A Short Cruise in Belize – Days 3 and 4, Turneffe Islands, South Water Caye Marine Preserve, Northeast Caye, Laughing Bird Caye

I woke to the sound of waves slapping the hull outside my lower deck porthole, and the constant drone of the engines. My bed was rolling sufficiently to require some concentration to stay on top. Concerned that I might be getting seasick, I decided to go up to the lounge to investigate.

Day 3 – Rough night at sea, Changed plans, Snorkeling at Turneffe Islands

Our first night at sea required a long passage outside Belize’s famed barrier reef in less than ideal weather conditions. The seas were described later by the captain as 12 feet out of the northwest with 25 knot winds. The quest is not a large ship, and the motion up in the lounge was sufficient to require care as I moved around.

The motion was causing some drawers to slam open and closed, and a large chart drawer, at the front of the lounge, lay on the floor with it’s contents strewn about. This was fun. Finally deciding that I was not going to succumb to seasickness, I went down to the our cabin, secured myself in bed, and went back to sleep.

Our route that night took us from Puerto Barrios in northern Guatemala, to Belize immigration in Punta Gorda Belize. From there it headed southeast around Sapodilla Marine Reserve to get outside the barrier reef. Then it was a long leg heading northeast against the prevailing wind and swell, until the turn could be made around Glovers Reef Marine Preserve. The course from Glovers Reef to our destination, Salt Water Caye Marine Reserve, put the swell directly on our beam. It was an interesting ride. . 

Puerto Barrios to Punta Gorda then out to sea

There were a lot of green faces in the lounge the next morning, as well as animated conversations from everyone regarding the events last night. Soon the dining room door opened, and we all piled our plates high from the buffet to charge our batteries for the day ahead.

The plan outlined in the “Daily Program” had been to continue the turn around the north end of Glovers Reef and spend the day at Carrie Bow Caye and the visit the NG Research Center there. But the weather conditions would not allow us to safely anchor in that location, so the expedition team was scrambling to find an alternative.

Outside the Barrier Reef to the southern end of Turneffe Islands

At around 10am, the Expedition Team, convened a meeting n the lounge to discuss the situation and let us know what was going on. They were searching for alternative snorkel spots and Zodiac tours for us to do, as the ship headed through the passage to the south of the Turneffe Islands group.

Southern End of Turneffe Islands

Just before lunch, an announcement was made that after lunch there would be two activity options for us to choose from. The first was a chance to snorkel in a spot called Joe’s Hole on the southwestern side of the islands, the second was a Zodiac trip into the mangroves in the same area.

Gretchen and I chose to snorkel and got ourselves ready to go. We had brought our own mask and snorkels. I also brought a thin insulated rash guard and a transparent phone holder that I was supposed to be able to use for underwater picture taking.

We were eventually suited and booted as the saying goes, and onboard the local dive boat headed to the chosen snorkeling location. Once there, the combination of wind, current, and bottom conditions resulted in it taking at least 40 minutes to get a proper anchor down to allow us to disembark.

In the dive boat heading for the Joe’s Hole – Gretchen is Happy!

First let me mention that I was having gear issues that had nothing to do with Lindblad. I had chosen poorly as the saying goes. I couldn’t get the camera/phone thingy to work, I had improperly sized my fins, and my snorkel was a disaster. I wasn’t a happy camper. Gretchen loved the spot. Her experience was that this was the largest variety of fish, coral, and sponge types she had ever seen. 

The only picture I managed to take with the plastic sleeve

I do agree that it was an interesting spot, but there was considerable current, and counter winds creating a lot of short steep chop. That coupled with problems of my own making, left me with a less favorable opinion (ok, I was being a baby).

We were back on-board, showered, and dressed in time for cocktail hour in the lounge. One of my favorite parts of these trips are the people we meet. They always come from a large cross-section of society, and interests. That makes the time spent in the lounge and at the dinner table interesting.

After dinner, there was a great talk given by one of our naturalists from Belize on the different ethnic groups in Belize, and how and when they arrived in the area. The country seems to have been successful at assimilating these group and learning to mostly coexist together. It was a great way to end the evening.

The plans for tomorrow (a slight change based on the continuing wind issues), is to spend the day snorkeling in Pelican Caye (Northeast Caye on the map) in the morning, and transition to Laughing Bird Caye in the afternoon.

Day 4 – More changed plans, Southwater Marine Preserve, Snorkeling at Pelican (Northeast) Caye and Laughing Bird Caye

Launching the Zodiacs

This morning found us at what was advertised as Pelican Caye, but we found out later from the Captain that on our maps it is called Northeast Caye. Pelican Caye is a small mangrove anchored atoll on the southwestern side of South Water Caye Marine Preserve. Our activity choices this morning were to either play in the kayaks, paddle board, or kayak (or all three if you wanted). The zodiacs were launched during breakfast and were ready to go as soon as we finished the last cup of coffee.

Landing at Pelican (Northwest) Caye

Gretchen and I chose to snorkel and we were quickly matched up in a group of about 6 with a guide named Aisha (I’m guessing at how to spell her name). We were soon in the water exploring the corals and fish that were found there. There were lobsters, and triggerfish, and many others I can’t name. 

Aisha was a great dive guide. She knew what she was doing. She had an expansive knowledge of the marine life in the area, and was able to keep the group moving as we explored.

Sea Pearl – Photo credit to Project Noah Gerardo Aizpuru

On our second dive, we were lucky to get Aisha to ourselves. The three of us expanded our territory some and she was able to show us stuff that we would never have seen on our own. One of these was something called a sea pearl that resembled a milky white glass globe on the bottom that was a single cell algae. 

Mangroves

Between dives, we had a chance to walk around the island and explore. There is a permanent research effort happening and we were able to visit their camp.

The water was clear, the sun was warm. Life was good. We relaxed, and enjoyed the water. However, it was soon time to reboard the zodiacs and head back to the ship anchored offshore.

Well deserved nap

Back on-board, it was time for lunch while the ship was repositioned south to our afternoon snorkel spot, Laughing Bird Caye. Gretchen was able to squeeze in a nap before heading out to the island.

After lunch, it was back into the zodiacs for a short run to Laughing Bird Caye. It was on this trip that I took my favorite photo of Gretchen.

My Favorite Photo

The island is barely above sea level with several structures. there is a shade structure populated with picnic tables and tourists, and there is a house where the island’s caretakers live. There is always somebody living full time on the island to keep it safe.

This narrow strip of sand and vegetation is a protected site that receives many visitors who pay $20/ea to land there. This helps cover the costs of research and protecting the site. We were told by our dive guide that the island had been cut in two during a hurricane in 2001.

On shore, the weather was pleasant, and we were soon divided into snorkel groups and assigned guides. Our guide this afternoon was Jonathan, and the groups were larger than at Pelican Caye. The larger groups made it harder for us to engage with the guide and listen to what he had to say. He spent a lot of time just keeping the group together.

Heading for Laughing Bird Caye

There was certainly a greater variety of animals to see here. Many more fish, abundant corals, just more. more to see here. We managed to get a second dive in and were able to range farther than before.

Soon it was back to the boat to get ready for the adventures tomorrow. The plan for the next day was to leave the ship at 6:30 am for our visit to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and the town of Placencia.

Links to other Belize Trip Posts

Days 1 and 2 – https://walkabouttoday.org/2020/03/16/a-short-cruise-in-belize-days-1-and-2-getting-to-the-boat-on-time/

Days 5, 6, and 7 – coming soon

______________________________________________________________________________

I’ve tried to not make this the Coronavirus Chronicles. But the Tuck Frump inside of me is saddened to see the damage being done to our country and worldwide. It is dividing family groups. Some temporarily, some permanently.

Meanwhile the orange monster is more concerned about his re-election than he is about saving lives. More concerned about the economy, and his pocketbook, than saving lives. He is, and has always been, a menace to the American way of life.

not a dog

And Mitch McConnell is more concerned about ramming conservative justices down our throat than actually passing any legislation. More concerned with saving big business, than saving the local taqueria.

Our only recourse is to vote the rascals out of office. Vote. Vote as if your life depended on it.

That’s all for now. Thanks for coming and putting up with the rant at the end.

Peace.

3 Comments

  1. Bob, I enjoy your travel blogs. Glad you and Gretchen got to make this trip before Covid 19 locked the world down. The area you travelled to looks gorgeous. Rant on about the idiot in the White House.

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    1. Bill, I was thinking of you today (really). There aren’t many of the old crowd that I have any contact with. I hope you and Sarah are doing well during this madness. Be safe, see you sometime.

      Like

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