I naively thought that with all those years of travelling I somewhat got immune to the traveller’s bug. Well apparently not: I got poisoned in my own country with some old Chinese food that was surviving the day in the chaffers at the airport’s food court. It was a battle of all travels, between body and mind that I thankfully conquered after 20 hours of voyaging.
Travelling in transit is a pain in the butt (no kidding), but time goes by fast when you’re in good company. My girlfriend Julie and I have teamed up for this trip as we were reminding ourselves of the blast we had in Hawaii together 4 years ago. We were also joining our friend Lyz who was already travelling solo.
After 4 airports, 3 flights, no sleep and a food poisoned stomach, we arrived to our first destination: Belize.
Belize: Stay calm and dive
Slow down. You are in the Caribbean and you should relax and breathe for a moment. ”Everything is gonna be all right” like Bob Marley would say. This country predominantly mixed of Creoles, Mestizos and Maya people will genuily welcome you to its land with courtesy, respect and the warmest smiles.
After our taxi from Belize Airport dropped us at the San Pedro Water Taxi station (US$20), we purchased return tickets to Caye Caulker. Sitting in the seat of the captain, we admired our first Belizean sunset over the sea, watching dolphins playing in the last rays of light. The friendly crew convinced us to get dropped at Ambergris Caye first.
Calm, serene, and sand under my feet. The Caribbean music is playing in my ears, a sound that I truly missed.
Ambergris is a famous tourist location in Belize and the most developed of the Cays. We stayed in San Pedro, the main town at the South of the island. We found a very cheap guesthouse called ”Ruby’s” for US$20 a night, double occ., fan and shared showers.
There are few ways to travel around the Cayes: you can walk, bike or rent a golf cart. We opted for the last option, and played tourists for a day. We explored the town, venturing on dirt roads and along mangroves. We stopped at different docks where we jumped off to cool off.
But the main reason why I came to Belize was predominately to dive. I had been diving almost everyday while on my long term stay in the Cayman Islands and I missed the underwater wonders. So we booked a tour with AquaScuba to dive the shallow site of Ho Chan and snorkel the Shark Ray Alley. The dive was mellow and pleasant and offered us a good assortment of diverse marine life: 4 large moray eels, a multitude of stingrays, a 3-legged turtle called I-Lean and massive groupers. My favourite stop was at the Shark Ray Alley where we swam with a dozen of docile nurse sharks.
#62. Swim with sharks √
At night we had taco purchased from a street stand. We met a few locals that brought us to a local hangout where we had few happy hour rum punches. They also introduced us to their weekly “Chicken Drop”.
Diving the Great Blue Hole
It was 5am. The early workers were already breaking the silence of the night. I grabbed my pre-packed bag, put on a bikini and made my way to the dock.
The warm colors of the sun reflected gradually on the water as it rose up in the sky. I snacked on some fresh cut pineapple and waited for the rest of our crew before jumping aboard our charter.
Located at about 62 miles off the coast rests a large underwater sinkhole: the Great Blue Hole of Belize. It is known as a world-class destination for divers, those ones that have that kind of list of things to check before you die. You know? Well, I am one of them. The Blue Hole has been on my list for a while now and I am about to check off that impressive point.
I went back in times and imagined myself as Jacque Cousteau, ripping the Caribbean waters in search of a new aquatic adventure. Although I was alone (Julie decided to stay on island and cruise around), I had no problem enjoying the salty wind in my hair and spotting turtles and dolphins. After 3 hours of scenic ride, pondering on life and its amazing beauties, we arrived to destination.
It is a deep blue indigo circle. About 1,000ft diameter across, 500ft deep. I had butterflies in my stomach. Neither from stress nor nervosity, but from excitement and pure happiness.
The snorkelers hit the reefs around the hole. As for divers, we slowly descended into the hole…
It was deep. It was dark. 60ft, 100ft, 120ft, 130ft… And there they were, those impressive stalactites and stalagmites forged out of solid rock as caverns hundred of thousands of years ago during the last ice age. I was Jacque Cousteau exploring the wonder of the seas. So I grabbed my GoPro and intended to photograph those marks of old age. And then, as I turned around to have a glimpse at the interior of the hole, came a shark. And another one. Next thing I know, there were 20 of them curiously swimming around me. I was so excited that I dropped 10ft until my Dive Master grabbed me and brought me back to a stable level. I have been diving Cayman everyday while I lived there and I have never seen a shark. And then I was in the Blue Hole of Belize swimming with schools of Caribbean reef sharks and Blacktips. I couldn’t be more amazed!
#47: Dive the Great Blue Hole of Belize √
I boarded the boat with the greatest smile. The butterflies were high and alive and I was in a far heaven. This was a unique experience and I am so thankful to life to have created such amazing pieces.
We navigated to our second dive site, the Aquarium, where we spent about an hour under the crystal-clear waters spotting a diverse marine life. Our lunch made of rice, beans and veggies was then offered on a deserted island where the sand is white and the palm trees grow high in the sky. A natural trail invited us to have a closer look at the white Boobies, only found on this piece of sand.
We put sails up and cruised to our last dive, the aquarium where tropical fishes, turtles and moray eels followed us along.
When 5pm came, we put the compass direction San Pedro. As the rum punches and life conversations amongst fellow dreamers aboard flowed around, I watched the sun colour the sky as it sets over the Caribbean, and I tell myself: ”Pura Vida”.
We left San Pedro the next day and made a stop at Caye Caulker where we spent a night. Caye Caulker is a very small and quiet island full of colourful houses and golf carts. It didn’t take long to walk around the small piece of sand. It was a rainy day and potholes covered the white sand streets and palm tree fronds flapped violently in the wind. No shoes was a trend that day, or is it everyday? But despite the weather, the streets were still active. Artists had their kiosks set-up under thin tarps. The coconut guy found a shelter for his stand under, well, a coco palm. Tourists refuged in a cafe, connecting with the world on their iphones and ipads, sipping on warm cups of Belizean coffee.
From diving its beautiful clear waters to enjoying its melting pot of cultures, Belize has been nothing less than an amazing adventure. It is time to pack up and hit the road again. We will catch a ferry to Caye Caulker and stop there for a night. Then ferry our way back to Belize City where we will catch a bus all the way to Flores, Guatemala.