I tried a new adventure in Belize during my most recent trip. I’ve taken a boat ride through mangroves before and I’ve gone stand-up paddle boarding many times, but this is the first time I’ve combined the two.
Ronnie was our tour leader for the day and he set an absolutely perfect pace for our group of three (me and a couple from Canada). I had paddle boarded before, but the other two had not. That meant I got the slightly shorter and narrower board (meaning…less stable). We were instructed not to stand up if we fell over. The bottom was silt and we could easily sink up to our waist if we went feet first. Later Ronnie also pointed out upside-down jellyfish (another good reason not to fall off). Ronnie knew they stung because he had a client fall off once and he dove in to get between them and the jellyfish. Talk about “taking one for the team”.
This trip was a cross between peace/serenity and a bit of a workout. I won’t lie though…there was a lot more peace/serenity than actual workout.
The mangroves work as a nursery for the reef fish and we saw a lot of schools of baby fish, but the highlight was the nurse sharks. After swimming with the five to eight feet long parents, it “cute” to see mini-nurse sharks right next to my board in water only a few inches deep.
The tour was enjoyed in all positions on the board. Some of it was standing up (the traditional position), but at times we had to kneel, sit, and even lie down to get under the mangrove roots. Only once did I engage in a battle with a mangrove root. I think the root one, but I got out alive. 😉
In all seriousness, I did have a bit of a hiccup that was completely my fault. I tried to get up a bit too quickly once and was struck with intense knee pain. Given the history of my knee issues I was bummed. Luckily the trip was close to over and I could lie down and float back to the boat (which was actually the plan anyway).
After some help getting back on the boat…my knee hurt like hell and I couldn’t put any weight on it…we headed to Ambergris Caye for lunch. Once there the short walk from the boat to the restaurant almost did me in.
I signed up for the half-day mangrove tour, but the other two had signed for the full day (to include snorkeling). After chatting with a person at the tour company it decided that I would depart the tour at Ambergris Caye and take the water tax back to Caye Caulker. I was glad I decided on this option given my knee injury.
When I got back to Caye Caulker, I stopped by Contour Ocean Adventures (the tour company I booked with) and thanked them for a lovely day. John, one of their employees, noticed I was limping. He had me lie down in their hammock and gave me a leg massage. I won’t lie…it was a bit awkward at first but it actually helped A LOT. After discussing it with him, we unofficially diagnosed the injury as a strained tendon in the back of my knee which was caused by going from a kneeling to standing position to quickly. I’ll caulk it up to “getting older”. It took a full day to feel better, but the pain passed…thank goodness.
Contour Ocean Adventures has several adventures that detour from the norm (of snorkeling and sailing). They also cater to smaller groups than some of the other tour operators (they only require a minimum of two people). Now that I know who they are and have experienced their outstanding customer service, I can’t wait to try out some more tours. I think the full-day stand-up paddle boarding would be great.