Last Days in Belize

I can hardly Belize that an entire week passed by so quickly. Our last two days (one full, one half) went by especially fast, with back-to-back snorkel trips (and seasickness for both me and Sophia) on one, and a full twelve hours of travel on the other. The majority of this post was composed while sitting on a turbulent airplane ride full of screaming kids traveling from IAH to ORD, so I would not be surprised if I am a bit more cynical than usual >.<. Also, I have tons of photos and videos, but will add them in a separate update because I don't have them ready for upload yet.
Afternoon Snorkeling on 7/22
On our big snorkeling day (last full day), Heather at the front desk of White Sands Cove was able to work a ton of magic and got us a private trip to both Tres Coco and Mexico rocks in the afternoon, immediately followed by a night snorkel at Hol Chan, where Anne’s roommates from Stanford were able to join up with us. Heather was even able to help us score some discounts on the combined trips!

The only people on the afternoon snorkel stops were me, Anne, and Sophia, so it was a lot of fun. Some of the other swims we went on had way too many people; I always felt like I was constantly either getting hit by or running into others, I could barely hear a thing the guide was pointing out, and I always felt super paranoid about getting too close to the coral because a lot of the spots we were visiting were really shallow.

Tres Coco is a lesser known spot, and it was filled with all kinds of little juvenile fish. There were also a some cool looking coral formations. My favorite part of this leg was that we were pretty free to just go wherever, as we were literally the only people there. Apparently there were also a pair of tiny young squids there too, but I neither saw them nor captured them on film. The worst part of the Tres Coco visit for me was when I got a mixture of seawater and sunscreen in my mask and in my eye.

Mexico Rocks was much more exciting, and was probably my personal favorite daytime swim. The site is called such because the coral there lives on huge boulders, and I guess it lies farther north closer to the border with Mexico, haha.

As we arrived at the buoy, another boat was leaving, and they had been chumming up the water. We were greeted by a ton of nurse sharks, sting rays, and huge numbers of assorted little fish as soon as we jumped in the water. It felt really intense because our guide, Jason, was throwing additional sardines close to where we were, so the sharks came really, really close to us. I have some funny GoPro videos of Sophia screaming, and Anne getting hit by one of the nurse sharks.

When Jason jumped into the water with us, he was immediately swarmed by the fish (I have awesome videos of this too). At first, we just thought he was some sort of fish whisperer. and just took a few moments to realize that he had stuffed sardine bits in his pockets. It was pretty neat to swim throughout the boulders with a huge school of small fish.

On the way back to the resort from Mexico Rocks, Sophia ended up getting a bit seasick. Luckily we were able to take a short break back in our room where she was able to get some water and take some medicine to help her feel better.

Night Snorkeling on 7/22
I could probably write a full post on just the night snorkeling alone. It was a pretty unique experience, which was unfortunately soured by me getting sick at the very end.

The night snorkel trip got off to an auspicious start before we even reached the dive shop. Even though Anne, Sophia, and I were the only ones on the afternoon snorkel trip, four other people were leaving from the White Sands dock with us. On our way to the dive shop where we were to switch boats, it started raining. Hard. The blasting wind along with the motion of the boat made the rain droplets feel like cold needles hitting our backs. By the time (~10 minute boat ride) we reached the Boston Pro Dive Shop to wait out the thunderstorm, we were soaked through and through.

With Anne’s roommates Hannah and Erin joining our group of 7 from our resort and 2 guides (Luis and Andres), there were just a ton of people on our little trip. This made it really crowded and difficult for me in particular. I pretty much could not help but run into others or get run into whenever I was filming, since my flashlight in my left hand and my GoPro attached to my right wrist occupied both of my arms simultaneously.

There was just one other guy who came along with us, and was incredibly annoying… he kept on turning his light off (breaking rule #1, keep your light on at all times for safety), going in really close and flashing his light directly into holes where the animals were hiding (breaking rule #2, don’t blind the animals) and diving under then running into other people (just being all-around an inconsiderate person). Andres had to yell at him multiple times for him to stop, but the dude just would not listen.

After the storm subsided a bit, we were able to go out to Hol Chan. On the way, it started raining hard again. It was even more cold this time because in addition to the wind and rain, the sun had started to set as well. Luckily for us, however the water was really warm (~mid 70’s to lower 80’s F, hooray for the high thermal energy capacity of water), which made getting into the water a huge relief temperature-wise. As we were traveling to the site though, we could see lighting and hear thunder all around, which made a number of us a bit worried.

The water was really really dark, and although we didn’t get to see as many animals as we could have (maybe because of the storm), we still saw a decent number. There were some huge lobsters, a few hermit crabs, a pair of sea turtles, a moray eel, and apparently a huge eagle ray. I wasn’t able to see the eagle ray at all (there were too many people!!) which was really depressing because I really wanted to. Near the very end of the trip, Luis caught a rock fish with his bare hands. I caught it on film, but still couldn’t believe what was happening in front of me. I was pretty surprised that our guide actually encouraged us to touch it… I personally didn’t because I figured it would be incredibly stressful for the fish.

While it was not raining in the area when we first got off the boat, the wind was still blowing and the water was pretty rough. However, the water got rougher as time went on and the storm picked up on us overhead. I felt cold, prickly rain on my back, saw lightning flash, and heard the thunder rumble from underwater.

Right as we stopped for free swimming close to our boat for a few minutes before leaving, I felt a huge wave of nausea sweep over me. I’m not quite sure what happened, but my head was pounding and I felt like I needed to throw up. Maybe it was the fact that I hadn’t really eaten in the six or so hours we had been swimming, combined with the motion of the stormy ocean, and general worry about being in a conductive liquid with rather large electrical discharges going off… I pretty much jumped onto the boat as soon as I could and proceeded to huddle in the corner just trying to not throw up. Thanks to Erin, I was able to wrap a waterproof jacket over my head to keep dry for the ride back.

We decided to grab dinner together with Hannah and Erin, so got off at their dock with them. While we were disembarking, Luis saw a chapstick on the ground. He has a thick Caribbean accent, so the ‘a’ in “chap” had a longer sound and was easily mistaken for an ‘o’ like in “chop” so when he asked if that was anybody’s chapstick, everybody on the boat looked at us cause we were the only Asians. Anne had the most confused look ever on her face, it was pretty hilarious.

We dropped by the Ocean Tide hotel where Erin and Hannah were staying so that they could change and we all had a chance to use the restroom. I was standing out on the balcony when all the sudden, all of the lights on the island just went out. It felt kinda crazy, like something straight out of a movie. Luckily, Anne brought her headlamp, and we had some cellphones to help light the way. A lot of the bars and restaurants on the beach cleared out, but we were lucky enough to find a place two doors down from the hotel which stayed open for us.

During dinner, we were talking about the power outage, and I commented that it didn’t seem like the winds were that strong so I didn’t think that any high power wires were taken out. The super friendly owner of the bar scoffed and retorted that they were going like 45 MPH, almost like a mini-hurricane, and we must have been lucky to miss it while we were out snorkeling on the water. The power came back on halfway through eating though. This was great for us, since the 10 minute walk to the water taxi dock could have been pretty terrifying if we just had a small headlamp and cell phones to light our way.

Back to Chicago 7/23
On our last day in Belize, we grabbed a delicious breakfast at Akbol (again) close to our resort before getting driven to the local airport. Heather had booked flights for us the day before, since we decided that we would rather pay a bit more for a 20 minute flight in order to enjoy a bit more time on the island. After walking back, relaxing a bit, and taking a few photos, we left White Sands Cove for the last time.

We ate at El Fogon, an authentic Belizean restaurant which was a convenient two minute walk from the airstrip. I decided that I wanted to try eating gibnut, also known as the Belizean “Royal Rat”. Andrew Zimmerman from Bizarre Foods actually ate gibnut at El Fogon when he did his episode on Belize. The dish I ordered was stewed gibnut. The meat tasted gamey, and was a bit chewy, but was more fatty than I expected. It was decent, but I definitely thought that the other food that Anne and Sophia ate at the restaurant was much more delicious.

Our flight from San Pedro to the international airport took off early since all six passengers had checked in. Sophia sat on one side of the plane, and I sat on the other so that we could get good pictures from both views. Security though BZE was a breeze, but our flight ended up being an hour late, first because the plane was late arriving, and then because of a mechanical issue. I was a bit worried about our tight connection in Houston, but saw through google that it was likely our connection would be late as well. This turned out to be really true. Upon arrival in Houston, we made our way through immigration and customs in about seven minutes, five of which were spent walking the ridiculously huge building. Our flight from IAD to ORD ended up being about 45 minutes late due to bad weather all over the US, so we got time to grab food before getting on this plane full of crying children.

All together, we spent 12 hours from airport to airport, a bit longer than originally planned. However, we landed safe and sound and weren’t in any particularly huge rush for anything. We were just lucky that our parents were able to pick us up when we landed at midnight. Tomorrow is going to be another day of travel though!

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