The day started with heavy winds that I could hear blowing all night and I realized that it would be far fetched a longer boat trip. It was even a little chilly in the morning when I woke up for sunrise, but eventually the heat of the day took over. I had my waffle breakfast with some papaya juice, at Miramar Hotel, and I kept checking with the agency I talked last night for the snorkeling tour, but they kept postponing the decision to do the tour because of the winds. The tour was supposed to start either at 8:00am to Turneffe or 10:30 am to Hol Chan. At 9:30 am it was obvious that nobody would go out for the Turneffe Atol, and I made up my mind to go for Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a day tour that costs B$85. Unfortunately, because of the bad weather only one agency, Carlos Tours went out and they were fully booked so I decided that I will have just a half day tour, in the Barrier Reef, off the coast of Caye Caulker at 2:00pm. This is a three hour tour and returns at 5:00pm for Bz45. This being said I walked all over Caye Caulker, on the main street and the side streets all the way to the South of the island where is the local airport served by the same companies like in San Pedro. I ate some fruit, check the boat for tomorrow, etc.
By midday I went to the north tip of the island, actually to the Split for a bath in the warm Caribbeans waters. Caye Caulker is much longer but in 2001 a hurricane split the island in two. The northern part of the island is inhabited by very few people and is basically no tourism At the split is a great bar held by some Jamaicans called the Lazy Lizard. It was such a pleasure just to stay inside the sea water. With so much time on my hands, latter I went for a lunch of tacos and a beer. At 1:30pm I went for the tour that was already fully booked with three girls from Denmark, a Norwegian guy, an English couple and a guy from New York. The coral is not so great in Caye Caulker Barrier Reef because overfishing and mass tourism in the area, and you can see lots of dead or washed out coral. Probably, people who are keen on snorkeling or diving may not find the tour interesting enough but for me was definitely satisfying.
The tour does three stops and last 3 hours. The first stop you swim in a guided tour for about 1 hour, and the guide points out to you various fish, or brings some shells out from the water. It is strenuous for people that are not swimming on a regular basis, and because of this they insisted everybody to use a floater. You swim on top of the coral, in the South Channel, an alley that goes inside the coral reef. It is extremely interesting and you see tons of fish. But the trip itself is strenuous because you have to follow the guide for about one hour and you came from there pretty exhausted. The second stop is at the shark and sting rays alley. The sharks, nurse sharks decided not to show up, but they are present in Hol Chan Marine reserve. But the sting rays came in very large numbers paving the bottom of the sea with their large silhouettes. The fishermen used to come and clean the fish in this alley throwing the rests in the sea, a great lunch for the sting rays, so now they are used to come when they hear the hum of the engine’s boat. So they came, in tens, if not close to one hundred and they were swimming, huge and gentle among our feet, mainly under us. At the beginning was kind of scary for everybody, because the animals are really big, but in time you figure out that they will not touch you with their tail so you start taking it lightly. The guide was able to catch one and to bring it out for everybody to be able to touch their velvety skin. But be aware of their poisonous sting….The third stop was at, what they call, The Coral Garden, and here you basically swim by yourself among corals for about 30 minutes. It is beautiful, except that the under current was very powerful today and demanded hard work in swimming.
On the boat the guide was waiting us with fruits and water and at 5:00pm we were at the dock. I jumped in a shower and went to see the sunset that was really nice today. I shot a time lapse of it and I stayed late on the dock watching some kids fishing, losing their baits but persistently and diligently continuing. From there I went directly to the Internet, for the daily ritual of email and postings and I went for dinner to Fran’s grill, right on the beach, for a barracuda steak. At dinner I met some great travelers. Hans and Georg from Munich were traveling for a 4 weeks. Hans, now retired, lived his teenage years in Argentina speaking now Spanish fluently, and latter traveled around the world like a genuine backpacker. I gave him lots of tips because he was going to Guatemala. Also, I met another couple, Emily and Simon, who just graduated from University in England and had an extremely ambitious plan to travel for a number of months if the money will last. They would cover Central America and fly to Ecuador from where they will cover parts of South America ending in Buenos Aires. Good trip! After dinner I did not want to go so quickly to the hotel ,in my last night in Belize and Caribbean and I went walking, eventually ending at the Lazy Lizard, the Jamaican hang out at the Split, where I bumped again into Emily and Simon who were with two traveler partners from Israel. I sit with all four for more chats and the Israelis just came back from the Blue Hole, and they were OK with it but obviously not so content. The trip costs $200/person and for somebody who has the Red Sea in their back door I think that any other snorkeling experience is not so great. At their recommendation we got a drink of rum, watermelon and lime that the barman never heard about. It was sour but OK, just another experience. Latter, around 11:30pm, I went reluctantly to the hotel.