a number of “School Buses” passed us by, again the local fast launches delivering children to school. In a major change from our first visit 7 years ago, when we bought Dreaming On, the Rio Dulce has, it appears, been discovered by newly affluent Guatemalans and many other nationalities. This time we saw a number of smart sportsfishing boats and motor cruisers making their way down river.

300 ft high limestone cliffs line the Rio Dulce
300' high limestone cliffs line the Rio Dulce

When we arrived in the first lake, El Golfete, although lakeside development is still sparse and remote, there are far more new lakeside homes than on our previous visit. But where the lake narrows at its western end at Fronteras, where all the marinas are and where so many cruisers have arrived and stayed, (we are now 5 hours inland), the first town, the first road and a 90’ high bridge, the lakeside home development is incredible. Still mostly tasteful architecture, with every house having a boathouse and an expensive motor yacht. The development hasn’t ruined the place yet. It has added a new flavor and also some local prosperity.

Fortunately there are a couple of natural limits on boat size due to many shallows in El Golfete and a 5’ bar entering at Livingston from the Caribbean. However, we fear that jet-skis and fast noisy cigarette boats will take over. Quite how the fishermen in their dugouts will survive that, we are not sure. Meanwhile, we enjoy the place. So different from anywhere else.

Meandering up the Rio Dulce
Meandering up the Rio Dulce

We have now moored Dreaming On at Nana Juana Marina, a new resort/marina/boatyard, which wasn’t here in 2008. We were going to use a friends dock in El Golfete, but we need mains power so had to change plans. Dreaming On will stay here until we return at the end of October, while we fly back to UK. 

Dare we say that there has not been a hurricane in this area since records began. Hence its popularity with cruisers.

Snorkelling in Belize

Posted By: Geoff & Iza Prower on Sep 14th 2015

Fans, soft corals

The diving and snorkeling are superb. Pick a reef, any reef, jump in and see what you find. Many more vibrant varieties and colours of both coral and fish than we ever experienced in the BVI. Every island has a reef. There are patch reefs all over the place to explore. Then there is the barrier reef itself and the offshore atolls. This is an area that could take years to explore properly.

And then there are those magical moments such as when a magnificent, curious Eagle Ray swims past, or, as when sailing south from Turneffe Reef to Glover’s Reef, (both offshore atolls outside the barrier reef), we were joined by probably around 40 spinner dolphins. They stayed with us, playing in the bow wave and the wake for almost 30 minutes. 

 

Lots of Grunts

 

First exploration of the Cayes of Belize

Posted By: Geoff & Iza Prower on Sep 14th 2015

North Long Cocoa Cay
North Long Cocoa Cay

We have now covered close to 350 miles and visited 35 islands, locally known as cayes, of this exciting new cruising ground and still many more to see. It’s a huge area.

The islands here are like little gems floating on every shade of blue and turquoise water imaginable.

It can be quite challenging. First of all, there are no “official” charts of the area. All boats in the area use a very comprehensive publication written by Freya and Tom Rauscher. This is THE only guide to the area. All the charts are hand drawn and with so many small islands, reefs, sand bars around, it must have been a monumental task to produce such a book. However, some errors have crept in and most areas are not surveyed in detail. There is confusion on the names and actual location and orientation of some cayes which makes life interesting. Also many cayes have the same name! Some cayes were there when the charts were drawn but have since been wiped out by hurricanes. So navigating here is concentrated eyeball the whole time and often a bow lookout. Take your eyes off the water for a moment and the water depth can have changed from 100’ to 5’!

Moho Cay
Moho Cay

Because of the number of potential navigational hazards, it takes a while to become confident enough to sail some of the channels, but we are making our own chart notes as we go and archiving safe waypoints and tracks. We often use the dinghy with a portable depth sounder and GPS to check some areas out before taking Dreaming On into questionable waters.