Sunday, August 1, 2010

Belize - Caye Caulker

Next stop Belize - mainly for the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the longest such reef in the Americas. Scattered along the barrier reef, a chain of islands - known as cayes - wonderful base for snorkeling. To be honest Swantje was the reason why we went. I did enjoy my snorkeling with dolphins in NZ tremendously; the whale shark day in Moz however was rough to say the least, and in general i have a whole lot of respect for the deep sea ....and really had no need for another encounter.

Getting there was easy enough - a mini bus (yes, it was full of tourists). I got lucky as i was able to sit up front, since the last couple that we picked up wanted to sit together : )) However, it was also a very sobering experience. Belize is very poor - as well. Simply driving down one of the three only highways the country has, shows the grime situation ... the lack of nutrition is seen starting from children and grown ups, over dogs and horse, often nothing more than a s skeleton. Not a pretty site .... hard to keep the positivity.

The people there are incredible nice. Once part of the Mayan empire the Spaniards tried to conquer them - sometimes more, sometimes less successfully (16th century). In the 17th century the English came in, plundered Spanish treasures (at least they are equal opportunity offenders) and began to settle the coastline and harvest log-wood - used for textile dyes in Europe. They relied heavily on slave labor from Africa, which can still be seen and felt today. The Caribbean vibe is hard to escape - thankfully. Very different from the the rest of Latin America, is the even more relaxed attitude which is extremely welcoming.

The boat ride to Caye Caulker in itself was amazing. Clear blue and turquoise water sweeten the ride .... originally undecided I proceeded to take a half day snorkeling tour: I had no idea about the life under water ... but the barrier reef holds such a plethora of fish and plants, that were more than my imagination could have ever dreamed of! The colors, the shapes, the movements .... just the way the sunlight was divided and reflected on the bottom of the ocean would have been enough to occupy me for a day. Simply gorgeous.Unfortunately I don't think i have the words to describe it .... everyone should go check it out for themselves. I did not think it could get better, but indeed our second stop was at a shallow part, where nurse sharks and manterays were hanging out ... Well, the nurse sharks were in the mood to hang out. A mustache trim and some lotion came to mind when we first met, but soon i was simply mesmerized by there agility and friendliness (they might have tried to get me out of their territory with their return visits and pushing, but as a ignorant human I was delighted : )

On a side note. were sunscreen. Always, but especially when you go snorkeling ... or you might end up looking like a half fired fish. Ouch ... i had more than one reason to remember this day for the weeks to come : /

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