I handed $140 US cash to two Belizeans standing on the deck of my cabana. We promised with a handshake to meet at the marine gas station at 8:30 the following day.
Rudy and Ruth took Rob, me, and another couple on a snorkel tour to Lark Key. It was a 20-minute boat ride to where we anchored for our first snorkel. We all jumped in with the general direction, “head that way.” The lush, diverse, and healthy coral supports a wide variety of life – fish, urchins, sea stars, feather worms, sponges, and more. We were free to wander the reef and linger as much as we liked.
After about an hour in the water, we moved to anchor at a second spot. This location had more starfish than I’ve ever seen, each with a subtly different pattern, like a fingerprint.
The reef was as lush and diverse as the first location. The structures, colors and patterns never cease to amaze me.
After 45 minutes, we motored a short distance over to Ivan’s Island for lunch. Ivan’s is a small eclectic Caye with a few rustic buildings, hammocks, a fish cleaning station, and an open grill. Several dogs comprising the welcoming committee scampered out to greet us on the dock.
Rudy filleted some fresh fish and lobster while Ruth chopped vegetables and pineapple. Meanwhile, we indulged in some rum punch. The meal was sweet, creamy, and rich. Delightful!
After some digestion, we snorkeled a third spot until a storm chased us in. Compared to the busier mesoamerican reef tours, the corals here are much healthier (no bleaching at all!) and more diverse, and never did I bump into (or even see) another snorkeler.
Silk Caye with Go Sea Belize
This is a very different tour from yesterday’s Rudy and Ruth family adventure. We paid by credit card, signed a liability waiver, and joined 14 others on a boat for a safety briefing before departing.
Silk Caye is 20 miles from Placencia on the southern mesoamerican reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world, stretching 700 miles from the Yucatan to Honduras. After 45 minutes with two 250hp outboards, we pulled up on a patch of sand surrounded by all the colors of the Caribean. A sign on this itty-bitty island instructs all visitors to wear masks, a holdover from the pandemic years (there were no such masks). We listened to a required briefing by a park ranger about the marine reserve. Silk Caye is in a no-take part of the reserve, and we must have a guide to snorkel here. No solo snorkeling.
We split into two groups. Our group of seven gears up and wades into the cool, shallow waters. Early in the snorkel, after being bumped into by other snorkelers, it became evident that the best place for me was lingering in the back. Peacefully alone. Some of the coral here is bleached and dying. It is lacking in the diversity of life we saw at Lark Caye.
However, since its protected, the fish are larger. The biggest barracuda I’ve ever seen was hanging out above a brain coral. I took some pictures and then swam around him, giving him a wide berth to get on the right side of the sun. When I got in location and turned around, he was gone. I hope he’s not stalking me.
After we circled the caye, we came ashore for a rice, bean, and chicken lunch. After eating, we were encouraged to discard our chicken bones and leftovers into the ocean. In the marine reserve. And now it’s apparent why the barracuda hangs out here. And how he got so big. He’s eating all the discarded food. I’m glad I had a vegetarian lunch and didn’t have to pack my chicken bones back to Placencia. Belize has some of the most progressive ocean conservation policies in the world. This is surprising. And disappointing.
Now we get back in the water with fingers full of the chicken the barracuda is eating. “You’d better hope he’s full,” our guide jokes. We snorkeled across a narrow, deep blue chasm to another reef. There’s a huge lobster, a thick sea cucumber, and schools of fish over here.
A coral nursery grows baby coral to help restore the reef. There’s a seemingly endless grove of elkhorn coral. I wonder if it’s the result of their successful nursery.
Back on the boat, we move along the reef, outside the reserve, to a grassy area with nurse sharks, southern stingrays, and a variety of cowfish. The highlight of this spot was the appearance of a pair of loggerhead turtles.
I turned to face this girl swimming straight at me with her posse of remora. She didn’t seem to be altering her course, so I thought it best to move out of her way. But I wonder, was she just going to swim right through me (charging foul!) or turn at the last minute, jostling me in her wake? I’ll never know.
This was a quick stop, and although the turtles lingered, I had to get back on the boat or be left to swim to shore. It was a different experience than the day before. The turtles definitely made it worthwhile!
Tomorrow, we will kayak to Placencia Caye and snorkel on our own – no time constraints, no guides.
If you’re interested in purchasing or licensing any images you see here, please email me: SNewenham at exploringnaturephotos.com, and I’ll make it happen.
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