Shop Talk: Take A Paradisaical Paddle Through Belize’s Backwaters
By Rebecca Parsons
Nestled in the heart of Caye Caulker, a tiny island 21-miles northeast of Belize City, Contour Ocean Ventures is located along the main drag, a stone's throw from the water taxi's drop-off point. The island has a motto--"Go slow"--and Contour fits the description perfectly.
Owner Henry Lopez grew up on the shores of the small, coral island and has seen it evolve over the years. In 2011, he opened Contour, making his mark as the first to bring standup paddling to the island. Lopez's business continues to flourish despite other shops following suit and Contour continues to offer an unparalleled array of activities for visitors of the island.
Aside from standup paddling Contour offers windsurfing, kite surfing, traditional surfing, and even wakeboarding if you're willing to spend a few extra dollars. As far as SUP is concerned, they offer lessons, tours on the leeward side of the island, surfing on an offshore reef, an island hopping tour and a mangrove tour. The staff is friendly and excited to work with you to create your ideal paddling tour. They're also committed to preserving the environment and keeping Caye Caulker beautiful for generations of paddlers to come.
I was attracted to the calm water of the island's inlets and hoped to spot some wildlife during my visit, so the mangrove tour seemed an appropriate tour for me.
I arrived at the shop and we motored 20-minutes to Cangrejo Caye, a small island entirely composed of red, white, and black mangroves. After a short briefing from Lopez, we hopped in the water and began exploring. We paddled through the forest--standing, kneeling, and sometimes even paddling on our stomachs to navigate the low hanging branches.
Luck was on our side and we were quickly greeted by stingrays, schools of fish, hermit crabs, colorful sponges, a barracuda, a wide array of birds, and even a nurse shark. After getting a feel for the area and a short lesson on the local flora and fauna, we paddled back to the boat for a "sugar break." We dined on pineapple, cheese, banana bread, and a homemade sugary rice drink.
After being sugared up, Lopez and our co-guide boarded the boat and directed us on where to paddle for our mini-downwinder. We paddled with the wind for half a mile, scoping the sea grass for hidden sharks and rays. After coasting for about fifteen minutes, we linked back up with the boat and our guides hoped in the water to continue our tour through the mangroves.
We meandered through stunning scenery, occasionally jumping in the water to cool off or take a closer look at wildlife. Lopez shared stories of past swells and adventures, and offered tips to help the new paddlers feel more confident on their boards. Our luck held and we paddled over a bull shark and a spotted eagle ray on our way back to the boat.
After a successful two to three hours on the water, we loaded the boards and cooled off with beers and ice-cold water. We motored back to the island, the sunset providing the perfect backdrop to an already perfect day.
More Shop Talk.