The tiny, unique Creole settlement of Gales Point occupies a thin, two-mile-long peninsula jutting north into the Southern Lagoon. Gales Point is 15 miles north of Dangriga  or 25 miles south of Belize City , but getting there makes it feel farther. Depending on which accounts you read, the 400 or so modern inhabitants are descended from either logwood cutters or escaped slaves, known as “maroons” who settled here in the 1700s.
Gales Point is a traditional Creole culture stronghold. If you’re lucky, your visit to Gales Point will coincide with the full moon, when the entire village often participates in a roaming call-and-response drumming and dance circle.
In the weeks before Christmas, the frequency of sambaii drumming events increases, reaching a crescendo on Christmas Day and Boxing Day with a unique village-wide celebration called bram. Gales Point is also known for its homemade cashew wine.
The Southern Lagoon (which surrounds Gales Point on three sides) is part of an extensive estuary bordered by thick mangroves. Their tangled roots provide the perfect breeding grounds for sport fish, crabs, shrimp, lobster, and a host of other marine life. Rich beds of sea grass line the bottom of the lagoon and support a population of manatees. These gentle mammals are often seen basking on the surface of the water or coming up for air (which they must do about every four minutes).
This is a popular spot to observe the manatees, often spotted close to a warm, spring-fed hole in the lagoon. Tours to see manatees can be arranged through any of the Gales Point accommodations; trips are also available to see birds and caves in the region and to go fishing.
In July 2008 Gales Point experienced the most devastating floods in its history, as the entire lagoon rose and covered much of the peninsula, a phenomenon that did not occur even during Hurricane Hattie in 1961. It has since recovered, and remains just as remote as ever.
There are some loose homestay programs and places to camp in the village; call the community phone at 501/209-8031 for the latest.
Gentle’s Cool Spot (tel. 501/609-4991) is one local service, providing traditional fiyah haat (fire hearth) cooking, plus a few stuffy, depressing clapboard rooms (US$15–20). Gentle’s veranda is a favorite gathering place for locals and Gentle provides tours.
Manatee Lodge (tel. 501/220-8040, U.S. tel. 877/462-6283, www.manateelodge.com , US$85) is at the very northern tip of the peninsula and caters to birders, sport fishers, and independent nature-loving travelers and families. The eight rooms have nice wood furnishings, private bathrooms, 24-hour electricity, and a veranda with views of the surrounding lagoon and sunsets behind the Maya Mountains; rooms sleep up to four. The lodge offers access to a wildlife habitat completely different from the rest of Belize, living in the shallow brackish water and mangroves of the Southern Lagoon. The number of shorebirds and waterfowl is impressive, and to encourage guests to see local wildlife, the lodge provides each room with a canoe. Binoculars and bug repellent are a must. Children under six are free, ages 6–12 half price. Moderately priced and delicious home-cooked Creole (and continental) meals are available; so are transfers and multiday packages.
To get to Gales Point by car, either choose the Manatee Highway (a.k.a. the Coastal Road) and expect rough muddy roads if it’s raining, or take the Hummingbird Highway, which is about 25 miles longer but smoother (for most of the way anyway). The most enjoyable—and expensive—way to reach Gales Point is the 90-minute boat ride from Belize City; you’ll wind through bird-filled canals, rivers, and lagoons, and you may spot crocodiles, manatees, or dolphins. Manatee Lodge can arrange a boat transfer, but it is very expensive; it’s worth it if you have a group. There used to be several weekly buses from Belize City, but they were not running regularly at last check; call the community phone (tel. 501/209-8031) or Manatee Lodge for current schedules or possible rides.