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Published: June 20th 2017
Geo: 17.4977, -88.1867
Did you know that Belize is the only Central American nation that has English as it's official language? I didn't either. And Belize is a fairly new country - I think they were established in 1981; the people are proud to be Belizians.
This is our last port and guess what we have planned? Snorkeling! LOL.
We are taking a Princess snorkeling excursion and it is leaving EARLY. So early in fact that yesterday we brought food down from the buffet to have breakfast in our cabin this morning. We knew we'd be on the go and have already packed our snorkeling gear and bag.
Ours is one of the first groups off the boat. This is the only port where we have to be tendered in to shore, which means we leave our big boat to get on a little boat. Our snorkeling group gets onto a boat and instead of going to shore we are using this boat for our snorkeling adventure.
On our way to the dive site we stop at a group of building - there is a dive store where people get some of their snorkeling gear, a restaurant where we complete our
liability waivers, very nice restrooms and a gift shop. From here it doesn't take long to get to the dive site.
The guide tells us that this area used to have houses on it, but now, at high tide, it is a sandbar, and at low tide it is an island. The forces of nature are amazing...
This boat crew divides us into small groups of 6-7 snorkelers and soon we are making our way down the ladder at the back of the boat. The water is choppy - not too bad, but much worse than the glass smooth water from yesterday. There is a lot of sea grass under us - something turtles like to eat so we keep a watch out.
I have to admit that I am a little disappointed in the snorkeling - I'm not sure when it happened but a hurricane hit Belize a while back and I think it really affected this reef. There are some fish, of course, but not as many as in Roatan and the coral is very beat up.
I'm not enjoying myself like I should be because I put sunscreen on my face and the water has washed it
into my eyes. My eyes are burning badly and I can hardly keep them open. I take off my mask and snorkel 2, 3 times to wash the sunscreen off my face with salt water but there isn't a lot I can do to rinse my eyes. Between that and the roughness of the water, I feel myself getting a little panicky...so I just take a couple of deep breaths, put my mask and snorkel back on and just float for a little bit. I can see Jeff and he is doing great.
We float over about a dozen conch shells - beautiful! And I keep looking for turtles. A small jellyfish (about the size of my fist, floats beside me - it is shimmering and gently propels itself away. Turtles like to eat jellyfish...Our guide has kept up an almost constant narration describing the corals and different fans but it is impossible to hear him with your face in the water! Having to choose between looking at the wildlife and listening to the commentary, I choose to keep my face (and ears) in the water.
Eventually we make our way back to our boat. No turtles, but let's face
it - a so-so day snorkeling is a GREAT day anyway!
Part of our excursion is to spend an hour on a local beach. Jeff and I are a little leery of this kind of things because sometimes you feel held captive while being bombarded by vendors. Not in this case! The boat's crew dropped us off, telling us another boat would be along in an hour to pick us up. The beach was nice - lounge chairs in the shade and sun, a small bar, fresh water showers, changing rooms and toilets. I changed out of my wet swimsuit. Jeff and I saw a trail going off into the mangroves and decided to talk a walk. It was lovely; very picturesque. And, the path eventually led back to our original stop - the dive shop, restaurant, etc. we stayed a few minutes so I could relax in one of the hammocks. Aaahhhh...
We walked back to our beach area and enjoyed a local beer, a Belikin. Very tasty. While we were enjoying our beers, a woman commented on my new knee and her husband said he was the grateful recipient of a new kidney! The four of us hit it
off, chatting, comparing photos and snorkeling stories. Turns out Capt. Chip (of the new kidney) and is wife, Suzie, live on a fancy yacht which they crew for the owner. Chip showed us photos of their vessel - WOW!! You can charter it for trips and it looked like a wonderful thing to do. I'm guessing it is out of our price range though. :-). We exchanged contact information - they live in San Pedro very close to where Princess goes in and out of that port. We meet the most interesting people on these trips.
Soon the boat arrived to return us to the Emerald Princess, where we washed the salt off of our face and hands, got a quick bite to eat and went to catch the tender to shore. The ship has anchored so far offshore that the tender is about a 15 minute ride - very unusual. Once ashore we make our way out of the tourist area and walk into Belize City. I didn't know that Belize City is about six feet below sea level - which explains the street sign (photo below) we saw at a major intersection.
The US sends old school busses to
Belize to be repurposed for public transportation. You know those stop signs on the sides of school busses that pop out when the bus stops? Those are taken off the busses and used for real stop signs. Pretty good idea.
Belize City was completely unimpressive. We were approached multiple times and asked for money; the city seemed very underdeveloped, but it did host a LOT of banks. Jeff and I have talked about Belize as a possible retirement area - but we'll definitely want to see more of the country than Belize City before considering it further.
We walked back to the secure port area and did a little souvenir shopping. Finally, some decent postcards! I'll be mailing a couple of them from Houston... Jeff got his shot glass, locally made, and I picked up a cute keychain (talk about easily packed souvenirs). The line for the tender is quite long when we join it and much longer when the boat arrives. Though this was a big boat we were surprised to get onto it as we were so far back in the line. As we cast off and head back to the ship, a dolphin jumped fully out of the
Jeff walking among the mangroves
Jeff walking among the mangroves
water RIGHT next to us! What a wonderful send-off from Belize!
Though this was such an early day and we have gotten a lot of exercise between snorkeling and walking, we don't have to get up in the morning for anything and decide to have a late night. We get cleaned up and head off to one of the sit down restaurants for dinner. It was Italian night so the servers were all dressed like Italian waiters. The food was good and we enjoyed the company at the table (mostly). There was one couple, Jane and Burton, who were a cross between snooty, know-it-ally, and he tended to monopolize the conversation - but the other folks were fun and interesting. I had a couple of cups of real coffee because after dinner we're going upstairs to "Movies Under the Stars" for the 10pm show.
So, after dinner we change into more casual clothes, head to the top of the ship to grab lounge chairs and popcorn (yes, I know we just had dinner!). The movie, "The Imitation Game" was very good. We enjoyed it a lot and are looking forward to getting it on Netflix to watch again.
We got back
to our cabin around midnight and stood out on the balcony on the beautifully clear and warm night chatting and drinking wine until about 1am....actually, 2am because tonight we move our clocks ahead an hour.
A nice day! But now the Emerald Princess is heading north, back to Houston...and we are looking forward to two full days at sea!
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