Going deep, in the fin flips of Jacques Cousteau

Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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Flag of Belize  , Belize Cayes,
Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We made our way overland to cross the border into Belize. The national language is English here but it takes a while for us to realise that we can say "Thanks" in English. The people of Belize mostly understand Spanish as well. We passed through Belize City to make our way to the Island of Caye Caulker. Spending most of the day travelling, we rushed off the boat and headed straight to a dive shop to book our trip to the Blue Hole the next day. With a 6.30am departure booked it was off to dinner at Rosie's where you’re greeted at the front of the restaurant with seafood grilling over hot coals. You choose your lobster, fish, crab or prawns and they prepare it and grill if for you. Pretty good advertising and extremely fresh.

For those of you who don’t know about the Blue Hole. Aerially it’s a wonder of nature. You would have seen a few photos taken from above of a massive Blue Hole right in the middle of the ocean. It was made famous by Jacques Cousteau in 1978 when he went there to film for his TV show. It was believed to be dry cave that collapsed, making a big blue hole. Of course the cave collapsed many thousands of years before Cousteau made it popular. Useless trivia, the John Denver song, “Calypso” is actually about the ship that Cousteau used when he was exploring the seas. That’s how you get lyrics like these:

To sail on a dream, on a crystal clear ocean
To ride on the crest of the wild raging storms
To work in the service of life and the living
In search of the answers to questions unknown

From Caye Caulker it’s a 3 hour boat trip so it’s pretty boring to get out there. When we got there, I think we went through Cousteau’s channel, made famous by the big guy when he dynamited path through the wall to get to the inside. It’s a very deep dive, way deeper than we are supposed to be going on our open water certifications. It’s actually classed as an advanced dive but we were keen to do it. I think that Jacques Cousteau went to the very bottom of it, some 430ft in a submarine. We were only going to about 140ft and it’s so deep that we can only stay down there for 7 or 8 minutes before doing a whole lot of decompression stops on the way up. You know it’s pretty serious when during the briefing, the dive master says, “When we go down, we all go down at the same time. If you don’t follow us down immediately then don’t think you can follow us a minute or so later. It will be dark, we will be gone and you will be lost and on your own.” A nice way to say that you’re basically screwed. There were plenty of other such warnings but I won’t bore/scare you with the details. Things like Nitrogen Narcosis, thinking you can see the bottom but you can’t, getting left behind and the worst of all, possibly not getting to dive the other two dives during the day if you didn’t follow instructions.

What makes the Blue Hole such an awesome dive is not the wildlife that you see there because you’re going so deep that there isn’t much to see. It’s actually the stalactites that you’re there to see. These are the deepest known underwater stalactites and are a wonder of nature because they have been thousands and thousands of years in the making. When you’re down there, they’re big enough to swim amongst and through and they’re quite eerie because you’ll be descending down this wall then BAM, they jump at you out of nowhere. Just awesome.

We jumped into the water, then shortly after we were given the thumbs down signal to start the descent. The water was actually quite cold and promised to get colder as we got lower. The first part of the descent is a short distance of about 10m where we hit a sandy base. We swim a little further then the sandy base drops off and we start going straight down. The whole way down, you’re just concentrating on staying with the group and knowing that you’re heading into deep, deep waters and equalzing the pressure in your ears. It’s very dark and all you can really see is the silver of other peoples air tanks below you and the bubbles they are blowing out. Then, out of nowhere we get to our destination. The stalactites jump right out at you. Everyone level’s of and starts exploring. The stalactites are so big and the spaces between them so wide that we can swim through them and really explore them. The pressure on your body is also pretty intense and you feel it in your stomach and legs as you kick forward. We all know we don’t have long here so everyone gets a good look in and 8 minutes later, we’re starting to head back up for our decompression stops. We level off at 3 or 4 different depths so that our nitrogen levels are nice and safe for the dives we have ahead.

We had a blast and the photos you can see here are of us at the shallower dives where we got to see plenty of coral and wildlife. A special thanks to our friend Nicolina for bringing her camera and underwater housing to the dive. I can also thank her for making me seriously consider buying one for our dives in the Galapagos Islands.

For lunch, we stopped off at Half Moon Caye where a colony of rare Red Footed Boobies (birds) could be seen. If you look closely, you can see them filling up their chests with air and showing a massive red pouch-like bag under their beaks. I’m sure that’s not how a biologist would describe it but you can google the exact terminology if you so wish. We should be seeing the Blue Footed variety in the Galapagos in a few months. Then it was back to the Caye Caulker for more lobster and fresh seafood.

We know we're a little behind with the blog but we've typed a lot of them up, just getting them uploaded is the hard part. Finding a place to do wifi is hard and the places here that have internet can be a little restrictive with people using their own USB sticks to upload stuff. Stay with us!

Our next blog entry is going to be from Guatemala where we pay a bullshit border “tax” that doesn’t actually exist and see the shakiest, steepest, highest wooden stairs we’ve ever encountered!
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Judi Becker on

Thats what I have been waiting for. They are incredible pictures and I am so glad you had a friend with an underwater camera....you will treasure these forever. Dylan was excited by the Nachos more though!

kathi on

awesome amazing pics! what an adventure

Kylie on

Haha...Red Footed Boobies!! :) :)

Nic on

Hahaha, yeah I know! We´ll see lots more in the Galapagos. Our tour leader in Mexico had a shirt from the Galapagos that said "I love Boobies" (meaning the birds) hahahahaha

Prabu on

WOW! Very jealous...I can't believed they just let you dive that deep on the open water cert. 140 feet is almost 50m down!

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