Belize was one place we had been really looking forward too. I mean it's in our blog name, we were always intending to visit, we weren't sure how much of, but we were going to make it there. When we got off the bus early in the morning in Belize City we made our way quickly through to the boat terminal as Belize City was not nice at all. We caught the one hour taxi boat through bad weather to an island called Caye Caulker. We had organised no accomodation, just doing our turn up and sort it out solution and we walked up and down the sandy road in the spitting rain to check out a few places. We settled on one and happily lay down and had a morning nap. When we woke up the sun was coming out and we went for an explore. Caye Caulker is a brilliant island; it has no cars, everyone either rides bikes, drives golf carts or walks very very slowly. Indeed the motto of the island is 'Go Slow'. They truely get angry at you if you walk fast, no matter the reason. We had some lunch and then went to inquire about all sorts of trips you can do in Caye Caulker - diving, snorkelling, fishing, kayaking and paddleboarding. We were quite excited with all the possibilities and so firstly signed up for diving for the next day. I have done my open-water certificate and needed to do a refresher but Anna has never done any of it at all, well except for the trial pool dive in Cuba.
That evening we strolled around looking for a place to eat dinner and started to gather how much this island loves lobster. Every restaurant seemed to offer it in some way or other and so I got a barbequed whole lobster for the very first time! He was incredibly impressed and thought he could eat this every day!
The next morning I woke up very excited and Anna woke up very nervous and a little bit excited. We had an enormous pancake breakfast to calm my nerves and then went diving. We started with a talk about all the equipment, the exercises we would do, and certain situations we might face such as what to do when your regulator has an issue or your mask fills with water. Before we knew it though, we were off on the boat to do it. The first dive was a very shallow learner dive. We had a bit of time to familiarise ourselves with the equipment and then began to go through some of the skills that had been mentioned earlier. We knelt on the bottom and practised finding the regulator, buddy breathing and a bit of buoyancy control. Then it was time for the bit Anna was least looking forward to - clearing the mask. We practised a variety of situations, half filling the mask with water, completely filling the mask with water and finally removing the mask entirely (all whilst underwater). Anna went through all of the skills brilliantly. I was quite proud! After the skills we set off for a little swim. We never went deeper than about 5m but it gave Anna a great insight into what was to come.
Soon it was time to get back on the boat. We both got back onto the boat, very much looking forward to our next dive. We made a quick stop for snorkelling at a place called Shark-Ray alley, where as the name suggests there we lots of sharks and stingrays. We snorkelled with them for a while and were even able to stroke one of the nurse sharks, before moving on to our second dive site. Our second dive site was outside the reef in deeper water. We gradually descended far deeper this time, to a depth of about 65 feet, and began to explore some of the underwater canyons. We saw an amazing array of coral and fish, a hawksbill turtle, a very evil looking moray eel, and even a lion fish. Soon though my air began to run low so we signalled our dive master and he signalled to go to the surface. Sadly on the way up we didn't do a safety stop. I completely forgot about this as it was only my refresher dive, Anna had never heard that you had to do one and the divemaster hadn't mentioned it. As we ascended I gradually got faster and faster because of some air trapped in my buoyancy control device, and I arrived at the surface much faster than I should have, about 15 seconds ahead of Anna and the divemaster. As soon as I reached the surface I felt really rough. I felt naucious and headachey, and just a bit out of it. Anna didnt feel great either, but we headed back to the island, very positive about the dive and all the animals we'd seen. After a lie down back at the accomodation we still didnt feel well so we returned to the dive school. They dismissed our concerns, and suggested we get some lunch so we got some food and spent the afternoon relaxing. By the evening I felt even worse, so we went back to the dive school but again they showed complete disregard for our symptoms and suggested we take some painkillers and have a beer. We went for dinner at this grill right on the beach where we both had lobster.
That night I woke up at about 4am, with a terrible headache. The pressure behind my eyes had got much worse and whenever I moved my head, it sent shooting pains through my head. We waited until about 8am and then caught the first boat to San Pedro, a nearby island, because the doctor on Caye Caulker was closed. The hospital thought I had decompression sickness and sent me to the hyperbaric chamber. Unfortunately the dive doctor was on his day off, so I didn't go into the chamber.
The following day we had booked to go fishing. I had been wanting to go fishing all trip so I was incredibly excited and took some painkillers to control the headaches. We met the two guys who would be taking us fishing at the shop and then walked down to the boat. They took us out to an area of reef about 5-10 minutes off the coast, for our first stop. The guys cut up pieces of sardines for us to use as bait and no sooner had we cast out into the water, than we both felt bites on our line. We both reeled in little snappers. It was brilliant. We spent a while fishing at the first spot, and caught lots and lots of snappers. I was absolutely loving it! We then moved to another spot where Anna caught some big snapper. I only caught some babies but it was still fun. For the last part of the trip we went trawler fishing, where you drop your line out and the boat moves along slowly. We began trawling, but did not feel any bites for the first little while. Then all of a sudden Anna felt a huge bite on her line. As she began to reel it in we were able to see a barracuda on her line running from side to side. We were both really excited. It was very hard for her to reel in, so the guys on the boat had to give her backup, but gradually she reeled it in, giggling as she did so. She hauled it into the boat. It looked very big and very vicious! Anna caught another barracuda on her side of the boat, before we switched sides. No sooner had we switched though, and Anna caught another barracuda on my side. I couldn't believe it! I really wanted to catch one! Anna got her line tangled but even then something bit her bait. I couldn't believe my luck! Then all of a sudden I felt a bite on my line. I finally had a fish. It fought really hard but eventually I managed to reel it in. It wasn't a barracuda but it was a type bonefish that was similar in size to the barracudas so I was happy. We didn't catch anything more but we were very satisfied with our morning's fishing. The guys cleaned our fish and cut up the barracudas into steaks. We went to a couple of restaurants to ask whether they could cook the fish for us. Luckily the place where I'd had my amazing lobster on the first night said they would cook it for free if we bought some side dishes. We left the fish with them and went to get ice cream (as we did every day). Anna got butter pecan and I had chunky monkey. It was great! Later that afternoon we went up to the split (the island was split in half by a hurricane in the 60's), where there was a bar, sun deck and sheltered swimming area. Lots of people spent the day there jumping into the water, sunbathing and having drinks. After a fun afternoon of diving into the water and sunbathing, we went for dinner. We had a snapper each and two barracuda steaks. They were absolutely delicious, but it was very surreal to think that we had caught the fish ourselves only a handful of hours earlier.
The next day we had booked to go on a snorkelling trip. We met our guide early and went down to the beach to wait for the rest of the group. We boarded onto the boat and set off towards our first stop, the Hol Chan Reserve. There were lots of boats when we arrived at the reserve but as soon as we dived into the water we could see why! The boat was moored in a sandy bottomed area, but even there we could see all kinds of fish. There were loads of fish right under the boat and a few metres away we saw a couple of turtles. It was amazing! We then swam away from the boat towards the reef. Is we entered the reef we could see even more wildlife. We saw moray eels and lots of different types of snapper. We swam through the reef and were able to dive down to about 5 or 6 metres in places and even saw a school of barracuda as we returned to the boat. It was brilliant! After we'd all got back on to the boat, we zoomed off to our lunch stop on the island of San Pedro. This was the same island that the dive chamber and dive doctor was on, so we took the opportunity to pay him a quick visit. By this stage I felt noticeably better than I had on Saturday, so I was really just wanting him to give me the all clear so I could fly. Unfortunately though after a few tests he diagnosed me with decompression sickness (the bends) and told me I had to go to the chamber. We asked if we could finish the snorkelling trip, but he told me that I had to go to the chamber immediately. So with a heavy heart, gutted that I couldn't do the rest of the trip and potentially see manatees, I walked back to the chamber for my first 6 hours session in the hyperbarric chamber.
I for the first time in almost 4 months went off and did something by myself. I went back on the boat and continued on the snorkelling tour. It was really fun and saw some amazing things but was pretty sad that Christian couldn't be here. Firstly I got to snorkel with and touch a huge collection of Nurse sharks and stingrays. Afterwards the boat headed to a place called Coral Gardens and saw lots of beautiful fish swimming among beautiful coral. I also saw a lobster hiding amongst the coral. The best part of the day was when we came upon 5 manatees moving through the water in a group. They were beautiful delicate moving creatures. We couldn't touch them but we swam alongside them for quite a while. On the way back to Caye Caulker in the boat we stopped to watch a group of Dolphins playing off the coast.
After the tour ended back in Caye Caulker I rushed back to our hotel, put together a bag of clothes and rushed back to the ferry dock to get the ferry to San Pedro to meet Christian and unfortunately stay for the night.
Anna was there when I got out of the chamber. It hadn't been a very fun afternoon. The chamber replicated the effect on your body of diving back down to 20m, using pressure. I then had to breath oxygen to flush out all the nitrogen before the chamber brought me back to the surface. The downside was the whole process took about 6 hours and the increase in pressure also led to an increase in temperature, so I basically spent 6 hours sitting in a tiny sauna! So much better than swimming with manatees... We had an early dinner after my chamber ride before returning to our hastily booked hotel for the night.
The following morning I had to go back to the chamber for another 2 hour ride. When I was finally discharged we caught the ferry back to Caye Caulker and spent the afternoon relaxing by the split and eating ice cream. That night we returned to our BBQ restaurant to have the other half of our catch from our fishing trip, which was equally delicious.
The following morning we woke up early so we had time to go for a swim in the split before breakfast. There was no one there and it was absolutely gorgeous. We then went back to our favourite breakfast place for banana pancakes with maple syrup and a sausage bagel. It was yummy. We then returned to our hotel and picked up our bags because we were finally leaving the island. We had originally planned to catch the boat straight back to the mainland and from there begin our journey back up to Mexico but the chamber had not been able to get all my paperwork finished the day before so we had to backtrack and make a stop on the island of San Pedro first. After a mad dash to the chamber and back to the ferry dock, we made it onto our boat and began our journey to Mexico. We sat up on the top deck of the ferry, from where we had a great view of the islands and were able to enjoy the sea breeze in our hair. After about an hour journey we arrived back in Belize City. We walked from the ferry dock to the main bus station in the seering heat. At the bus station we boarded a brightly coloured chicken bus for the journey to the border. The journey was only meant to take 2 hours but our bus stopped constantly to drop people off and pick people up and after a quick stop to refuel, we arrived at the border about 4 and a half hours later. The border crossing was pretty painless, we didn't have to open our bags and were able to catch a bus from right outside the border to the nearby town. From there we caught a much more speedy bus to Tulum.
eating lobster for the first time
getting ready for our dive
In his wetsuit after the first dive
one of the beautiful views from the island
having lobster for the first time too
Chilling while fishing
getting help to fight a barracuda
With the first of 3 barracudas
Catching something that is not a barracuda
with his catch
Enjoying our catch
the town of caye caulker
At the split
Caye caulker beautiful building
having breakfast every morning
it's so pretty here
enjoying the split
happy to be fixed
sting ray hidding in sand
schools of fish
Anna touching a nurse shark
sting ray and shark
chilling on the boat