When I got there it was mobbed. I saw the whole church group again. They were all trying on snorkels and flippers. The guys recognized me so I paid them off, but I had to show them my passport, so I told them I'll get it after the trip, they could trust me. I tried on a few snorkels and got advice on how to pick one properly. Eventually I got one and started to learn how to breathe through the snorkel properly
. I also made sure the mask was tight. It was funny because the church group was done ransacking the place but some kids couldn't pay for the snorkels, so they asked their chaperon to "barter" with the guy. I kept on thinking that they wanted to "bargain" with the guy, because I'm pretty sure that the snorkel shack place didn't want any musical instruments or a group sing as payment for a snorkel rental. I was worried that there would be such a large group for the snorkelling trip, but it turns out the large group was only there for rentals. They seemed fun and all, but I liked a small group because I could easily see myself getting lost on my first trip out. In the end it was me and two German girls. We introduced ourselves. Their names were Katerine and Anna. At first I thought they were sisters, but they explained that they were just travelling together. One is backpacking and the other wanted to travel a bit on her side trip away from Antigua. So they met at Flores airport and joined together. It was good because I got good advice about how to get around Flores and Tikal. I knew I really wanted to head over to Tikal, so I needed advice on how to navigate that part of the journey.
We all walked over to another agency where we picked up more people, I guess they needed to consolidate to save costs. We passed by and got to see the entire island of Caye Caulker, and it was interesting to see how uninhabited the northern half of the island is. There's a little channel in the middle called "the split" where there are no roads to pass. It didn't exist before, but due to the hurricane, it was created. We got to Hol-Chan Reserve and we got off the boat. I quickly learned how to breathe, but I quickly learned that it's tough and you need a good grip around the mouthpiece. It was amazing. The reef in Belize is reported to be the second longest reef in the world, second only behind Australia's Great Barrier Reef
. And the coral there was amazing. The tropical fish were so colorful. But the reef was so bountiful. There was something everywhere. It wasn't like, oooh, over there's some coral, let's see if fish are. There were fish everywhere and so many types of coral, there was fan coral, brain coral and large mounds as well. And it was the perfect time of day because we were so close to the coral that we could almost touch it. Of course, you don't because it can ruin the coral. And it was nice having only five people in our group because our guide would point out things to everyone and we all got a chance to see it. He was a pretty funny guy as well and was able to deal with the amateurs but still be good enough to lead the experts as well. We had a water break as we headed over to Shark Ray Alley. Basically there were a lot of nurse sharks and rays that would come out when the fish came out. The marine animals are reinforced to come out because pretty much every day the snorkelers would feed them, so they're essentially domesticated even though they're actually in the wild. They were fun to watch. And once when I was snorkeling around, the guys from the other boat threw some fish right at me. So the sharks came right up to me. Of course, they're not dangerous, but I was a bit shocked and got to see a good view of a feeding. The rays were neat though, they were fun to watch. Then we headed off to Caye Ambergris for lunch. We were on our own for lunch, so we had to figure out where to go and stuff. The girls and I decided to wander around the place together. We came upon her friends right at the dock though. One girl, Anna met up with a classmate of hers from the Antigua Spanish School and her family, and they talked about dinner that night. We thought Anna was going to eat with them, but in the end, she didn't, so Anna and I ate at the Jamaican place while Katerine ate pineapple and wandered around.
Then we headed back to the boat for the rest of the journey
. We had the Coral Gardens part of the journey. Basically it was the worse snorkelling part and also some manatee watching. The coral was okay, but really deep so we didn't get to enjoy it as much. And the manatee watching was boring because it took a long time to find one, and when we did, it was just sleeping anyway. But a lot of people will take boat trips just to watch manatees anyway, so bonus for me. I saw one of those boat trips when we were heading back after the snack, and they didn't see a manatee and they spent all that money for nothing. It's not like I went on the trip to watch manatees anyway. So we headed back and at the end of the trip, the girls and I agreed to meet for dinner that night. We figured that if we couldn't all eat together, then Katerine and I could go for dinner while Anna and the family went.
I went home and did some chores (passport, laundry, food) and saw this amazing bakery on the back streets. They had fresh cinnamon rolls that were divine. So plump and fluffy. I remember those cinnamon rolls because they're probably the best I've ever had. I made sure to go back every single day to buy two or three, and eventually I learned the schedule when they make them so that I could get them when they're best.
At night I met the German girls again and met a family from Madison, WI and they were great company for the meal
. They were originally from Vancouver but move to Madison. They felt like they were west coast. One of the girls in the family was doing alcohol counseling and we talked a lot about MET-CBT and how underutilized it is in counseling when compared to twelve-steps. The family all had lobster because it's good here. I'm not a huge fan of lobster, especially when the only style they had was grilled. Lobster is usually dry as it is, so I can only enjoy a steamed one. I had fish instead. And it was good. The funny part of the story is that I didn't have much cash on hand so I had to use a traveller's check and the guy asked me to sign and put my passport number. I tried, but I don't make a point of remembering the number. Anyway, it was a big tip, so they should be happy.
Then we all walked down the beach to our hotel. The family's hotel was just further down from mine. And at least we figured out that everyone has salt water showers. I guess on an island, it's hard to get fresh water. It's nasty, especially when you try to shower after just coming from the ocean. But at least the shower water is fairly diluted compared to the sea. Or at least there's less salt on my towel after drying myself off.
In the morning, I ate a granola bar and made sure to put on a lot of suntan lotion. I also made sure to bring the whole bottle with me as well. Since I'd never been snorkelling before, I only brought a t-shirt, money and suntan lotion with me in a plastic bag. I also made sure to lock up my belongings and hid my passport in the room, since I knew the maid would be around to clean the room. I walked out in the nice morning sunshine toward the snorkel shack.