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Belize – Sun/Sand/Dive/Snorkel/Kayak

March 16, 2018

2/27 Tu – Delta to Belize City stayed at the D’Nest Inn B&B

Manatee in canal

 

2/28 W – Taxi to downtown dock by Ramada Princess Casino

Walked a couple of miles along the waterfront and then returned to the dock. We were told we would be leaving at 1pm, however, not surprisingly, we didn’t leave until 2:30.

Boarding “Evita” Captain Reves boat that took us to Long Caye. Reves in stern, Nidia (cook) on left, Helen in hat, and LeRoy (worker) in bow. Reves added 4 people to our boat who were workers at another resort on the island. It was a rough ride as we bounced across the open “Blues.”

After 1.5hrs our outboard motor went kaput and we were stranded about 20min from Long Caye. Luckily, there was one more boat going to Long Caye and it was a half hour behind us. They towed us in to the dock.

Arrival

Calypso Beach Retreat

Our room, we were the only guests for the week, Wednesday to Wednesday

Helen cleaning the kitchen – it was a mess!

Getting to know LeRoy and Nidia, a game of Aces to Kings. Rum and Coke, cards, and Farkle every night.

Our Island, Long Caye, is on Lighthouse Reef Atoll, which is on the most Eastern (outer) section of the Belize Reef System. Note on the map the nearby location of Half Moon Caye and the “Blue Hole”

3/1 Th – Breakfast, first morning, Nidia prepared three excellent Belizian meals a day

Since our boat broke down, we joined an Itza dive trip to Half Moon Caye Natural Monument ($20 fee) with Captain Elvis

Helen dove while I snorkeled

We then stopped on Half Moon Caye for a picnic lunch

While others went on an afternoon dive, Maurio from Itza diving, walked with us to the rookery on the west side of the island

This is the nesting ground for the rare red-footed booby bird – there are about 4,000 on the island!

Red-footed Booby chicks

View from the top of a viewing tower

Frigate birds have a characteristic split tail

Male Frigate, about half way into blowing up it’s gular sac – hey girls, here I am

Close to full gular sac – takes almost 2 minutes

When we returned to our dock on Long Caye, we found some local fishermen cleaning their fish and conch

 

3/2 F – We went out with Elvis from Itza for a morning dive at the famous Blue Hole Natural Monument ($80 fee), it was only 20 minutes away.

I had seen pictures from the air and thought that the rim of the Hole was above water (Belize Tourism photo). It was not, the rim (1000 feet diameter) was about 3 feet underwater.  Was it high tide?  Have sea levels increased due to Global Warming?

Jacques Cousteau brought his ship the Calypso here in 1971 to chart its depths. He used dynamite to increase the size of the natural entrance so his ship could get in – can you imagine doing that today?! Cousteau rated the Blue Hole as one of the top five SCUBA diving sites in the world.

Helen had trouble descending yesterday, so she asked for more weight today. The divers left the boat first and started on what was to be a deep (~132 feet) dive to the stalactites. Shortly afterward, I began to snorkel. When I looked back at the boat twenty minutes later, I was surprised that Helen was back on board. I went back to see what had happened. I found that she had not filled her BC with air before she started to descend (too rapidly). She thought one of the crew had done it like they had the previous day. As she quickly descended (recall she had also asked for more weight!), she could not clear her ears and started to go into panic mode. Maurio noticed what was happening and brought her back up to the surface. She then joined us on our snorkel. On the way back to the dock she mentioned that her ear was really bothering her.

After lunch, LeRoy, Nidia, Helen and I went line fishing off a small dock on the west side of the island. LeRoy caught a small Grout but that was it –

But we did see several “rays” off the dock

We had to leave because Helen’s ear was bothering her. She took a nap, but it didn’t help. After dinner (pork chops), I gave her an Aleve and we taught LeRoy and Nidia how to play Farkle. There was a beautiful full moon that evening.

 

3/3 Sa – discovered blood on Helen’s pillow this morning. So, there is some damage to her ear. We canceled her dive to the “Aquarium” for today. After breakfast, LeRoy walked us to the empty “Crocodile House,” so named because one lives there!

There was a kayak there; which I was able to take out and paddle to the south end of the island. Helen returned to the Calypso to rest. We had taco salad for lunch and then walked the beach areas nearby. We decided that Helen would not do any more diving/snorkeling on this trip; she had damaged her inner ear. It was a big disappointment since this trip was specifically planned so she could do those activities.

We walked to the west side of the island for sunset and then returned for a Belizian fried chicken dinner. We met Miles and Alyssa and their 3 children from Winston Salem NC (Wake Forest U) at Itza this evening. Helen taught the kids how to play solitaire and Farkle.

 

3/4 Su – A student/faculty group from Wake Forest came in last night and this morning we learned that Miles had organized a Spring Break course for the students. He invited us to join them on their large boat as they dove and explored Light House Reef Atoll. We said, perhaps tomorrow. Note their boat at the end of the dock.

Reves motor was now fixed, so we decided to request a short fishing trip to give him some business. We were asked if Nidia and LeRoy could come along, of course, we said yes.

We went out to the “Aquarium” about a half mile from the dock.  Everyone caught lots of fish

We felt guilty catching many of these beautiful reef fish and Helen insisted that they throw back three large Queen Trigger fish. After about an hour, we were ready to come in.  Reves, LeRoy, and Nidia wanted to continue fishing.  Being agreeable people, that is what we did and continued fishing for another three hours!  Though I must admit that after the first three hours it was quite uncomfortable, we were out four!  I caught 9 fish, Helen caught 7 and the five of us combined caught about 50!  That evening, we each ate one of the Dogfish and the rest of our fish were given to Reves. He gives them to family and sells them for additional income.

 

3/5 M – Went out to the “Aquarium” with the Wake Forest group this morning. I was able to snorkel for about an hour. Usually, I’m the one who is taking the pictures!

Meanwhile, Helen hob-knobbed on the boat

After Barracuda tacos for lunch, we had a lazy afternoon. I enjoyed sitting on the top of the tower in front of our building, writing notes, reading from the New Age of Adventure book by National Geographic that I had recently purchased on Amazon, and sipping a cold beer. The Calypso Beach Retreat tower is the highest point on the island.

I sat on my thatch covered perch reading or looking out at the activity on the dock or out on the water. It was fascinating to watch the frigates, pelicans, and osprey soar on the air currents and then drop almost vertically into the Ocean, often coming up with a fish. When we walked the beach in the evening, we discovered some large pieces of bamboo which we brought back and asked LeRoy to cut into nine-foot lengths.

 

3/6 Tu – Went out with the Wake Forest group again today. We returned to Half Moon Caye Natural Monument

While the students toured the island and snorkeled, we expanded on the exploration we did on our first visit

We did join the class lecture on the Loggerhead, Green, and Hawksbill Turtles, all endangered species, that nest on the south side of the island.

After a BBQ chicken lunch, we toured the Belize Audubon Visitor Center

The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The one on the right is the Red-footed Booby, note the sand floor

Local aquatic life

Blue Hole

In the afternoon, we walked the north side of the island

Then examined the remains of a lighthouse that Tropical Storm Matthew toppled into the sea in 2010. The steel tower on the left now has the operational beacon.

I then snorkeled around the dock and Helen searched for shells until the students returned from their afternoon dive

After we returned to Long Caye, I went to see Jim (owner of Itza) and Elvis to discuss the problem that occurred during Helen’s Blue Hole dive. It was agreed that there were some irregularities on their part but in the last analysis it was Helen’s responsibility as a certified diver to check all her equipment and follow all safety procedures. They did not charge us for her dive that day.

LeRoy did a nice job cutting and smoothing the bamboo poles we gave him. We took them down to the sand area in front of the Itza resort to teach Miles and Alyssa’s children – Nora, Wren and John how to do Tinikling. Tinikling is a traditional Philippine stick dance. After awhile the college students joined in and it was a fun time.

 

3/7 W – Our last morning on Long Caye

We had Helen’s scones and coffee for breakfast, packed, tipped all the helpers, and were in Reves boat at 7am. The ocean was calm this morning, so the two-hour boat ride to Belize City went smoothly. LeRoy, Reves, and Nidia with the fish they caught. They will sell the bigger ones and share the rest with family.

Mark from D’Nest picked us up for the trip to the airport. Our Delta flight left at 1pm, we had a 4hr lay-over in Atlanta, and were home at midnight.

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