Don’t let the name scare you or keep you from visiting, the Snake Cayes are some of the most beautiful and pristine island chains off the coast of Belize. The possibility of having a close encounter with a snake is minimal, but the chance of encountering some of the most awe-inspiring beaches, crystal clear waters and natural habitats in the country is guaranteed.
The Snake Cayes of Belize is a group of four small islands that lie roughly about 20 miles off its southern coast of the Toledo District and include West, Middle, East and South Snake Cayes. They got their names due to the abundance of boa constrictors that once lived on one of the islands. The cayes are not part of the barrier reef system, but lie within the Port Honduras Marine Reserve of Belize on an isolated coral ridge growing on a limestone ledge.
The reserve encompasses an array of vital habitats with patch and fringing reefs, seagrass beds and 138 mangrove cayes, supporting an important fishery for local traditional users. Visitors to the cayes and surrounding areas enjoy the clear, turquoise waters of the reserve, snorkeling amongst the abundance of marine life (including coral patches).
The most visited is the West Snake Caye (about two acres big) where beach goers book for a beach barbeque and snorkeling experience. The south west side of the caye has a wide clean coral beach made of pure white sand that tends to shift depending on the time of year. The island also has a small inland lagoon.
Those in Toledo say that West Snake Caye is one of the district’s and even maybe one of Belize’s best kept secrets. Southern Belize may have larger and more expansive beaches than some areas in the north, including the popular hotspots of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, but what those beaches lack are the coral white sand and aqua blue waters. Vacationers and residents looking for more pristine waters and bleach-white beaches take off for the Snake Cayes.
The remaining three Snake Cayes are swampy mangrove ranges, but have enough high ground to support significant numbers of coconut trees and other vegetation. The endangered manatee and hundreds of sea birds live in the area. Great swimming, snorkeling and diving can be done off the islands as well; at least three diving sites have been established by tour guides.
East Snake Caye was first known as “Lighthouse Caye” many years ago. A lighthouse was built on the island to help fishermen navigate their way after sunset. Today, two lighthouses are located on the caye. Middle Snake Caye lies in a preservation zone and is known for its bird life. This is a major nesting site for the Brown Noddy and the Bridled Tern. South Snake Caye has no beach, but local fishermen dive the area for fresh lobster and troll for barracudas.
You find peace and tranquility visiting the area as you take in the scenery, sun, salty air, and enjoy the natural habitat that has been kept pretty much undisturbed for hundreds of years. Local tour guides say that still very few Belizeans know of the cayes and there is not a lot of traffic with tourists, so a quiet enjoyable time is guaranteed.
Tours to the Snake Cayes, which included picnics, snorkeling and diving, can be arranged with tour operators out of Punta Gorda and Monkey River town in the Toledo District. The boat ride is approximately 45 minutes from the mainland.
Tour of West Snake Key for iTravel Belize was arranged courtesy of Garbutts Marine
Garbutts Marine is a family-run business, based at Joe Taylor Creek on the outskirts of Punta Gorda Town. Operated by brothers Dennis, Scully, and Oliver, along with cousin Lionel and uncle, Victor, they know these waters like the back of their hand! The brothers grew up in the tiny village of Punta Negra, and spent holidays out at the Sapodilla Cayes where their father was the lighthouse keeper for many years. Dennis was the Manager of Port Honduras Marine Reserve for 7 years, and Scully is a TIDE Board member.
Garbutt Marine offers a range of trips from snorkeling to “Discover Scuba” courses, fishing, and are particularly in demand for fly-fishing trips.
Facebook: Garbutt’s Marine & Fishing Lodge