Dreams and Desires Fulfilled at Cayo Espanto
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Tags: Belize Cayo Espanto Luxury San Pedro
Being someone who really loves not only to travel, but who also loves to learn about culture and history, I wanted to explore the Caribbean for a long time. When some friends of mine celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary at a private island off the coast of Belize, and told me about the fantastic experience they had at this place called Cayo Espanto, I just knew I had to go. What really convinced me was that I would be able to explore a cultural treasure, “Lamanai”. Mayan for “submerged crocodile”), it is known as the third largest and most interesting archaeological site in Belize.
Convincing my boyfriend, Vishnu, to travel so far away from our home in Chennai, India was difficult, until I read him some of the great reviews for this property. He fell in love with the look of the over water villa, Casa Ventanas and so my dream of seeing Lamanai was to come true.
Vishnu and I arrived quite exhausted at the airport in Belize City. But not to worry, a lovely man from the island was there to greet us. I think grabbing our bags from the carousel was the last time we touched a suitcase until we got home. We relaxed and had a cool drink at the Belize Airport – a strange little place called “Jet’s Bar”. The very weirdest little man served us his special rum punch, although it was early in the day, we felt it was good to get that holiday feeling going. The little man who I guess was “Jet” was one of the strangest characters I have ever met. He asked me if I wanted to take my picture with him, but when Vishnu realized (from looking at all the pictures of well endowed ladies with Jet on the walls) that this would involve the little man placing his head on my chest, well that was off, somewhat to my relief.
In the meantime, our lovely man was off, arranging our flight to San Pedro airport on Ambergrise Caye, where we would catch a boat to Cayo Espanto. What a treat to have someone arranging everything for us. We soon realized that this was just the beginning of a magical journey.
Our escort soon returned and brought us by a private van to the pier in San Pedro, where a lovely man named German awaited. He asked us what drinks we would like to have upon arrival at the island. Well, we had started with rum punches, so we decided to continue here! After only eight or nine minutes, our retreat came into view. How wonderful to see the staff lined up at the dock at Cayo Espanto, waving a greeting to us with smiles. Although I had never been here, it felt like I was coming home.
We met Johnny, our “houseman” a very kind and professional man, who escorted us to our overwater bungalow, the Ventana. I could tell Vishnu was very excited, as was I. It was very beautiful, so clean and fresh. The room had been prepared for us, the louvered windows had been flung open and it looked like we had just been granted access to a vision of heaven. The bright blues and greens of the water hit our eyes, and the warm wood and cream tones of the villa, mixed with the Caribbean blue trim on the louvers all mixed to create a sense of well-being and calm. We were astonished to find a snack awaiting us in our beautiful living room area, freshly prepared vegetarian quesadillas, which were so delicious, and two very chilled bottles of Belikin beer, the local brand. We sat in our armchairs to rest and just looked out in happiness at our own personal dock over the water. We felt like we were the only people on earth at that moment and it was wonderful.
I was so pleased that our vegetarian requests had been honored. I had also told them we wanted to experience their local delicacies (we would eat fish but no meat) and their local drinks. They had not overlooked our requests, and our fridge was filled with Belikin, sparkling water, flat water and orange juice, as neither Vishnu nor I drink pop. We didn’t want to leave our room, but we wanted to explore our little island very badly.
Soon it was time we went to explore. There were little sandy pathways leading in different directions and we just wandered, feeling the tension drain away. The island itself is only four acres, but somehow it feels like your own world as you walk hand in hand through palm trees and mangroves. The bungalows all seemed very private, but I liked our location the very best. To be able to look out any of our windows, even from our bed, and see nothing but the turquoise Caribbean was perfect.
After relaxing, we met with Johnny who took note of what we would like to do during our trip. We wanted to do a snorkel trip, as Belize is located on one of the largest barrier reefs in the world and I had read of all the amazing creatures you could see just snorkeling. I also booked our Lamanai tour for our third day, the day before we were to leave. I like saving the best for last!
An afternoon spent kayaking around the shallow waters of the island was amazing. It was so calm we could see fish flitting by underneath our kayaks. Sometimes we would just hold hands and drift together. All too soon our first day was ending, but we were shocked to find when we returned to our villa to freshen up, that our dock had been decorated with some flowers, and a fully set table with linens, and chairs had been set up at the end, complete with candles. Our dinner would be served to us al-fresco at our own villa over the water. What a treat!
We were in awe of our dinner. We both had the Almond Crusted Local Grouper Fillet with Corn and mashed plantains, decorated with Bacon and Roasted Garlic all drizzled with their own house-made Mole sauce. For dessert we had toasted Coconut Macaroon Cake with a really delicious cream-cheese icing and drizzled with a caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. How perfect, to watch the sun setting off the water of your own private villa, being waited on hand and foot in the middle of nowhere. Cool cloths were brought to refresh us during and after our meal. We felt like royalty.
An after-dinner stroll around the island finally did us in. Our bed had been turned down, water placed out for us, plush robes ready to snuggle into if we wanted. With the louvers closed, the air conditioning on, our room could have been anywhere in the world, aside from being able to look down into the ocean through the glass fish-viewing floor in our living room! Sliding into the bed was like crawling into a cool, silky cocoon of bliss. Their sheets are Egyptian linens, and are so comfortable. True heaven.
The next morning we couldn’t wait to get up and experience the island life. I phoned to let Johnny know we were up and about, and to our amazement, as we opened our louvers, our houseman arrived with a big smile, as if on cue, bearing trays of fresh island fruit, tea and hot chocolate, and cinnamon roll French toast, banana pancakes and croissants. Vishnu was ecstatic to be served warm soft pretzel rolls, one of his favorite things in the world!
It was our snorkel day, and we prepared with great anticipation. Vishnu and I have snorkelled together before in South East Asia, and we always found it oddly romantic and emotional to experience the underwater beauty together. It was an incredible morning, as German accompanied us and expertly guided us through some of the most beautiful underwater nature trails I have ever seen. Large nurse sharks were curious but seemed friendly, and after my heart stopped pounding I was able to pet them. They were not so interested in being petted, though! Many stingrays also were curious and swirled around us, I could not get over how rough and sand-papery their “wings” were. I loved being in the water as if I was one of them. German had some bits of food that he would sprinkle in the water, and all sorts of fish would come to check it out. I loved them. Every now and then a Moray Eel would rise eerily from the depths of the water, swaying with the currents, but they would stay attached to the bottom and none every bothered us. We saw large turtles gliding through the clear waters, which was very beautiful. Vishnu grabbed my hand as they glided by, so I think he found them amazing as well. That had to be one of the highlights of our snorkel tour, although we did catch sight of a huge Spotted Eagle Ray, and it seemed like he was flying underwater – such a very beautiful creature to see, which brought a lump to my throat.
Too soon our morning was over, but we were starving and happy to go back to our little island retreat. To our amazement as we arrived back at the island dock, many of the staff were waiting for us, to greet us with cool towels and drinks as we stepped off the boat. I felt like a Queen who had been out on a royal tour for the day! It was time to freshen up. Again, waiting in our room were some cool refreshments, and we were asked if we were ready for our delayed lunch after we freshened up. The answer was yes!
Johnny and his assistant Selven had thoughtfully set up a beautiful table and chairs for our lunch underneath one of the swaying palm trees overlooking the water. I enjoyed a Tomato Basil Salad with Fresh Mozzarella and Balsamic Vinaigrette which was so delicious, and then indulged in a Belizean “Hot Fudge” Sundae with Bananas, Whipped Cream and a Cherry…. Now I was truly in heaven!
Another afternoon of bliss awaited us as we had booked massages in the cool privacy of our villa. When we got back to our room, it had already been prepared for our massages. Brenda greeted us warmly and I graciously allowed Vishnu to go first, as the anticipation of having a massage for me is half the fun! Vishnu had opted for the 60 minute Tranquility Massage, which according to the brochure is a “blend of Swedish and Essalen bodywork “with energy balancing. I opted for the Deep Tissue Massage because I tend to hold all my tension in my upper back and shoulders, so wanted a lot of the focus to be on key areas. Plus, it was 75 minutes long – what a treat. Our bodies felt like limp rags afterwards, and we ended up having to take a nap for half an hour. We slept like babies and awoke refreshed and stimulated.
Dinner that night was another amazing event, as we were set up right in the sand beside the water, with flaming torches and a bottle of wine we had brought with us from the mainland. I indulged in Lobster Thermidor, one of my favourites. Vishnu had the Ginger Marinated Salmon Fillet with Wilted Greens, served with sticky rice with a vinaigrette dressing. Dessert was amazing, Dark Chocolate Souffle, Shortbread Cookies and Bailey’s Anglaise. We had just enough energy for a stroll about the property, and a cooling shower and sliding into that amazing bed once more. Only one more full day on this Paradise Island for us, but it would be my dream excursion to Lamanai and seeing the historic temples of the Mayan people. I will blog separately about this amazing place, the temples of Lamanai and the jungle tour because it is worthy of its own blog. You can link to it here if you are interested.
To wrap up this blog, let’s just say our last evening on Cayo Espanto was one I will never forget, not only because it was the most romantic of all with a large, full moon rising on the horizon, flowers and torches everywhere, another amazing five-star meal and to my surprise, a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne chilling in a silver bucket when I arrived! I was stunned to see hearts and flowers drawn into the sand around our beautifully prepared table and a large bouquet of island flowers on the table. It all seemed over-the-top, even for here. Then I understood as I saw the look on Vishnu’s face as I sat down on my chair and he kneeled in the sand beside me. The proposal, the beautiful ring, were such a shock to me that I burst into tears as I said yes. What a memory this will always be to me, that my boyfriend thought to do something so romantic and meaningful for his proposal. Allow me to say something I have heard many of my American girlfriends say in the past: Vishnu earned many “brownie points” that night!