Belize’s tropical waters are home to a smorgasbord of tasty marine life, including the Caribbean Spiny Lobster. It’s an ugly but delicious sea insect (lobsters are arthropods, just like shrimps, crabs, scorpions, and spiders – remember that, the next time you say you love prawn cocktail but get all grossed out by someone eating a bug on TV), and it’s a very popular seafood menu item here. So popular in fact, that the Fisheries Department has a season (and size limit) on them – lobster season runs from June to February; so for almost all of the first half of every year (the lobsters mating and spawning season), it’s not on the menu (but it’s conch season then, so you can feast on delicious sea snails instead!).
As a result, the opening of lobster season every year has become quite an event (and the tourism industry has found a good way of increasing visitors during the low season). Now, there are special weekends held in the three main beach towns of San Pedro, Caye Caulker, and Placencia throughout June, with live music, beach games, plenty of alcohol, and more crustaceans than you can shake a lobster’s antennae at.
San Pedro’s Lobsterfest comes first, followed by Caye Caulker’s and Placencia’s. Placencia is a tad too far away for a two-day weekend trip, but the cayes are very close to Belize City (and I’ve already been ‘volunteered’ to go to Caye Caulker’s Lobsterfest with work). So it’s to San Pedro that I head first.
San Pedro was the last place to start holding this yearly shindig (it’s been doing it for just 7 years, as opposed to 17 years at Caye Caulker, where it all started). But it’s certainly making up for it, by hosting an entire week of festivities across the island, including special events at various restaurants (which include some of the best in the country), and finishing off with a Belizean ‘block party’, where many of those restaurants set up stalls at the town’s main park, accompanied by drink, music, and souvenirs (Ambergris Caye is the most popular tourist destination in the country [and it’s home to probably the largest number of expats], so in San Pedro town you’re never more than a few metres away from someone trying to sell you a wood-carving or some jewellery).
Now, it has to be said that, if you don’t like lobster (or seafood), there’s not much else to eat at these events – one of the people I’m attending with doesn’t eat seafood, and all she manages to find to nibble on all night is a slice of pepperoni pizza. I, on the other hand, am in crustacean heaven – every possible lobster-based dish is available, from lobster tacos to lobster curry to lobster ravioli to lobster bisque to lobster fritters to lobster sliders (which are lobster burgers, I’ve never heard of a slider either). And to wash all that lobster down, there’s plenty of cold beer and a selection of Belizean-made rum drinks – they come in pouches that make them look like a child’s fruit drink that you’d see in a school lunchbox, except these ones pack a whopping 10% alcoholic punch (in the interest of supporting the local economy, I’m compelled to drink all the different flavours; thankfully there are only three, or I’d have never woken up the next day!).
Music is provided by Belizean steel band Pannerifix and Belizean artist Supa G, whose hit song ‘Lay The Pipe’ is obviously about black men who do plumbing, and nothing at all to do with coitus. Racial stereotyping and sexual innuendo aside, the food, drink, and music all combine to make for a very enjoyable evening (or maybe it’s just the 10% alcohol rum punches?). And, if I haven’t eaten enough lobster, there’s even more to be had at Caye Caulker’s Lobsterfest the following week…