After my breakfast, I went to the bus station and only waited about 10 minutes before catching the bus to Belize City at 9:50. I forget the price, but I think it was around $6 US for the 3.5-hour ride.
From the bus terminal, it’s a long walk to the ferries, so I took a taxi for about $3 US. The next ferry was leaving in 1 hour, so I killed time on the wifi, watched MTV’s tribute to Prince (who died that morning) on the TV, and got pumped for my upcoming scuba events. The 1-way ticket is $20 US, I believe, and the water taxi takes about 90 minutes to San Pedro, which includes a stop in Caye Caulker.
From the dock in San Pedro, the Hostel La Vista was less than 2 blocks away, so it was an easy walk. That doesn’t mean 11 people didn’t try to sell me pot during that time, though.
When I arrived at the hostel, I recognized a Kiwi guy from my hostel in Flores, Guatemala, so that was really funny. There were also 2 different pairs of people from my water taxi who showed up; I walked faster than them, apparently.
After dropping my stuff, I went to confirm my dives for the upcoming days with Belize Magical Adventures. Apparently, only 1 person there checks the emails, and he was out sick, so the other staff knew nothing about my confirmed dives. Their credit card machine was also broken, so they wanted me to go withdraw a bunch of cash to pay for a pair of day dives, a night dive, and an all-day dive tour with 3 dives, including the Blue Hole. Not going to happen, dude. I went to a dive shop next to the dock that I had seen on my way in and asked about the dive schedule I had with the other place. Of course, they were glad to have my business and my money.
Sitting around at the hostel, I talked to 2 girls who had been on my boat, and they had the exact same dive plan (number of dives, locations) as me, but with a different company, so I was pretty sure I’d run into them on my upcoming dives. A group of 8 or 9 people decided we were hungry and went out to seek dinner. Someone had the brilliant idea to go to beachfront restaurants first, which were super expensive, as I expected. We also decided to head a few blocks away from the beach, and we found a great Mexican-Belizean restaurant that was super cheap. I honestly don’t know the name of it, but I got pupusas (including a dessert one, filled with mashed bananas) for probably $3 US, including a smoothie.
The next morning, I went out for my 2 dives, which were so close to the land that it took only 5 minutes by boat, we came back to shore for the interval time (where they had plates of fruit that I gobbled up), then went back out another 5 minutes to a different location. I swam with a bunch of reef sharks and nurse sharks, including petting some of them. It was the most unreal experience. I saw so many amazing animals in the water, but petting the sharks was one of my favorite moments in recent history.
After the 2 day dives, I confirmed the time for the night dive, then I went to an El Salvadoran restaurant for pupusas for lunch. I can’t get enough of those things. I also eavesdropped on some American idiots talking about how it felt weird to not have their guns with them in Belize, because they carry them all the time in the US, and one even believes that he’s fast enough that he could pull out his gun on a robber pointing a gun at him. What an idiot.
I walked over to buy my water taxi ticket to Mexico during my free time in the afternoon, so that was taken care of for my exit from Belize. There’s a $20 US exit tax from Belize and $28 entry tax for Mexico, so the lady told me to make sure to have that in cash.
The night dive to Hol Chan was AMAZING. I’d never done a night dive before, so it was a new experience. We also saw SO MANY RAYS. Also, we saw lots of lobsters, crabs feeding, different fishes from the day time, and just awesome experiences with triggering the bioluminescence and swimming by moonlight (full moon plus shallow depths at the site). It was really a great dive.
After the dive, I quickly changed and headed out for dinner on the street with the El Salvadoran place. I stumbled on a Mexican restaurant where I saw the other 2 people from my night dive, so I went in to join them for dinner. I can honestly say that I had the worst fajitas of my life. It was 80% onions, easily. It should be a mix of things, not an overwhelming amount of onions. Bummer.
Back at the hostel, I wasn’t satisfied with dinner and ran into the 2 girls who had been diving with a different company. They hadn’t eaten yet, so I went out with them for burritos at a local spot that some sketchy dude from their diving company led us to for dinner. The burrito was good, and the hot sauce was brutal, so it was a much better spot than my 1stdinner.
Over dinner, the girls and I both realized that our dive companies were pawning us off to someone else for the next day, and we were going to the Blue Hole with the same company, so we made plans to meet up in the morning and walk together, then I went to bed early. 3 tanks in a day is exhausting.
Way-too-early o’clock the next morning, the girls and I walked to Amigos del Mar dive company, signed in, and geared up for our 3 dive day trip to the Blue Hole and outlying reefs. They had free breakfast, so that was great. An empty stomach on an early morning before diving all day is a bad thing.
I talked to a bunch of cool people on the boat ride, since it took about 2.5 hours. Our boat was also chased by a pod of dolphins, and that was unreal. Everyone was losing it, watching them chirp and jump and chase us for about 15 minutes. So awesome.
At the dive site, we went into groups for the Blue Hole, and I cannot tell you how absolutely pumped I was to dive the Blue Hole. Long ago, it was above water and has lots of stalactites and stalagmites, but it’s now under the ocean. We were going about 40 meters/140 feet down, and that’s my deepest dive. A pair of curious reef sharks followed us for a bit, wondering what we were up to down there, and our short bottom time at such an extreme depth didn’t diminish how amazing I thought it was.
Our 2nd dive, at The Wall (nearby reef) was stunning. I saw so much marine life, including feeding some sharks and groupers, and just generally geeked out the whole time. I did really well on air on this dive and stayed down longer with the divemaster, after everyone else had surfaced. The reef looked really beautiful and healthy, and it reminded me how much I love diving.
After we were all back on the boat, we went to Half Moon Caye for lunch and to walk around on the nature preserve there. The lunch had some good vegan options (rice & beans, lots of fruits), sodas and water, so I was pretty stoked. Funny moment: birds come in and start stealing some of the fruit from the tray, so the employees toss scoops off rice into the grass to distract them.
The preserve on the island has TONS of crabs and birds. It was way more than I had expected, since I didn’t know much about the island ahead of time. TONS is an understatement for the birds nesting and breeding there.
After walking around for a bit, we got back on the boat and went to dive at The Aquarium, which is an appropriate name for the ridiculous amount of fish we saw there. It was a good, healthy reef with so many colors, so many fishes. I didn’t see any predators here, which really surprised me.
After the last dive, we took the 2.5 hour ride back to San Pedro, and the boat employees were super shocked that I didn’t want any of the free alcohol they were serving to everyone. Water is awesome, people.
Back at the hostel, the girls and I quickly showered/changed then went out to find dinner. The weird dude from the night before insisted on showing us some place, then he clearly didn’t know where he was going, led us to an expensive Jamaican restaurant, then left because he couldn’t afford it. We invented an excuse about one of the girls being sick, then we left and went to the El Salvadoran place for cheap pupusas. It was much more enjoyable than the limited vegan options (one of the girls was vegetarian and also had a hard time with the menu at the Jamaican place, which is really silly, considering that Rastas are vegan), and the 10x reduction in price was great.
After dinner, I realized that my ATM card had been skimmed somewhere, and someone had taken $100 out of my account in Guatemala the previous day, even though I had been in Belize for a few days at this point. I had to turn off my card after withdrawing the funds I needed for the next few days (border fees, bus to Cancun, first night at hostel in Cancun). I booked a hostel for Cancun (my next destination) and gave that address to my bank for the new ATM card to be sent to as fast as possible. Too bad it was a Saturday night, and the card wouldn’t go out until Monday and probably arrive on Wednesday at the earliest, maybe Thursday. Great. That means being stuck in Cancun while waiting for the card, rather than attempting to go where I really want to go and the only reason I would choose to go to Cancun: Cuba.
Next up: journey to Cancun.