Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Snorkeling Off The Coast Of Belize

We did a fantastic job of mixing up our excursions. We'd had a blast in the jungle, and now it was time to hit the beach for a little snorkeling. First, we would have to be driven from Ian's to the coastal town of Hopkins.

We passed a big facility where orange juice is made.

Our snorkeling base would be Jaguar Reef Lodge. We learned that this place is owned by the same Ian Anderson as our jungle hotel, and it really felt like a beach version of the same idea. We booked a couple of nights on the beach at the end of our trip, and I think we were wishing we had known about this place beforehand. Probably could have even gotten a discount. Oh well.

After we went through the amusing process of getting masks and flippers that fit everyone, we hopped on our little speed boat and hit the waves. Or they hit us. The water was pretty choppy and there were some bone jarring hits. Lydia was doing the classic "keep your eye on the horizon so you don't barf" trick most of the way to the reef.

The reef in question is the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest in world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef. This is the part where I briefly mention my poor waterproof camera. I once had a dream that I would buy a camera that could take pictures in the very face of the ocean. I could have brought this camera everywhere: the rainy jungle, the tuby caves, the depths of the coral reef. It would have been my trusted companion. The damn thing died after ten minutes of use in the hotel pool on our first day there. I spent over $300 for ten underwater pictures of Lydia's feet. They are lovely feet, but that camera is going back to the store. Next time we go to a watery trip like this, I'm buying a GoPro like a big boy.

So use your imagination, loyal reader. We were swimming above all types of coral. The wavy leaf ones, the giant brain looking ones, and the multi-tubular organ looking ones. We saw a couple different varieties of rays, some covering themselves with sand and laying flat on the seafloor, and others flapping their little wings through the water. We saw a giant prickly looking lobster that our guide poked out of its den with a piece of pipe. There were these cool red squirrel fish with giant scary eyes. I got yelled at after straying from the group while swimming with a school of bright blue fish. There were maybe 12 people in our group, and after getting a couple of flippers kicked in the face Lydia and I both decided that sticking with the group as directed was way overrated.

We stopped for a mid snorkel snack at Southwater Caye. "Caye" is oddly pronounced the same way as a Florida "Key" and the tiny island meaning of the word is the same.

I like to eat things that I find lying around (like acorns) so I was quickly obsessed with eating a coconut, and gathered a few that I found laying in the sand. One of guides scoffed at my find: they were too old and brown. 

Luckily our guide had access to a big stick.

After knocking a few out of the tree, he showed us how to pound the thick green rind off the nut by smashing them on rocks.

I quickly followed suit. All of this stick swinging and rock smashing made me feel like a caveman.

The meat inside was moist and tender.

We ate one and packed a couple in our bag to drink out of back at our jungle hideout.

I think that some of our snorkel buddies just laid around on the beach with the 4 hours of free time we were given after snorkeling was over. Not us! We rented a golf cart and hit the road.

Our first stop after cruising around a bit was lunch at Innie's Restaurant. We read that Hopkins has a decent Garifuna population and we wanted to sample some of their culture. Innie's had a couple of Garifuna dishes that we wanted to try: Hudut and Bundiga.

I had the bundiga, which was a whole fish atop a kind of gravy made from bananas and coconut milk. It sounds really sweet but it wasn't. The bananas were cooked to act sort of like dumplings. Very good.

Lydia had the hudut, which was another whole fish with a coconut based soup with a side of mashed plantains. The two dishes sounded almost identical on the menu but the result was quite different.

Belize-made Marie Sharp's hot sauce was probably on every single restaurant table in the whole country. It's carrot puree based, which is novel.

We continued our Garifuna experience with a visit to the Lebeha Drumming Center and Cabanas.

I think it was a bit too early in the day because there weren't any other patrons present, but the drummers put on quite a show for us anyway. Then one of the guys offered to teach Lydia some steps.

I thought he was going to start slow and do some beginner moves, but nope.

After a significant amount of peer pressure I was roped into trying it myself. Luckily for everyone with eyes and a sense of rhythm and/or decency it was a brief attempt.

Belize has the largest lizards running around that I've ever seen outside of a zoo.

Well we had sampled the Garifuna culture and had a good time along the way. We still had time to burn though, so we cruised around town a bit more. Then we ate again.

Down came the rain and washed the spider out?

We had some fry jacks, which was a Belize dish we had been wanting to try. They are sort of a breakfast food, so the poor lady seemed confused when we ordered them. I see no reason to not eat these things with every meal. Pretty basic, they were fried dough balls but were very airy. We dipped them in some jam. Lydia got to try the local pineapple variety.

Back at the jungle ranch, I saw a cockroach about the size of an iPhone.

No comments:

Post a Comment