When I booked a three-day, two-night trip on a sailboat with Raggamuffin Tours in Belize, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had heard about it from a friend-of-a-friend, then researched it a bit online. A few YouTube videos were enough to convince me and my travel buddy. I left most of it to the imagination.
In case you’re considering the Raggamuffin three-day tour, I’ll lift some of the mystique. When we arrived at the briefing the evening beforehand on Caye Caulker, we were issued a one-page handout with information. “This would have been useful when planning,” I thought. So here is my own version of things to know before boarding the Raggamuffin sailboat.
The rum punch will flow
To say that this tour includes drinks is an understatement. From late morning until late into the evening, the guides mix rum and juice in a big jug for everyone to share. Yes, there’s also water for the well-hydrated abstainers, but the overall vibe on deck is boozy.
The rum-punchiness level will depend on the group of people. By the third day of my voyage the tipsiest contingency of travelers had figured out how to float behind the sailboat in the lifesaver rings with drinks in hand. It became a pool party on the open sea.
Forget about footwear
One of my favorite parts of this tour is that I was barefoot for three solid days. By mandate. Soon after boarding, we were instructed to turn in all sandals and flip flops. There was just no need (or space) for them on deck.
“Barefoot” isn’t entirely accurate. We donned snorkeling flippers in the water for at least an hour or two each day. At the tiny reef islands where we docked to camp, barefoot was the way to go. Soft sand underfoot is one of the amenities of the tour — dig your toes in!
Bring a gallon of good sunscreen
I finished the three days aboard the sailboat with one of the worst sunburns of my life. Try as I might to cover myself in sunscreen every few hours, it would wash right off each time we jumped in the water at a new snorkeling site.
I wish I had brought a more water-resistant and higher SPF sunblock, or even a layer to wear while I was buns-up in the water watching all the marine life. My backside got the worst of it, followed by the tops of my feet from a hapless fishing session. I probably aged my skin by about five years in a span of three days. Do your epidermis a favor and cover up better than I did.
Tropical storms are real
On the first night of the tour, we arrived at a tiny reef island sprinkled with “palapas” (round thatched roofs on poles) and pitched our Raggamuffin-issued tents underneath them. The guide told us a funny story about staking the tents down well, and we all laughed and forgot about his warning.
Then, at about 10pm, the wind picked up with a vengeance and we all retreated to the shelter of our tents. A few minutes later the clouds opened and rain poured down. Horizontally. Thunder roared overhead. Huddled in my tent, I marveled that I was staying dry. Until I wasn’t. Water began to seep in from all sides until everything was damp. My clothes clung to me, and I clung to my phone, listening to an audiobook all night to ward off the crazy what-if-we’re-stranded-on-this-island thoughts.
Beach camping sounds great on an itinerary, but I didn’t picture a storm. I’ll add this to my collection of rough sleepless nights in a tent where the first light of morning couldn’t have been more welcome.
Full moons make everything better
If you can, plan your Raggamuffin tour around a full moon. I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s not every day that a landlocked highlander like me gets to see the way the moonlight reflects on the sea.
The moon was out with full force on the second night of the trip, casting its glow over our small island and demanding to be gazed at from a hammock. The following nights’ waning moon also shone bright enough for a few more moonbathing sessions.
The digital disconnect is total
If you’re looking for at least 48 hours of digital detox, this is the way to go. From the time you leave Caye Caulker to the time you arrive in Dangriga, you are digitally off-grid. No Wifi. No phone network. Nothing.
I took my phone out a few times each day to take pictures. But aside from that, it lived in a ziplock baggie buried in my luggage. The island we stayed on for the second night had simple lodging and claimed to have WiFi. One girl spent at least an hour trying to connect to the fictional network. Don’t be that girl.
This is not romance travel (but you just might fall in love)
True to the ragtag connotation of its name (and its budget-friendly price tag), the Raggamuffin tour is not luxury travel. At one point, we sailed past an exclusive resort on a far-flung reef island. “That’s where the honeymooners go,” explained the guide, “and the wealthy travelers who don’t want to go on adventures and meet people like you guys do.”
There were no honeymooners among the group of 18 travelers on our voyage, but there were clusters of all kinds. I was on a platonic buddymoon with my friend Brian. There were other friend pairs as well as couples on board. There were solo travelers who had banded together on the backpacker trail. There were even parents with two tween kids. It’s a social kind of adventure where everyone mixes and mingles in close quarters. There was even a budding romance between a girl from L.A. and a guy from Quebec. I think they’d agree with that going on tropical adventures and meeting new people can out-romance a honeymoon any day.