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Ras Safari RIP

Our tour of the Belizean beach bar scene continues with a trek to the tip of an island for rum and jerk chicken, but we don’t find exactly what we’d hoped.

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No surprises here: good food and drink have a tendency to play a big part in the lives of the Rum Connection team. Whether we’re at home in Key West or on one of our island hopping adventures, we’re on a constant quest for the best rum shacks and local food stands available.  Last month, our return trip to the beautiful island of Ambergris Caye in Belize was filled with stops at some of our favorite haunts.  We’ve reported about Rojo Lounge and Aquarium Bar, two of the island’s best.  

One of our excursions in years past brought us to the very southern tip of Ambergris Caye for rum and jerk chicken at a thatch roofed dive called Ras Safari.  Like most of our favorite places on the island, it takes some effort to get there.  It’s a 5 mile trip whichever way you slice it.  Boat is the easiest and quickest transport, but navigating the sandy, pothole laden roads south of town by bicycle can be fun and has become our preferred method.

After a full day investigating the beach bars north of San Pedro Town with my guide Mike One, we decided to head south (by bike) to see our friends at Ras Safari.  The ride was hot and dusty and after an hour of activity, we could see the tall thatch roof of Ras Safari appearing on the horizon.  The promise of one-of-a kind rum drinks and authentic jerk chicken kept us peddling that final mile, it seemed to be the muddiest and bumpiest of the entire journey.  Although as we approached, we could sense that something was wrong.  

At 1 o’clock in the afternoon, Ras Safari was usually abuzz with activity, but this time there were no signs of life.  No people, bicycles, trucks, golf carts or boats.  No reggae music blasting from the solar powered boombox and no Rastafarian girls tending bar.  BBQ smoke didn’t fill the air and the usual team of lazy canines was nowhere to be seen.  All we found at Ras Safari was an abandoned, dusty old bar with empty barstools and a few resident iguanas.  Damn, Ras Safari had closed and nobody had the heart to tell us.

Slow business due to a tough global economy has taken its toll on countless watering holes in Belize and throughout the Caribbean.  It’s always difficult to see a good bar shut down, but this one seemed to sting just a little more.  We walked around the property and recalled many-a-wild afternoon at Ras Safari and all the good food and tropical rum drinks we’d enjoyed there.  

Reluctantly, we got back on our beach cruiser bicycles and readied for the long ride home.  We broke out our reserve pint bottle of One Barrel Rum and poured one out for our fallen buddy, a place that had provided us with good times, good drinks and endless laughter.    Rest in Peace Ras Safari Bar, you will be missed.

UPDATE: After a night of drinking, we decided that Ras Safari should be re-opened next season as the Rum Connection pop-up bar.  Details to come.