It’s time to catch up with the last several days of the big vacation! I left off with Wednesday’s night snorkel. For those just joining, the Hubby and I spent two weeks in Caye Caulker, Belize with our friends who live on the island, Dave and Noelle.
Thursday, May 9th
On Thursday it was my birthday! I magically turned into a crotchety old lady of 34; the transformation was amazing, I tell ya. To celebrate we went on a full day snorkel at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve with French Angel Snorkeling. I already posted the video of the loggerhead turtles that Noelle and I saw, but we did so much more than that! On the boat ride out we saw seahorses, tarpon and a huge pod of dolphins. After we saw the sea turtles we made our way over to a deeper part of the reef, and that’s where I had the HUGE FUN! The ocean floor was about 30 feet down and I free dove all the way to the bottom! Later there was a coral tunnel that the guide showed us that was about 20 feet down from the surface. The tunnel was only about eight feet long by about four feet in diameter but it was a real thrill (and a bit of a squeeze!). I went through twice and both times there was a school of large grunts hanging out as I went through. It was really magical.
A green moray eel emerging from coral. You can see sergeant majors swimming in the foreground.
I don’t have any photos of me free diving to the bottom of the reef, but I did get a shot of our snorkel guide doing it, surrounded by a half-circle of curious fish.
Later that night we went to a restaurant called Habanero’s and I had a ridiculous seafood bouquet of a birthday dinner:
Crab claws, shrimp and fish skewers topped with sweet potato in a coconut soup.
It was delicious. Also crema catalana for dessert. Ridiculous. And delicious.
Friday, May 10th
On Friday I got up at the crack of dawn – 4:15am. Normally I wouldn’t do that to myself on a vacation day, but this was for a very, very worthy cause: diving at the Great Blue Hole:
Photo from Wikimedia Commons – the circular dark blue hole as seen from the air, surrounded by coral reef and a speedboat exiting through one of the two openings.
Everyone had to be at Frenchie’s Dive Shop at 5am. We had coffee when we arrived and then we all sleepily boarded the boat. I was seated at the front end of the small boat, which turned out to be a major problem. The Blue Hole is about a two hour ride through “the blue” – the deep ocean outside of the barrier reef . That day we had six foot waves and the ride was…rough. Finger-clenching, organ-floating and slamming down, muscle and spine-bruising rough. It was two hours of me cycling through the stages of grief:
- Denial: All this up and down – it’s like a rollercoaster! Heh…roller coasters are fun. Right? Right!? Wow, the whole ride won”t be this horrible, will it? The waves can’t be this high. The slamming can’t hurt that much. I’m just too tense. I need to relax and ride with the waves. Just ride with the…OW!
- Anger: Why the fuck don’t they have a nicer boat? Why can’t the captain see how much we’re bouncing around? Why doesn’t he do something!? OW FUCKING OW! I will throw someone overboard if I can’t get closer to the back of the boat on the ride home.
- Bargaining: Please don’t let me be the first to throw up. Please, I’ll do anything, please just don’t let me throw up. At least don’t let me be first. Oh sweet FSM and your noodly appendage, please make it stop! OW!
- Depression: This sucks so much. I can’t believe I paid for this. owfuck.
- Acceptance: This is never going to end. I was wrong about hell; hell exists and I’m in it. Ow.
It really was that bad. I was nearly in tears several times. But we finally arrived, and as many a diver will tell you, the best cure for sea sickness is getting into the water. I couldn’t get in fast enough! I didn’t even stop to take a picture of the place, but that’s alright because the Blue Hole doesn’t look like much from a boat – it looked like we were in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by a smudge of brown.
It was a different story from under the waves, though! First we split into three groups – the snorkelers, the basic open water divers and the advanced open water divers. The snorkelers explored the reef surrounding the Blue Hole. My group – the basic open water divers – would descend to 80ft, and the advanced divers (lucky ducks) would descend into one of the caverns at 135ft (42 meters) to get a close-up view of the stalactites and columns for a whopping eight minutes. (SO. MUCH. JEALOUS.)
For us basic non-deep dive/non-cave-diving divers (did I mention how incredibly jealous I was?), the Blue Hole is a wall dive. We entered the water and descended along the wall to a 80ft, swam along the coral for ten minutes, and then swam back ten minutes. It doesn’t sound like much, does it? But it really was. The neatest part of the dive was definitely seeing Caribbean reef sharks – eight of them swimming sinuously beneath us. The guide later said they were about 15 feet away. We were also teased with a view of some columns and a cavern that was just out of “reach” – dang safety rules and training requirements.
After the Blue Hole we went to Half Moon Caye, a multilevel wall dive at 70ft and 50ft. The corals were pretty amazing. We saw a shrimp hiding in the wall, another shark, a turtle and spotted moray eel. The wall descended into blue – according to the divemasters, the ocean floor was 1000ft below us. We went down 70ft. It’s a heady feeling to know that you’re “floating” 930ft in the “air”.
After the dive we stopped at the caye itself. We had a lunch of sandwiches, which meant I had a couple of slices of processed mystery meat and a bit of lettuce. The guides noticed and asked if I was allergic to the bread, which was a super nice surprise. They offered me my pick of some whole vegetables, so I had a very nice green pepper in addition to my bologna. After lunch we had 45 minutes to walk around the island, which is quite spectacular. I was the first one to hit the trail to the red-footed booby observation deck, so I was able to see (and scare off) all of the giant iguanas that were sunning themselves along the sandy path. And the observation deck was really cool – I climbed up a steep staircase and found myself in the treetops, surrounded by boobies!
After the island break we headed over to another small island – Long Caye – for one final wall dive. That site has acquired the name “The Aquarium” because of all of the different fish that are seen in the area. We did, indeed, see a lot of different fish: snapper, grunts, jacks, grouper, a spotted eagle ray, parrotfish, wrasse, damselfish, triggerfish, angelfish, tang and many that I couldn’t identify.
On the ride home I did get a seat closer to the back of the boat, so the ride wasn’t nearly as traumatic as the first time, but I was pretty wiped by the time we got back to Caye Caulker. When I got home Noelle and I watched a couple of movies (Cabin in the Woods and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – a heck of a combination, right?) and then it was sleepy time.
Saturday May 11th
On Saturday I started feeling the pinch of impending vacation-overnes. I also felt bruised and stiff from the boat ride. Noelle, the Hubby and I headed into town to get massages at Healing Touch Spa. It was niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice. After the massages we headed back to the house and swam off the end of the dock. Ate some food. Drank some rum. It was a pretty leisurely day.
Sunday May 12th
ZOMG only one more day of vacation! The Hubby and I rode into town to have breakfast and buy souvenirs. We ate at Happy Lobster and spent a lot of time at Toucan Gift Shop. I picked up a couple of t-shirts and some hokey keychains and pen-type trinkets for the coworkers. Toucan was good for cheesy stuff like that. While we were in town we bought our water taxi tickets that would take us back to the mainland for our trip home on Monday. Then we desperately crammed in some last-chance relaxing.
Monday May 13th
*sniff* We spent the morning cleaning up – packing our bags, finding space for the souvenirs we had just bought. I did some blogging and the Hubby went on a boat ride with Dave – one last tour of the island. At 4:30pm Dave drove us and our bags into town and the Hubby and I took our last water taxi between Caye Caulker and Belize City.
Last water taxi group selfie! Can you have a group selfie? I think we took a group selfie.
We took a cab to the bus station and bought our return tickets to Cancun. It was an uneventful enough nine-hour bus ride. We had to pay our exit fee from Belize and wait in line to go through Mexican immigration again. Once we crossed the border I slept a little, but we weren’t very rested when we arrived at the airport at 5am. Our flight wasn’t until 11am, so we had overpriced icky breakfast in order to burn a few hours. We arrived in Atlanta at 3pm-ish and then had another few hours to burn. We finally got home to Minneapolis at 10:30. We had to hurry home and sleep because the next day we had plane tickets out to Washington DC to hang out with my sister before the start of Women In Secularism.