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Belize, Baby! 6 Really Cool, Mostly Free Things to Do in San Pedro, Belize - Ambergris Caye Island. Crabs & More...
Ambergris Caye teems with wildlife. There're no lions and tigers and bears (thank God!), but there are enough lizards, crabs, eels and barracudas to keep you occupied for days or even weeks.
Most visitors to Ambergris Caye track down the sea life in its natural habitat. Snorkeling tours to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley provide obligatory glimpses of Moray Eels, sea anemones, sting rays, eagle rays, nurse sharks and a wide variety of tropical fish.
But San Pedro also offers numerous other opportunities to experience local flora and fauna without venturing into the deep blue seas.
These six Things-to-Do happen daily or on an ad hoc basis, so you can catch them anytime during your trip.
They're also (mostly) free, and are an affordable supplement to expensive snorkeling or diving excursions. Nothing beats getting up-close and personal with the Barrier Reef, but if you're killing time or looking for a quick break, these activities are great ways to check out local wildlife from dry land.
#1 Tarpon Feedings
Tarpon are really big fish. Just off the pier next to the Sunset Grill, there's a huge locker full of frozen sardines. Just beneath the pier, tarpon swarm, waiting for tourists to drop in the tasty treats.
Tarpon feedings delight children of all ages. The Sunset Grill staff will show you how to hold the sardine tail-side up, tucked into the v between your fingers, not grasped with your fingertips. Then you lean, lean, lean closer to the water until the sardine just touches the surface. Snap!
The tarpon know the drill, and your sardine is gone before you know it. If you followed directions, they didn't take any fingers with them.
For the best photo shots of the action, take photos continuously from the time the sardines are in hand to the look of shock when the sardine disappears. The entire process is priceless.
Change comes slowly to San Pedro. So blog articles written years ago could have been written yesterday. Seeing is believing, but it's really just that great.
#2 - Crabs Crossing the Road at Night
Why did the crab cross the road? To get to the other side.
The dirt roads and cobblestone streets outside San Pedro City Center see little traffic. A few golf carts and bicycles travel to vacation condos in the south or resorts in the north, but that's about it.
Activity on the roads really picks up at night. That's when the island's nocturnal critters traverse their instinctive paths regardless of man-made obstacles.
There's nothing like a crab creeping across the road to send you into a fit of giggles and inspire a series of really bad jokes.
If you find yourself on foot or on a bicycle, keep an eye out for the eight-fingered fiends hobbling across the by-ways. If you travel by taxi or golf-cart, you're likely to miss them, but ask your driver to keep an eye out.
It seems a bit silly, but that's what makes it so great.
#3 - Feeding the Eels
Snorkeling Hol Chan may get you up close and personal with Moray eels, but even in the open water, you have to keep your distance. Moray Eels can be aggressive and downright mean - at least, that's how it seems if you're on the receiving end of a sudden attack.
Eel Feedings at Rico's give you time to watch the animals chow down on lunch without worrying you might be next.
Rico's staff feeds the eels at 10:30 every morning at a walled-in pond behind the restaurant. The pond is pretty interesting all on its own. Crabs tumble along the rock wall. Long, brightly-colored fish flash through the shadows. And movement among the rocks hints at bigger animals staying hidden.
A bag of shrimp peelings dumped in the water brings the scene to life. Crabs tussle over the scraps. Fish dart to the surface to grab their share. And Moray Eels, the stars of the show, zip through the water, baring mouths full of jagged teeth to snatch at the feast.
The eels are much less scary when they're in the water and you're on dry land. Take your time counting the eels, admiring their colors and getting lots of photos.
If you miss the scheduled feeding, but linger for lunch, the head waiter may find some scraps for a second feeding. The food's delicious and affordable (try the Fish Burger!). The rum punch is refreshing. And between the pond and the flowerboxes, children can amuse themselves for a very long time.
#4 - Catching Hermit Crabs
You'll catch onto this early if you're traveling with tourists 12 years old or younger. But even if you're past puberty, this is an activity you can't afford to miss.
San Pedro is full of shells, and shells are full of hermit crabs.
There's something adorable about a cute little crab scuttling busily along. There's something even cuter about the crab retreating into its shell as you lift it into the air.
The most awwww-inducing moment is when you flip the crab sideways and its little legs kick futilely in the air. It's like it's waving hello or goodbye.
In either case, take a great picture (use a macro setting for a blurry background) and put the crab down so it can continue its journey until the next tourist molests it.
#5 - Watching the Crocodiles
Don't bother the crocodiles and they won't bother you. But the cutaway south of town is the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the island's largest predators.
To get to the Crocodile area, travel south of town past Ramon's Village, Banyan Bay and Victoria House. Just past the Consolidated Water Supply tower, you'll see a dirt area next to a lagoon and a huge crocodile warning sign. Don't feed them. Don't touch them. Violators will be prosecuted.
At most times of day, the sign's the most exciting part. But at dusk, this little strip of land offers a great view of the sunset, and an even greater view of the resident predators. Three crocs hang out just beyond the shoreline. Without straining your eyes you can make out their heads and tails... and the bodies in between. They're pretty darn big, and there's no fence to keep predator from prey.
The last confirmed death by crocodile attack was in 2007, and it was suspected foul play not a wandering passber-by snapped up in a sudden bout of animal aggression.
So enjoy the photo op. Snap pics of the sign, the sunset and the basking gators, then mosey back to town for nighttime festivities.
Note: Feeding the Crocs is illegal. Youtube videos from the 2008 and earlier show people baiting the crocs with chickens. Now there's a huge warning sign and police patrols. Feeding crocodiles makes the area unsafe for everyone. Crocodiles quickly learn to associate food with humans and lose the natural shyness that prevents them from zipping up to passerby to beg for a bite or simply to take one. "Crocodiles cannot tell where a handout ends and a hand begins"
#6- The Chicken Drop
A cross between bingo and poo-play, the San Pedro Chicken Drop is a world-famous event held each week at the Pier Lounge outside the Spindrift Hotel.
The basic premise is simple. Participants buy a bingo square. One participant shakes a chicken, blows on its bum, drops it on the board and waits for it to... ummm drop... while the crowd hoots, hollers and enjoys the novelty of this unique event.
Most blog articles make a big deal about "drunken" participants, but the Chicken Drop is an all-ages event. It's held on the beach outside the Spindrift Resort's bar/lounge. The event itself involves no alcohol and the behavior is more barnyard crude than grownup lewd.
You're playing with a live bird, sticking its butt in your face and then waiting for it to poo. In public! Near a restaurant! And if you win you get to touch the poo! How ridiculously awesome is that?
Kids under age 12 seem to win quite a bit. It could be luck or a strange affinity between small children and poo. In either case, the Chicken Drop is an event you won't want to miss.