It is uncanny. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is vast and, well, under the sea. But Nick moved through it like it was his personal playground.
He knew in which crevices the Moray eels hung out — he’d swim down and clap and they would come out like cobras to a flute. He knew where to find conch and sea cucumber. He spotted sea turtles and sting rays and sharks long before any of us.
Nick even caught a three-foot-long shark with his hands and held it so Rose could pet it. “It felt coarse, super coarse, said Rose, “Like starched jeans. I thought it would feel like a portobella mushrooms.”
Nick was our guide on an overcast, windy and choppy day off the lower tip of Ambergris Caye.
I started calling him “the fish whisperer.”
He’s been at this for five years now, taking tourists like us into the national preserve and the nearby Shark-Ray Alley to take in the vast and varied life below the sea.
Nick delivers a lecture on respecting the reserve’s environment and cautions about touching the coral or picking up shells. He points out one sandy area and says “this is the only place in the reserve where you can stand on the bottom. OK? No where else.”
You get the feeling Nick and the other snorkeling and scuba guides are pretty protective of this, Belize’s greatest natural resource. Hol Chan Marine Reserve runs right up against the Barrier Reef and is marked by one of the few deep water channels, through which come fish, turtles and more.
I went a little crazy with the iPhone camera with its waterproof cover but for what it is worth here are many of the photos that I took. They are in chronological order, from the moment I dropped into the water until I reluctantly, got out.
The aquamarine coloring is exactly right. This is what the water looks like off of most of Belize.
I hope you enjoy them.
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