The main reason we chose Belize for our honeymoon was for the SCUBA diving. Off the coast of Belize is the second largest barrier reef in the world, topped only by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Also on our list of places to dive was the Blue Hole, located about 60 miles off of the mainland. We could see the reef from the plane, and it just seemed to go on forever and ever.
We decided to do 2 afternoon dives on our first day there. The nice thing about Ambergris Caye is that no matter where you are staying, any of the dive shops will come and pick you up on the pier outside of your hotel. It was so nice not to have to schlep all of our gear into a taxi every day. The reef is just a 5 minute boat ride from the shore, so we were there in no time. The first dive was an 80 foot reef dive with some swim-throughs called Tacklebox. It was just us and a dive master, which was really nice. Since we were too deep for my crappy disposable camera, I didn’t get photos on this dive. Here we are on a different dive, so we’ll just pretend for now.
After the first dive we headed back to the dive shop for a 45 minute surface interval, and snapped this photo.
For the record, this is the last time I am buying one of those craptastic disposable underwater cameras. Half the time it wouldn’t take pictures underwater, even though it said it was rated to 50 feet. When it did work, the pictures pretty much sucked, so it wasn’t worth the money. Next time we want to get an underwater casing for Steve’s digital camera, which should work much better. Problem being they go for around $200, but I think it would be worth it.
The second dive of the day was awesome. Our dive master told us we would probably see some nurse sharks, and threw some fish in the water before we dove in to attract them. I am still kicking myself for not having the camera on this dive, because what happened next was incredible. As we got down to around 50 feet, I looked down and there were big nurse sharks everywhere. They look like this:
At first I was a bit nervous to get near them, but then I saw our dive master start grabbing and petting them. They were so friendly, it was almost like they were playing with him. I got down deeper and grabbed one by the fin. It turned around and came right next to me so I could pet it. We got to stay there and play with them for about 5 or 10 minutes, which was so cool. We also got to see a moray eel on this dive, as well as a spotted eagle ray. Overall a fantastic dive.
We were dropped off back at our hotel, and planned to get picked up the next day at 8:30 am for 2 morning dives.
We woke up the next day and saw that the weather had changed dramatically overnight. The first day it was hot and sunny, perfect. Now we woke up to an overcast, cool, windy day. Not ideal, but it doesn’t matter too much for diving, because you are underwater anyways. We got picked up and went to the dive shop, where we met up with the rest of the divers. There were 5 of us in all, and we took off for the reef. The water was much rougher today, and the waves breaking on the reef were pretty big. We did the dive, didn’t see much, and decided not to go for a second dive. I was freezing and a bit queasy from the waves, and visibility underwater was not great. The other 3 divers decided to scrap the second dive as well.
For our last day on the island, we scheduled a trip to the Blue Hole.
It is a limestone sinkhole about 1000 feet across and 480 feet deep. The day before we went there, Matt Lauer was at the Blue Hole filming a segment for the Today Show. Since it takes so long to get there, we had to be picked up at 5:30 am to go to the dive shop. Don’t I look chipper?
Ok, not really I guess, but at least I am smiling. The trip to get to the Blue Hole was long. And rough. And long. Especially when you are feeling green and queasy. Once we got out of the calm area that was protected by the reef, the swells were big. There were two deep sea crossings that took over an hour each, separated by another calm reef area. I started to feel sick and was worried that my dives would be ruined if I didn’t start to feel better. I moved to an area of the boat that was out in the open air, and I felt a lot better. We made it there and were ready to dive. The dive into the Blue Hole is very unique. It is also very deep. Because of the depth, our bottom time was very limited. We were told that if we couldn’t make it down to 130 feet in 2 minutes, we would be sent back up to the boat so as not to limit anyone else’s dive.
With that, we went down fast. I was a little bit nervous about the depth, as the deepest I had ever been before was 85 feet. I made it down without a problem and it was surreal. It was pretty dark, and there were gigantic stalactites left over from when it was an extensive cave system. These pictures were taken 130 feet underwater:
After 6 minutes of swimming around down there, it was time to go back up. That was the longest we could stay at that depth without having to decompress. On the way back up we saw several black-tip reef sharks. They were quite a ways underneath us, but still a bit unnerving. Overall the dive was awesome, but it went by really fast, and I think since I was concentrating on not messing anything up at that depth, I didn’t look around as much as I could have. I am really glad we have these pictures to remember it. Here we are back on the boat:
Next we headed on to the second dive of the day. Because of the depth of the first dive, we were instructed to stay above 60 feet. I brought my camera, but it malfunctioned. I got a few shots, but they were all pretty disappointing. This picture was taken by the photographer that was with us all day.
After the second dive we stopped at a small island called Half Moon Caye for lunch. This trail led to the red-footed booby bird sanctuary on the island. Yes, I said booby.
We climbed up an observation tower and saw this:
You can’t really tell from the picture, but these birds were huge. It was the wierdest thing to see them all hanging out in the tree tops. The also made some of the craziest noises I have ever heard. After lunch we headed back to the boat for our third and final dive of the day. It was another reef wall dive, and just as awesome as the rest of our dives. We saw a gigantic crab, I am talking huge. I tried taking a picture of it, and here are the results:
Can you spot it on the left? Now you can see what I mean about the camera. We also saw some big sting rays and warm water lobster. And now for our cute but dorky pose:
After the last dive we got on the boat and prepared for the long trip back to the island. I sat in the correct spot this time with the wind in my face, and I felt ok the whole way. Overall I rate the diving in Belize as the best I have ever done. Of course, I have not done much, but it was truly amazing. If you love to dive, a trip to Belize is a must.
After our time on the island, we headed inland to spend some time in the Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, so stay tuned for my next post.