Shark Ray Alley

In Belize: Close encounters of the aquamarine kind

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Mexico Rocks boasts the most precocious turtle in the world.
Mexico Rocks boasts the most precocious turtle in the world.

Do not adjust your set. The ridiculously fluorescent blue water you see in these pictures is correct. The water on the reef just off Ambergris Caye is that blue below the surface.

Up above is a different story. There, as you look out from shore to reef, the color can change numerous times, shimmering between emerald and azure.

The other day I joined friends for a trip around the island, with a little snorkeling at Mexico Rocks thrown in at the end.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Among a slew of perfect days in Belize, the most perfect of all

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Could there be a better way to spend a birthday?
Could there be a better way to spend a birthday than snorkeling the Belize barrier reef? That’s Rose, above. Ask her!

On Thursday everything in the universe was was aligned. It was a calendar palindrome 4-10-2014 (4102014). And apparently the sun, mars, the moon and the earth were all perfectly aligned on the same axis.

Powerful, inexplicable, mystical forces at work.

A good day to celebrate a birthday.

Oh, yeah: Mine! Read the rest of this entry »

Nick, The Belize Fish Whisperer, leads the way

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Hol Chan Marine Reserve from the air ... taken as we left Ambergris Cay this morning for Belize International Airport on the mainland. You can just see the channel through the surf that gives the reserve its name.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve from the air … taken as we left Ambergris Cay this morning for Belize International Airport on the mainland. You can just see the channel through the surf that gives the reserve its name.

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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Playing a tune in the caye of Cauker …..

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One of the guys we were swimming with in Shark-Ray Alley off Ambergris Caye. Props to Rose for jumping right in with the big fish!
One of the guys we were swimming with in Shark-Ray Alley off Ambergris Caye. Props to Rose for jumping right in with the big fish!

Two things I would feel remiss in not doing after all this time on Ambergris Caye: snorkeling and visiting Caye Caulker.

Spotted this sea turtle in the Hoy Chen Marine Reserve, our first stop on our snorkeling tour.
Spotted this sea turtle in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, our first stop on our snorkeling tour. He’s missing most of his front fin on the other side.

Rose and I finally went snorkeling yesterday afternoon and today I am writing this message from Caye Caulker. I took the watertaxi over this morning – it is just south of Amberguis Caye — and so far I have gotten as far as the Laughing Lobster where I was served breakfast and a healthy WiFi signal.

Rose is off to her daily yoga class and later plans on a well-deserved massage over in San Pedro. This is our first time apart during this whole trip and, oh my god, I miss her!

Main Street in Caye Cauker. A nice little village on a nice little island just south of Ambergris Caye.
Main Street in Caye Cauker. A nice little village on a nice little island just south of Ambergris Caye.

Then again, we are on separate islands at the moment.

Caye Caulker is indeed a step back in time. The main street is hard packed sand and tourists walk around in bare feet and hotel towels wrapped around bathing suits.

Shop girl on the main street in Caye Cauker, waiting for business to pick up.
Shop girl on the main street in Caye Cauker, waiting for business to pick up.

A gentle old fellow with a single tooth jutting from his mouth stumbled up the steps and walked over to my table to talk. My fault. I made eye contact and smiled. He had an open bottle of rum in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. I couldn’t make out a word he was saying and despite the morning hour he was half-past midnight drunk.

The waiter was very kind with him and eased him off the porch and back on to the road. “Yes, my friend,” he told the guy, “you ARE cool.”

Later the waiter said he’s a fixture in the village. And you’ll see him around all day like that. His capacity for rum is legend.

Well, I’m off to explore more of the village and island. It isn’t very large and I’m sure I will have exhausted most of it in an hour or two. Nice vibe though. I’ll post more pictures from our dive trip later and a few more from Caye Caulker.

Here’s a couple more shark photos from Shark Ray Alley:

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