Doing stuff we haven’t done before, Part 1: Solo snorkel

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First time snorkeling on Ambergris Caye withhout a tour guide to keep me out of trouble. Not exactly a "boys in long pants" feeling but, well, it is a start!
First time snorkeling on Ambergris Caye withhout a tour guide to keep me out of trouble. Not exactly a “boys in long pants” feeling but, well, it is a start! And the water was nice.

The past five days didn’t start out this way.

I mean Rose and I didn’t sit down and agree to try some different things now that we’re back on Ambergris Caye and in our new home.

This just the way things turned out – without even thinking about it we were trying our hand at late-night barbecue, stand-up paddling, snorkeling, a poker run, roasting coffee ….

Right there! Near the center! Do you see it?A fish! OK, that was enough to call this snorkeling trip a success.
Right there! Near the center! Do you see it?A fish! OK, that was enough to call this snorkeling trip a success.

It all started with me jumping off the end of the pier while Rose was next door brushing up on her painting skills. I’m going to say that was last Wednesday. You know how island time blurs.

(Editor’s note: Just informed that it was Thursday. Ha. Ha. Still in the heat makes me stupid mode, I guess. . .)

Some of our neighbors had gathered at Gail Neal’s condo next door to continue practicing the painting skills they’ve learned in Belizean Melody’s Thursday afternoon “lushes with brushes” painting sessions.

Meanwhile, I figured that it was a good time to break in the new snorkeling gear, while the sun was still out, the wind was low and the water fairly calm. Just the day before, I watched our neighbor, Crystal, snorkeling with a spear  just off the end of the pier. In a matter of minutes she snagged a nice lion fish for dinner.

Then there were more fish ....
Then there were more fish ….

So, I geared up and dropped in the next afternoon.

The water is shallow and the bottom is mostly sea grass but when the lighting is right, it can look exquisite. I had this odd sensation that I wasn’t swimming so much as squeezing through a very narrow crease, between the tips of the grass and the top of the water.

There were a few fish around but they were months away from the frying pan, if you know what I mean.

The water had something of an amber hue to it. I think this might have had something to do with the unusually high amount of sargassum — the smelly brown-red macroalgae — that has floated on to our shores this year. It was piled so thick in the shallows that, from the air, you’d think the island had gained a fifth its size overnight.

And more fish ... or maybe these were the same fish just circling back around. Or maybe this is the same photo as above ....
And more fish … or maybe these were the same fish just circling back around. Or maybe this is the same photo as above ….

We’ve only gone on a couple of organized snorkeling trips since arriving here. Of course, we want more. We want webs between our fingers and toes. Our thinking is: If we have our own gear, we’d be more likely to go more often. Well, this was a first plunge in that direction. Let’s hope for more.

Which makes me wonder: Do any local dive shops have frequent-snorkeler punch cards, like coffee shops do?  You know, your 10th one is free …. anyone?

So I paddled back and forth, up and down, photographing the shimmering grass and little fish.

Gifted with an out-of-control imagination, I kept hoping for a modest size and friendly shark or stingray or …. or sea monster. Wait. In three feet of water? OK, would a stingray or eel have been too much? I don’t think so.

Pretty soon it was time to climb up out of the water and back on to the end of the pier ....
Pretty soon it was time to climb up out of the water and back on to the end of the pier ….

I might be better at photographing fish than spearing them. I’m not sure. But should the time come, I do know how to fillet them. That’s one of those things my dad taught me early in life.

The gear felt great.  I can’t wait until the next time though, admittedly, the snorkeling around the docks is small potatoes compared to being out in the barrier reef. Too far to swim out to – and too much water taxi traffic to cross if I could – but the reef is easily accessible in a kayak.

Lounging on the end of te pier, I watched the first rain storm in weeks make its way down the coast from the north.
Lounging on the end of te pier, I watched the first rain storm in weeks make its way down the coast from the north.

Plenty of people here think nothing of jumping into a kayak and paddling out there on a reasonably calm day. Just secure the boat to an ankle or a buoy and snorkel around.

Rose and I have decided to give each other diving certifications for Christmas, so that is another bucket item still on the list!

More immediate is Rose’s birthday, Sept. 7. We’ll be snorkeling at the Blue Hole for her birthday with Amigos Del Mar.  (Thank you, 2014 Lobster Fest grand prize!) but I still need to come up with a decent gift for the girl who already has paradise in her hip pocket.

Suggestions?

Next up on Things We Don’t Normally Do: What’s SUP!

Another cloud shot because, as the old saying goes, "You can have too many clouds in your life but you can never have too many photographs of clouds in your life."
Another cloud shot because, as the old saying goes, “You can have too many clouds in your life but you can never have too many photographs of clouds in your life.”
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10 thoughts on “Doing stuff we haven’t done before, Part 1: Solo snorkel

    Kathy said:
    September 1, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    We are shipping our Kayak down (should be there in October) and will be living in the complex you use to live in. Your more than welcome to borrow it and paddle out. Another suggestion, take the water taxi to the last stop…call Kathryn at Tranquility Bay and arrange a pick up and spend the day at the best snorkeling on the whole island! We love it way up north and its will worth a relaxing day, cool drink and walking into (literally) the reef…no kayak or boats to get in your way!

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      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      September 1, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      OK, that is very generous, Kathy. Thank you. And I think we’ll definitely follow up on our suggestion for a day trip to Tranquility Bay. Most appreciative!

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    Susan said:
    September 1, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    When we were there last week, early in the morning…6 ish…there was a dolphin just swimming by our hotel pier (Caribbean Villas) and then a few days later there were 3 small dolphins swimming around much closer to shore again at Caribbean Villas…we actually could have walked out about 20 ft off shore and been right with them! So take heart! I’m sure you’ll see something great real soon! Honestly, if we could sell our house NOW and divest of all the shi… errr stuff we’ve accumulated over the past 35 years, we’d be down there in a nano second! But retiring takes time and we actually have about 3-5 years until that date, I’m working toward the 3 year plan now!

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      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      September 1, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      It is good to take the time and plan, Susan. But that “stuff” starts going fast once you get into the lightness of being. Never easy to let go, it is surprising the positive emotional changes that you undergo during the process. Just canceling insurance policies on cars I would never again have to maintain was exhilarating. Good luck. When the going gets tough, think of the dolphins!

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    Jan B. said:
    September 1, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Hi Bob! The Tranquility Bay day trip sounds great! We tried to go up there in June but couldn’t get the timing right to get the water taxi/tranquility boat pickup coordinated. If you haven’t made it there when we return in October, we would definitely be up for a trip north. Great seeing you and Rose on Friday and a Happy early Birthday wish to Rose. 🙂

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      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      September 2, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      Sounds like a great thing to plan for October! Let’s count on it, Jan. See you guys in October.

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