We’re staying in Caye Caulker, Belize… and on our way home we meet the ‘Caye Caulker Caveman’. He’s a solid guy, with dark frizzy hair that’s sun bleached white on top… and a big smile that stretches from ear to ear… It turns out Caye Caulker Caveman is a true legend of the sea.
He tells us it’s his job to respect the sea, make us happy, and show us his special place. We loved his character instantly, and after some friendly banter, we booked a snorkelling trip with him for the next day.
The next day was an absolute boomer.
A day of big first-time experiences for me… snorkelling with a Manatee, snorkelling with Nurse Sharks and Sting Rays, then snorkelling around a shipwreck.
First, we slipped into the water… and Caveman lead us up quietly to a giant Manatee. She was nestled on the bottom, grazing on the matt of sea grass below us. This enormous sea cow, who weighs in at about 1500lbs (680kg), then gracefully swam to the surface for air… then slipped back to the bottom for lunch… Magic!
Next up was a shipwreck. I was a bit spooked thinking about swimming around a shipwreck, but, oh what the heck – I may as well. It turns out it was pretty tame, and not really that interesting to me – apart from the schools of colourful fish.
Then we moved onto ‘Shark Ray Alley’, where the Caye Caulker Caveman made an underwater phone call – by revving the boats motor…
Next minute; splish, splash… and there are Sharks galore swimming around the boat. Not the dangerous kind – but harmless, big brown Nurse Sharks. And that’s not to mention the large Stingrays, or the large schools of beautifully coloured fish.
Nurse Sharks are OK, they’re slow-moving bottom-dwellers, and usually harmless to humans. However, they can be huge – up to 14 feet (4.3 meters). Plus they have strong jaws filled with thousands of tiny, serrated teeth… and they’ll bite defensively if stepped on or overly bothered.
Caveman feeds them some sardines… then suggests we’ll be safe jumping in with them!
I can tell these Sharks, and Stingrays love their Caye Caulker Caveman.
In we jump… and almost immediately, a Nurse Shark brushes right between my legs… and I am screaming through my snorkel!
It’s a strange sensation, their rough sandpaper type skin brushing against you… there were Sharks everywhere!
They continue to follow us as we snorkel around. This was super cool!
Then finally we snorkelled away, exploring further along the reef.
Caveman was always in the water with us, pointing out the sea life… giant Groupers, Stingrays, large Green Sea Turtles, large green Moray Eels, large schooling fish, and Snapper. Everything but Whale Sharks… It felt like I was swimming in a massive aquarium… with my own private ring master.
The Caye Caulker Caveman knows where they all hang out, and how to find them. It’s fascinating watching the fish follow him, as he dives down to the bottom… only to follow him back up again, like little children.
One Nurse Shark continually follows us, and keeps sucking on Caveman’s beard. He’s not worried – he just cuddles it, and they continue on together.
I‘m just disappointed that we didn’t have our underwater camera for this trip.
Then it’s time to head back, and in true Caye Caulker Caveman style, he makes a deal with us.
If he finds a seahorse first we shout the beer, if we do – then he shouts. Deal!
Of course we lose, (but do we?)
I swear he has bionic eyes to spot these tiny Seahorse creatures in the water! In no time, he had put a couple inside a bucket for us to have a closer view. Then, he ever so carefully returned them to the exact spot, where he found them.
Lastly we feed the Tarpons – a sleek elegant looking fish with huge sharp teeth. They’re fast, and powerful – leaping out of the water, and snatching the fish right out of your hand.
Later, over a couple of beers, down by the sea… we learn the fascinating Caye Caulker Caveman story – it goes like this:
‘My mother and father died when I was 6 years old. I was put in foster homes, and the people were bad to me, so I ran away. I got a ride on a boat to Caye Caulker, telling a lie that my family lived there, and they would look after me.’
Caveman arrived in Caye Caulker, and lived in a coconut tree for six years – until he was twelve. To survive, he sold coconuts for $1 – always having to hide from the police, who were trying to get him into school.
Sometimes he would sell 30-40 coconuts a day, and he lived on mangoes. He had fashioned a little mattress in the tree – and he would tie himself to the tree, to avoid falling out while he was dreaming.
When he was twelve, his life changed… he met a man called ‘Chocolate’.
Chocolate offered him a job on his boat, for $5 a week. Caveman could make more money selling coconuts… but he wanted to learn, so he made the choice to be Chocolate’s boat boy. He tells us how Chocolate would always yell at him, but never ever, did he speak back… he just replied; “Sorry Boss, sorry boss – I learn… I learn”
One day, Chocolate’s passengers were visitors from the American Consulate. They were lunching on a remote island, miles out to sea. While Chocolate was talking to the American man, Caveman was up a coconut tree – happily eating his mangoes.
A mango dropped… and when the Caye Caulker Caveman looked up, he saw Chocolate’s boat drifting way out to sea.
‘Hey Chocolate, the boat’s got away’ – to which Chocolate replied; ‘Hey monkey, I’m gonna fix yr business… I always tell yah – when I speaking to people, don’t interrupt!’
‘Ok, I’m sorry Boss, I’m sorry.’
Meanwhile, the boat kept drifting further out to sea.
Again, Caveman yells out to Chocolate… This time the American man also looks up, and says to Chocolate; ‘that kid ain’t kidding – your boat’s getting away!’
Chocolate then spins around, and yells to Caveman; ‘hey you, monkey, get the hell down out of that coconut tree, and go get my boat’.
Caveman tells us how it took him an hour, and forty minutes, to swim out to rescue the boat. From that day forward Chocolate never yelled at him again. Chocolate tells him that he has saved his business, and his reputation – and raises his pay from $5 to $35 a week!
When they returned to Caye Caulker, the American man gave Caveman a note – and told him to keep it, and not to tell anyone. Caveman thought it was a $1 USD note – but he was a happy man when he later found that it was $100USD note!
He went to local a restaurant, and said he wanted to eat fried chicken and coke, for a week with his $100.
In finishing, he speaks softly, and says:
‘I am very grateful for the things Chocolate taught me. I never went to school, I don’t read, or write… but I went to the school of life. I never forget where I came from, and before he died, I told Chocolate I love him.’
Here is a little excerpt, from our video over a few beers, down by the sea;
And so I’ve named the Caye Caulker Caveman, ‘King of the Sea.’ He knows the reef, and lagoon around Caye Caulker like the back of his hand – and the sea life know him in return.
If you want to enjoy the real experience of Caye Caulker, and the sea… one that feels more like spending time with a buddy, who knows where everything is – then you can’t do better than a snorkelling tour with Caye Caulker Caveman.
Our Caye Caulker Caveman ‘experience’ was the highlight of our time here… and it made up for the ‘no beaches’. Caveman’s deep respect for the sea, and his concern for the protection its inhabitants is abundantly clear… and that makes us pretty happy.
To me, Caveman is Caye Caulker!
Caye Caulker is a land of contrasts; Jamaican look-a-likes, bright colourful buildings, white sand (but no beaches), golf carts for taxis, and Rasta’s sporting ‘dreadlocks’ riding bikes. Nobody’s in any hurry to do anything, and everyone’s jabbering away to themselves – like they’re lost in their own worlds…
It’s the beautiful world, of the Caye Caulker Caveman.