BelizeCentral AmericaScubaSightseeing

3/9/10 – Ambergris Caye

The Blue Hole
This was a big dive day – The Great Blue Hole.


(pic from Wikipedia)

The Blue Hole is one of Belize’s main draws for scuba divers. An atoll that’s 1000 feet across and 410 feet deep. It was a limestone cave system way back when sea levels were much lower during the last glacial period; and when seas began to rise, the caves flooded and the roof collapsed. The result: a huge sink hole filled with water, some fish, and some amazing stalactites hanging in the ocean.

The trip to get there is a two and a half hour trip by boat, which means we had to be at the dock at 5:30. While this was a slightly painful wake-up on a vacation day, it meant that Mike finally got to see the sunrise he’d been swearing to see. Though he didn’t look very happy about it.


Gorgeous sunrise (I have 20 other sunrise pics, but decided to subject you to only one… or two)


Mike, not thrilled to have his pic taken quite so early

The boat ride was tough. Two and a half hours in windy weather made it a bumpy, toss and turn ride. The short occasions where we neared a reef system and the waves settled were a welcome – albeit brief – relief.

The Blue Hole Dive
Diving the Blue Hole isn’t a small event. To get to the stalactites is a 130-140 foot dive that requires immediate descent, good air control, and a long safety stop. Since Mike was a relatively new diver this was definitely a challenging dive – but I had no doubt he could do it.

They split the boat into groups of two and together we all descended to a ledge at about twenty feet, regrouped, and then descended the rest of the way.

Such an amazing dive. I’d heard mixed reviews about the Blue Hole; there isn’t a lot of coral living on the limestone so fish aren’t abundant – but that’s not what we were there to see. We wanted the stalactites.


Stalactites
While we were at the stalactites we looked up to see three large bull sharks swimming above us. Pretty amazing sight.


Divers and bull shark (in the center)


Bull shark

On most dives I prefer to stick to the back of the group. This is due to a few factors: first, many divers cluster around the dive leader so it gets pretty crowded up front. Second, I like the non-rushed feeling of being in the back of the group – no worrying who’s coming up behind you… no wondering if you’re holding up the group. And third, I like having my eyes on everyone. I guess the dive master instinct in me never goes away. But the great part of this dive is that I hung to the back of the group with George, the dive master, who showed me loads of fun things that the big group missed. Like taking a quiet group-free tour through the stalactites and later a spotted moray eel.


Stalactites


Spotted Moray Eel


The reef of the Great Blue Hole


Heidi and Mike

Half Moon Wall
Our next dive was closer to the reef and so in calmer waters; a beautiful dive through some gorgeous reef canyons. We saw lobsters and some huge crabs. My underwater camera battery died – of course – halfway through the dive. I know I say this on every dive trip, but someday I’ll remember that underwater my battery crashes after a single dive. I did manage to get in some great shots before the death of the battery, though:


Reef Canyons at Half Moon Wall


Fan coral

Lunch at Half Moon Caye
We had a lovely lunch on Half Moon Caye. The crew brought chicken, rice, and coconut pie. We sat at a picnic bench with 16-year-old Lauren and her father David from Toronto and we talked about Lauren’s college plans and upcoming model UN trip to NYC.

Half Moon Caye has a flock of red-footed boobies living in the trees. So we walked the beach path to the observation tower where we could see them.


Half Moon Caye


Us


Red Footed Booby

The red-footed booby, according to Wikipedia is “is the smallest of all boobies at 71 cm in length and with a 137 cm wingspan. It has red legs, and its bill and throat pouch are coloured pink and blue. This species has two plumage forms. The white phase is mostly white with black on the flight feathers. The brown form is brown with a white belly, rump, and tail.”

They apparently have a very elaborate mating ritual which includes harsh squawks and the mail inflating the huge balloon under his throat. One of the males in the distance was doing just this. I have a picture of it, but it’s hard to discern the difference between the orange balloon and the flowers on the trees.


In the middle of the pic is a big red and black spot – this is a black booby with his red neck inflated
I joked to Mike, “Look at all the work that guy has to do. And all you had to do was buy me a drink.”

Later we walked down to the beach to see what we could see. There we found a friendly pelican who let us get closer than most pelicans would:


Mike and the pelican


Amigos del Mar boat


Dock and boat

Aquarium
Our final dive was at a site called Aquarium – where we dove from one site to the next. No pics from this dive, but we had a turtle swim with us as we descended. Then we moved along a wall, letting the current carry us along. We spotted a small spotted drum fish under an outcropping, as well as a nurse shark and another moral eel. A lovely way to end a day of diving.

Trip Back to Ramon’s / San Diego Charger Girls
It was a long, long, loooooong trip back to Ambergris. We bumped along the big waves and constantly thought “Are we there yet?” – but no, we weren’t. Those were two very long hours and toward the end of it we were all feeling a little ill and restless to get back on dry land.

There was a funny part of our trip back, though. We made friends with two guys on the boat – they were traveling with their wives but the ladies didn’t dive – and they made mention of a couple they’d met the night before. Jeff said, “You’d know them if you saw them… she’s… well… she’s VERY attractive.”

I laughed, “Oh! You met Casie.” Casie and her boyfriend were on our dive trip the day before – a fact that made Mike very happy because Casie was stunning. She was young – probably in her early 20s – with a perfect figure and (it’s my journal, so I can say this) perfect breasts. They definitely weren’t natural – but they were practically perfect. She was so sweet, too, which made it easy to talk to her and appreciate how lovely she was. Anyway – one day later on our trip from the Blue Hole Jeff told us she’s a cheerleader for the San Diego Chargers (aka a Chargers Girl). So naturally when we got back on dry land Mike had to find her on the internet. I feel like this is journal-worthy because it was such a source of amusement for all of us. Here she is. She looks much older on the website than she does in real life – but yes she is that gorgeous.

Putting the Scuba Gear to Bed
Since this was our last dive day, we had to disassemble and clean all the scuba gear. Mike thinks this requires a bit more work than anticipated (upon asking me a question, he then answered himself: “Never mind. You’re all gear-centric right now.”) but I’ve seen enough salt-corrosion to really want to avoid it. So everything got fully rinsed.


Our gear, drying out from its last dive
This is a good point to note Mike’s new mask and snorkel. We went to the dive shop the week before to get him the gear, and part of that purchase included a neoprene strap for his mask. There were a few to choose from – mostly colors or nature-based – but he settled on a funny cartoon of the circle of life. It makes him laugh each time he sees it. Here he is demonstrating how that circle works:


Mike = The Big Fish


The mask and strap

Dinner at Wild Mango’s
There is one restaurant on Ambergris that’s notable for its fabulous food. It was closed on Monday because of the holiday (Baron Bliss Day), but we decided to try Wild Mangos for dinner this night. Unfortunately, because it’s one of the best places on the island it’s also the busiest. The matre’d told us it would be a 30 minute wait, so we went back to Blue Water Grill for a drink and an appetizer of sushi while we waited.

30 minutes later we were seated at Wild Mango’s awaiting our orders of snapper and Belikins. Definitely the best food we’ve had since being here. My lime-ginger-snapper was divine, and we splurged on a brownie sundae. So good.

On our way out we ran into Lauren, David, and mom Maureen again (Mike calls them “our Canadian Friends”) who laughed that we’ll have to plan our dinner together tomorrow night too. Sadly, we told that we weren’t going to be here so they were on their own.

Drinks at BC’s
We stopped by a beach bar called BC’s on our way back to Ramon’s, but there weren’t many people there and we were both exhausted from our long day. After only one beer we called it a night.