Coral Gardens, Shark/Ray Alley, and Hol Chan – December 14, 2010

I was so surprised that I woke up early given my lack of sleep the prior evening and the fact that I didn’t have to be at Raggamuffin Tours for my snorkeling trip to Coral Gardens, Shark/Ray Alley, and Hol Chan until 1030am.

I headed first to my go-to breakfast stop…the local bakery.  I had become very fond of their ham, cheese, and sweet pepper pastries.  OMG…they were so good!  After breakfast I headed back to Raggamuffin Tours.  It seemed like the group that was gathering for the tour was much larger than one boat could handle, then I noticed that Kimani and Leon were there.  They had told me they weren’t going out on any tours for a few days.  Turns out not only were they taking a group out, but I was on their boat.  Yea!

Our group was a lot of fun.  There was Blair and Poppy from London, Kathleen and Al from Oregon, Ben and Lin from Seattle, and Rondi.  Rondi kept to herself and didn’t even get in the water at all the stops.  She was quite strange.

We left port on the Ragga Gal.  Kimani asked if some of the people could sit on the front of the sailboat to distribute weight.  He chuckled a bit once we got going and said ‘just wait…they will all be inside the cabin in a few minutes’.  He was right.  The spray from the waves chased everyone inside.  I sat on the back with Leon and Kimani.  It was nice to already know them and have people to chat with and laugh at.

Kimani promised us that as the day went on the stops would get better and better.

Our first stop was Coral Gardens.  This was an unguided snorkel where we could see some of the coral from the barrier reef.  I think we actually stopped so some of the boats could get ahead of us and it would seem less crowded at the other two spots.  It also gave me a chance to get comfortable with the snorkel gear again.

The second stop was Shark/Ray Alley so named because of the abundance of nurse sharks and sting rays.  Even though I had read in several guide books and heard from many locals that it was perfectly safe, I was nervous.  To start they threw some shrimp in and the sharks, rays, and fish came right up to our boat…AMAZING!  We then jumped in and this time Kimani came along as our guide.  He caught a nurse shark and held it so that each of us could pet it.  I expected it to be slimy, but it was more like very fine sandpaper.  I still can’t believe I swam up to and then touched a shark in the wild.  Then Kimani caught a string ray for us to pet.  I was even more afraid of it, but Kimani explained that they only attack with their tails when pressure is applied to their back.  I reluctantly swam up to pet it and as an extra push, Kimani wrapped the wing around my hand.  This time it felt like I expected, kind of slimy but not too bad.  We spent some time swimming around with the rays and sharks and then hopped back on the boat to head to our next stop.

Up next was Hol Chan, which is a channel through the reef.  In the middle it was quite deep which was in stark contrast to most of the other areas we had snorkeled or swam in my entire trip.  Here there were mountains or coral and an immense amount of sea life.  The current was strong and I was very nervous about getting tired, but we made frequent stops so that Kimani could point out various types of fish.  I found out quickly that it’s kind of hard to take pictures of moving fish while bobbing on top of the water.  In the future, I want to see if I can learn how to free dive a bit to get out of the rougher water on top.  Kimani was like a fish himself.  He would dive down looking for different types of sea life and then point them out for us to take pictures.  One time he even took my camera and got a picture of an eel in a cave.  Fighting the current out was worth it on the way back.  It was like gliding on the way back to the boat since we were now with the current.  It gave me the opportunity to really enjoy what I was seeing.  The highlights of Hol Cha were Eagle Rays, a Moray Eel, Tarpin, a Sea Turtle, and much much more.

On the way back to Caye Caulker we enjoyed shrimp ceviche and rum punch.  On the three day sailing trip I never tried the rum punch, but for some reason I did this time.  Boy, I sure wish I would have tried it on the other trip, but then again I might have just got drunk.  It was so yummy.

We turned the motor off and sailed all the way back.  At one point Kimani was on the front of the boat with other passengers and Leon decided to change the music, so he handed me the lever (not sure what’s its really called) and told me to steer and keep the flag on shore between the heads of two of the people on the front of the boat.  Yep…I was officially sailing a sailboat.

Poppy talked all of us into going to the I&I that night.  I thought about going a few times, but I was reluctant since I was by myself and had heard (and smelled) that there was plenty of pot smoking there.  But, now I actually had people to go with and Kimani and Leon were going to meet us there too.

We got back to Caye Caulker around 5pm and after a quick shower I headed to Sobre de Olas to use their internet and ended up having a drink with Ramsey.  Then I headed over to Pizza Caulker to chat with Greg and have a drink.  Immediately Greg let me know I had left my pizza the previous night and he put it in the fridge for me (oh…lucky me…I thought I had dodged the bullet of having to eat it as leftovers).  Greg warmed my pizza up and I ate it.  It tasted just as bad warmed up as it had the night before, but yet again I told him it was good.  I left my mark on the ceiling of Pizza Caulker and then headed to I&I with the Pizza Caulker waitress around 9pm.  I found the snorkel group as soon as I walked it.

After a bit we found some seating on the roof of I&I and yep it smelled like pot.  It’s illegal to smoke pot in Belize, but my understanding is that the police turn a blind eye to I&I.  Blair partook in the smoking while we all sat there chatting and laughing, then as it got colder we headed to the dance floor.  Eventually we found Leon and he was so kind to buy me a margarita (he remembered that was what I liked to drink).

It was already later than I had stayed up since arriving in Belize when I left the club at 1230a.  On the way back, I stopped by another club to see what it was like.  It was completely lame, so I bought a bottle of water and headed home.

The lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me.  I crashed as soon as I got to the room.

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