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Friday 27 Jul
Caye Caulker, Belize

Manatees and the Blue Hole

We left the jungle surroundings of Tikal and were at the beautiful islands of Caye Caulker about 7 hours later. What a difference it all was, amazingly coloured water and more importantly a beautiful sea breeze to keep us cool. Unusually there was no mob to greet the boat, I think the population here are just too relaxed to care about offering us hotels and diving.

We had put down our bag about 15 minutes before we hopped on a manatee tour. our first glimpse of a manatee was incredibly odd. The vision of a floating stone comes to mind. He turned to look at us as we snapped him with our underwater camera. He had the face of a old prehistoric creature with huge eyes, a monstrous stoney grey tail and without being rude I could identify quite clearly he was a male (it was mating season). He was at least three to four metres long and made the sealions we had swam with before in Gallapagos look like babies, even the huge males.

We followed him from place to place, watching him go to the surface for air and then dive back down again.The rest of the group went off somewhere else to snorkel but I needed more time with the auld fellow. I swam beside him as he came to the surface within about a metre of him and dived with him as he went to the bottom again until I could hold my breath no longer. Incredible!

After this we went to a place called stink ray alley. 100s of sting rays circled our boat (they were feeding them which I don't really agree with but thats another story). I turned around to see Anna asking if she could hold one ( she really is quite mad). Two minutes later she was cradling a sting ray in her arms, staring it in the eyes as it thrashed its tail. Yes I am going out with a mad woman.
The biggest baracuda I have seen yet circled us menacingly, and they really do terrify me. Their teeth are just so sharp looking.

After that we went on a great snorkel trip with sightings of a nurse shark, some great coral (particlarly good brain coral), really colourful fish and a lobster shooting through the water. What a fantastic day. Seeing the lobster swimming had us so hungry we ordered lobster that night ( about 8 euro for a full barbecued lobster, yummy).

The following day we went the dive the world famous blue hole. Descending 40m below the surface was quite nerve wracking especially when you look up to see how far you are down. Worse still was below, there was no bottom, just blue depths below. However we soon had our mind taken off the depth by stalactites the size of houses reaching down. The water was so blue....

As we meandered round the stalactites we could see giant groupers and more impressively was the first reef shark we saw. It was incredible but I was ordered to a higher depth by the dive masters. As I looked up to descend I could see the underbelly of 9 or 10 reef sharks above me. As Anna and I hovered beside each other a curiuos reef shark approached us so close we could see its teeth (about 2 metres), the cleaner fish swimming with it and its amazing sleek body. It was so different then snorkeling with the white tips in Gallapagos and watching the way they moved from below them was exceptional. Unfortunately we had to surface, we were in deep water and the air was running low. We had just finished the best dive of our lives!!!!

Two more dives followed which included sea turtles, schools of fishswimming with us for the whole dive, a tarpin (huge silver fish as long as myself), stingrays and the spotted ray (which looks more like an underwater bird)..We were so happy but for me the huge green Moray eel in the last minute of our dive of the day was immense. Sharp teeth, a face so funny in a mean way and a green body about 7 foot long....What a day!

That night we celebrated with lobster with our fellow divers and of course the obligatory rums on offer....Yes we are beginning to love ourselves :-)

That day as I waited for the bus at Belize a local approached me. "I'm not a badman, not a badman, I'm your blac brother, a farmer, a farmer of weed, you want sum, otherwise you buy me coke" .I let my black brother down and he left with no coke. In truth a lot of the locals here were a strange breed and I didn't like a lot of them ( very arrogant) but of course some were lovely like big Fran the lobster maker yummy...

Well belize, thanks for the underwater beauty, your white sandy beaches and crystal waters wer n't too bad either :-)

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