A Catamaran on the Caribbean
Thursday marked the start of our catamaran adventure. After a quick breakfast of bagels, waffles, and coffee we headed to the Ragga Empress, a large catamaran festively painted red yellow and black. We were ushered on by captain Kevin, chef Linton, and guide Elio. We raised the mainsail and headed out to the first snorkel spot. Immediately we could feel the difference from Bacalar Chico dive camp, our previous inhabitance of the last ten days. With Raggamuffin Tours we were served fresh fruit and cookies promptly after boarding, we were soon living lavishly and eating well. We stopped and swam with a green turtle, named Lucky because of its fin that had a chunk bitten from it - a marker of a great escape. Not but a moment later, a spotted eagle ray flew by sheltering a smaller fish under its massive wingspan. Shortly thereafter, we took off again, this time towards the Hol Chan Marine Reserve to visit Shark-Ray Alley. Here we dove right into a pile of nurse sharks and carnivorous fish (like blue tangs), feeding on fish scraps that Elio flung from a bucket. Everyone got excellent GoPro footage of the encounter as well as an intensely unforgettable experience. It was truly amazing and humbling to be up close with wild sharks and made me feel a deep need to keep learning about conservation of both the coral reefs and endangered species. This experience made the issue of all the trash floating by the cayes and on the island beaches feel much more pressing.
After the sharks we continued to Hol Chan, which means "small channel" in Maya. Here Kevin and Elio took out two groups on a fifteen minute swim to a massive reef in the center of the channel. Kevin, a skilled free diver, almost like Aquaman, showed us all the nooks and crannies of the reef. We saw a large moray eel that comes out of its hole for him because "they are friends." We saw many damsel fish, including a tiny blue speckled black one (Kevin's favorite), along with various types of coral, from fans to sponges. Exhausted from three long snorkeling adventures, we boarded the boat back to Caye Caulker, blasting reggaeton and grooving again. As if the day couldn't have been anymore awe inspiring...a pod of bottlenose dolphins swam alongside our boat as we approached the end of the sail. Their sleek gray bodies cut through the water, dorsal fins leaving white foamy splashes in their wake.
The second day on the catamaran started earlier, with a breakfast of melon, pineapple, toast, eggs, and bacon on the boat. The wind was great for sailing so Kevin put out both the jib and the mainsail, letting us have a go at steering. The tanks of the catamaran splashed through each nautical mile. We stopped for a snorkel around 11:30, almost three hours after taking off for the day. Here Kevin grabbed the spear gun and taught some of us how to fish. Both Wiz and Ace caught lobster which we would later eat. Then it was lunch time and after that we set sail again for Rendezvous Caye. On the way we saw a few large turtles, in particular one large Loggerhead Turtle that passed by the front of the boat. We arrived at dusk at Rendezvous Caye, a small private island in the English Channel, just in time for an incredible sunset. The sky was enveloped in pink clouds that melted into the mountains of the horizon. After soaking in the incredible Caribbean sunset, we set up tents and prepared for dinner. The island was covered in beach chairs and picnic tables all painted a bright white, with medium sized palms providing both shade and coconuts. Dinner was delicious as always, incorporating seafood caught that day along with vegetables and fruit. We went to sleep in our tents listening the ocean slap the reinforcing sea walls of the island and hearing the breeze rustle through the palms.
In the morning we took off early, having another breakfast on the boat and said goodbye to the remote and breathtaking caye.
The wind the last day wasn't too strong so we went by motor to Goff Caye. There we snorkled in the clear blue water. I was struck by the pure beauty of the reef and variety of fish, but also saddened by the large quantities of bleached and dead coral. We saw more damsel fish, some with bright purple colors, and others with large decorative scales. We swam back to the beach, dried off and ate a filling lunch of barbecue chicken, spicy cabbage, and salad. Linton never left us without a good drink either so we had Sprite, Coca Cola, and pineapple-orange juice. We wrapped up after eating and went back on the boat, bound for Belize city. The wind was still not in our favor but we made good time anyways. We stopped about an hour and a half away from the city to swim on the tiniest island I have ever seen--it was actually more of a sand pile. It was accompanied by two boats anchored filled with locals trying to get in a good swim. Camille rescued a ton of fish that kept beaching themselves, we had a Little Mermaid-inspired photo shoot, and we snorkeled around for a while before getting back on the boat.
Before we knew it, it was time to leave the catamaran, Kevin, Linton, and Elio. Most were quite sad to say goodbye to the Caribbean. By this point many in the group stated that they felt the trip was just about to start as the number of action packed activities were increasing. Some said that they felt like they had already been on the trip for months while others said the time had passed very quickly. Overall the group is rather close and excited for the next adventures in Guatemala, sad to leave the coast but ready for the new challenges and cultures that come as we travel inland!
Bob Voyage for now!