Paget’s Belize Journal #13

October 4: Security and SNORKELING!

Just a short note to finish the security topic for now and then
on to the good stuff. The point of all this security is not physical
protection but possessions protection. As I was told, “The
Garifuna, they like to thieve a bit, but they will never hurt
you, no.”

I mean, if you left something behind, it means you’re not
using it, right? So you just try not to make it easy for them.
Another theory, though, is to not worry too much about it, don’t
bother with the security bars and don’t have anything worth too
much. I think this is the approach I will take. That and try
to get into a neighborhood where there’s a nice grandma watching
over things.

The good stuff is this. I went snorkeling for the very first
time yesterday and it was amazing! For a middle-aged, not-very-athletic
and a bit overweight non-swimmer and ex-smoker, this is more
of an accomplishment than you might think.

The day went like
There was a boat scheduled to go to “the caye”
as soon as a honeymoon couple arrived from Detroit via Miami.
We expected them in Saturday afternoon. And since they were the
only ones going out, there would be room for me to ride along
to Pelican’s facility on Southwater Caye (this is pronounced
‘key’ by the way). But they got shuffled to San Pedro instead
of Belize City, lost their luggage, got upset and went to a hotel
in San Pedro. I am learning pretty well to just sit and wait
for the next thing to happen. So I did. By Sunday morning they
were fine and came in on the 10:30 am flight. They still didn’t
have any luggage, but they had bought swim suits, and one outfit
a piece, so were all set. They don’t figure much in the story
after this, so I won’t bother with their names.

After lunch they just disappeared. The boat man for Pelican
Resort is named Ishmael. A very handsome, young Belizean who
knows it, but is so cheerful and helpful, you can put up with
it. As soon as he jumps in the water to go retrieve the boat
from where it is anchored (away from the dock to discourage unauthorized
activities), he starts singing. A man who truly loves his work
and his boat. Of course, everything that is used on the cayes
has to be brought to them by boat so we had pineapples and beer
and coolers full of other stuff (and we brought back garbage
and broken screens and empty propane tanks).

It’s a 20-30 minute ride to the keys over that blue, blue
Caribbean water (well, actually the Bay of Honduras) and for
some of it within sight of the breakers that mark the reef itself.
Inside the reef, such as at Dangriga, there is no surf and the
tide change is not very noticeable. Out toward the reef, it’s
more interesting and there are places where the ocean floor is
very close to the surface, so it’s just exciting enough to notice
how carefully skillful a driver Ishmael is (but of course with
the appropriate casual stance, making it all look easy). A friend
of Ishmael’s also went along, a truck driver from Dangriga named

Southwater Caye is, I would guess, about 10 acres and has
three separate “resort” facilities that can sleep a
total of maybe 50 people. The word idyllic was thought up for
this place. From the one-winged pelican who follows you around
like a dog to the 8 foot nurse shark that comes in to the dock
to visit in the evening (well, really to scarf up the guts from
cleaning the day’s catch, but it seems like a visit), to the
snorkeling area accessible from the beach, this is truly a place
for an unparalleled tropical experience. Here are a few facts
and pix about the Pelican Beach facility there.

On with the day. After lunch (tiny meat pies, watermelon,
carrots, cookies, fresh lime juice), I wandered around for a
bit, waded, read my book, took pictures, put on more sunscreen
several times, waiting for my 90 minutes to be up. They still
ascribe to the don’t-go-in-the-water-until-90-minutes-after-you’ve-eaten-theory
here and won’t be persuaded otherwise. Eventually, got fitted
for mask and swim fins. We went out in the boat to the snorkeling
ground that Sam and Ishmael wanted to visit (why in a moment)
with me as the excuse. I kind of liked the idea of going to the
place you could walk back to land from, but no. I was pretty
nervous, but Ishmael, despite his generally cocky approach to
life is a patient and supportive teacher. Put on the gear, over
the side, lots of snorting and sputtering and false starts (and
grabbing at Ishmael – could have been lots of fun if I were younger).

But I DID IT. I saw many wonderful things. Coral and plants
and all manner of beautiful tropical fish. Once we even swam
along with a school of several hundred fish. Well, actually if
truth be known, I didn’t swim with the fish, I just sort of got
towed along by Ishmael. Fun, though.

I think the fish were black durgon (tried to look it up afterwards,
seems close, but snorkeling is such an immediate and ephemeral
experience that I’ll try to give up my need to know things and
just let it be).

So, why were we in this particular location? Because conch season
just opened and Sam wanted to dive for conch. That was also an
interesting experience. I got to sort of brace myself and try
to stay upright (after they found me a place with no live coral
within 10 feet so I didn’t tromp anything), waiting for them
to resurface and hand me a conch they had just uprooted. “We”
got seven nice-sized conch, but they didn’t give me one, Sam
took them all home to his wife. But we had conch soup at Pelican
that night so it was okay. It was a wonderful afternoon, I didn’t
get sun-burned and only got a tiny bit seasick and got to feel
adventurous and experience something I never imagined. I wish
you all such a day in your lives.