Swimming with sharks and stingrays

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End Jul 06, 2011

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Flag of Belize  , Belize Cayes,
Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 116 April 29th continued - The boat only takes 75 minutes to land on a pier off the east side of Caye Caulker. The boat resembled a large yacht than the style of boats we are used to on the Isle of Wight. I jump off, grab my bag and head towards a cabin that is cheap and has single rooms. Nuts, they are full. I try two more before I head north to the recommended hostel on the Island, Bella's. Of course, they have a spare bed, it's super cheap too. The guy who runs the place does not rush, seems very laid back and when he said he would go get some sheets for the bed, I waited 20 minutes but then headed out for some lunch.

I tried to eat at a place recommended in the lonely planet but it was closed, so settled for a BLT sandwich with some fries and a lime juice. I headed back to the hostel, changed and proceeded further north to the split, literally one island was split in half during a hurricane, so the gap is called the split. I walked slowly into the water, it was warm and so was I. I had to climb over a broken concrete platform and swam around. The coral was not too far from the beach, I found some raised sand banks to sit on and sat there watching the world go by. I had the unusual experience in Tikal of not applying sun lotion and not getting burnt, but with the water, I had put some lotion on, but not much. The water was so clear, one could look down and make out a star fish sat in the sea bed. I must have sat there for a while. It was around 430pm and life is good. I dragged myself out of the water and cut my little toe on my right foot in doing so, it
looked like a bad cut as it carried on bleeding when I got back to the hostel. Before I got back to the hostel, I witnessed some yachts just docked off the west coast of the island, so pleasing to the eye. When walking back to my hostel, some old man on his bike, cycled past and shouted 'What`s up ginger!!??'. First time I've been called ginger by a local on my whole trip, cheeky man!

Back at the hostel, I shower and am unsure about what I'll be doing for the evening. I start chatting to a British girl from Newcastle who met someone else on the island who was from the Isle of Wight, she was convinced I would bump into him. For some reason her friend from Sunderland wasn't being social at all. I guess I can understand that in some respects. I had to pop out and get some cash and this is when I met the three little kittens that slept outside our room, with their mum. They spent all day fighting each other while their mum slept high up on a table or chair where the little kittens couldn't get to her. When I came back, I got chatting to Linda from Denver. I seem to have the couchsurfing adventure on my mind all the time as it's all I'm talking about at the moment. She was a host in Korea for a year and has also surfed a few times herself. Seeing as the British girls were eating in, Linda and I went to Wish Willy for some Shrimps, in his special sauce, with rice. Food was tasty and the company fun. She even gave me grief about not replacing my broken flip flops, and later, after we went to get ice cream, pointed out a shop I could get the flip flops from. I enjoyed Lindas company greatly, just a shame when I hit Denver she will still be travelling.

Back at the hostel, I sat on the table and played with the kittens and the Sunderland girl joined me. Then another lad, Josh, from Yorkshire joined us and we chatted for a while. Sunderland girl went to sleep then some idiot from the USA, Callum, joined us, straight away, told us about some whore house he went to in Belize city, where he said him and his brother just played pool. He then started talking about how dangerous the place was and that it was like being in a third world country. I couldn't listen anymore and responded. So, with running water, a strong economy, employment, a good health care system, heat, electricity etc etc, how can that be a third world country. Because it was the most dangerous place he had been to, he was so ignorant of the actual third world countries that do exist. I would say, on my trip, Bolivia is the closest one would come to a third world nation, but certainly not Belize. Josh made his excuses and left, I got up to do the same, but as I filled up my water bottle, I asked Callum where his brother was, he said he was getting laid,........he then said something very odd. I had a conversation with Linda that I am staying with more couchsurfing female hosts than male hosts as men seem to lower the conversation instantly when around other guys, I find this really uncomfortable, especially when male strangers are making very inappropriate comments about women or sex or whatever. So, as I'm filling my water bottle and a small pause from telling me his brother was getting laid, he said
'I enjoy having sex too!'. What am I supposed to say to that?? Oh really, that's interesting!! I went straight for my bed and laid their awake rather than talk to that idiot.

The night was not good. I was being eaten alive. I could feel bed bugs working around my body, I put more clothes on and it made no difference. There were also many windows open with metal chicken wire on, so surely mosquito's could get through that. Plus, it was so hot, sweat was pouring off me. I didn't drop off till 4am with bumps and new bites all over my arms and mid section.

Miles walked 2.51
Temp 34C

Day 117 April 30th - Today, I am going on a snorkelling tour around the coral. I wake early to catch some football and end up with three kittens running all over me. You know I love it!! I watch West Brom v Villa while chatting to the British girls again. The Newcastle girl had great knowledge of football, so we debated for a while, Josh joined us and there was a girl from Canada who was on the snorkel tour the day before but forgot to apply sun tan lotion above and below her bikini line on her bum, so she was finding it difficult to sit down.

The tour was starting at 1030am, I grabbed some juice for breakfast, Josh was also on the tour. I said goodbye to Linda, the British girls and burnt bum girl and we headed to Raggamuffins to join up with the tour. There were about 40 people there. We were divided into three boats, with Josh and I on different boats. Nevermind. So on my boat was the young lad from the Isle of Wight. So funny. He didn't seem British to begin with, but it turns out he grew up in Ventnor. So strange. First person I've unintentionally met from the Island from every tip I've been on in the last ten years or so. He was a cheeky chappy and clearly had his eye on one of the girls from Saskatchewan. So there were also two girls from that province in Canada, a few guys from the USA, and two recently qualified doctors from Bristol. Our boat driver and tour guide were Chris and Jacob respectfully.

We left the dock and sailed away. There would be three stops and after each stop we would be fed. How exciting. I think I was more looking forward to the food than anything else. The one problem I had was exposure to the sun. Sadly, I sat down under the boat, I had to, it was so hot and there was not shade on top from the sun. Everyone else sat up top, but I really wasn't fussed, I wasn't going to risk bad sun burn (like Rio) just to have conversation with a few people for a few hours. Anyway, people kept popping down to chat to the pastey white man anyway!!

The first stop, we geared up. I've been deep sea diving before and didn't enjoy it, I have been snorkelling before but not with an organised trip. The first place we stopped at we jumped in and went chasing after a large Mantis. I managed to catch a sight of it while it swam away, it also took a big aqua crap while it swam away, how sweet. We also saw a few turtles and had 30 minutes to float around looking at the coral. It's such a funny feeling being totally reliant upon a tube feeding you oxygen. Every now and then, you suck up some sea water and it burns the back of your throat. I'm sure I must have a been a sight, frequently standing tall, treading water with my fins trying to clear my throat and spitting all sorts of crap out of my throat. After twenty minutes I had enough. I took an extra tshirt, so one for the ocean and my popper top to chill out on the boat with. I sat on the edge of the boat to dry off, Chris asked us 'don't get my boat wet man, you dry up top'. We were given a large bowl of pineapple chunks and water melon to eat. I had 5 or 6 large chunks of pineapple and only one slice of watermelon. I wasn't so keen on it. There was plenty of water to drink too.

So, on our way to the next stop, there was reggae music booming from the speakers down below, the ship was swaying from side to side and I couldn't see out the window as to where we were going. One of the doctors from Bristol came down to chat to me, they are volunteering in a hospital in Belize, she kept talking to me, but you know that feeling when saliva keeps entering your mouth and at any point you are going to be sick? Well, that was me. I just turned to her and said, uhh I think I need to be sick!! I squeezed into the toilet, a toilet than you either pee while on your knees or bend down considerably to pee. Well, I was on my knees of course and couldn't bring anything up. I'm not sure whether it was the water melon or the boat and being sea sick, but how could I be sea sick, I've been catching boats all my life!! Anyway, I didn't throw up, I reached a few times but nothing was there. Chris tried to give me some pills but I went to where they steered the boat and looked out to the sea for a more stable view of the ocean. Oh man, what a plonker. The doctors seemed to care, the one I was talking to even said she felt ill from sitting next to me for a few minutes.

It wasn't long before we were at the next stop. Jacob threw some food in the water and there were sharks, sting rays and some smaller fish, even a seagull trying to get in on the action!!
There was only one thing for it, gear up and jump in. So, we all know what happened to Steve Irwin? It's one of those flashbulbs memories, I remember exactly where I was when I heard the sad news. My brothers, their partners and one of my friends were in the south of France, Pete had just gone to get breakfast with Dave and got a paper and I remember being so sad, but to fall to a sting ray of all creatures that he handled. So, everyone was a little nervous about the sting rays. We swan around the boat and went straight for the middle of the pile of sharks. Jacob picked one up, turned it upside down and started ticking it!! He turned it the right way and allowed us all to feel it's scratchy skin. He then picked up a sting ray, with the spear facing outwards. Some people had underwater cameras and were taking pictures, he allowed us to swim behind his shoulders to feel the sting ray. At one point, one of the Bristol nurses swam near the spear and Jacob dropped the sting ray and gave us all a bit of a lecture. We had another twenty minutes to swim with the sharks, I couldn't help but put both hands over my heart when I swam near a sting ray. Even though they were at the bottom of the ocean, there was a really big one who kept swimming near me and giving me the evil eye. A great experience, and we're not talking great white sharks, some vegetarian ones.

After this part, was lunch time. A large fish and salad roll, man it was so good. They also offered some orange squash equivalent. We were all buzzing after seeing the sharks and sting rays.

The ocean was gorgeous as well, so clear, so calm, so divine! At last, the music was changed to something more chilled out, Bob Marley. This I could enjoy. I chatted to the doctors some more, to Chris and Jacob before again it was time to jump in again. This time we were in some shallow waters around deep coral waters. Jacob told us to follow him closely and I did just that. We saw another turtle missing a leg, Jacob swam passed some coral, clapped his hands and an eel came out. Something dangerous apparently, but Jacob was happy to mess with it. We then went on a long swim around the deep coral, he must have pointed out twenty different types of fish and all the different types of coral. His knowledge was excellent and to the point as well. I swam next to him most of the way around to hear what he had to say. At one point, he dove 10 metres to swim through a cave underwater, I knew I wouldn't be able to equalise to go that deep, some others tried but couldn't follow him. I was now getting tired, you need so much patience to keep flapping your legs to slowly move around, your arms are pretty useless down there too. We finally made it back to the boat and it was now rum punch time!!

They had one of those water bottles that you see in an office full of rum punch. They also brought some ceviche on the boat and some nachos to dip. How perfect, they raised the sail and it stretched out to the right so it provided perfect protection from the sun while we slowly made our way back to Caye Caulker. Two hours of drinking punch, eating ceviche and hanging out with some cool people. A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I forget the names of most of them, but the lad from the Isle of Wight, pictured next to me was called Sonny. Yep, that was his real name, can't be many of those on the IOW. I must have downed myself a good 6/7 glasses of punch, the guides were so keen to fill up my glass again. The scene was marvellous, the company fun and the drinks and food delicious. The tour went passed the allocated end time, but the guys driving the boat didn't seem to care, what a life they lead, enjoying the ocean and sunshine day after day with gringos. Not a bad life.

We finally do dock, I grab my crap and plod on back to the hostel, feeling pretty dehydrated and legs feeling very stiff. I shower back at the hostel, say hello to some new people, mess around with the kittens again and look out the back door to see an enticing sunset!

So tonight I will go to the supermarket and buy some food to cook in the hostel kitchen. I settle for some packs of noodles and a tin of sardines and it comes to a US dollar, sweet! As I'm preparing my unhealthy meal, two young German girls start to prepare theirs. Nele, 19 and Joana 20 have been travelling for 8 months and have one month left, some time in California and a week in New York City. Of course, I give them a few tips on where to go in NYC but the main problem they will face is the drinking age of 21. I have suggested a few dive bars for them to try where they might not ask for id. Our meals are ready at the same time and we settle on the table to eat. We are then joined by Josh and a French-Canadian called Simon, they bought some food from a vendor and also bought a bottle of rum and a bottle of tequila!! It was like eating dinner with your own family, so funny. We must have sat there for hours, chatting away while watching Josh and Simon finish off a bottle of rum. Being a northern lad, he was encouraging everyone else to drink. Some Norwegian dude then joined our table and seemed up for a shot of tequila, so we all went for a couple of shots. We didn't have any glasses to use, so some bottle caps were used, Josh used the bottle and if you look at the picture, the Norwegian dude is using a ladel. So funny! We did have a lime courtesy of German girls and salt they had when travelling in Australia. So, we did a couple of shots and then Josh was encouraging everyone to go out. I really had too many noodles and was quite happy to not go out, I know what usually happens when I go out for one, it turns into eight drinks and some drunk phone calls! He twisted the German girls arms and then they twisted my arm to go out.
From talking to the British girls the night before, you're supposed to hit I and I first, then Oceanside oh and then the nightclub that lives next door to the hostel. We walk along the length of the main part of the island to get to I and I, Josh on the way picks up more people to join us, he seems like he's in one of those 'I want to have a fun night' moods. Good for him. The club is like a small town house, the music is upstairs and we grab some beers and hit the dance floor.

My first beer disappeared pretty quickly and I grabbed a second one. The music was very Western and very modern but I didn't have a problem with that. The Norwegian dude soon went and I left with the German girls. I wanted to get up early next morning to watch Man u v Arsenal and did not want to feel rough for some potential long bus journeys tomorrow. What with the tequila and some beers, I kept going on about NYC to the German girls but they were telling me how awesome Hamburg is, so at some point I need to go and find out for myself, I do feel Sweden will be a first stop off in the summer.

I dress up for bed, I really don't want to get bitten again, it doesn't take long before I am fast asleep. An eventful day!

Miles walked 0.6
Temp 34C 92F

Day 118 May 1 - I wake to an interesting site. The driver from my boat tour from yesterday, Chris, is fast asleep on the couch in front of the TV in the hostel. Clearly he doesn't live here but must have had such a good night next door that he couldn't be bothered to walk home so used our sofa instead. I had to quietly turn on the TV, mute the sound but the my radioactive alarm went of. He didn't stir one bit. We are talking 7am. So I sit on a wooden chair and watch the game. After a while, Chris wakes up, recognises me, bumps my fist then disappears. The kittens and Tony get the sofa back. Slowly, others wake up and I got talking to a girl from Slovenia when Arsenal score. I was polite and continued listening to the conversation though I was pretty disappointed. It was also the first person from Slovenia that I met travelling, a really pleasant girl, she too was going to be working on the island for a while. I then met a German girl who was going to be teaching at a local school. Simon turns up. He ended up leaving a club at 4am, after watching some strippers, male and female apparently, he looked worse for wear. Then Josh turned up and had a long two hour breakfast and was unsure whether he was going to eat, whether he was going for a swim and whether he was going to leave the island. The German girls got up and had breakfast, so it was a busy kitchen/sofa area. I had the little kittens sleeping around me, the little ginger one was sat in the gap between my legs (I was sitting cross legged on the sofa) and I watched as his head slowly lifted backwards and he was fast asleep. I've never seen a cat sleep like that before, so funny. He must have thought I was some long lost brother! Soon though, mum called out and it was feeding time again. The Slovenian girl sat back down next to me again and I announce to everyone she is from Slovenia.

In the end, Josh and I went swimming while the others went on a snorkel tour. I advised the girls to lotion up their butts to prevent the sun burn that sun burnt bum girl had.

Josh and I hit the area where I went swimming the other day. We jumped in off a small dock and floated around for a bit. I could only hang out for 30 minutes as I still needed to pack, and then catch a boat at noon for Belize city. We ended up swimming into the Split but this wasn't a great idea as it took a long time to try swim against the current and back to dry land. My legs were tired from the day before too.

We head back to the hostel, on the way, the guy on the bicycle shouts out again 'what's up ginger?!' this causes Josh to laugh hysterically! I quickly shower, pack and say goodbye to Josh. I then need to hit an ATM before buying my boat ticket. I pick up the ticket and see the boat has yet to arrive so I find a small food vendor and order some curried chicken fried rice. While the guy is cooking he can see the dock so knows when I need to run off.

The food is made in time and again it is delicious. I board the boat and it takes just over an hour to hit Belize city. I had no plan, I was either going to stay one more night in Belize city or get a bus to Guate City. We land and I figure a good night sleep and catching up with my blog in Belize city would work. I would then get up early and spend a day getting to Guate City. I walked to the guesthouse I stayed in previously but they were full, I quickly turned around and remember seeing a bus that was heading to Flores, I could get to Flores and then catch a late night bus to Guate. I manage to jump on the bus in time but the battery was dead. Then 4 gringos are outside the bus push starting the big lump of a mini bus, but what does the driver do, aim for a hill, of course we couldn't push the bus up that. Instead we pushed it down a one way street and got it going, I managed to jump in as it started and he parked for the others to get in.

It takes 2/3 hours to hit the border. In the bus are some more German girls, a couple of Aussie dudes and a guy from Japan. The bus was relaxed and we all had two seats to ourselves so I could kick back and drop off while listening to some tunes. I was the first to cross the border and to get my exit stamp, the guy looks at my passport and asks how my wedding was? I'm half asleep and totally confused, did I get married? Am I in trouble? He carries on asking why his wedding to his wife wasn't broadcast on TV.......OK, I get it, he's having a laugh. He calls me Prince Anthony (has a nice ring to it) and asks what Kate Border is up to this weekend. I tell him she's hunting while I'm flying my big helicopter, so unusual for an immigration office to be taking the mick out of you compared to when you hit USA immigration.

On the other side, I change some Belize money for Guatemalan, get my entry stamp for Guatemala and drop my remaining coins on a can of fizzy orange. I chat briefly to the German girls, they are heading for Honduras but for some reason have come back into Guatemala to get to Belize where if they had researched properly, they could have travelled south through Belize and caught a boat. Not sure who they spoke to but they also thought there was a late night bus from Flores to Honduras but again this bus doesn't leave till next morning, so they will have to spend another night in Flores at Los Amigos. I would jump at the chance but they didn't seem to like the place. Anyway, it just shows how far some research can support your trip. If Luke remembers rightly, during November and December I was glued to my lonely planet guides working out routes and planning some itineraries. Sadly for these girls, they only have 13 days left and will have wasted two days getting from Belize city to Honduras.

Another two hours later we are in Santa Elena where the bridge to Flores is located. I am dropped off at the main bus station in Santa Elena and select a 830pm bus to Guatemala City. Seeing as it was only 6pm, I didn't want to get their too early and pay for a night in a hostel. I got chatting to a Canadian lady with a Belize husband and two children. They were here to apply for a visa for her husband but because he had a Belize passport, they were not allowed to join us in the mini bus from Belize City to the border, they instead had to take a chicken bus and catch the bus on the other side of the border. Shocking! Anyway, she had to buy first class tickets as, in her words 'I can`t ask my children not to pee for 9 hours'. I can certainly tell my body that!
I wander outside and find some street food for next to nothing. I'm down to very little cash and the ATM isn't working, but I have enough for some chicken with rice, beans and pasta, not bad, not bad at all! 

I kill time by charging my itouch, watching some three year old do handstands while his mum was breastfeeding another child, I also repacked my bag and put my shoes back on incase the bus got cold.

It wasn't long before I was squashed into a sweatbox of a bus and we were on our way to Guatemala city. Possibly my last night bus for a while??

Belize is awesome. I would recommend anyone living in the USA to go visit, there are cheap flights to Cancun and then a small bus ride from there. I didn't spend long enough in the country but I did go to where I wanted to most. The place is chilled out, as stated, it is not a third world country, it has a Caribbean vibe and has amazing weather, great beaches and activities to undertake. I will certainly see myself returning to Belie, to see more of the south in Hopkins, where a more local language is spoken and of course there are less tourists.
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Dave on

Looks like you had all sorts there.... I think he liked you Ant!! Snorkelling looked amazing!

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