December 1, 2011

San Pedro - Ambergris Caye Island

Kitchener HANDS Team:

EduDeo Ministries always includes a day away from the work site for all HANDS teams, a cultural appreciation day you might say. Pastor Ernest Betson, arranged for us to go the town of San Pedro on the Ambergris Caye Island for the day with some time for snorkelling, lunch and a walk thru the town. We were able to walk to our water taxi and left around 8am, the ride was approx. an hour and half with a quick stop at Caye Caulker Is. Our snorkelling guide was waiting for us and we headed immediately to the Barrier Reef. Most of us had never snorkelled but with some brief instruction we were all in the water. Hard to believe but our guide, born and raised on the island with perfect english has only ever left the island once and that was to Guatemala City for an operation. I have to say that I, (our team which ranges from 18 to 76),  was so impressed with Sandra K and Leo V swimming with nurse (nur)sharks and investigating a whole new world. The water was so clear and the colours and intricacies of the reef and variety of fish was just awesome.
History & geography
Ambergris Caye is the largest and most northern of Belize's islands. It is twenty five miles long and parallels Belize's barrier reef. Ambergris Caye, once claimed by Mexico, is separated from Mexico only by a narrow channel. Ambergris Caye is located east of the Corozal District. Its main town of San Pedro is about 36 miles from Belize City. Like Caye Caulker, Ambergris is a limestone coral island. It has cool tropical breezes and is literally a stones throw from the Barrier Reef in some places. 

During the Mayan period, Ambergris Caye was a trading post. Ruins have been excavated throughout the island, including the Marco Gonzales site, the Basil Jones site, and in San Pedro town. 

Ambergris is the most commercially developed of the islands. It has quite a few luxurious hotels and an avid night life. There is also considerable real estate interest on Ambergris as most of the northern end of the island is not yet developed. Although there is a small fishing industry, the main source of income of this once buccaneering and whaling caye is tourism. 

Most of the 2000+ residents of Ambergris are of Mestizo-Spanish descent. Spanish is mostly spoken although everyone does speak English. Like their sister island of Caye Caulker they are from fishing families. The island does employ a number of people from the other districts, mainly Belize City. 


San Pedro Town
The main town on Ambergris caye is San Pedro Town. It is a mile or so long and encompasses only a few street blocks. Most of the houses are wooden with zinc roofed houses. San Pedro town is the heart of Ambergris Caye and offers a wide range of restuarants, bars, souvenir shops, and banks. Since the airstrip is also located in town, most resorts and hotels are only a hop, skip & a jump away.

The main means of transportation are golf carts however bicycles, scooters, and some cars and vans are also available. The streets are sandy and unpaved so be sure to leave your fancy clothes and high heel shoes at home. There are no traffic lights, no freeways or highways, and no highrise buildings.

The atmosphere on San Pedro is very casual. The dress of the day is usually shorts and sandals (if you can't handle being barefoot). 



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