Belize Part 3, Vacation Time!!

After our week long stretch at the field station it was time to begin our actual vacation. We left the island on our itty bitty boat and said goodbye to the crew and station manager that made our stay at Calabash Caye so enjoyable. We took a water taxi from Belize City to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. The round trip ticket only cost $30.

The water taxi was crowded and a little uncomfortable, but I hear the company we used was the best of the two. (The other company reportedly takes chickens and overpacks their taxis). About an hour and a half later we arrived in San Pedro. It’s a beautiful island with dive centers lined up along the oceanfront mixed in with hotels and resorts and nifty local restaurants and bars.

Our first order of business was to check into our hotel. After a 5 minute taxi ride through narrow crowded streets full of motorcycles and golf carts, we arrived at our hotel. We were greeted with free rum punch and a beautiful view of the ocean. We got settled in, ate lunch, and prepared to go on our first dive of the weekend. We booked our night dive with Rudy’s Island Divers. At 6pm a small boat pulled up to the hotel dock to take us to the dive shop. NOW THATS SERVICE!

The night dive was at the Hol Chan Marine Preserve. We met our dive master then parked our boat at the dive buoys. We relaxed on the boat until the sun set completely. Divers on boats around us entered the water early while there was still light out, but our dive master was insistent on giving us a true night dive. We entered the water and were immersed in an alien world unlike anything I’ve experienced before. We saw sleeping fish, strange worms that swarmed the lights we were holding, and there were rays absolutely everywhere! However, the coolest things we witnessed were a sleeping loggerhead turtle, moray eels, a caribbean lobster eating a sea urchin, and an octopus swimming around. The experience was so amazing, once we got back on the boat, we booked four more dives with Rudy’s to start the next morning.

After our dive, we had to find a place to eat. It was pretty late, so finding a place that was open and not extremely expensive was a challenge. We tried two different places and found they were too expensive, so decided on a small Italian restaurant. The restaurant was an interesting experience. We walked in and there were two islanders playing reggae covers of today’s hit music, and the only two other people at the restaurant were some very enthusiastic old women. They weren’t eating, but each had a glass of wine and were clapping offbeat to the music.

The next morning we were picked up at the hotel dock and headed out for three of our four dives. We went outside the barrier reef to dive at a “finger reef”. The reef extended out from the barrier in fingerlike projections that we would go through and see all kinds of wonderful sealife. We saw eels, more fish than we could count, turtles of all kinds, and oodles and oodles of nurse sharks. The sharks would follow us around like underwater puppy dogs. SO CUTE!

At the end of the day of diving we got back to the hotel just in time to play horseshoes with one of the hotel workers, Frank. On the side of the hotel they advertised “Free Horseshoe lessons with Frank at 5pm every day!”. So naturally, I had to learn to play horseshoes.

For dinner, we walked into town to an authentic Mayan cuisine restaurant buffet. Mayan cuisine is similar to typical Mexican with a few different ingredients and a slightly different palate of spices. Oh my goodness, diving all day can really drum up an appetite.

The last day on the island, we went for a dive/snorkel trip to Hol Chan and made a stop at Shark Ray Alley. First, we headed to Shark Ray Alley. As soon as we anchored, the boat driver began to chum the water with fish caught earlier that day. Nurse sharks came to swarm the boat and we all jump into the chaos. Some of these sharks were more than eight feet long and so big around you could barely fit your arms around them for a big shark hug!

The dive at Hol Chan was so different than the first time we went during the night. I’ve never seen such a diverse and abundant population of fish before. It was amazing to see these huge schools of fish hiding in the reef structure.

At the end of the day, I booked an hour long massage with the hotel massage therapist who was set up on the beach. Having the actual sounds of the ocean sure does beat a CD like in traditional massage parlors.

The following morning began our trek back to the states.

 

How Much Did This Trip Cost?

The first half of the trip was sponsored by the University of North Georgia, so luckily I didn’t have to spring for airfare, lodging, or food while at the research station. At San Pedro, however, was a different story. Belize is not a cheap country to travel to. Food and drink prices were comparable to what you would find in the United States. Although a little expensive, it caused a more mature crowd – not so interested in the partying as they were the sights and culture. Diving here, however, was incredibly inexpensive and that is what really made our trip.

3 Days and Nights in San Pedro

Diving – $300 – This included four daytime dives and one nighttime, plus tip.

Food – $80

Hotel – $120 – Per person, three people to a room.

Souvenirs – $80 – “Souvenirs” = Belizean rum.

Water Taxi – $30

 

Total Cost – $610

 

~Matt

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I just couldn’t get enough of the nurse sharks.
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If you have never felt shark skin before its very similar to a super fine sandpaper.
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The most wonderful massage I have gotten in a long time was right here.
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Our dive master was fearless, grabbing sharks and pushing them out of the way as he gave us a tour of the reef.
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Here I am playing horseshoes with Frank. Although I lost horribly, laughs and good times were shared amongst all of us.
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Here is “Reggaematic” at Bella Mia, the confused identity italian restaurant. We were so hungry we didn’t mind the interesting music.
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The beachside view from the bar at the Hotel Del Mar.

 

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