Lucy Wallingford of Slickrock Adventures has a lot of great information to share about Belize. So, grab your favorite beverage, make yourself comfortable and get ready to discover some interesting and helpful information about a gorgeous and unique jewel in Central America.
ATM: How did you and Slickrock Adventures find your way to Belize?
Lucy: My partner, Cully Erdman, got his start in this business through television in the 1970s. When he was about 18 he began appearing regularly on an old TV series called American Sportsman. Basically, they would pay his expenses if he would risk his life kayaking on rivers in exotic places.
His favorite river at the time was the Jatate River in Chiapas, Mexico, and he started our business by taking kayakers he knew to run the Jatate. I met him soon after and become his partner.
In 1986 he decided to check out Belize for commercial sea kayak trips because he wanted to get into the beginners market. Sea kayaking is much easier and more accessible than whitewater river kayaking, and Belize was the perfect place for island hopping.
We pioneered the now standard week-long trip from Placencia, Belize out to several islands along the southern Barrier Reef.
Later we moved out to Glover’s Reef, which is 15 miles past the Barrier Reef, and we eventually bought the island we now base out of, Long Caye.
What is the single most frequently asked question you get about Belize adventure travel, and how do you answer it?
I don’t know if it’s the single most frequently asked question, but certainly a very common one that still surprises me. People ask me, “Will I get bored staying on your island for a full week?”
We offer sea kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayak rolling, kiteboarding, windsurfing, kayak surfing, sport fishing, kayak fishing, paddleboarding and board surfing. How on earth would anyone think they could get bored in one week with all those adventure travel activity options?
People who worried about getting bored dismiss that thought the second they step foot on the island, and at the end of the week I’ve had people fall to their knees and grip me around the ankles while begging me to stay.
On the spur of the moment we have had guests extend their stay up to two consecutive weeks after spending their first week with us.
So, my answer is to simply say, “No, you won’t get bored.”
If you had one insider bit of information that could help those considering a Belize vacation what would it be?
It is very rare to find a resort where you can snorkel right off the shore. There are only a few places in Belize that have snorkeling within swimming distance from their lodge. Do your research and make sure you can snorkel without having to access the spots via a motor boat tour. Google Earth is an excellent tool to help figure this out.
In your opinion, when is the best time of the year for an excursion to Belize?
We are open during the best time of year: late November through mid May. And during that time the ‘best of the best’ is February, March and April.
Can you give us some “DOs” and “DON’Ts” regarding adventure travel vacations in Belize that you wished everyone knew?
- Bring enough cash for your whole trip. It’s difficult to get to a bank, and fees are high.
- Avoid Belize City. The rest of the country is safe, and Belizeans are wonderful people. The problem is that some of the street people in Belize City hassle tourists and give the whole country a bad name.
- Maintain an attitude of flexibility. The nature of adventure travel requires the acceptance that there can be last minute changes. The weather can change plans at a moment’s notice.
- Expect to be able to buy snorkel and diving gear once you get to Belize, bring it with you.
- Take a cruise to Belize! You won’t see anything but other cruise tourists and canned tours. You need to give the country the time it deserves… at least five days, but nine is better.
It looks like the coast of Belize is a paradise for water-loving adventure travelers. Please tell us about a few of your favorite activities?
I’m a snorkel freak, it is by far my favorite adventure travel activity. Although I also dive, and of course love that too, I prefer the freedom of snorkeling. No complicated gear and no watching the time and your depth gauge.
The snorkeling in Belize is unsurpassed. On our trips we regularly swim for 1-2 hours exploring underwater just like a person would explore a canyon where I live in Utah.
There are so many creatures to see. A knowledgeable person can identify 50 different species of fish, coral and various creatures in the first 15 minutes of one snorkel session.
Do you want a list?
Commonly seen underwater species include the spotted eagle ray, spotfin butterfly fish, bluehead wrasse, nurse shark, barracuda, loggerhead turtle, Caribbean reef squid, French angelfish, queen angelfish, black grouper, trumpet fish, Bermuda chub, spotted truck fish, scrawled filefish, honeycomb cowfish, flamingo tongue snails, bottlenose porpoise, grooved brain coral, elkhorn coral, queen conch, king helmet, corky sea finger, purple sea fan, giant barrel sponge, and on and on…..
My other favorite water activity is surf kayaking. We have an incredible surf spot right off our shore at Glover’s Reef, and we have these great surfing kayaks designed specifically for the type of wave you’ll find here.
With about 30 minutes of instruction you can be out there catching waves, surfing them in, and paddling back out to ride in on another one. And there are no crowds on these waves because we are the only ones with easy access to them.
We love the surf kayaking so much on our island that we built a ‘surf dock’ just for watching the surf carnage. Sitting there with a Belikin (the “Beer of Belize”) watching the surfers is a sport in itself!
What kinds of wildlife can a person expect to see in Belize on the land and in the sea?
I’ve already given you a list of the sea creatures, so let me tell you about what you’ll see on land.
On our island there are several full time wildlife residents including an abundance of spiny-tailed iguanas. There are also thousands of hermit crabs and a land crab we call ‘ghost crabs’ because they are nocturnal and white in color. We also have many geckos and anoles.
There are numerous bird species, and at certain times of year you can find as many as 60 species in a single month (in April during the migration north, and in October during the migration south).
Year-round, or near year-round, bird residents include the magnificent frigate bird, green heron, great blue heron, brown pelican, royal tern, great tailed grackle, osprey, ruddy turnstone and the snowy egret.
Wildlife inland is even more diverse than on our island. Visitors to the jungle can expect to easily see numerous species of toucans, herons and egrets, green iguana, black howler monkeys, white-nosed coati (kind of like a raccoon), crocodiles, and, if you are lucky, tapir. Jaguars are present but very rarely seen.
Family adventure travel continues to gain in popularity. What would you suggest for families to do while in Belize?
I would choose a mixture of inland activities and ocean activities. Inland day trips to jungles, caves, ruins, rivers, natural pools, and lakes can offer many learning opportunities such as the Mayan history and culture, limestone and karst geology, birding, canoeing and horseback riding.
After several days inland I would transfer to an island where you can snorkel, dive (if the kids are old enough), kayak and search the beaches and low tide areas for shells, urchins, and starfish. Many tour companies offer combinations of this type.
You’ve got an adventure travel operation based on Glover’s Atoll. Can you give us a glimpse of what a normal day of activities is like there?
Coffee is served at 6, yoga is at 7, and breakfast is at 7:30. Activities start at 8:30 or 9:00.
A typical morning might be a group paddle by sea kayak to a nearby patch reef where you’ll snorkel out of the kayaks. Another guide will be teaching rolling techniques one-on-one at the same time, and another will be teaching windsurfing.
Everyone gets back together for lunch on the island at around 12:30. At 2:00 the fun starts again with kayak surfing, paddle boarding and scuba diving offered.
At about 4:00 a low tide walk would be guided off the east end of the island to see numerous species of sea urchins, octopus, star fish, and nudibranchs.
Volleyball starts at 5:30 along with appetizers and happy hour. Dinner is served at 7:00 with an informal talk after dinner on fish identification, underwater geology, or tropical weather. This is followed by a raucous hermit crab race! Then early to bed, because tomorrow you get to do it again!
Tell us a little about your business, Slickrock Adventures.
Cully Erdman created Slickrock in 1977, then a small kayak school on the Colorado River. In the early 1980s he expanded to Central America (Belize) after exploring the region while assisting with adventure television shows.
In 1986 I joined on as a partner, and together we developed the six Belize itineraries that we offer today.
Both of us remain closely involved with all aspects of Slickrock. You will likely speak to one of us when you call, or meet us on the island during your trip.
As Vice-President and office manager, Lucy has been involved with the development of the Belize adventure travel programs from their inception. She guides at Glover’s Reef and is responsible for their renowned menu. An avid backpacker, she spends her spare time hiking the desert terrain near Moab, Utah.