Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Wow Belize

I felt the need to sumarise the amazing holiday I had in Belize, a beautiful simple country that makes it visitors very welcome, has an interesting history as well as amazing natural world to discover. I would recommend anyone to visit this little country on the side of the Caribbean for an incredible holiday.

Day 19 (home)

Well it was the last day - and how could it get better than lying on South beach in Miami. Swimming in the Atlantic, reading a book on the sun loungers and wandering down the beach made a very nice end to the holiday. Obviously the gods got me back in punishment for enjoying myself by getting me sunburned but it was a pleasant few hours.

We then caught a taxi to the airport for our 8pm flight to LHR. The flight was on time and we arrived in the UK to temps of 13 degrees C. (boo)

And Melissa met me in arrivals to take me home, which took any sadness at finishing my holiday completely away.

Day 18 (Off to Miami)

Well it was finally time to leave, the company has been great, the food wonderful but the weather ended on a downer as the tropical storm that had started over the pacific and passed over Nicaragua landed on the Yucatan peninsula. It was windy and wet for the last day. We had an early start at 6:30am as we needed to leave the dock at 7:30 am. Our bags were fully packed at least 15 mins before the boat left - no rush. The boat trip was bumpy but not a problem and we arrived in Belize city in good time.

We got into a car to be taken through the rain to the airport, on getting our I had forgotten how warm it was and it was a strange experience to be in English rain in tropical temps. Check in was quick and easy and a bit of last minute shopping at the shops in Belize airport and we were of to Miami.

Arrived simply in Miami and another long walk through the concourses of Miami, I seem to have done a lot of that, but we were soon outside and into a taxi heading tot he beach. We check into our hotel "the Raleigh" on Miami Beach and very nice it is to. We were there by 5pm so we raced out to the pool and bought cocktails and cold beer and sat in the sun. Very posh and very nice.

In the evening we went for a beer in a hotel slightly down the beach called the Delano the whole hotel from front to back had 25ft ceilings, only 20m wide but very long, each 10m or so was broken up with floor to ceiling white chiffon curtains, see through but classy. Very posh Miami clientel (plus us) so we had a wander, drank some glasses of champagne, played a game of pool and feeling like i wanted to stay there for ever decided we had to leave to get something to eat.

We ate dinner back at the Raleigh but were too tired to even finish the bottle of wine with dinner.

Day 17 (more rain)

Well the good weather could not last for ever, following the previous nights very wet night dive we were due to go to the Elbow on the southern tip of Turneffe atoll but the weather was too bad, so we settled for a couple of dives on the east side of the atoll. The weather on the boat was not exactly pleasant but once we were underwater the visibility was great and we were able to see the usual small fish underwater along with the moray eels again and a lizard fish that was resting on some coral.

The resort that we were staying on was Turneffe flats, a series of lodges on the west side of the atoll, with a number of cabins to stay in and a main lodge for breakfast / dinner and the bar and lounge area. The food all week was amazing with a variety of local dishes, and only rice and beans once. tonight we got to eat some red snapper that had been caught by on of the fisherman staying in the lodge this week. As Adrian and i were the only divers on site this week we had the boat and guide to ourselves. There were about a dozen other fishermen who were here to fish for the Permit, Tarpin and Bonefish. Each night was peppered with stories of those that were caught and those that escaped.

It is the last night on the island tonight with a 7:30 trip back on the boat to the city tomorrow morning.

Day 16 (Here comes the rain again)

Well it was a disjointed day the plan was to do 2 dives in the morning and then do a night dive, but events happened. We got the first dive in and it was a nice deep dive about 32m a wall of coral and then a sandy bottom with coral heads. Again we managed to finish the dive with the sight of a manatee, now we have done so well this trip seeing them but i am assured that it is pretty rare. This guy was very friendly and as we had not raced up to him but stayed deep and take photos from a distance he did not seem to bothered with hanging around and looking at us as we looked at him. A very cool experience.

Then we should have had our hour surface interval, and then the second dive but, we could see huge black clouds on the horizon dishing out loads of rain, so we made a run for it back to the lodge. We got caught in the rain on the way back but it was better than being stuck out there. We then did the second dive on the reef just outside the reef from the lodge, this meant a nice quick journey there, a pleasant dive but more rain, and I walked back to my room in the wet suit as it was the best option.

The night dive then took place just inside the reef wall near the lodge, it was in 10ft of water and had a fairly strong current. There were also loads of tiny worms in the water that were overly attracted to my dive light and all in all it was a fairly yucky dive, Alex and Adrian saw, crabs, lobsters, snake eels, I saw one moray eel that ran away before I could photo it.

Last two dives tomorrow before our 24 hour surface interval required before we fly back so heres hoping the weather holds, although there is talk of a tropical storm heading in from the pacific.

Day 15 (Manatee's)

So day 4 of diving and after yesterdays blue hole, sharks and Turtle there was not going to be much of a chance of topping that. However we set off on the boat and as we made our way across the lagoon Alex spotted a manatee - even i could see his outline in the water as it was that close, so we got out snorkel gear on to try and swim with him but by the time we were ready he had wandered off.

Dive 1 was a nice deep wall dive at around 33m loads of coral and the usual fish. The dive ended really well then we saw above us 3 manatees just wandering along at the surface, so taking a few photos before they wandered off we got a good look at the huge creatures and a couple of good photos.

Dive 2 started badly when the effect of seasickness caught with me and I managed to throw up underwater - an interesting experience, avoiding the whole drowning thing was the important bit. Anyway after that i felt much better and we went past the most unimpressive wreak ever seen, basically a metal canoe. Some squirrel fish made up the highlights of the rest of the dive.

Dive 3 saw us do another shallow dive on a sandy floor covered in coral heads. As ever we did well at the end of the dive and saw a stingray which kindly decided to rest itself in the sand not far from us so we could swim over and take photos.

Day 14 Blue Hole

Day 3 of the diving was the trip to the blue hole.

i've lost the comments but hopefully they will be here soon)

Day 13 (Dolphins)

So day 2 of the diving, well it is still rather windy and overcast, although today was brighter than yesterday and we had patches of blue sky between the clouds. However the moderate winds may make a trip out to the Blue Hole impossible as it would be too choppy for the boat to get there. That would be a shame but lets see what tomorrow brings.

Today again we went out to the east side of the atoll a little north of where we were yesterday.

Dive 1 - The Trench (i think) well we dived down about 32 m to a sandy ledge that fell again deeper to over 1000 ft eventually, however we stayed at this level and then made our way back up the wall of coral to shallower depths. We say a trumpet fish in addition to the usual small fish but not much more interesting I can remember.

Dive 2 - Mandys corner/ Chasbo - We got to see dome dolphins as we entered the water, and i have a pic of them above me, as i took my camera out for the first time. IT is very hard to get decent pictures are so much colour is lose as you dive deeper and the red light is refracted away. Hopefully i will get better, it was not too much of a problem diving with the camera and i am sure i will take at least one good photo by the end of the trip. We saw a couple of different types of eel, golden headed eel and green moray eel.

Dive 3 - Tunnels and Barrels - this dive was good fun as we got to go though 3 tunnels that had been made by corals that had grown upwards and met at the top. We could swim along the sandy bottom of them and pop up at the end. A large green moray eel was seen along with the usual suspects in there cast of thousands. The barrels in the name relate to the barrel corals that was found on the dive.

Off to dinner soon - lets hope its not rice and beans :).

Day 12 (underwater)

So day one of the diving part of the trip. This is that part I was looking forward to most when i was in the UK, now I have been here 12 days I have been proved wrong. The country of Belize is amazing and worthy of a trip in its own right - the diving is a bonus.

Before getting here I had a few worries - borrowing some gear, getting the right stuff, being able to remember what to do etc, well it has gone much better than expected. The gear was soon sorted and in fact the only problem i have is with my fins which are too big, my boots flop around inside the housing of the foot part, the tightening straps didn't tighten far enough so my foot has some leeway and is not tall enough inside the gap to have a clean stoke when I am flipping about. But anyway that is not very important.

Breakfast was at 7:30 and then the dive initiation was at 8:30 which was very reasonable. We were on the boat by 9:30 and off to our first site. The wind was getting up out of the East so we headed west back across the central lagoon, and over to the eastern side. Venturing a mile or so got us back into choppy water but over some nice easy dive sites that I needed for my first dive in 30 months. I had a couple of problems in the first few minutes getting my buoyancy right and was often a metre or two high but gradually got back into the swing of things.

Now I am here for the next 6 days diving, what will probably happen is that i will give a list of dive sites and fish i have seen along with a bunch of stuff in between, just look away now if you are bored. Otherwise I am looking forward to the last night in Miami, so that may contain some excitement.

So today - dive 1 - I opted to avoid the camera today as i thought diving would be difficult enough. We swam though loads of coral and some part of sand on the sea bed, and saw an Spotted Eagle Ray & Trumpet fish.

Dive 2 was a little less clear at first although we soon got back to good visibility, because the weather is changeable, the wind is strong and pushing some of the sediment out of the atoll and over the reef. but it was a cracking dive for wildlife, seeing Lobster, barracuda, Sting Rays, Indigo fish and Blue headed wrasse.

Dive 3 gave clear water and some very large Crabs, Drum fish, Squirrel fish, Lizard fish and an Eel.

Our crew are the very entertaining Charles and Alex (our dive master). Dinner contained the requisite Belize dish of rice and beans, but the chicken was good and company excellent. (the new Bond movie should be very good.)

Day 11 (Time to go diving)

Today was a simple day that required to move from Roberts Grove to Turneffe Atoll. This was great as it required a late start and breakfast could be taken at the unbelievably late hour of 9:30am. Now time in Belize on holiday takes on a whole different meaning, there is no staying up till one in the morning but rather after dinner at 7-9pm then not a lot happens. This means that everyone goes to bed by 10pm, however this does allow waking up at anything from 6am onwards as I have moaned about incessantly. Ok final comment about the resort, most customers are rich Americans and there are more false breasts than in an episode of Baywatch (note to Melissa, I didn't look, someone told me, honest ;-) )

We then got our bags collected from the room, and got in the minibus to get taken down to the "airport" of Placencia. Now this airport technically has 2 terminals one for Maya air which we flew and another one for Torpical air. I say technically as they are basically 2 sheds, ours had a desk where they check your name and then put a coloured tag on your bag, and that was it. You could wonder out of the front door and then go back in again and out onto the airstrip. The security was relaxed to say the least and given we were on Latin American time we were a little late but no one really cared apart from the obsessive American family who's Mum was fretting about everything and the Kids were trying to look like they were parented by someone else, with the dad looking resigned. Anyway she appeared to approve of the baggage loading that she religiously supervised.

Anyway the flight was fine and we landed first on the municipal airstrip in the middle of Belize city rather than the international airport, basically a landing strip on the edge of the ocean, it would have been very cool if our boat had collected us from shore there but sadly there was a guy with a sign and a van which took the bags from the guy who dragged them from the plane and put them in the van, we did not even enter a building just plane to van.

This took us to the dock, by a hotel so we chilled out at a bar and drank some beer and waited to be able to set off. Another plane had obviously arrived so we could set off and we had a 75 min trip over some fairly rough seas to the Turnleffe flats resort. The place is very chilled out and we are in fat the only divers this week so we will have the boat to ourselves. We have chatted to the owners tonight who are a nice couple and so far so good.