Latin America 2011: Day 8: Caye Caulker
Low season meant the Blue Hole dive trip almost didn't go as planned, but at 5pm the day before, De Macaw dive shop managed to get enough people to pull off a Blue Hole dive with Aqua Scuba Center in San Pedro. SWEET!!
Sadly, no pictures-- Blue Hole may be a magnificent view from a helicopter, but from the surface it's not much to see except a darker patch of water surrounded by a reef. Getting down to 130 feet to see the underwater caves that make up Blue Hole is an experience in itself, and knowing the bottom is still another 270 feet to go (!) is crazy. All the storms made for murky water, which was disappointing, but on a bright sunny day with clear water, it's probably an amazing dive.
Two levels later (at 100 feet and 60 feet) plus a safety stop, you emerge onto the little dive boat and sail to the next stop, Half Moon Wall, adjacent to Half Moon Caye. Dive depth is more shallow here, only 70 feet, but the water is clear and there's tons of live coral and fish. It almost looks like you're swimming in a fish tank. Pretty awesome.
A mandatory 1-hour surface interval on Half Moon Caye is next, puncutated by a classic Belizean lunch of chicken stew, rice & beans, and pasta. Nom nom nom after a long morning of diving. A walk over to see the thousands of birds, including the Red-footed Booby, tops off lunch, then back into the boat to the last dive site, Aquarium.
The water gets murky again, but not too bad, and the massive coral formations prove this site is aptly named-- you really could place this bit of reef in front of a camera and call it a tropical aquarium. It's that good. All three dives were wall dives, and as you go up and down along the reef, from coral to fish to spiny crabs... amazing. Two Japanese girls on the trip had their cameras and probably have some nice pictures, but I wasn't coordinated enough to get their contact info. Oops!
Back to Caye Caulker for most of us, after threading our way through the shallow coral reef waters (and grounding the boat once or twice, ouch!). Quick shower to remove the pounds of salt, then off to dinner at Pizza Caulker, which has the dubious distinction of the worst meal I had on the trip. Truly awful pizza. The owner tries hard, but mozzarella cheese just doesn't handle high temperatures and months of shipping well; combined with disgusting canned mushrooms and you end up with an amazingly vile concoction.
That didn't ruin my day, though! And as underwhelmed as I was with Blue Hole, the other dives more than made up for it.
(and oh yes, as a bit of extra fun, when moving the boat at the second dive site... they left half of us in the water and told us to hang on to the current line, which then promptly came off from its cleat. Ack! Clearly they take safety a little more casually here...)