CA 11: Hol Chan Reef and Shark Ray Alley, Belize.

Well, managed to pack in another couple of “lifetime” moments today!

One of the “Must See” things in Belize is Shark Ray Alley.  If you’ve ever been to Stingray City in the Cayman Islands, it’s somewhat similar except WAY less touristed and a lot neater.  Today was Daina and mine’s day to check it out.

Morning started off with another fantastic breakfast from the folk at Changes in Latitudes, though Daina was having some leftover stomach issues after eating a copious amount of good food last night, so I was going it solo for that one.  Quick check to make sure my stomach was okay and we were off to the pier to meet Little Alphonse.

See, one of the cool things about where we’re staying is that they know who to talk to on the islands.  First thing I asked about, actually, when I got in was “Do a lot of cruise ship people make there way here?”  Second question was “How do we avoid them?”

Well, Renita told us that none of the companies they use for tours are associated with the cruise ships, which means you’re not dealing with tourists who have to be told they will get wet on their tour (true story).  To wit, Big Alphonse is a fisherman, who is Little Alphonse’s dad.  Little Alphonse runs the tours out to Holchan and Shark Ray Alley.

Now, first stop was Hol Chan reef for some snorkeling.  Pretty freaking awesome snorkeling, actually.  We saw grouper, sea turtles, anemones (I feel like Nemo trying to spell that, probably did it wrong), barracuda, various game fish, sea urchins, parrotfish, snapper, moray eels… there’s more that I’m not remembering right now, but you get the idea.  It was a nice, simple snorkel though I did managed to torch a section of my back that D missed with the sunscreen.  Being ginger, D had a swimshirt on so he came out relatively unscathed, minus the face that his, as he put it, “apple cheeks” made it hard for his mask to stay on properly and not fill up with water. 

We did the Hol Chan snorkeling for about an hour and then we made our way to Shark Ray Alley.  Now, for those who aren’t sure, a “Shark Ray” isn’t a type of fish.  It should really be Shark and Ray Alley, because you run in to a ton of nurse sharks and stingrays.  Big ones, too. 

Alphonse has a big tube with which he chums to water to attract the sharks and then does this weird thing where he swims up to them, rubs their belly, flips them over, keeps rubbing their belly, which then makes the sharks docile enough for you to hold them.  Yeah, like actually give a little hug to.

Nurse sharks aren’t terribly dangerous, unless you’re putting a hand in their mouth or smell like chum, but it was still a crazy experience to be holding – HOLDING – a shark, even a tame one that obviously knows that it’s going to get fed a couple of times a day.

The submersible camera I bought turned out to be an amazing investment, as you can see from the photos here and the ones in the Facebook album.  I had everything set on rapid fire and it took about an hour to sort through probably a thousand photos for the best shots, but it was one hundred percent worth it.

Of course, as I was doing that, I completely forgot the fact that Daina hadn’t eaten breakfast, had been in the sun and water for a couple of hours and was therefore dehydrated and starving, so off we went, back to Wild Mango’s, for some awesome smoothies and delicious lunch.  Then, back to the room for a collapse.  Freaking HOT today!!!

So the rest of the day was spent in “Recovery Mode”, which basically meant lounging until about six, half waking up, going to dinner at a great places called Hurricanes and calling it a night.

It’s a vacation.  Gotta take it easy sometime.

For our last day tomorrow, we plan on heading to Caye Caulker, which is a smaller, less developed version of Ambergris Caye (the name of the island we’re on – San Pedro is the town).  Should be a nice, relaxing way to end of what has been a pretty damn spectacular vacation..

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