Thursday, May 8, 2014

Deep Sea Diving

We sort of lost internet in the transition from Ambergris Cay to San Ignacio, so I am backtracking here. This is day 6 in Belize and the penultimate day of our trip.

We finally got to do our big snorkeling adventure in Ambergris Cay, and it was an amazingly cool experience, especially for the kids and I, who had never really snorkeled before. For R, she's been there, done that, but we were neophytes.

As I mentioned was quite the drama just getting to snorkel, and sure enough, it didn't disappoint. We headed out to the dock of our hotel and the diving tour, Coral Divers, picked us up in their boat and took us to the reef, which is about a mile from the shore. The boat ride was one of the funnest parts, and the boat was flying and hitting wakes so we got some pretty good air. The instructors told us that it's a nature preserve, so we have to go with a guide because they want to protect the fish as well as the coral, which can get damaged by the presence of humans. What else is new? I was fine with it all, but R, being the seasoned veteran of snorkeling, probably would have preferred to have had more free time to explore.

We landed in an area where there were several other tour boats there, so we were hardly alone. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm, with just the slightest breeze. We got our gear on and one by one jumped into the water, which felt good because we were roasting in the Belizian sun. We were right on the reef, so the water was teaming with life. Apparently before they protected it, this was the area where fishing boats would clean their catch and dump it into the water, so when boats arrive, fish come in schools. I couldn't tell you all the fish we saw, but they were beautiful and unusual, and their colors were amazing. There were sea turtles, rays, conchs, and even sharks, which were a little unnerving, but they were friendly. We swam for about 45 minutes and our guide explained all the fish and coral and plants. Of course, I could barely hear or understand him with all the snorkeling gear on, not to mention that my head was underwater for most of the time.

We then hopped back on the boat and headed over to an area called Shark's XX, and this was where things got a little crazy... in a good way, of course. They told us to put on our stuff and just jump in the water. They were going to throw fish in to feed the sharks, and they told us to keep an initial safe distance, but that it was okay to swim up and pet or tickle the fish. Just be wary of their teeth, they are sharp and if they're surprised, they'll bite you. Are you kidding me? Pet a shark? What is crazy is that as you're entering the water, the sharks are circling because they know the drill, and some of them were big, I think about 7-8 feet long. They were Nurse Sharks, which are apparently friendly, but are still big sharks with big teeth.

I jumped in the water and started swimming immediately, but R and the kids were less daunted. You could watch the frenzy from about 10 feet away, and then the guide jumped in and started feeding the rays, some of which were huge, as well. He did this thing where he would feed the ray and guide it to the surface, where he encouraged all of us to pet them. Again, I was a little wary, but we all got to pet a ray and a shark, and it was cool. The kids got a huge kick out of it, though I was a little more neurotic and probably should have just lightened up. Oh well, I'm learning.

After about 30 minutes of petting sharks and rays, we jumped back on the boat and headed home, arriving back at the dock around 4:00, which was enough time to take a quick dip in the pool, get dressed, and ride our bikes into town for supper. I'm glad we got to finally snorkel, and as fate would have it, it was on the nicest day of our trip, because the next day, our last, it rained all day. You have to appreciate these sort of moments.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ippei and Janine Naoi for the pic.

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