29th August 2009 - 4th September 2009
The trip from Flores to Caye Caulker involved an easy bus trip crossing the border into Belize and to Belize City for the boat trip. I didn't quite expect what I saw out the window through Belize and could hardly keep my eyes on Back to the Future 3 on the computer. As Belize is on the Caribbean Sea there is a totally different vibe to Guatemala with descendants of African slaves and British pirates making up the country's largest group.
During our hour wait for the boat to Caye Caulker we saw black dudes going past on cruiser bicycles every few minutes many of them offering me "Good Weed" with Bob Marley playing in the distance. The boat trip was really fast and it was much the same on the island but it was a white guy that had turned black in the sun offering me weed everyday (no success) with a car steering wheel welded onto his bike, definitely must have decided to do that while stoned. We found a nice place called Bella's to stay.
The next day after a morning run getting lost in the mangroves and bitten (on the bottom mind you) by mosquitos, we chilled out and went swimming and organized the diving to the Blue Hole for the following morning.It is a sink hole 300m wide and 120m deep formed before the last ice age so there are stalactites thirty meters under the water.
The boat trip out there takes an hour and we were a little nervous about seeing sharks and going really deep. The dive started when we descended to a sandy bottom 15m down where we grouped together and swam over the edge of a cliff into the dark blue. At about 30m we turned under an overhang where the stalactites are and looked back up to see the bubbles running up the ceiling like liquid metal in T2.A large grouper came over to check us out and Nikki and I would jab each other and point at the 2-3m long Reef Sharks in the distance passing us by.
The deepest we got was 41m and the normal legal limit is 18m for an open water license but not in Belize. Below 30m there is too much nitrogen in your system and you get "Narked", a drunken feeling of confidence. I don't remember feeling it but Nikki says she had an abnormal relationship with a grouper that came over to see her. As you get deeper you use your air quicker so it was a pretty quick dive of 18 minutes. Back on the boat we took our gear off and some sharks came to the surface and were thrashing around a bit so of course we jumped in with them (sorry mum).Swimming with sharks up close, without even a wet suit as a feeling of security, is such a rush.
We did another two dives later that didn't compare to the first but the really clear water gives a strange feeling of floating in space. After lunch we saw some Grey Nurse sharks snorkeling that were sleeping in a group of five in some shallow water and they got a fright when we woke them and one came right for me so I stuck a fin out and it turned at the last second. On one of the dives it was really cool when a big turtle swam up to us and looked at us all very inquisitively. It would have only been 40cm from our faces!
We celebrated the dive with a few beers (6.5%) and after a day in the sun they went straight to our heads and we stumbled into the meeting for the sailing cruise which we'd organized to go on for the next few days. We met the crew and the other passengers for the three day trip. Afterwards we headed to a bar and on the way back Sammy found a crab walking the streets late at night. He was trying to pick it up when a lady police officer arrived on bicycle and showed him how it was done. The best technique is to step on it so it curls into a ball and then pick it up, so he did that with success.
The first day on the boat consisted of sailing (well not quite cos they generally had the motor running the whole time) and snorkeling and getting to know everyone. The island we arrived at for the night was tiny but beautiful and privately owned so it was uninhabited but for its caretaker and his dog. The crew provided us with some amazing food, there was barracuda caught trawling off the back of the boat and lobster. Nikki now loves seafood. We also spent some time fishing and Nikki caught two fish off the dock one of which was an impressive red snapper so Sammy cleaned and filleted it and left for the crew to put away.
The rum punch that night was pretty strong and an enormous Canadian guy called Peter in his late forties that had a huge stomach and wore budgie smugglers the whole time was wasted and kept touching everyone then passed out on the peer with one leg in the air on the bench.
Another couple had a huge fight and chased each other around the island, all of the thirty meters of it, to the laughs of the captain. I (Sammy) stayed up later with our new English friend Ed and listened to some Hip Hop with the crew of African descent and out of nowhere one called Ed and I racists because we sang the lyrics containing "a*******". He said he would tell on us with the captain and we said go for it we don't care. In the morning he apologized.
Nikki was devastated the next day when looking around the water at the dock only to find the freshly caught red snapper had been thrown away and not put in the esky as we were told. Such liars!
The next night we stayed on a bigger island, about fifty meters across, after a day sailing with more snorkeling and fishing. I had been practicing my free diving and made a dive of 1:20sec and really enjoyed getting deep without all the scuba gear. At one point a large fish swam close to me at about 10m depth, apparently the fish don't like the bubbles so they come closer if you're holding your breath.
Nikki and I saw heaps of sting rays, lobsters and amazing fish. I was free diving cruising along the bottom and I came face to face with a Moray Eel as I circled a rock. Both of us got a fright and backed up. We packed up our tents, had some breakfast and were off on the boat again for our final destination - Palencia.
Our last day on the boat was much the same as the others with more snorkeling and hunting for lobsters. We found two lobsters which one of the crew speared but were saddened when one of the other crew threw them overboard because they were of illegal size. Such a shame they were killed for nothing but in all fairness it can be really hard to tell how big they are underwater.
We arrived in Palencia around 5pm, said goodbye to the crew and found a cheap hostel to stay. We had some dinner, said goodbye to our new friends and headed off to sleep as the following day we were on another (faster) boat for Honduras.
We had a great time on the Raggamuffins tour and would definitely recommend the trip to other people. You get to see some beautiful parts of Belize, both above and below water and it sure beats sitting on the bus!