As someone who has travelled for most of my life, I’ve had the good fortune to fly many, many times. However, in all those years I had never experienced flying in a light aircraft. Last year, that changed with a very unexpected flight during my visit to Belize.
My first stop in Belize had been the town of San Pedro, on one of Belize’s most popular islands, Ambergris Caye. On the way there, I had taken the boat over from Chetumal in Mexico. This had been a rather monotonous, bumpy affair but nothing I couldn’t go through again. After enjoying the sun and reef of Ambergris Caye, the plan was to return to the mainland and spend a night in the northern town of Corozal. Corozal itself wasn’t overly noteworthy, but it was the only choice other than Belize City that boats went to. It was also relatively close to my next stop of Orange Walk.
The morning of my departure from San Pedro, I hopped in a taxi to take me to the dock where I assumed I would find my boat waiting. Upon arrival, I head over to the small shed that seemed to be the office and enquired with two men there about buying tickets for the boat. One of them raised his arm and gestured over to the empty dock, “No boat today” he said. “The boat never arrived” he explained with a slight shrug, but little concern.
I later found out from a man by the dock in Corozal (*SPOILER ALERT*, yes I made it to Corozal), that the boat had been allegedly seized by the police that very morning in a drugs bust! The man said that he had seen everyone, including many unhappy tourists, getting escorted off the boat by police in the early morning. So I guess that is why there was no boat.
Back in San Pedro, I immediately went in to contingency mode, as I had already booked a hotel in Corozal for that night and arriving the next day would throw out most of my Belize schedule. Turning around, my taxi driver was still there, so I hopped in and got him to bring me back to my hostel.
At the hostel, I explained my predicament to the manager. Thankfully, he was able to make it all better. He suggested that I fly with one of the small airlines that operate out of San Pedro’s airport to various spots on the mainland. He was able to call up and find out the time and cost of a flight to Corozal, which turned out to be very reasonable. So reasonable in fact, that flying from San Pedro to Corozal cost me roughly the same as taking the speedboat over to San Pedro, covering roughly the same distance in a fraction of the time.
Back in a taxi but this time to the airport, my relief at having transport had meant I hadn’t realised that I would be flying in a light plane. I’m not a nervous flyer by any means, but I had heard that light planes can be a little less smooth. After waiting in the tiny departure hall, our plane was ready and about 8 of us walked out towards the plane with our luggage. After throwing it on a small trolley, we then boarded. I was pretty thrilled with my seat directly behind the pilot, so I could look over his shoulder and watch what was going on.
As we got ready to taxi, I freely admit I was nervous and that probably didn’t subside for a good 5 minutes after we had taken off. Taking off, we had barely even gained speed before we were in the air. Soon we were out over the reef, the water so clear you could see the seafloor. After 20 or so minutes of amazing views, we reached Corozal and with a quick descent we were there at yet another tiny airport.
While it was brief and highly unexpected, flying in a light plane was a fantastic experience that I would love to repeat. And that’s part of the joy of travel – doing things you normally wouldn’t think to do, or have a chance to do. If you are visiting Belize and travelling around the country, I’d seriously consider looking into using either Tropic Air or Maya Island Air to get around Belize, both for the experience and the price.
Have you ever flown in a light plane before? How did you find the experience? Please share in the comment below.
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