Day 2: Caulker

Today was another beautiful day in paradise as one of our cruising friends use to say.

After a breakfast of baked goods we set out for the ferry dock arriving just in time for the 9am boat. We didn’t have our tickets so we rushed to the line and just barely made the cut off. I handed out our ticket just as we started boarding. I thought we’d be on a bigger boat headed to Ambergris stopping over at Caulker on the way, but no, we were in a much smaller boat headed to the much smaller island of Caye Caulker only. The ride was still pretty long despite us stopping short of Ambergris, stuffed in a small but fast motorboat. Our fellow riders were from all over: Dutch, Aussie, Local. Chuck of course made new friends immediately, telling them about our xmas in Idyllwild, and how I’d sailed to Australia. We joked that this is his super power, and we should start an Instragram account to try to get #ChucksNewFriends trending.

Our guesthouse Maxhapan Cabanas is really cute and well maintained. It’s the cheapest stay of the trip and likely will be one of the best. I suspect only Black Rock Inn where we stay last will unseat it, and at double the price. Louise, the owner is a sweetheart. Only one room was ready when we arrived so we put our things in there and headed off for our day.

First thing I wanted to do was to sort out our dive plans. I’d talked to the dive people at Frenchies about a trip to the Blue Hole and had thought I also had gotten our names down for Turneffe North. He’d apparently misunderstood and had us just for the Blue Hole, but that turned out fine. The Blue Hole trip was full up and we wanted to change our plans for the day before anyway. Instead of doing a full day offshore which still sounds quite nice, Alyssa and Chuck are going to try out doing a DSD, and Jenn and I are going to tag along. The dives should be shallower, and watching them go through their DSD will help us get back into what it is we’re supposed to do before we go do a more complex wall dive like the Blue Hole. Tomorrow we have to arrive at 9am, and at 530am the following day if we stick to our plans.

Now we had the full day ahead of us without much in the way of plans. We figured snorkeling would be a good start and one of the big things to do out here and signed up for an afternoon trip out to the Caulker Marine Reserve. Jenn and I had our snorkel gear with us so we were set to go and we just had to wait until 2.

Caye Caulker, which I thought was pronounced Kay, is actually pronounced Key like the Florida Keys, is pretty small with only a handful of roads none of which are paved. Instead the roads are white sand, and after the torrential downpour before we arrived, filled with puddles of white water. We find ourselves weaving from one side of the street to the next looking for edges we can use to keep our feet dry. We’re mostly successful though not entirely. Maxhapan has free bikes to borrow while staying and we take advantage of the beach cruisers to crisscross the road aiming for shallow areas. The island is a lot more laid back than most tourist destinations and continues the vibe I felt in Belize City where they’re good about not harassing tourists but just providing the goods and services that they’ll purchase when they want to. The island still has taxis though in the form of petrol golf carts. Aside from the giant potholes that become puddles after a rain, this is about the only other thing I’d like to see changed, and the fumes from them can break the feeling of paradise so well cultivated here. Before arriving I’d worried maybe this would be too low key without enough things to do, and Ambergris more developed for tourism would do better, but now that I’m here I think this was the right choice and we have the perfect number of days here.

To waste time until our snorkeling trip we head down to “the split” a popular area to get food and drinks where we find a hopping bar and everyone drinking what appears to be the signature drink of the joint, Lizard Juice a bright green blended concoction. We convinced Alyssa to try to Conch which was actually pretty adventurous of her, and Chuck the Jerked Chicken. I had the feeling Jenn and I would be the most adventurous people of the group and would be pushing them to try new things, but that hasn’t been an issue, they’ve been completely on board. The food was good, and the Lizard Juice strong, apparently containing 4 shots of different kinds of rum, which had me buzzing by the end of lunch, not exactly my plan. We also got to sit by the water’s edge for a while enjoying the view.

Our snorkel trip started with a bang. We arrived at a shallow patch of sand with some grass and were told to jump in. Looking overboard, the boat is being swarmed with nurse sharks and sting rays lured by chum. Quite a way to start. I’m probably the only one comfortable with this, though Jenn was quite stoic if she wasn’t. I got my gear on quickly and flipped back in, snapping a few photos and quickly realizing my mask is set way to loose and letting water in. After finally getting myself sorted I take more photos with my GoPro, unaware if they’re good or bad. Jenn has my normal dive camera and soon joins me snapping some nice ones. I don’t really like the whole chumming the waters deal, but in the same breath it is pretty interesting to see sharks and sting rays that close and personal. I felt sorry for pretty much anyone else though, first snorkeling trip and we’re tossed in with sharks. Near the edge of the grass we spot a barracuda just chilling out watching what’s going on before deciding something else was a better use of time. Barracudas make me a bit nervous, as much as sharks can, something about them seems less predictable, and the stories my dad told me about them skipping along the water is the thing of nightmares.

Our next stop was a standard coral reef ranging from 5 to 20 feet deep. At the deep end we spot a really giant green Moray Eel, larger than I’ve ever seen. One of the guides dove down to point him out so naturally I dove down to get a photo of two. I tried twice, once with the GoPro, results still pending, and once with the Canon I knew works. That was about the only thing worth noting.

The last stop was right out along the edge of the barrier reef where the surf breaks. Garbage and loose grasses seem to collect there and the water wasn’t great. After not too long at all we kind of all just called it quits and returned to the boat just in time to race a squall back to shore.

All in all the snorkeling was fun, but nothing special. I hope the trips tomorrow and the next day take us places with less disturbed coral and more wildlife. The Blue Hole is promising and outside the barrier reef.

Back at our rooms I tried to pull the GoPro photos but found that I don’t have any of the needed software, go figure. In my rush I don’t think I saw any software and didn’t have time to download the GoPro Studio software so here I am in Belize trying to download it at 8kbps so I can see how it performed and decide if I’d rather use it or the Canon.

For dinner we wandered around town, the weather much cooler now, picking out a restaurant called Rainbow because of its atmosphere and how crowded it was. The food was good but not as good as Celebrity, the restaurant we ate at the previous night, and the service staff was overworked.

I’m looking forward to returning to the water again tomorrow.

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