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Published: January 25th 2011
Sunset at Tropical Paradise
Sunset off the dock at Tropical Paradise
Slept like a baby. It was warm, not too hot or cold & soooooooo quiet. You could hear the breeze, the fan, & sometimes the ocean. It's pretty calm out there so the waves aren't too loud.
We're up early today to do our first dive. We're going out with Big Fish Diving, http://www.gocayecaulker.com/members/bigfish.html
, check out the I&I Reggae Bar too.
The wind has finally shifted & is coming from the East. The air is so much warmer & much more moist. I feel like I live with a layer of sand & salt on my skin. It's kinda different to get used to when you're not accustomed to it. I like it though. All of our stuff has a layer of salt/sand & honestly I feel like you hang onto the wind on your skin too.
We headed out for food, no coffee before a dive, that could end poorly...Geoff got an egg sandwich at Amor y Cafe & I ate some chicken tacos from the couple on the street. The usual for me it seems. I might go through corn tortilla withdrawal when we return home.
So off to the dive shop. Oscar runs the place
Moonrise in front of Tropical Paradise Dock
but doesn't dive because it's "too cold" in the water, go figure. Our guides were Omar & Miguel & it was RAD!!! We went out with 9 divers plus the captain, & two dive masters. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve (http://www.holchanbelize.org/
) is where we went. We dove in two spots. The reef is off of Ambergris Caye & nearest the town of San Pedro where we were yesterday. The reef is about 20 minutes away. You can see the waves break on the reef from the shore. It keeps the waves mild inside the reef which is lovely for the Islands.
Our first dive was named Esmeralda. The reef there forms fingerlike protrusions & is incredible. We went with Miguel & an older couple (the guy walked with a cane & didn't look too stable, made me nervous, I'm on vacation & really don't want to work...). Miguel was amazing as a dive master. We did our "giant step" off the dive boat & after testing our buoyancy, Miguel told us to descend to the sandy bottom. So, I'm just heading down, working on equalizing my ears & then I finally look down & I'm about 20 feet directly
Geoff pre dive
Geoff helping load the dive boat.
above a 5-6ft Nurse Shark! It was a bit exciting considering Geoff was still near the surface, working on his ears & I was the only one down to 30ft. Yikes! Thankfully I know they are gently sharks & even though I was sure it looked like it wanted to eat me I tried not to freak out. Once I got more horizontal I realized there were 3 sharks all hanging out in the area. It was incredible. Geoff made his way down & the sharks were still hanging out with me (at a distance of course!). The older couple were pretty slow & Miguel kept letting us go around a bit, near him, but deeper than the other couple as long as we stayed close together. Which believe me we did. I'm a truly paranoid diver & plan to keep it that way. Safety first! I want to live to see another dive please! At one point we were above one of the "fingers" of reef & MIguel gestured that we should get together & go down in between the finger. We followed instructions & as we were near the sandy bottom between the fingers I took a gander
James in his boat, "The Lady Leah"
at my depth meter. We were at 120 feet!!! WHAT!!! It was so clear & the visibility was great so it just didn't feel like we were that deep. The reef was incredible & full of amazing coral & fish. We saw a grouper getting his mouth cleaned out by the helper fish. It was so funny. He just sat there with his mouth open huge & the fish swam around inside & went to work on the cleanup. The nurse sharks had their helper fish attached to their undersides keeping them tidy as well. There was fan coral taller than me & sea sponges & barrel coral, which I've never seen before & looked like huge barrels that could fit me inside. The older folks had some trouble in the middle of the dive & had to go up. We did our safety stop by ourselves with Miguel looking down from the top & keeping a watchful eye on us. Overall, an impressive first dive in Belize.
Our second dive was with Omar & the oldies (as we started calling them) at Cypress Tunnel. I guess it gets its name from the 15ft long tunnel in the coral at the sea floor that we went through. It was fun & dark & tiny! Just big enough for a person with a tank on. I saw my first hogfish, which is apparently good eats I was told, & we saw a beautiful spotted eagle ray just gliding by. Beautiful! The coral here was blue & purple & some of it looked like it was made out of glow in the dark colors. The tips of some of the coral that looked like anemones looked like they were glowing.
Getting back on the boat was a challenge. The oldies were having issues again & it took mr. oldie a good 10 minutes to get back on the boat once he got to the ladder while the rest of us sat in the water & got pounded by huge waves. He couldn't get his fins off.... Yikes! Stay on land maybe? We survived & enjoyed the sea as a group. 😉 The water was so calm when we got off the boat & crazy after we surfaced. Gotta love the ever changing ways of the ocean. We made it home safe & sound & had a hot shower! Yippee!
After getting cleaned up we sat on the dock to watch the sunset. Beautiful! While sitting there a local guy, named James, came & sat with us & lit & smoked his joint without any hesitation & talked to us. He told us stories about the hurricane & how much it changed the beachfront that we were sitting on. His house is on the backside of the island & he said someday he'll have beachfront property himself because the local hotels cut down all the mangroves that protected the island in order to make the beachfront more appealing for us tourists. Crazy! He said he was on the water in his boat (everyone has a boat) when the water started changing during Hurricane Mitch. He said the clouds came in & the wind changed so suddenly that people who live here were easily disoriented on the water. He talked about living on the Island, his family, his work, their beliefs & values. It was so interesting. It's such a different culture & way of life here. People talk to one another & are genuinely curious about you, your life, your current thoughts, where you're from, what home is like for you. And there's such an openness & directness that is apparent in the way people treat one another. If you assert something everyone wants to know why you feel that way. You can't just talk without backing up what you believe. The people all seem to have a funny sense of humor as well. When asked how James' day was, he replied "another day at the office" while sitting with us shirtless & in shorts. He told us stories about his friend swimming with boxers & having one of his gonads bit off by a sting ray! yeek! He ended up taking off after that on his boat, which was on our dock. Overall a well spent sunset.
We ended up spending the entire evening with Ryan & Erin, who we learned are staying in the room across the garden from us. We sat in chairs right on the water, listened to music, drank buckets of Belikins & talked. We had some chips & salsa (that I bought in Corozal) & talked for hours. It was really fun. However, all of the sudden in the middle of conversation my bowels started talking a bit. I ignored them & then it was like Whoa! I had a full fledged Leah moment & had to run to the room, without even saying goodbye & of course right at that moment Geoff was in the bathroom. I kinda screeched/yelled that he needed to find his way out of there, he balked a bit, but I assured him with my high pitched voice that it was in fact a true emergency! Needless to say, I almost made it to the toilet.....Ughhhhh.....That was the end of my night. I wasn't leaving the sanctuary of our room & the toilet within reach. I don't know who to blame, the taco truck that morning, the ice in my rum drinks, the coleslaw from lunch. Who knows.
Thankfully things were fine after I feel asleep (more like a quick passout from the excitement!) & didn't last into the next day. Geoff & the Nanaimo's went out to dinner at the only restaurant open at that point on the island (apparently we talked until 1030pm). It was an Asian (Chinese, go figure) restaurant & they bought Geoff dinner. Geoff said he talked with some local guys about basketball & their love of Kobe Bryant. The local young guys all look like they just walked off the streets of LA with their LA baseball hats, jersey's, & Jordan Slides. Or else the streets of NY with all NY gear. Or the gear is all rastafari, one or the other seems to be the way. He woke me up to eat some fried rice when he got home & I was back to sleep almost with the fork in my mouth.
Oh, the most common question I get is whether or not my feet tattoos are real. Then they want to talk about them. Everyone here is tattooed. Everyone!
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