Jungle Ruins: Lamanai

One of the goals of the trip was to visit some ruins. We had plenty of options: Altun-Ha, Caracol, Cerros, Xunantunich – and those are just a few of the ruins that are known in Belize.

We ended up visiting Lamanai, an archeological site in Orange Walk District (northern Belize) that was occupied between the 16th century BCE to 17th century CE, with its heyday occurring several hundred years before and after the start of the Common Era.

01 Water Taxi
Our trip started with a 45 minute water taxi from Caye Caulker to Belize City with Dave and Noelle.

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Jungle Ruins: Lamanai

Scuba Diving: Esmerelda


I was able to slip into scuba gear on Sunday. Dave and I signed up for the “Esmerelda” tour off of Ambergris Caye. According to the divemaster, Esmerelda is unique for its coral formations and wildlife – there are a bunch of finger-like protrusions that we swam over. During our two dives we were at 70 and 60ft, respectively, but the crevices went down much deeper.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m a novice recreational diver. Prior to Belize I had nine dives under my belt, and that includes the four certification dives that I took at Square Lake near Stillwater, Minnesota. I did four dives in Cozumel, which was similiar to the conditions I was expecting on Sunday, in terms of depth, visibility and temperature. And I most recently dove in the shallow, murkey, cold water of Rosario Beach in northern Washington State. That dive was in July of 2011, so it had been over a year since the last time I used scuba gear.

To prepare I reviewed my scuba textbook on the morning of the dive: buddy communication, basic breathing advice, air density at pressure, nitrogen narcosis and the bends, equipment, and dive tables. I looked up my old dives to remember how much weight to use on my belt. At 8:30am I gathered my c-card, fins, mask, snorkel and sunscreen, and Dave I rode down to Frenchie’s Dive Shop on Front Street.

We checked in with little fuss; Frenchie’s was thorough and professional in the information they gathered before assigning us gear. We put our BCDs and regulators on the tanks they gave us, tested the air flow and checked tank pressure. Then we boarded the boat and rode for 25 minutes out to the first dive site. About five minutes from our site, the boat stopped and the divemaster went over The Rules – descend with our buddy, meet at the bottom, then follow him. If you start to run low on air, ascend 10-15 feet, but stay with the group until the end of the tour if possible. Never go deeper or in front of him. Don’t touch nothin.

The dive staff helped us into our gear, then we did rolling entries into the water. I situated my mask and regulator, found my buddy and then we started down.

I have no photos for this trip. My underwater camera only has a depth of 23ft, and we were diving 70ft. I didn’t even bring it with. There was also no videographer/photographer with the dive staff, so no photos. Which is a shame because we saw some crazy awesome wildlife. As a concilation prize, I’ve linked to images from wikipedia or other sites that have pictures of the animals I saw.

One of the first things we saw as we descended were a bunch of very large nurse sharks. They were dark-colored and moved through the water with the slow grace that only a shark has. We were surrounded by fish of all sizes, shapes and colors. The reef rose up not too far from where we started. During the descent I felt a calm surround me and the magic of breathing underwater was as brilliant as I remembered from previous dives.

We had a small group – only eight of us altogether – and everyone was diving like the certified open water divers we were – everyone equalized well, there was no hyperventilators or trouble with buoyancy. There were also no braggerts or daredevils, which makes everything easy and happy.

We started by diving between two “fingers” of the reef. A morey eel came out to greet us, and not too long after we saw our first spotted eagle ray. We swam over a wall of the reef and saw a green turtle! We had nurse sharks with us at every turn, and saw huge parrotfish, angelfish and grouper. And then the gem of the dive: We saw Great A’Tuin.

Okay – it wasn’t A’Tuin (I didn’t see the elephants, that’s how I know), but it was the biggest damn loggerhead turtle that I have ever seen in my life. It was about the same length as me (I’m 5’7″) and its head was bigger than mine. I didn’t even spare us a glance as it glided by and over the reef. We continued on and when we ascended I still had 900 psi left in my tank – not bad for not having dove in over a year!

After the first dive we came into dock at San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, which is just north of Caye Caulker where we’ve been staying. Dave and I had some soda and juice at the Tacklebox bar while the dive staff switched in fresh tanks. After being on the surface for about 30 minutes, everyone lumbered back onto the boat and we rode about five minutes to our next site. It was pretty similar to the first, and not quite as good. We saw a couple more spotted eagle rays and the nurse sharks again, but I found the more interesting thing to be the landscape itself. We were stuck at 60ft for this dive, but the reef was much deeper than that, and I wanted to go down there! I wanted to explore the walls of the reef, and ever since I was a little tot swimming in the pool I’ve had a fascination with touching the bottom, which was not on the menu for this dive *pout*.

On the ride home we had a dolphin encounter! The captain spotted three dolphins and slowed the boat to a crawl. The dolphins started playing in front of the prow and jumping out of the water. Bonus!

I want more! I’ll have to check with Frenchie’s to see what other dives they have going out this week.

Scuba Diving: Esmerelda

Cross-Country Connections: Smile

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Smile.

This week Brianne is in Belize, not her usual city of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

From me in Caye Caulker, Belize:

CCC Smile Brianne
I’ve seen a few SpongeBob references here in Belize, and this is definitely the goofiest smile that I’ve seen on the island while I’ve been here.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland:

CCC Smile Erin
A Jacob sheep, seen at this past weekend’s Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. This multi-horned beast is guaranteed to make you smile.

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois:

CCC Smile Mom

Don at Brianne’s shower and wedding weekend.

Cross-Country Connections: Smile

Snorkeling the Reef

On Saturday I wasn’t quite scuba-diving ready; still a bit congested – but I was starting to salivate over the nearby barrier reef. From Dave and Noelle’s veranda you can see the waves breaking over the reef in the distance. I wanted to get into the water! So we decided to start slow – a snorkel one day and then a dive.

We ended up booking two tours on Friday night: a dive for Sunday (on the hope that I’d be well enough to go) and tickets for a Saturday 10:30am half-day snorkel trip to the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve from French Angel Expeditions. Our guide for the snorkel was Ash and he was pretty awesome.


French Angel Expeditions snorkel shop

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Snorkeling the Reef

Exploring Caye Caulker

I woke up on Friday feeling better – still with a head full of snot, but not tired, no joint weakness, and a normal appetite. Our hosts had to run into Belize City for the morning, so the Hubby and I decided to walk into town and explore the north end of the island. We walked up the front path that runs along the beach. There are a bunch of seaside resorts, rental homes and hostels that way and we eventually passed by the water taxis and popped up in “downtown” Caye Caulker. We saw a number of interests plants and animals along the way.

A plover strolls along the shore. Continue reading “Exploring Caye Caulker”

Exploring Caye Caulker

The Pets of Sunrise Beach

While I was laying low yesterday I had plenty of company by way of the four animals who generously share their home with our hosts.


Beautiful Amber. Amber was adopted on Caye Caulker by Noelle. Amber was a stray dog who used to get into a lot of scrapes, sleep in drain holes and  have enough parasite problems for ten dogs. Now she’s the sweetest dog. A lot of the time she’s very somber and quiet, but she seems to be getting rowdier and more playful with every day. Continue reading “The Pets of Sunrise Beach”

The Pets of Sunrise Beach

Caye Caulker: Lazy Day

Yesterday was my recovery day. When I woke up I was weak – fatigued, congested and I had no appetite to speak of. I got up sometime around 7am and came downstairs to sit on the couch. I was feeling adventerous, so I decided to stand up and move outside to the downstairs porch. I started working on yesterday’s blog post and my lovely hosts – Dave and Noelle – brought me an orange juice and cup of coffee.

When Noelle announced that she was going to be making gluten-free chocolate pancakes, whatever had been blocking the signals from my stomach to my brain was cleared and I was suddenly famished. I came inside to help wash dishes while she prepped the pancakes.

Chocolate pancakes made with amaranth flours look dubious but tasted delicious. I liked them with some butter (MOAR BUTTER!) and rasberry jelly.

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Caye Caulker: Lazy Day

Traveling to Belize

This is the first of my travel-blogging posts! The Hubby and I are in Belize until May 12th. This is what we’re doing.

Our vacation started with 30 hours of travel. That’s right – 30. Here’s the deal: Last year we volunteered to get bumped from a flight and that earned us two round-trip tickets to anywhere AirTran flies. We wanted to get to Belize to visit some friends and to relax in the Carribean. AirTran flies to Cancun. There is a very reliable bus that drives from Cancun to Belize City. Tah-dah!

We woke up at 2am on Tuesday morning, showered, did a little last-minute packing, ate some cereal and then sat outside on our front stoop in the eerie, cool, silent night-morning. We had arranged for a car service to arrive at 3:45 am and the driver was right on time. Our flight from MSP-Humphrey Terminal was at 5:45am. Since we were flying international we wanted to make sure that we were there at least an hour and a half early, but since it was such an early flight we weren’t too concerned about lines at security. Everything went peachy-keen and soon we were on the plane to our connection in Atlanta.

Minneapolis Sunrise 1
Leaving Minneapolis – one of two sunrises we would experience during the trip down.

Continue reading “Traveling to Belize”

Traveling to Belize