Have you ever envisioned yourself tucked away on a secluded island somewhere? Falling asleep to the sound of the sea lapping on the shore? No Wifi or cell phone reception? Boundless reefs to dive, snorkel, kayak and explore? Some of the most colorful sunrises and sunsets you’ve ever seen? Hammocks to just tuck away in for an afternoon snooze or to get lost in a book? Having an endless amount of coconuts at your disposal and literally the clearest turquoise water you’ve ever seen? Whelp! That’s what we found on Glover’s Atoll Resort off the coast of Belize.
As Kevin mentioned in his previous blog, our first two weeks in Belize were an absolute blast, but we were getting pretty worn down from our lifestyle thus far. It was becoming beyond clear that we needed a hard reset on life. One of the amazing things about traveling; usually whatever it is you may need, the universe has a way of presenting it to you. Throughout our travels in Belize we had been seeing signs for this private island, where, for an affordable price ($140 per person), you could campout for a week. We discussed it for a few days, and after much dialogue on if we should go or not, it seemed like the universe was telling us: f*** yes!
After a quick email we were booked for a week on the island with zero expectations. We knew you were free to cook your own meals or buy them for an additional price. We knew there would be some small produce items available for purchase, but we had no clue what they were. We knew we could store a very small number of perishables in a fridge and there was a kitchen with cooking utensils for us to use. Lastly, we knew there were cold showers and compost toilets. So, with that little knowledge, we stuffed our packs up with all our camping gear (most of which we were using for the first time on this trip), stocked the cooler with all our food items for the week, and were off. The catamaran ride from Hopkins, BZ to the island took about 3 hours and 30 minutes, despite what the poster said (which was 90 minutes!). Side note: If you decide to make the trek out to the island, packing a lunch for the boat is imperative! Aside from our rumbling bellies, it was a beautiful catamaran through the most vibrant water you’ve ever seen.
*Insert “Lost” references here*
As soon as we got to the island we immediately had to start throwing references and quotes out from the show Lost. I mean, how could you not? It seemed like that island had so many secrets to uncover and I guarantee there was a hatch hidden away somewhere. If you’ve never watched the show and have no idea what I am talking about, do yourself a favorite and get on it.
Glovers Atoll is about 50 miles off the coast of Hopkins, Belize. The island isn’t that big and takes about 15 minutes or so to walk around the entire thing. A little Glovers history; Becky, the woman who owns it, told us that her grandmother bought the island off the Morgan family in 70’s. Yes…those Morgan’s, the pirate family that founded Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum. Apparently, the Morgan’s owned the island for decades. At that time, they used the island to harvest and export seafood, mainly conch, as well as coconuts. Once Becky’s family took over the island it was converted into the “resort” you see today. Legend has it that Captain Morgan’s son, John Morgan, is buried among the thick coconut forest in the middle of the island.
One of the most random things about the island is that it’s covered in thousands and thousands of hermit crabs, some the size of softballs! We were told they clean the island and are most active at night – which I soon found out to be true – and they love food. If we left any type of food out and walked away for a minute or two, there would be a crew of hermit crabs trying to take off with our breakfast! Who would have thought! In typical hermit crab fashion, any time you’d walk down the trails of the island you would hear them dropping all over the place. As soon as they sensed you were coming, they would pull into their shells and fall from whatever surface they were clung to. At night time you had to walk with a flashlight otherwise you’d trip over them, or worse, get your toes pinched!!
When it comes to your accommodations for the week, you have multiple options (from cheapest to most expensive): camping with your own tent, camping using their tent, renting out a bed in the dorm room, renting a cabana on the beach, or renting a cabana over the water. All the cabanas are equipped with multiple bedding options and a kitchen, however, they are still “rustic” and simple island living spaces. We never peaked our heads into the cabanas, but we were told they were great. If that sort of thing is not your bag baby, then this spot might not be for you. We opted for the most economical option and I’m glad we did. When we first got to the island, it seemed like everyone we were on the boat with (7 groups – we referred to as “the others”) were all going for the cabanas over the water. It’s very lax on the island and we could have changed our mind and sprung for a cabana, but once we saw we we’re the only ones camping, we knew we’d have a good chunk of the island all to ourselves. Plus, we love camping.
There were five campsites to choose from – and we were like Goldie Lox until we found the campsite that was just right. The campsite we chose was perfect – and it just added to our overall experience throughout the week. The campsites were on the opposite side of the island from the cabanas, so as we suspected, we were very secluded. On top of that, the island wasn’t fully booked so you could walk around the entire place and not see a single soul. Our campsite was already equipped with two hammocks and had access to the ocean with some of the best snorkeling we did all week only 50 feet away. The campsite was also filled with all sorts of additions from previous campers: benches, tables, clotheslines, and our favorite: tons of sea art (dried coral, conch shells, rocks, etc). We had fun adding our own personal touch and setting up our home for the week. The first full day there I woke up to Kevin landscaping and lining the walkway to our site with a row of sprouted coconuts!
One of the best parts about our nook was that it was on the northwest side of the island, so it was completely protected from the elements since the winds were blowing from the east. We would walk to the other side of the island and almost be blown away by 20 MPH winds, but then would retreat to our tropical oasis and there would be a light comfortable breeze. On top of that, we had a spectacular sunset view right from our nook. I think about an hour into our time on the island we discussed if we should extend our stay another week, but unfortunately decided we couldn’t swing it.
So, what do you do on an island that has no electricity, no television, no wifi, and no cellphone service? For some of you, I bet your palms may start to sweat just thinking about that. The answer is; whatever you want! There was never a time during the week where either of us felt bored. For me I was really looking forward to relaxing as much as I could. I wanted to focus on meditating, journaling, and catching up on some reading. It was so great sitting in the hammock in our amazing campground and doing just that. Of course, in typical Kevin fashion, he was finding so many activities to keep himself busy. He would take off for an hour or so and he’d come back with his hands full of random things. It was great that we could both be on slightly different pages and both get exactly what we wanted out of the week, while still spending quality time together.
One of the first things Kevin came back with from his “walkabout” around the island was a fly fishing pole. Ever since our time traveling through Montana and Idaho he’s been talking nonstop about fly fishing in the Salmon River or in Yellowstone with Bison all around him. I was stoked when he found out that one of the guys on the island was a professional fly fisherman, and worked with Kevin on basic pointers for casting. He even let him borrow a pole for the week so he could practice. It was the polar opposite scenery from what he had envisioned, but there he was, knee high in some of the most turquoise water you’ve ever seen practicing his cast. From what it looked like, there seem to be a lot of things you need to think about when casting, but like most things he was catching on quickly.
Originally, we were thinking we would be catching lots of fish to cook up for the week, but we weren’t exactly lucky in that endeavor. Glovers Atoll Island is located the protected portion of Glovers Atoll Reef. To catch fish (and NOT release) you have to be about a mile off the shore, outside of the protected zone. The only fish you could catch and eat in the protected zone were Lionfish, which are fair game no matter where you are because they’re not native and are destroying the reefs. Fishing charters were offered from the island, but we opted not to spend the money. We did rent a kayak for the week, so one day we attempted to paddle out to try our hand at catching some dinner.
We picked probably the windiest day of the week to go, and found ourselves paddling into 15-20mph winds. All I could think about was the chorus to Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind”. When we finally got past the mile marker, the challenge was anchoring. If the anchor didn’t catch right away, we would be pushed back at least 20 feet within 10 seconds and would have to battle the wind and paddle back. Once we successfully got the anchor snagged, the underwater scene was like a barren wasteland. There wasn’t a single fish to be had! It seemed they had all caught on and hid out in the safety of the protected reef. We checked out a couple of different spots, but after trying for an hour unsuccessfully, we gave up and paddled back. It was certainly an experience, and we were looking forward to feasting on some fish, but they won….. this time!
Eating & Cooking
Speaking of food, we ate like kings all week! At this point in our travels we have gotten our meals dialed in. We tend to buy the same ingredients but are constantly trying to find innovative ways to recreate our dishes. Because we chose the camping option on the island, we had access to the shared kitchen for cooking all our own meals. You had the option to pay for meals at the main kitchen, and originally we thought we might, but we were having such a good time cooking and had enough food that we never felt the urge to spend the money.
The island being as empty as it was certainly worked out in our favor in many ways. We basically had the shared kitchen to ourselves every night which was good, because as you can imagine, it was rustic and small. To see at night, there were a handful of hurricane lanterns to light our way. It was great slowing down and cooking by hurricane lamps like they did in the old days (and honestly like a majority of Mexican and Belizeans currently do). Regardless of the facilities, we certainly made some kick ass meals. I think our favorite from the week was this delicious coconut curry Kevin made from the freshest coconuts ever. (recipe to follow at the end of the blog!)
Coconuts, Coconuts, Coconuts!
Yes, this deserves its own section.
Another amazing thing about this island is it is chocked full of all the coconuts you can possibly consume! We should have kept tracked but we probably had three a day. During our tour of the island, Becky showed us the coconut station where she schooled us in Coconut 101. Through our travels we have been seeing the green coconuts everywhere, which are delicious and refreshing. However, we had no idea that if they stay on the tree long enough, they turn brown and are a completely different texture and taste (which is my new favorite coconut). To open either one of these suckers it certainly takes some work. For the green ones, you need to machete the top off and hope you keep all ten fingers. The brown ones are a bit more work. You sweat your ass off wrestling and peeling back the husk to reveal that familiar brown coconut with the three holes that resembles a bowling ball. Once you get that sucker out, you then must crack it just the right way so the water inside doesn’t spill out everywhere. It’s an art, and I got pretty good at it throughout the week. It became my daily workout, and I’m pretty sure I grew some serious coconut muscles because of it. On top of that, the coconut station was complete with a coconut zester…. So, after you cracked open the brown ones you could put it on the zester, turn the crank, and voilà!! The freshest shredded coconut you’ve ever had! We might even have to put this contraption on our wedding registry…
Every day we were so excited to crack open some fresh coconuts. It became a big highlight of conversation between Kevin and I (when you spend so much time with your partner sometimes you run out of things to talk about). Each morning he would get me coffee and top it off with the freshest coconut milk. Best fiancé ever! Becky also cooks fresh banana bread two days a week, which was the biggest surprise treat. One of our favorite breakfast meals became banana bread topped with peanut butter, a sliced banana, and a generous amount of shredded coconut. We made a few variations, but this was by far our favorite one. If we could incorporate coconut into any of our meals, we did. Like I mentioned before, Kevin made an amazing coconut curry one night, stacked with veggies over quinoa. He also made a coconut fudge, which was delish (recipes to follow at the end of the blog). I thought being on an island my diet would be dialed in, but I discovered quickly that wasn’t going to happen.
I had been on the coconut train for a couple of years now, but Kevin wasn’t. The health coach inside of me was pumped that he was finally seeing the light on everything coconut. The health benefits of this magical fruit are great – but of course, everything in moderation ?. Kevin even started stowing away coconuts to bring back to the mainland for us to enjoy and we’re still enjoying them to this day! I could have probably dedicated an entire blog to coconuts… but I’ll move on for now.
Fun fact about me, I’m not a huge fan of snorkeling… well, up until my trip to Belize that is. I’m not a strong swimmer (despite all those swim lessons I had growing up) and I’m afraid of the open ocean. Water is such a powerful element, and the ocean is so MASSIVE it intimidates the hell out of me. Up until we got to Belize, I had been successful in my attempts to avoid snorkeling, despite Kevin’s persistence. In Belize, I knew there was some of the greatest variety of sea life right below me, and I didn’t want the fear to hold me back from experiencing it. We had done a snorkel trip a week prior while we were in Caye Caulker, which helped ease me into it, but I was still very timid about the whole thing. I’m afraid of all the things that make sense, the things in the ocean that can hurt you: sharks, lionfish, barracudas, jellyfish, etc. Aside from that, mainly I’m scared of losing my cool in the middle of the ocean and having a straight panic attack. Like I’ve been saying though, “Freedom Over Fear”…so I saw this as an opportunity.
They told us that you could go out snorkeling every day for two weeks and see a different reef each day. How could I miss out on that? Well, of course, everything was FINE, and I had a blast! It was like swimming in the most colorful fish tank ever! Back in our life in San Diego we had a 120-gallon freshwater tank. Many times, we would be sitting on the couch to put on a movie and 30 minutes later we would find ourselves in a trance, staring at the fish in the tank. It was actually one of the more relaxing things we would do. Once I overcame my fear, I found it was very calming to be swimming around all this sea life. There are sharks in the water, but they are nurse sharks which are harmless. The scariest fish we saw the entire time was a barracuda, and it just passed right by uninterested.
My favorite fish became the elusive parrot fish. There are a few different types of parrot fish, but my favorite was the one that looked like a rainbow (naturally). Some of the fish in the reef were curious about you – but the parrot fish wanted nothing to do with humans. As soon as you got a little close it would scurry off, making it hard for Kevin to take a picture of it with the Gopro. Like most things in nature, the male parrot fish has the most vibrate colors, and while I still don’t agree with this law of nature, the female parrot fish were still beautiful. We also learned that when the male parrot fish dies, a female parrot fish in that school will change sex and color and become male to take his place – go figure! Aside from the parrot fish we saw so much sea life – vibrate corral, lionfish, eagle rays, flounders, boxfish (proof that aliens exist), reef sharks, barracudas, angelfish, and so much more. Every day I would look forward to getting on the kayak and paddling out to a different reef to explore. What a complete flip!
One last thing worth mentioning is that normally I check reviews for almost anything we do. For some reason I didn’t check the reviews for Glovers Atoll Resort(http://glovers.com.bz/), and I’m so glad that was the case, otherwise we might not have gone, or had certain expectations. After we got off the island I was googling it and was surprised to find a lot of negative reviews. I realize everyone’s experience is different, but this is certainly a no-frills island. I was so grateful I went into this with zero expectations – a completely blank slate. The island can’t control the weather, and we certainly lucked out in that department, but this island is a magical spot as long as you are open to it. I will admit that they should probably remove the word “Resort” from their title as it might be slightly misleading. It’s strange they even call it a resort at all, which may be a reason for some of the expectations that lead to bad reviews, but if you can truly embrace “island time” lifestyle, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. So, take those reviews with a grain of salt, and don’t let past peoples experience control or prevent you from having your own experience (unless someone got hepatitis from eating somewhere, maybe avoid that place).
Overall, we got everything we needed from the island, and then some. The weather was perfect all week long, and I think this goes down as one of the best experiences we’ve had to date on this trip. It was fulfilling on so many different levels, and it was the week we needed away from everything to just regroup, and more importantly reconnect. Traveling with your partner like this can bring up some challenges, so it was great to be away from the truck for a week and have a whole island to spread out on. It’s the longest we’ve stayed in one place together since we left San Diego and it was clear that was needed. We woke up every morning with nothing but gratitude for the life we’ve lived up until this point, and are seriously beyond blessed to be able to live out our dreams together.
- Easy Coconut Fudge
- 2 cups fresh shredded coconut
- 2 cup sugar (white, brown or raw)
- 1/2 cup condensed milk powder
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- Combine all ingredients in a large pan over medium heat and stir until blended. Heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has caramelized and mixture has become thick.
- Once mixture has thickened, remove from heat and pour into container allowing mixture to be 1-1.5 inches thick.
- Refrigerate overnight, then cut into cubes and enjoy!
- For storage, place in airtight jar and keep in refrigerator up to 3 weeks
- Coconut Curry (Island Style)
- 1/2 Cup fresh Shredded Coconut
- 3 Cups Coconut Milk
- 3 Carrots (diced)
- 1 Tomato (diced)
- 1 Onion (diced)
- 1 Potato (cubed)
- 4 Cloves of Garlic (chopped)
- 1 Tbsp coconut or olive oil
- 1-2 Tbsp curry powder (to taste)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- optional: Pinch cayenne or 1 dried red chili, diced (for heat)
- In large pot, heat oil over medium flame and saute vegetables and garlic for 10 minutes.
- Add potatoes, Coconut milk, curry, salt and pepper and bring to boil
- Reduce to simmer and cover. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
- Added shredded coconut and additional seasoning to taste
- Serve over Coconut Rice
- To make Coconut Rice, cook rice as you normally would, but replace water with Coconut Milk