An October 2002 trip
to Caye Caulker by nmagann
Quote: The Blue Hole, a diver’s "cult classic" is boat trip away. Away from Caye Calker, an island where you stand on the beach on one side and can see the beach on the other side. No streets, sidewalks, large hotels, or nightlife. Just aqua crystalline waters to explore.
Attraction | "Rapture of the Deep Blue Hole"
Kayaks and beach bikes are for rent at many places for about $5 hourly and $12.50 daily. Golf carts are for rent at a couple of places as well.
The Great Blue Hole
Off The Coast Of Belize
Ambergris Caye, Belize
In front of the hotel is a beach area with more lounge chairs and a small building with refreshments, suntan lotion, and snorkeling gear for sale. Guests receive a 10% discount on tours booked there. Both the location and tourshop discounts really make this hotel worth recommending; aside from the Lazy Iguana Resort on the other side of the island, the island’s accommodation is primarily limited to small hotels and guesthouses.
If you desire more of a party atmosphere and/or the cheapest room, try Tina’s Backpacker near the split at end of the island. Unfortunately, when all three beds in all three rooms are occupied, the fact there's only one bathroom/shower can be a problem--much like the hammocks filled with dope smokers. Large billboards by the ferry dock let visitors know that drugs are illegal and instruct you not to listen to anyone who tells you they're okay on the beach or at your motel. The large beach area and large kitchen are the draw here, the latter especially for those staying for long periods.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 7, 2003
Caye Caulker, Belize
Attraction | "Great Blue Hole"
Due to the depth of 130 ft, we would have 8-10 minutes of bottom time. The buddy I was assigned drifted to 150 ft having buoyancy problems so I stuck with him. The guide came over, helped my buddy and we ascended to join the others.
The hole is relatively dark and void of sea life. We reached the 35 ft dripstone, which had something of a cavern behind so we circled around behind it. Reaching our safety stop, we hung motionless as reef sharks swam around a distance a way. Apparently as an added attraction some dive operator began feeding to keep them hanging around.
Prior to our dive we were warned that more than likely we would experience some level of nitrogen narcosis. My current dive magazine issue that I had been reading had just mentioned that same thing for anyone diving beyond 100 ft. Although I can’t recall any oddity, aboard the boat some mentioned a euphoric feeling while a couple of others described feeling a difference in their breathing
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 9, 2002
Attraction | "Shark Ray Alley"
Our next stop at shark ray alley was wonderful. In order not to scare the rays we snorkeled without fins standing on the sandy bottom as the rays swam by brushing against our legs. Our guide had brought fish and held the rays in his outstretched arms as I was repeating the words wow and awesome through my snorkel. Much to my dismay I felt comfortable enough to reach over and "pet" the ray feeling its silky, not slimy or scaly, body. This was truly a treat.
One more stop for snorkeling and our half-day trip has ended.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley
Ambergris Caye & Caye Caulker
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Attraction | "Hol-Chan Marine Reserve"
The sloping shelf of this reef is abundant with gorgonians. Large purple fans seem to wave as you float over them. Here we saw a couple of 10-13 pound lobsters. The one was so large I dove through a small tunnel to get a better look with the dive master right with me. A beautiful spotted eagle ray caught my peripheral vision, but too fast and too far away to be photographed. Their shape, like an exaggerated diamond is so different from the rounded tips on a manta ray or the round body of the yellow stingrays found close to the beach.
A couple friendly groupers, having been fed by divers in the past, seemed to escort us through our entire dive. Knowing that things appear 25% bigger underwater and making the decision to take a snapshot, I outstretched my arm to get a better idea of how far away the fish was. My finger recoiled quickly as I was stunned that I touched the grouper. He obviously wasn’t fazed at all. I actually had to put some distance between us in order to get all of him into view.
One sight that was both new and fascinating to me was the pillar coral. They looked like stalagmites protruding from the ocean floor, some several feet high. Here, hamlets, purple and yellow fairy basslets, butterfly fish and others seemed to playing hide and seek. As I would seek a close-up picture they would hide behind a pillar.
The maximum depth on was 90 feet for certified divers and 35 feet for those in training and is a two-tank dive. The reserve is easily reached from both Caye Caulker and Ambergis. A $5 fee is charged for non-residents and a boat patrol does come around and count passengers.
Attraction | "Manatee Tour"
We wind our way through mangroves until we reach a particular bay where the boat stops and we watch carefully. Sure enough we see manatees, a mother and young one. Our glimpse is of the heads as they surface for air and of the body as they dive down. Carlos explains that the manatees or sea cows are mammals and some believe related to the elephant as they have 4 fingernails on the front fins. Contrary to what I thought, manatees eat the tender roots of sea grass, using their front fins and snout to uproot them. With no predators the sea cows are still few in numbers. As theses gentle giants surface, they suffer demise from the blades of boats hitting their backsides. This combined with the fact they have only one baby at birth, spend three years nursing, protecting them is a must.
On the return we stop a tiny island right next to the reef to eat lunch and spend some time snorkeling. Carlos leads the group snorkeling through some waves that get bigger as we near the reef. This concludes our water tour and we return to Caye Caulker.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 10, 2002
Caye Caulker, Belize
Attraction | "Turneffe Reef"
Opting for Northern Turneffe turned out to be the right choice, as I believe this was the best dive operator of the three I utilized. The dive was slow, not rushed, no race to be won. This enabled me to see large animals as well as take my time photographing the great macro life here. Large barracuda and snappers were found at the lower depths and angelfish and wrasse at the shallower depths.
I floated by what, at first glance, I thought to be the tail end of an eel. A second pass and I noticed the head of nurse shark on the other side of the rock. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have, but I thought this could be a Kodak moment. I touched the tail in hopes it would be in a position to get all of him in my photo. Moving about an inch I dove down and did it again. He practically circled like a dog and lay right back in the same way. Oh well, maybe he’d experienced nosy divers before. He did position himself just enough ahead of the rock for a good shot though.
Afterwards on the boat, a diver asked if nurse sharks were vicious. The dive master replied not really, unless you start tugging on their tail bugging them. I know no one saw me, but the coincidence of what he said—-a joke I’m sure--was a little strange. I just looked upward innocently and said nothing.
Lunch was at the bird sanctuary, Half Moon Caye. A short walking path along the shore of less than a mile brought you to the nesting area of the Redfooted Masked Booby. Such a friendly, unsuspecting bird made it easy for people to walk right up to them. This made for an easy dinner for people and the need for protection for the bird. The Galapagos Islands is the other area you can find these birds.
Frigate birds soared through sky above waiting for any chance to steal some food. These are either lazy or crafty birds depending on how you look it. They don’t dive into the water for food, but will seize an opportunity on land to take another’s bounty.
Turneffe Atoll Reef
Caye Caulker, Belize