Taking a tiny plane…one where I can literally reach out and touch the pilot…across a body of water teeming with sharks (okay, nurse sharks, but still…SHARKS) and manatees and rays and who knows what else, wasn’t actually as terrifying as I’d imagined.
When the Tropic Air gate attendant asked me to follow him on to the tarmac, I realized I was the only passenger boarding the Cessna in Belize City. Wow, I thought…they sent an airplane just for me! The fantasy of being the only passenger on a plane was totally destroyed when I realized there were already other passengers onboard from various other destinations. Ah well….
I’ve never been on a 10 seater plane before. I’ve never before been on a flight where I could reach out and touch the pilot…I mean, not that I did…it’s probably against the law….I’ve never flown so low over a body of water that I could see the sea life below. I was totally transfixed for the entire 5 minute flight…after which I was the only passenger to get off in Caye Caulker, an 8 km long island that is to be my home for the next week.
Caye Caulker is a small island off the coast of Belize. There are 3 main roads and a few side streets. Population about 1,000 full time residents. The only motorized transportation is via golf cart, otherwise residents get from place to place on foot or by bike.
This is DEFINITELY a place where everybody knows everybody’s business.
The main attraction of this small…ok, tiny… island is the Belize Barrier Reef. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and is one of the healthiest reef systems in the world. The Great Blue Hole is part of this system, a site made famous by Jacques Cousteau who called it one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world.
While I won’t be exploring the Great Blue Hole as it’s only for experienced divers, the plan for my Belize adventure is to get my open water scuba certification. I signed up with Frenchie’s, one of the oldest diving establishments in Caye Caulker and, much to my delight, was my dive master Dominick’s only student. Patient and very calm, Dominick took me through 3 days of scuba lessons in 2 days.
By the end of the first day it was all I could do to get myself back to my hostel room and pass out on my super soft, back-destroying bed. I had no idea breathing could take so much out of me. I consider myself fit, so I’m not sure how anyone who is out of shape can do this.
Hot and humid the first day, so much so the short wet suit was a burden to wear in the sun, the second day was the complete opposite…I needed a long sleeved wet suit and huddled in the boat as soon as I surfaced from my lesson.
But what an incredible experience! We saw rays and sharks, stone fish, groupers and fish I can’t even describe, lobsters and crabs, eels and sea urchins. No pictures…I’m not good enough yet to both breathe under water and take photographs. That’s totally next level….