We're obviously upset by the loss of our camera, especially since it had pictures of Uncle Don, Doreen, and Lorraine with Junior Buddy the Jaguar at the Belize Zoo, but we're even more upset that nobody at the Water Taxi Association seems to care, even though they admit this happens frequently. We figure we need to get the word out that tourists should beware, and we know a lot of people read this blog.
As many of you know, my husband and I run a small lodge in Cayo. When our guests want to go to the cayes, we used to recommend that they take the Caye Caulker Water Taxi. That has ended.
We traveled to Caye Caulker with some relatives, one elderly, this weekend. Because we were trying to handle all of their baggage and get them comfortable on the taxi, we did something we usually wouldn't do and stuck our camera in a zipped compartment of our knapsack and checked it. When we got to Caye Caulker and went to take the relatives' picture on the dock, the camera was gone.
Okay, our bad decision for checking the bag with the camera when the signs warn against checking anything of value...but really, you don't expect the baggage handlers to be going through every bag looking for what they can take, but that's apparently what they do.
What made it worse was that when we returned yesterday (without the relatives) we talked to security at the water taxi terminal and asked if they could look at the security tapes for the times when we know our bag was in the baggage handling area. The first response was that the security director wasn't in, but if we came back 4 hours later they could probably do it. They probably thought we were tourists on our way to catch a plane and there wasn't a chance we would show up again. However, we had some errands to run in Belize City, so we did that and went back. This time they let us talk to the security director, Andy, who informed us that, in fact, he doesn't know how to view the tapes...so apparently the security cameras are just for show.
We talked to the security director, the supervisor of the baggage area, and the porter who grabs your bags as soon as you appear at the curb, and told them that we weren't tourists who were just going to disappear. We told them that we would no longer be sending business their way. And, we informed them that if the only way our guests could get to the cayes was with them, they certainly wouldn't be checking baggage and the porter and baggage handlers could kiss their tips goodbye. They all protested and told us that the signs warn about checking anything of value and they put the signs up because they know this is a problem - which bothered us even more. If they know they're employing thieves, why don't they do something about it? I'm afraid the answer is that they don't really care, and figure that the tourists just flow through and there are never any consequences. However, perhaps if they know that there will be repercussions, maybe somebody will turn in the thieves to save their own jobs and tips and hopefully help the reputation of tourism in Belize.
Our recommendation now is to go with one of the other water taxi companies, or fly with Tropic Air or Maya Island Air. The flights are more expensive, but if you're going to lose a couple of hundred dollars worth of stuff, the tickets pay for themselves. And, if you have to go with CCWTA, under no circumstances should you let them touch your bags, even if they insist.