Paradise ... AGAIN - Diving & Snorkelling
Trip Start Nov 15, 2009
81Trip End Ongoing
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WOW, paradise greets me again! I love it!
I headed with the boys to a cheap hostel as recommended by the Lonely Planet - Tina's. It was a bit run down and dirty but we went with the flow (only to move the following day due to bugs in the bed - they weren't bed bugs as none of us were bitten but nevertheless it was dirty so you could forget about using the kitchen)
The first day was spent looking at tours and prices and getting to know the island (while the boys went to the nearest beach bar all day). All 4 boys are in the US army, various ranks, so they've nicknamed me "Sergeant Major" because I'm so organised and they've never been on a trip like this before so they're happy for me to organise everything for them.
My ears are still no better since diving in the Bay Islands despite taking numerous pharmaceuticals, so diving is not on the agenda just yet. But I have vowed not to leave the island until I can dive the infamous Blue Hole!!!
I organised a snorkelling tour through EZ Boys Tours, which was well worth the money and comes highly recommended. An all day trip, with snacks, water and lunch included as well as rum punch and nachos and dip on the return leg all for $80BZ (US$40).
We first visited to Hol Chan Marine Reserve where we spotted turtles, barracuda, large sting ray, snapper and more
Thought to be a male, he was taking a nap on the bottom of the sea, as they can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes. I was in awe because I'd never seen a manatee before and didn't really know what to expect, but I certainly didn't expect him to be that big! He was huge, like a small whale! We searched further, for an active manatee but to no avail, so we returned to the sleeping manatee, only he wasn't there because he was now active
Together with the nurse sharks, the manatee was definitely the highlight of the snorkelling tour. To finish up, we cruised around the other side of Caye Caulker in search of all the juvenile fish and seahorses, whilst sipping on rum punch and munching on nachos - all after a hard days snorkelling! The only other thing which would have ticked all the boxes for the day, would have been to have spotted dolphins. All in all though a super day and highly recommended trip.
Next stop for me is the clinic to get some stronger stuff for my ears as seeing all the beautiful fish and corals snorkelling has made me want to dive more than ever now. But after seeing the doctor, what i thought was just congestion, is now a swollen eardrum. Back on the antibiotics and ear drops (also antibiotic apparently) and no flying, diving, drinking alcohol, sunbathing or swimming in salt water for me - doctors orders! Fingers crossed it clears in 3 days as apposed to 5 days because I'm not leaving until I've dived the Blue Hole (I might even have to get the t-shirt too) Ha!
So without diving or snorkelling or sunbathing, there really isn't much else to do in this beach resort
The island is so small there are only a handful of cars, but mostly just gold carts that act as transport and taxi's, and also the good old bicycle. Walking is my preferred option as not only do you get to know the place but also the locals and you catch a nice tan (very important for a sun worshiper like me). By day 2, I was well known the locals and the hello's and hola's were flying thick and fast as i walked from my hostel to the split
The other popular Caye a short water taxi ride away from Caye Caulker is Ambergris Caye (San Pedro). I never had any plans to go over there as it's more expensive and more developed and touristy (they have paved roads and more cars), and after speaking to some friends who'd spent the night over there, it looks like I made the right choice.
The food on the island is served up slowly (you'll wait an hour or more) but in huge portions and is more than likely going to be: BBQ'd lobster, shrimp or chicken with garlic mash potatoes, rice and garlic bread with x5 rum punches and chocolate cake to finish - all for $25BZ (US$12). But since i am off the alcohol and really shouldn't be eating chocolate cake, I managed to negotiate the price for just the main course down to $15BZ (US$7). Lunch menu's are pretty similar or you can go to one of the supermarkets or sandwich bars of which there are plenty on the island.
In comparison to the Corn Islands, Nicaragua and the Bay Islands, Honduras, I'd say that the Corn Islands had the best beaches (I had the beach all to myself with not a sole in sight) and crystal waters. The Bay Islands did also but more resorty and had more tourists. Caye Caulker, Belize definitely has the best snorkelling and island lifestyle with a small but beautiful beaches and crystal waters. Laid back, friendly people with a beautiful island mentality.
Diving The Blue Hole:
The big day finally arrived and it was a rude awakening at 5:15am to get to the dive shop by 5:30am for breakfast
On approach to the Blue Hole everyone got excited, divers and snorkellers, and the cameraīs were out! We geared up and my heart started pumping harder as I was so keen to dive but had no idea whether my ears were fully recovered or not. This dive trip doesnīt come cheap at $180, so I was praying that all would be ok. It was now or never. We entered the dark blue water and swam a little on the surface before commencing our descent. The dive master who was bringing up the rear, stayed with me to see if I could descend (the dive shop had been getting daily updates about my ears so they were well aware of my situation) and itīs a good job he did because low and behold I couldnīt descend as fast or as far as the others. It was painful to say the least. To cut a long story short, I managed to descend to the sandy shelf at approximately 15m but I was on the brink of calling it quits and then POP went my ears - sweet relief! I missed out on seeing the stalactites at 40m at the beginning of the dive because I was only half way down (but got the photoīs off others) and so I rejoined the group when they had ascended a little to 21m. I did however get to see Grey Caribbean Reef Sharks (another tick in the box) and quite a few of them
Dive number 2 was the Half Moon Caye Wall. My ears were almost perfect on the 2nd dive annoyingly enough (why couldnīt they have been ok for the first and most important dive of the 3?!). The dive master said that sometimes it takes one dive to get back in the swing of things with the ears, so I said I wished the Blue Hole hadīve been the 2nd dive so I could have seen everything! Anyway, dive number 2 was great. Lots of colourful coral and such a variety too, and then there was the barracuda with itīs razor sharp teeth, spotted eagle rays, tiny electric blue fish, angel fish, sergeant major fish, basslets, butterfly fish and a gorgeous purple fish with a black face (not sure what their called). And no, I didnīt find Nemo before anyone asks!!! Ha! ;)
We then stopped for lunch on a gorgeous "paradise" island called Half Moon Caye. Itīs uninhabited and a national reserve. We had a cooked, wholesome lunch and then some free time to walk around the small island and spot the red footed boobie bird.
Dive number 3 was the shallowest dive of the 3 as youīd expect with the first dive being so deep
After dive number 3 we swiftly made for Caye Caulker, another 2 hour boat ride away and once back ashore, rinsed the equipment in the shop and went for a well deserved hearty seafood dinner!
What an awesome day - this dive trip comes highly recommended although youīre not guaranteed to see what I saw as you canīt guarantee where the fish / sharks / rays will be.