How an Adventurous Kayaker Came to Own a Vacation Island in Belize
People often ask how Slickrock came to end up on Long Caye, which is such a perfect fit to our operation with such a beautiful location. It’s a long story, and it would take a book to relate all the adventures we’ve had with Slickrock, exploring the locations in which we have run trips in the past. A short version is presented here:
Slickrock started out as a kayak school in 1977 Moab, UT and Carbondale, CO where we ran clinics and river trips for beginner whitewater kayakers. We ran river trips in CO, UT, and ID as extensions to regular classes during the summer months. At that time, Cully was very active as a kayaker seeking out new rivers and rapids to run that had never been attempted. In the 1970’s it was easy to find extreme sections of rivers that had never been done, so Cully and friends spent a lot of time running difficult rivers for thrills and, eventually, TV. These exploits attracted the attention of some local filmmakers with connections to outdoor adventure TV shows, and they were invited to help set up and produce several TV shows exploring rivers in Alaska, CO, Nepal, and Mexico. These programs aired on ABC’s American Sportsman series.
Several seasons into this series of shows, a kayak club contacted Cully to see if I would set up a trip for them in Mexico running the Jatate River, which was featured in one of the TV episodes, and in 1983 he led a trip down this river with a large group. It was a successful venture, and from there Slickrock started running regular trips down that and several other rivers in the region of Chiapas, Mexico during the winter months.
Over the course of the next several years Cully explored many other rivers in the rainforest wilderness of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala, and made several more films of his adventures. As part of his exploration of the Yucatan’s rivers, he visited Belize and was taken by the idea of starting some sea kayak trips though the many islands along the barrier reef. The next season (1986) he brought down 6 sea kayaks and explored an itinerary along the reefs and islands, and began the Belize program with several small trips out to the islands in southern Belize, basing in the town of Placencia. Around this time Lucy joined the company, now running trips in both Mexico, Belize as well as the US. We ran traditional sea kayak trips where we carried all our supplies in the boats, camping on the islands and fishing for our meals. Most of the islands were uninhabited, and it was a wonderful trip; however, it was a little rugged for many of our guests, sometimes having to camp in bad weather and paddling very heavy boats.
Over the next several seasons we experienced a rapid change among the islands we visited on our itinerary, and many started to become developed and several other sea kayak operations began using the same route as we did. Lucy, Slickrock’s new partner and office manager, began contacting other lodges and island owners in Belize to learn more about what was out there, and through her efforts discovered Glover’s Reef, and the Lomont family, then residents of Long Caye.The Lomont family, who ran a small resort and dive operation, also had another island, NE Caye, unoccupied and available for rent. We scouted out the atoll and decided to relocate out there, changing the style of our trip to an island based itinerary. With this new location, along with an easier itinerary and cabins on a protected island, the popularity of our program grew rapidly.
In 1996, the Lomont family lost their lease on Long Caye and had to move over to NE Caye. We immediately contacted the new owners of Long Caye and were able to obtain a lease and start basing our trips from that island. Over the next few years we began building cabins and expanding the facilities as we ran more and more trips in Belize. It was the perfect location for sea kayaking, as well as snorkeling and diving, and we soon added windsurfing to our activity list. After recovering from the 1998 Hurricane Mitch in 1998 (we received major wave damage but no wind), the owner of the island contacted us and offered to sell us half the island, which we purchased after a long process sorting out Belize real estate law.
After purchasing the island, we continued to improve the facilities to the present day set up. Our trips became ever more popular, and we have continued to add new sport activities to take advantage of the incredible location we enjoy. We have an amazing surf break right on the point of the island, so we added surf kayaking, surfing, and most recently paddleboarding. The diving opportunities are also spectacular, and or associates at the dive shop now provide a complete range of courses and dives to various spots along the atoll’s wall reef. Sport fishing has also taken off, and we have a ‘resident’ school of bonefish that we access with our fishing kayaks. In addition to the perfect conditions for windsurfing with the steady trade winds and protected waters of the atoll, we have also just added a kiteboarding program.
Who knows in what new direction the future will lead us, but we’ll continue to maintain our ‘eco’ theme and rustic, close to nature lifestyle on the island, and enjoy the many unique opportunities this spectacular island provides!