Wednesday, January 25, 2012
A Night of Fright
Caye Caulker has been a fun experience. This year and last year have both proven to be very different because the two trips were with different people which have presented me with different opportunities. Both trips had snorkeling during the day time, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This year in particular, I got to hold a sting ray and swim with it. I also got to swim with many nurse sharks and even pet their face! Not to mention, the countless sea turtles, tropical fish, and coral. We also got to see a rather menacing looking Murray Eel. It was wonderful.
Now, for the "Night of Fright" (which was nothing like the one at King's Island!)...
Earlier this week, Christy asked if anyone would be interested in night snorkeling. I was considering it but hoping that other students would take on the opportunity. After snorkeling with the group on Tuesday, I realized that I must snorkel again. So, I told Christy I was in and this evening we began our adventure. We headed to dinner for an early meal at "Pandas," a Chinese restaurant near our hotel. It was a good meal that allowed us to get to know each other better. Then, we were off for snorkeling. We got suited up with wetsuits, flippers, masks, snorkels, and waterproof flashlights along with a retired middle school teacher from Oregon, Penny. After lots of chatting, we headed to the back side of the island to Shadrach's boat.
On our ride to the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, we watched the sun finish setting and reviewed over what we would be doing and how we would be doing it. Christy braved the water first without a life jacket. Next went Penny, proudly clinging to her life jacket. Then it was my turn, I was a little (okay, a lot) nervous about it all, considering how dark it was and how hard the wind was blowing. I could see it blowing the water hard. I debated for a while on the life jacket. I can swim and snorkeled the whole time the day before without one, but the dark and pending 25 minute swim against the current had my nerves questioning it. Eventually, I just jumped in with my light on and without the life jacket. My first glimpse into the water freaked me out. I've never been claustrophobic but something about the dark made me feel that way, even though I was in the large ocean without barriers. I felt myself breathing heavily and realized that I needed to calm myself down before I ended up hyperventilating. We began to snorkel through shallow water. There were large black spiny sea urchins everywhere (and Shadarach had specifically directed us to steer clear of them to avoid a nasty sting). I was so worried about getting stung because they were all over the coral.
As we swam, I became more comfortable and the water became much deeper. Along the way, we saw lots of large lobsters, colorful fish, hermit crabs, a large barracuda, and an octopus. In the deepest water, we got to experience one of the coolest parts: bio-iluminesence. We had to turn off our lights and stay close to the coral (but not too close, so you weren't cut) and move our hands and feet to create the bio-iluminesence. It was so cool to see the bright glows all over the very dark water. We did this for a while and when we were through, we floated on our backs and looked at the stars. The stars were much brighter than those at home. After stargazing, we headed back to the boat. On the boat, we stargazed some more and then headed to shore. When we got back, there was a crocodile where the boat was to be parked, so we took some pictures of it until it swam off.
When the night was through, Christy and I got some homemade ice cream (the best I've ever had...Belizean Fudge and Coconut) and headed back to the hotel. Overall, it was an amazing and unique experience. I'm not sure I would ever do it again, but who knows, I'm always up for an adventure :)