Swimming with the fishes

Today was our day off and so we woke early to catch the water taxi to Caye Cauker. After an hour boat ride and a stop at Caye Chapel (a golf course) we made it to the island. We were planning on snorkeling the barrier reef off the coast of Belize. Last year it was $20 US, but the snorkeling companies made an association and upped the price to $35 US. We were able to haggle it down to 30 with our guy, Mario.

After changing into my suit behind a shed we were off in a small boat. I forgot how awesome hitting waves were and instantly thought of kayaking again. We made it to the first of 3 spots in Ray Alley. Juan started throwing fish into the water which instantly brought stingrays and nurse sharks to the boat. All the kids started to freak out and run to one side of the boat without jumping in, and I was trying to stow my stuff so I keep telling them to jump in already. Once I got in and away from the cluster of students it was awesome. The sharks left the area post haste, but I was able to follow 2 away from everyone. I also touched a few stingrays; they have such a soft underbelly. I didn’t want to meet the same fate as the Crocodile hunter so I avoided their backs as much as possible. I saw a huge brown stingray (the others were black) as wide as my arm span and I came upon 3 barracudas. Barracudas are scary not because they have teeth but because they are so fast and elusive, but really they are more scared of us than we are of them.

The first spot was in a meter of water, the next spot was deeper and in more coral. We swam following our guide. Again the students were a huge cluster, so I hung out in the back but I saw so many different fish. I am trying to identify all of them but it is hard. If I am successful I will post about it later. In this dive the cool fish I found and could identify was a lion fish hiding out underneath a batch of coral. And I also saw brain coral as long as a human torso. That with the sea anemones, fan coral, and elk coral was wicked cool to see. One thing I loved to study in my childhood was marine life and so to finally get to see some of the tropical ones was so awesome.

We went to a third and final spot and were just allowed to swim. Here I found a huge puffer fish, some more barracudas, and a lot of different other fish (again I am trying to look for them but it is a long list).

After snorkeling, we went to lunch. The boys went off on their own and the three teachers went to the Happy Lobster. We had conch ceviche and I had a fried snapper, it was awesome. After that I was on a mission to find a snow globe for my sister, which is challenging in a country near the equator. After many failed stops, I finally found one in a touristy shop. In my travels I saw a lot of interesting sights on the island such as the split (a channel between the two halves of the island) and a lot of the hotels. Too bad when I got back to the starfish house if fell out of my bag and broke…so I am back to square one.

One I thought I had the snow globe I went and got an iced coffee, iced with coffee ice cubes. An idea I have heard of but never saw in practice. Then I walked to the back side of the island. I am glad I did that since I found the Roman Catholic church, an outreach center, and blocks of abject poverty. It is amazing the facades that get put up for the tourists. I was the only person back there besides locals. It is amazing how much this trip has opened my eyes to all the different facets that a 3rd world country has.

After watching some fishermen gut fish and feed the pelicans, seagulls, and frigate birds and buying a thing of lime juice we headed back to the water taxi back to Belize City. We had a great dinner prepared by Caroline and then had a closing meeting with Abel. Tomorrow we will be on our way back to America. Be on the look out for my final culminating post.

See you all Stateside.


About handyatmurlo

I am a Latin teacher at Regis Jesuit High School. I earned my MA at CU Boulder and my BA at UMass Amherst. I have spent my summers working in Italy as an archaeologist at three different sites. One I have worked at for 10 years at Poggio Civitate at Vescovado di Murlo. I have worked at the Villa of Maxentius in Rome for 2 years, before the project ended. I also spent 2 summers at the FSU excavations in Cosa.
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